Wednesday, 29 March, 2017

NCAA Tournament 2017: What to watch Saturday as second round begins

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Spencer Simpson | 19 March, 2017, 00:37

The games were moved after the NCAA made a decision to pull events from the state of North Carolina. We'll see how far they can advance in the tournament. "We're on fumes." His Duke squads were ACC regular-season champs 12 times.

Jeremy Hollimon has come on strong, despite coming off the bench this season after playing a starting role past year. They can make a short run in this tournament.

Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning and Bryant Crawford had the unfortunate fate of being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament before it really began.John Minchillo/APThe NCAA Tournament is now underway with First Four games played on Tuesday night and two more coming on Wednesday.

Most of the NCAA tournament betting market opened Duke at -19 for this contest, with a total of 152. The Devils were down by as many as eight points, midway in the second half. Teams included in both lists are SC, a No. 1 seed Duke beat 74-63, three No. 4 seeds in Louisville, Miami and Kentucky plus No. 8 seed Syracuse. Winston-Salem native Giles is the sole North Carolinian on Duke's roster, compared to six for UNC. The Blue Devils also won a pair of games at the site in 2002 on its way to the Sweet 16. In fact, I have No. 9 seed Michigan State knocking off No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 5 seed Iowa State in back-to-back game to reach the Elite 8.

A run to the Final Four would likely include a matchup with Villanova, who is the tournament's top overall seed.

I've had North Carolina pegged as the best team in the country for quite some time now, but after the bracket was unveiled on Sunday, my confidence in them has skyrocketed.

SC head coach Frank Martin and seniors Sindarius Thornwell and Justin McKie also spent time with the media prior to their matchup with Duke.

Jayson Tatum has emerged as arguably the best freshman in college basketball, and he appears well on his way to being a top-five pick in the NBA draft. But the senior forward returned to start the second half and finished with 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting and 11 rebounds in his final college game for the Gaels (22-13). The game can be streamed online free with a cable subscription via NCAA March Madness Live.

The freshman wasn't even close to being the team's best player in the 2016-2017 season.

The SWAC Player of the Year, junior guard Zach Lofton leads the team with 17 points per game. It wouldn't be surprised if the Wildcats, who saw a great defensive team in West Virginia three times in Big-12 play, winning once and losing by just one in the semifinals in the Big-12 Tournament, shock a very well defended Cincinnati team that may be overlooking the eleventh-seeded Wildcats.

It would come as no surprise if Grayson Allen has undergone a recent adjustment period while he figures out the ebbs and flows of being Duke's newfound sixth man.

The Trojan fan base, though, honed in on just one Blue Devil. SC and Marquette fans were trickling in for their first-round matchup, and there was only one person that got boos. He's made great progress, doing a little bit more every day.

"Being at Duke, it can come with the territory, but I try not to focus on that stuff", Kennard said.

The Blue Devils could have an especially hard time against teams like Villanova and Marquette, who put up a lot of points.

That seems more improbable to me than winning two games a week in this tournament. With three consecutive wins over top-20 opponents, the Blue Devils appear to be peaking at the ideal time.

"We need to be real good to be able to compete with a team like Duke in a couple of days", Gamecocks Coach Frank Martin said late Friday, shortly before midnight.

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