What we found out: Get on the Kentucky, UNC bandwagons

The penultimate weekend before the NCAA tournament is always one of the most fun on the college basketball calendar. There’s a mix of regular-season contests, conference tournament action, prominent showdowns and automated bids being handed out.This specific Saturday included rematches from the remarkable Feb. 3 slate: Kansas at Houston, Kentucky at Tennessee and North Carolina at Duke. How would the Cougars enact vengeance for their newest loss, the 13-point drubbing at the hands of the Jayhawks? Was Kentucky’s February revival a harbinger of things to come or would the Volunteers’ Dalton Knecht have one more declaration efficiency left in him before the postseason? And the best competition in the sport with regular-season championship stakes on the line for UNC and Duke? We’ll take it.The schedule also had bubble occupants defending their lives, competition teams jockeying for seeding and the very first NCAA tourney bid handed out in the Ohio Valley Conference. Who punched their ticket?ESPN’s Myron

Medcalf, Jeff Borzello and Joe Lunardi break down the big storylines from the final Saturday of the 2023-24 regular season.

play 0:43 Houston pads its lead on back-to-back buckets Ja’Vier Francis slams it

home over Hunter Dickinson, then seals the rock which the hands of Jamal Shead for a Cougars and-1. Myron Medcalf: A few weeks back, Expense Self was asked to compare his team’s obstacles with injuries– Kevin McCullar Jr. had actually missed 4 of five games at that point because of a bone contusion in his knee– to the situation he had when Joel Embiid suffered a back injury at the end of the 2013-14 season. Self said the two teams were in different scenarios, not due to the fact that of skill, but due to the fact that of the depth– and the absence thereof with this season’s group. Sure, the Jayhawks continue to battle with offensive lapses in crucial games versus leading teams, but when healthy, they have actually had the ability to stay up to date with teams such as UConn, Tennessee, Kentucky and, yes, Houston.Editor’s Picks 2 Related However Saturday’s

group, which had to play without Hunter Dickinson( shoulder)and McCullar (knee) for much of the game, does not have a Plan B. Its rotation is limited. That seems to be the best threat to KU’s second-weekend goals in the NCAA tournament, especially if it has to move forward without 2 of its top players.Jeff Borzello: For the majority of the previous couple of months, the agreement throughout the sport has actually been

that UConn is the most dominant team in the country and goes into the postseason as the preferred to reduce the nets. Not so quick. Houston’s efficiency on Saturday was as good a 40-minute showing as we’ve seen from anybody this season. The Cougars’defense can just overwhelm teams and run them off the floor. Kansas shot 33 %from the field, while Houston had 30 points off turnovers and 17 second-chance points. That’s how Kelvin Sampson wants his teams to win, and when the Cougars can make shots on top of all that, they’re a force.Joe Lunardi’s bracket effect: The big story here is Kansas. We have no option however to drop the Jayhawks another seed line, this time as a No. 4.

Pending player schedule after the Huge 12 competition, Kansas might move even further before the NCAA tournament begins. As for Houston, the Cougars remain in the running for the top general seed with this big win. If Purdue loses at any point till Choice Sunday and Houston backs up its regular-season crown in the Big 12 tourney, it’s tough to think of the Cougars being rejected. play 1:58 Dalton Knecht’s 40-point outburst

inadequate as

Kentucky tops Tennessee Dalton Knecht goes off for 40 points in No. 4 Tennessee

‘s loss to No. 15 Kentucky.Medcalf: A loss to one of the hottest teams in America right now does not reduce Tennessee’s Final Four potential. The Vols won the conference championship in one of the toughest leagues in America. And their best player, Dalton Knecht, could not do much more than he did on Saturday to assist his group; it has actually ended up being a typical theme in Tennessee’s most difficult minutes this season. The Northern Colorado transfer has balanced 26.7 points in his group’s seven losses. In spite of Knecht registering a career-high 40 points, Tennessee couldn’t match Kentucky’s offensive output. If the Vols wind up in a back-and-forth game that demands the same type of effort in the NCAA tournament, how much of the burden will Knecht have to bring? And will it be enough?Champ Week 2024 Get basketball competition action: 425-plus games throughout 26 conferences streaming on ESPN+, consisting of the AAC, Big 12, and West Coast Conference. Guy’s|Women’s
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Borzello: There’s no room left on the Kentucky-to-the-Final Four bandwagon. The Wildcats currently have actually proved themselves as one of the most explosive offensive teams in the country, and they’re just improving as Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham get more time on the flooring. However the defense continues to show flashes of being good enough to win games in the postseason. On the surface, permitting 81 indicate Tennessee isn’t eye-opening, however the Vols’ 1.10 points per possession was among their least effective efforts in the past 2 months. If Ugonna Onyenso can stay on the flooring and safeguard the rim, it includes a different measurement to Kentucky’s team.Lunardi’s bracket

impact: Tennessee is back in a virtual tie with Arizona and rising North Carolina for the fourth and final No. 1 seed. The Vols remained in the chauffeur’s seat before Saturday, however they will now bring a little extra concern at the SEC tournament. Kentucky, meanwhile, continues to climb the seed list. The Wildcats are all of a sudden a 3-seed and no doubt a popular pick in both the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

play 0:40 Cormac Ryan’s 3rd 3 forces an early Duke timeout

Cormac Ryan splashes a 3-pointer to put North Carolina up 11 and force a Duke timeout.Medcalf: Hubert Davis

entered last February on a hot streak. He ‘d won four in a row as his team prepared to host Jeff Capel and Pitt. North Carolina lost that night, nevertheless, and started a 5-7 surface to conclude a frustrating season simply a year after a run to the national title game. The Tar Heels faced a 2-3 stretch that bled into mid-February this year, prompting concerns when again about this team’s ceiling. Instead of folding, however, UNC won 6 in a row– including beating its chief competitor to outright win the ACC regular-season title. Hubert Davis’team now goes into the postseason as a legit nationwide title contender.Men’s Competition Challenge Total your bracket by picking the winner for each game of the 2024 guys’s NCAA tournament. Play

Guys’s Competition Challenge Borzello: When Davis went out and signed Cormac Ryan from the website last spring , the Tar Heels were hoping for 2 things

from the Notre Dame transfer: Experience and 3-point shooting. Both came through loud and clear on Saturday. Ryan had 31 points, consisting of 6 3-pointers. He turned up huge on the offending end with RJ Davis struggling to make shots and Armando Bacot not completing regularly on the interior. Ryan struck 3 early threes to set the tone and provide UNC an early lead, then hit back-to-back 3s and four complimentary throws in the final minutes to ice the game. That’s a terrific indication for the Tar Heels entering the postseason.Lunardi’s bracket effect: A Duke win would have provided the ACC a pair of projected No. 2 seeds going into the ACC tournament. Rather, the Blue Devils fall back to a 3-seed while the Tar Heels creep back into the discussion for a 1-seed. UNC will need an ACC tourney title– and probably a little assistance– to arrive at the NCAA’s top line, but an effort like the one at Cameron Indoor makes all things possible.Quick strikes Top stories of the week from Get special access to thousands

of premium short articles a year from leading authors. – Ranking the top 100 NFL totally free agents”- NHL trade rankings: Players on the move”- How ESPN 300 DBs fit at their schools” More ESPN+material”Finally, some mid-major chalk College basketball fans will get the Missouri Valley championship matchup they wanted, with Indiana State and Drake
both winning their semifinal matches. It’s now the
must-watch game on Sunday’s slate, including the
leading two seeds in the conference tournament, the two best players in the

league in Robbie Avila and Tucker DeVries and 2 coaches(Josh Schertz, Darian DeVries)who will be regulars on the coaching carousel up until they take bigger tasks. Indiana State and Drake divided their 2 regular-season meetings, and neither will be guaranteed an NCAA competition bid if it loses in the national championship.– Borzello Bluejays are getting hot During its 7-1 run over the last 8 games of the routine season, Creighton– which beat Villanova, 69-67, in an early-Saturday afternoon thriller– registered 120 points per 100 ownerships 4 times. Greg McDermott’s team has momentum going into the postseason and Baylor Scheierman

(21.3 PPG, 52 %from beyond

the arc over the last 3 games )has actually been a driver for that surge.– Medcalf Nova’s bubble is bursting What a brutal day for the Villanova Wildcats. In a near must-win scenario, the Wildcats fell back Creighton early, 27-5, and seemed dead in the water in Philadelphia. Rather, they climbed their method back into the game and finally tied it on 3 free tosses from big male Eric Dixon

inside 30 seconds to enter the second half. But Bluejays guard Trey Alexander had other concepts at the buzzer, and Villanova will get in the Big East competition on the wrong side of the bubble for the 2nd year in a row.– Lunardi Why Champ Week matters TCU and Mississippi State have been conveniently in the NCAA tournament field for weeks, quietly in the middle of the bracket. However after Saturday, both groups would be clever to avoid a loss in the first game of their particular conference competitions. TCU had a surprising home loss to UCF, implying the Horned Frogs have now lost 3 of

their last 4 games and six of their last 10. MSU fell in your home to South Carolina in overtime, to have lost four directly. Another win would suffice to protect a bid, but another loss?– Borzello

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