Monthly Archives: March 2018

Everything you Need yo Know about NCAA Final Four 2018

How unpredictable has this year’s NCAA men’s tournament been? The most lopsided win of the Elite Eight belonged to an 11 seed that advanced to its first Final Four appearance in 55 years. At the same time, the three national semifinalists other than Loyola of Chicago — Kansas, Villanova and Michigan — are among the most successful programs in college basketball history. Together, they fill out a Final Four that nicely mixes the traditional with the unexpected.

Loyola is the most compelling story of the tourney, thanks to a run that slowly turned them from a fun Cinderella into something much more special. But they’re not merely a George Mason or Virginia Commonwealth that’ll be easy to knock off, despite the identical seed numbers. According to our Elo ratings — a measure of a team’s strength that is based on game-by-game results — the Ramblers were the 25th-best team in the field going into the tournament, compared with No. 44 for George Mason in 2006 and No. 52 for VCU. (Loyola is a little more like LSU in 1986, which ranked 32nd in the field before the tournament and became the first double-digit seed ever to make a Final Four.) Going back to the start of the 64-team era in 1985, Loyola’s pre-tourney Elo ranks sixth-best among the 14 Final Four teams who were seeded seventh or worse:

The best low-seeded Final Four teams

Best pre-tournament Elo rating for Final Four teams seeded seventh or lower, 1985-2018

Season Team Region Seed Pre-Tournament Elo
1 2015 Michigan State East 7 1914
2 2014 Connecticut East 7 1909
3 2014 Kentucky Midwest 8 1876
4 2011 Butler Southeast 8 1875
5 2000 Wisconsin West 8 1871
6 2018 Loyola (IL) South 11 1838
7 2000 North Carolina South 8 1822
8 1986 Louisiana State Southeast 11 1804
9 1985 Villanova Southeast 8 1802
10 2013 Wichita State West 9 1791
11 2016 Syracuse Midwest 10 1772
12 2017 South Carolina East 7 1747
13 2006 George Mason Washington 11 1747
14 2011 VCU Southwest 11 1725

So you can build a case that the Ramblers are much better than the typical low-seeded Final Four squad. Still, history has not been kind to Cinderellas in the tournament’s third weekend. In fact, the Final Four is right around when the clock strikes midnight: Teams seeded ninth or worse are 0-6 all-time in the national semifinal.

Michigan is an especially interesting opponent for the Ramblers, given that both teams are riding double-digit winning streaks (Loyola has won 14 straight, and Michigan has won 13) and that the chief knock on Michigan’s otherwise stellar tournament play has been a lack of difficult opponents. If they do beat Loyola, the Wolverines will become the first team in history to make it to the national title game without facing a single team seeded better than sixth. But that probably overstates how easy Michigan’s path was: The average Elo of the Wolverines’ opponents is not notably low by Final Four standards,1 and what’s more, it’s not even the lowest of 2018. (Villanova has faced a much easier path to the Final Four, in terms of its opponents’ average Elo ratings.)

Villanova’s path was easier than Michigan’s

Pregame Elo ratings for Villanova’s and Michigan’s 2018 NCAA tournament opponents, by round

Villanova Opp. Elo Rating Round Elo Rating Michigan Opp.
Radford 1552 Rd. of 64 1693 Montana
Alabama 1795 Rd. of 32 1934 Houston
West Virginia 1972 Sweet 16 1892 Texas A&M
Texas Tech 1988 Elite Eight 1948 Florida State
1827 Average 1867

Either way, Michigan’s defense has been dominant — it’s holding opponents to 38 percent shooting from the field in the NCAAs thus far — and in some ways the Wolverines will be facing a smaller and less-heralded version of themselves in the defensive-minded, slow-paced Ramblers. Plus, for all the talk of Loyola’s last championship coming in 1963, it’s also been nearly three decades since Michigan, behind Glen Rice and coach Steve Fisher, last cut down the nets — a somewhat surprising title drought for a marquee program like UM. Our prediction model gives Michigan a 69 percent chance of advancing to its second title game in six years under John Beilein.2

Meanwhile, for all the chaos of this tournament, chalk prevailed in the other regional finals, producing a pair of No. 1 seeds in Kansas and Villanova. It’ll be the tournament’s 15th battle of top-seeded teams in the national semifinals, and the first since Wisconsin-Kentucky in 2015.

Kansas had its hands full with Duke in the Midwest region’s titanic 1-vs-2 clash. According to our excitement index, which measures how thrilling a game was by computing the average change in win probability on each play, the Jayhawks and Blue Devils tied for the second-most heart-pounding game of the entire tournament so far, trailing only Michigan vs. Houston from the Round of 32. It was the kind of game Kansas hasn’t tended to come out on top of in recent years — it’d lost a regional final in each of the past two seasons, and was 1-3 in chances to go to the Final Four since last winning the championship in 2008.

When we looked at March Madness’s best coaches — in terms of exceeding the record we would expect a team to earn in their tournament games based on Elo — the statistical contrast between Kansas’s Bill Self and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski pretty much summed up the narrative for the two coaches. While each had guided tournament teams with roughly the same seed on average (Self’s teams had an average seed of 2.7, while Coach K’s were at 2.2), Self had played almost exactly to his expected record over the years (+0.1 wins, 188th-best among all coaches), while Krzyzewski had outpaced his expectations by 5.8 wins (seventh-best) since 1985.

But Self and the Jayhawks found redemption behind the outstanding play of Malik Newman, who scored 32 against the Blue Devils, including all 13 Kansas points in overtime. We weren’t fully sold on the Jayhawks before the tournament began — we thought there was a glimmer of hope for Penn to upset them in the first round — but KU has now worked itself up to the fourth-highest power rating of any team in the nation, giving itself a 23 percent title probability according to our model.

Villanova remains our favorite to win the tournament, however, with nearly a 50 percent chance against the field. Unlike Kansas versus Duke, the Wildcats were comfortably in control of their Elite Eight matchup with Texas Tech for practically the entire game, helping it produce the lowest excitement index of any regional final (even lower than Loyola’s rout of K-State). Aside from some midgame jockeying with West Virginia in the Sweet 16, Nova’s victories have seldom been in doubt on the road to the Final Four.

Even when the Wildcats’ offense has sputtered — and against the Red Raiders, they were not impressive by any means, generating their fifth-fewest points per possession in any game this season — their defense has come through. During the tournament, only West Virginia has managed to crack 95 points per 100 possessions against Villanova, and even the Mountaineers were held to their sixth-worst offensive game of the season. Against the Red Raiders, the Wildcats’ two most dynamic players –Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson — combined to shoot 7-for-24 from the floor (including 0-for-9 from deep), and yet the defense was strong enough to help Nova not just overcome problems on offense, but cruise to victory.

A Villanova win would put an uncharacteristically routine capper on what has been a wild season in college basketball. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, the Wildcats won their 134th game in the last four seasons when they beat Texas Tech, breaking the Division I record for the most wins by a program in a four-year span. If they win a couple more, they’d become the fourth program to win at least two championships in a three-year span since 1985.

But it feels premature to speculate about that. This year has already offered some of the most unexpected moments in tournament history. So who knows, maybe the tourney still has a few surprises left in its final weekend.

NCAA® College basketball honors™: OU’s Trae Young | Duke’s Marvin Bagley III®

Oklahoma’s Trae Young took college basketball by storm, leading the nation in scoring and assists. Deandre Ayton played his one season at Arizona with power and athleticism few could match. Versatile big man Marvin Bagley III made his lone year a Duke a memorable one.

The talented trio made history Tuesday by being named to the AP All-America team, the first time three freshmen were named to the first team in its 70-year history.

They were joined by Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham on the team selected by the same 65-member national media panel that selects the weekly AP Top 25.

The All-America first team has had a pair of freshmen three times: John Wall and Demarcus Cousins in 2010; Michael Beasley and Kevin Love in 2008; Kevin Durant and Greg Oden in 2007.

Young, Ayton and Bagley set a new standard with stellar one-and-done seasons.

Young was a top recruit coming out of Norman, Oklahoma, and chose to play for his hometown Sooners. Oklahoma fans were sure glad he did.

A 6-foot-2 point guard, Young popped up on the national radar by scoring 43 points against Oregon early in the season and broke the NCAA record with 22 assists against Northwestern State less than a month later.

Even when teams started to figure out ways to slow Young, he kept scoring and dishing, leading the nation at 27.4 points and 8.7 assists.

“He’s had an interesting year, probably as interesting as anyone can have,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “He battled well all year long.”

So did Ayton.

An imposing presence at 7-foot-1, 260 pounds, the big man from the Bahamas dominated at both ends, throwing down massive dunks, dropping in mid-range jumpers and swatting shots into the stands.

Ayton averaged 20.1 points on 61 percent shooting, 11.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game on his way to becoming the Pac-12 player of the year.

“He’s a once-in-a-generation player,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I doubt if I will ever coach anyone like him again. I don’t mean that we won’t try, but there just aren’t many Deandres walking around.”

Same could be said of Bagley.

The big man from Phoenix is 6-11, but plays more like a much smaller player, athletically getting to the rim, stroking in 3-pointers, soaring in for alley-oop dunks. Bagley became the first player since the 1960s to have 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game when he had 32 and 21 against Florida State, and led the Blue Devils with 21.2 points and 11.1 rebounds.

“He’s the most unique player we’ve had here at Duke during my 38 years,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He has everything.”

Brunson flirted with leaving for the NBA after his sophomore season. His decision to come back keyed Villanova’s return to the Final Four.

A 6-3 guard, Brunson is arguably the nation’s best all-around player. He led Villanova with 19.2 points, 4.6 assists and grabbed 3.1 rebounds per game while leading the Wildcats to the Final Four for the second time in three seasons.

“On the court he’s as complete a player as there can be, very intelligent,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Posts up, shoots 3s, drives, passes, does everything. Defend, rebounds. And his work ethic is maturity every day. We joked he’s the most mature person in the program including all of the coaches and me. And he is.”

Graham took a backseat to All-American Frank Mason III in Kansas a year ago. This season, he’s been the Jayhawks’ unquestioned leader. Heady and with knack for making big plays late in games, Graham led Kansas with 17.2 points. 7.3 assists and grabbed 4.0 rebounds per game while taking the Jayhawks to the Final Four.

“He’s the best intangible guy we’ve ever had here and has as good of leadership qualities as anybody I’ve ever coached,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “So he’s been the complete package as a player, and basically he’s a guy that I don’t think coaches get an opportunity to coach but every few years. And certainly we’ve been blessed to have him.”

Statistics through March 11

First Team

Jalen Brunson, Villanova, 6-3, 190, junior, Lincolnshire, Ill., 19.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, 53.1 fg pct, 41.3 3pt fg pct (63 first-place votes, 321 points)

Deandre Ayton, Arizona, 7-1, 250, freshman, Nassau, Bahamas, 20.3 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 61.6 fg pct, 2.0 blocks (61, 317)

Trae Young, Oklahoma, 6-2, 180, freshman, Norman, Okla., 27.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 8.8 apg, 1.7 steals, 35.3 minutes (61, 315)

Marvin Bagley III, Duke, 6-11, 234, freshman, Phoenix, 21.1 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 60.5 fg pct, 2.0 blocks (59, 313)

Devonte’ Graham, Kansas, 6-2, 185, senior, Raleigh, N.C., 17.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 7.5 apg, 1.6 steals, 41.2 3pt fg pct, 83.4 ft pct, 37.6 minutes (54, 303)

Second Team

Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State, 6-7, 235, junior, Normal, Ill., 19.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.7 blocks (10, 186)

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier, 6-6, 198, senior, Indianapolis, 19.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 42.3 3pt fg pct, 86.1 ft pct (5, 183)

Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s, 6-11, 255, senior, East Malvern, Australia, 21.4 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 64.0 fg pct, 1.1 blocks (3, 153)

Miles Bridges, Michigan State, 6-7, 225, sophomore, Flint, Mich., 16.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 88.3 ft pct (3, 145)

Jevon Carter, West Virginia, 6-2, 205, senior, Maywood, Ill., 17.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.6 apg, 86.3 ft pct, 2.9 steals (1, 109)

Third Team

Keenan Evans, Texas Tech, 6-3, 190, senior, Richardson, Texas, 17.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.2 steals (2, 102)

Carsen Edwards, Purdue, 6-1, 200, sophomore, Atascocita, Texas, 18.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.0 apg, 41.2 3pt fg pct, 1.2 steals (0, 99)

Mikal Bridges, Villanova, 6-7, 210, junior, Malvern, Pa., 18.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 52.1 fg pct, 43.3 3pt fg pct, 85.1 ft pct, 1.6 steals (2, 64)

Luke Maye, North Carolina, 6-8, 240, junior, Huntersville, N.C., 17.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, 44.0 3pt fg pct, 1.0 steals, 1.1 blocks (0, 64)

Kyle Guy, Virginia, 6-2, 175, sophomore, Indianapolis, 14.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 39.5 3pt fg pct, 1.0 steals (0, 40)

Honorable Mention (alphabetical order)

Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure; Peyton Aldridge, Davidson; Grayson Allen, Duke; Mo Bamba, Texas; Trae Bell-Haynes, Vermont; Joel Berry II, North Carolina; Bogdan Bliznyuk, Eastern Washington; Desonta Bradford, ETSU; Tony Carr, Penn State; Gary Clark, Cincinnati; Xavier Cooks, Winthrop; Jermaine Crumpton, Canisius; Clayton Custer, Loyola of Chicago; Mike Daum, South Dakota State; Angel Delgado, Seton Hall; Kahlil Dukes, Niagara; Tre’Shaun Fletcher, Toledo; Marcus Foster, Creighton; Brandon Goodwin, Florida Gulf Coast; Isaac Haas, Purdue; Aaron Holiday, UCLA; Jordan Howard, Central Arkansas; Jemerrio Jones, New Mexico State; Nick King, Middle Tennessee; Kevin Knox, Kentucky; Fletcher Magee, Wofford; Caleb Martin, Nevada; Kelan Martin, Butler; Yante Maten, Georgia; Martaveous McKnight, Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Kendrick Nunn, Oakland; Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s; Jerome Robinson, Boston College; Junior Robinson, Mount St. Mary’s; Colin Sexton, Alabama; Landry Shamet, Wichita State; T.J. Shorts II, UC Davis; D’Marcus Simonds, Georgia State; Jonathan Stark, Murray State; Brandon Tabb, Bethune-Cookman; Zach Thomas, Bucknell; Seth Towns, Harvard; Allonzo Trier, Arizona; Grant Williams, Tennessee; Johnathan Williams, Gonzaga; Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra.

Moritz Wagner is NCAA® Final Four-bound Michigan’s emotional ® spark plug

Michigan likes to fancy itself a national brand, with an alumni and fan base that stretches coast to coast. Wolverines basketball coach John Beilein knows this, and so when he boarded a plane to Berlin a few years ago to follow up on a tip about a prospective recruit, he did so incognito.

The ruse lasted roughly 48 hours. When he landed back in Detroit, a group of UM fans spotted him and soon enough, news was out on Twitter that Beilein had been overseas recruiting.

“You can run, but you can’t hide,” Beilein cracked at the West Regional last weekend in Los Angeles.

It’s understandable that Beilein would be concerned. It’s not every day you find a 6-9 German forward with a mature, engaging personality, the type of kid anxious to travel across the ocean to better his basketball skills.

But as everyone learned last weekend at Staples Center, Moritz Wagner is truly one of a kind.

The junior forward — who pronounces his name “MORE-rhet’z VOG-ner” according to the UM media guide and who has grown to 6-11 in three seasons in Ann Arbor — is more than just the Wolverines’ leading scorer (14.3 ppg) and rebounder (6.9). He is their emotional spark plug, talking trash to opponents (and teammates), sticking his tongue out for effect after big plays.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, speaking to reporters last February, summed it like this: “Wagner can be a pain in the butt. Let’s not kid ourselves.”

That comment, by the way, made Wagner smile. He has made a career out of annoying opponents, and then telling them — and fans — about it. Of his tongue-wagging habit Wagner said, “My dad always says the tongue is nice and my mom is like, I hate that.”

You’ve got to find a balance, Wagner said. Clearly, he has.

His mom, Beate, is the one Michigan fans should be thanking for putting Wagner in basketball. A soccer player growing up, Mo Wagner said his mother got “sick of standing outside in the rain, so she dragged me to a gym.” By high school, basketball was his sport of choice.

That Wagner has helped Michigan to the Final Four this week in San Antonio is somewhat serendipitous. Five years ago, when the Wolverines lost to Louisville in the 2013 NCAA title game, Wagner watched from his home in Berlin with his father, Axel Schulz. Mesmerized by the pomp and circumstance surrounding the NCAA tournament, Schulz told Wagner, “This is crazy, with the music and the band — you’ve gotta go there, you’ve gotta go to college!”

Who knew it would actually happen though?

It surprised Wagner as much as anyone when Beilein showed up in Berlin.

“This dude who was on the TV, all the sudden he’s in your living room,” Wagner said. “It’s weird, because America is another world for you as a kid.”

Beilein first heard about Wagner from Yenal Kahraman, the same guy who helped former Connecticut forward Niels Giffey, who played for the Huskies from 2010-2014 and won two NCAA championships, get to the U.S. Beilein called Wagner after reading an email from Kahraman, and knew he had to meet Wagner immediately.

“The energy on the phone was incredible,” Beilein recalled last week.

“When you talk on the phone with recruits, it’s not always comfortable. They’re not comfortable talking with adults or they just don’t communicate. He was an incredible communicator.”

It was more impressive in person. When Beilein arrived in Berlin, he met Wagner at his family’s home, where he ate “a big German dinner and a beer.” By the end of their elevator ride upstairs, Beilein was sold.

“By the time I got out of the elevator I said, if this kid’s good at all, I’m going to give him a scholarship,” Beilein said. “He was so engaging.”

Reporters in L.A. got a taste of that last week. Wagner has a playful easiness around the media, and a genuine charisma that’s evident the first time you meet him.

When a reporter commented that his English was perfect, Wagner bowed his head and responded, “Bless you.” Wagner said no one has ever described his second language that way and in the process, stumbled over his words a bit. Without skipping a beat, he explained, “I’m nervous now!”

On mentoring hard-headed freshmen, he sighed and said knowingly, “It sucks to admit that coach is right.”

In talking about mixing sports with scholastic activities — normal to Americans but a foreign concept to other countries — Wagner described it as, “the way they do it here, with all the bling-bling.” He went on to say that it’s sort of bizarre, having a gym all to yourself, because in Europe you typically have to share with other sports. “You play in a gym with volleyball stripes on the court,” he said before hurriedly adding, “Not that (volleyball’s) a bad thing!”

On handball, his father’s extracircular of choice, Wagner informed everyone that he did not play “that ugly European sport.”

In talking about his growth as a scorer he quipped, “I wasn’t as good of a shooter then as I am now — and I’m saying that as a confident guy, not a cocky guy.” He added the last part with a smile, lest anyone misjudge him.

Of improving his accuracy: “Even back when I sucked (at shooting), I kept working on it.”

This chatter, coaches and teammates agree, is totally normal for Wagner.

It makes sense, too, when you consider his idol, Kevin Garnett. A longtime Boston Celtics fan, Wagner adores KG because, “He’s crazy. He could miss a million shot and still affect that game in a way no one else on the basketball floor was able to do with his intensity and energy.

“Obviously he’s a little crazy in the head, but I really appreciate that. I’m a little crazy out there, too.”

And in Ann Arbor, there are no complaints about that.

2018 March Madness: Updated NCAA Final Four odds, betting lines in NCAA Tournament 2018

Finally, four.

But Saturday’s NCAA Tournament semifinals have two different looks: No. 1 seeds Kansas and Villanova will meet in one, and No. 3 seed Michigan takes on No. 11 seed Loyola of Chicago in the other on Saturday in San Antonio.

Cheer an underdog (hello, Sister Jean!) or go with the chalk? Or maybe the rock chalk.

Here are the updated odds for the final Saturday of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. (Obviously, odds will change as bettors continue to lay down their money.)

NCAA Tournament odds: Final Four 2018

Saturday, March 31
Loyola-Chicago vs. Michigan (-6)
Kansas vs. Villanova (-5)

NCAA® March Madness 2018: Grayson Allen | the latest | hated Duke® basketball player™

You will have to find another target now, and Grayson Allen knows that you will. That guy probably will play for Duke, and that will be enough, but if he happens to give a reason or two to prompt your vitriol, all the better.

“Duke has had many lightning rods over the years,” Allen said. “It’s a long list of them, a long list of white Duke basketball players that have been lightning rods. That’s just how it is, that’s just how it is throughout the country. I didn’t understand it before I came to Duke, but obviously I do now.”

During his four seasons with the Blue Devils, Allen presented the public with several episodes of on-court misbehavior to fuel the disfavor with him. There were the two tripping incidents near the close of his sophomore season, a recurrence near the midpoint of his junior year. It is obvious he is one of those athletes who walks a fine line between intensity and incivility when he competes and occasionally lands on the incorrect side.

It also is obvious to anyone with a television set that he is not alone, nor even in the upper echelon in this category. And yet he seems to be separated into a category of his own. Last season, Rob Gronkowski threw the full weight of his 6-6, 265-pound body onto a prone, unsuspecting player and punctuated this maneuver with a forearm to the back of that opponent’s helmet. He makes TV commercials as lovable Gronk.

There is a subset of college basketball fans, and it seems to include NCAA president Mark Emmert, who lament that the quick trip through the game taken by many elite prospects prevents them from “getting to know the players.”

How hard did anyone try with Allen?

He was asked during his weekend at the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region if he enjoys playing the villain role. His answer came quickly. “No, I don’t. I think I surprise people when I say that I don’t,” Allen said. “But you learn to own it. You learn to accept it. I don’t feed off of the boos. I don’t feed off of anything like that. When I play, it’s serious; it’s a competitive mode for me.

“No one likes to get booed, no one likes to get cussed out, no one likes to get told, ‘F— you’ by 20,000 fans when you go places. But that’s where mental toughness comes into play. That’s what I’ve learned.”

His career began in glory, when Allen came off the bench in the NCAA championship game against Wisconsin in 2015 and attacked the basket with drives that turned around the game. He scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting and a perfect 5 of 5 on free throws, production that most likely was not on the UW scouting report. He’d managed only four double-figure scoring games all season.

It ended in agony, of a sort, with his opportunity to put Duke into the 2018 Final Four with a buzzer-beating shot rolling off the rim, off the flange, against the backboard — everywhere but into the net. It was as close as one can come to a hero’s moment and still end up losing.

“I thought once it rolled around a few times it was going in,” Allen told Sporting News. “It was close. It was right there.”

Sunday’s regional final was maybe a great moment for Allen’s detractors. It was hard to say for those in attendance at CenturyLink Center. The fans there were more interested in whether Kansas or Duke would survive to the Final Four than in one last opportunity to revel in a lousy moment for Allen.

He wasn’t good in this game. He shot only 3 of 13 from the floor and 2 of 9 on 3-pointers. He defended well (four steals) and passed well (four assists). With Marvin Bagley getting such a large dose of Kansas’ defensive attention, though, and with Wendell Carter missing so much of the game with foul trouble, Duke needed greater effectiveness from Allen. Even if it was just one more shot.

He will live with that, but he always can remember that he won Duke a championship, also. His was not a conventional career. In his sophomore year, when Duke was somewhat undermanned, he averaged 21.6 points and was a second-team All-American. In his junior year, when Duke was loaded at every position but point guard, he filled in much of the year there and saw his scoring average plunge. That was also when he hit his lowest moment, the December trip of an opponent that led to him being suspended by coach Mike Krzyzewski.

His senior year was relatively free of controversy, until he hip-checked a North Carolina opponent in the ACC Tournament. It was a simple Flagrant 1 foul Twittered into a calamity, but there is at least some concern at the NBA level that he’ll need to manage his competitive demons.

“He’s a 2,000-point scorer. He’s a national champion,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s been our leader this year. He’s one of the outstanding players to have ever played in our program. And he did a great job of interacting with this young group and helped the young group grow. And you’re a shot away, a roll away from being in the Final Four.”

For all Allen went through in his time at Duke, though, for all the disappointment of missing out on a chance to end his college career as he began, he sat in the locker room Sunday night and gracefully dealt with questions about it all.

None of this is likely to change your mind about Grayson Allen, but it seems worth one last try.

“It’s a lot of joy, a lot of happiness when I look back. A lot of growth,” Allen said. “From an outside perspective, it might look like I went through hell for a little bit, and it kind of felt like it there in the middle. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’d go back and come to Duke and stay for four years again.

“I take the stuff on the court so seriously. And I’m obviously very competitive. But the time I have so much fun are just hanging out with these guys, getting to know them better, being a college student just having fun at Duke. I’m making memories with all the friends I have on the team and off the team.”

When is the NCAA Final Four 2018?

Who will cut down the nets in San Antonio? Will it be one of two No. 1 seeds, a No. 3 seed or the ultimate Cinderella? We’ll find out soon enough when Kansas, Villanova, Loyola-Chicago and Michigan will vie for college basketball supremacy in San Antonio starting on Saturday.

The NCAA Tournament has been full of surprises thus far, but two No. 1 seeds have actually made the Final Four, along with No. 3 seed Michigan. The biggest surprise, by far, is the No. 11 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers making it all the way to the final weekend. It should be an intriguing set of games, so make sure you know how to watch them.

Below are dates, tip times, and the television schedule for the event, which begins on March 31.

Final Four

  • When: Saturday, March 31
  • TV: TBS
  • Time: Game 1 (No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago) tip: 6:09 p.m. ET | Game 2 (No.1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas) tip: 8:49 p.m. ET
  • Location: Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas

National Championship

  • When: Monday, April 2
  • TV: TBS
  • Time: 9:20 p.m. ET
  • Location: Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas

NCAA Men’s Basketball 2018: semifinals tip times, TV channel info, (Final Four)

The Final Four is set. Finally. We’re headed to San Antonio for the conclusion of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, one of the wildest in history. The four teams are in: Villanova, Kansas, Michigan and Loyola-Chicago.

But the schedule for the Final Four is out now, with games scheduled for Saturday, March 31. Loyola-Chicago plays Michigan in the opener, after the No. 11 seed Ramblers stunningly took the South Regional that fell to shreds. The No. 3 seed Wolverines came out of the West Regional, where the top two teams couldn’t make it out of the first weekend.

In the second game, No. 1 seed Villanova enters the Final Four as arguably the favorite, having run through any opposition in the East Regional without much problem. The Wildcats will have their hands full with the No. 1 seed Jayhawks, who played close games throughout their victory in the Midwest Regional.

If you’d like to take a look at how we got here, check out our bracket with every score and links to stats and more. And if you’re going to be streaming the games, here’s our guide on how to do that for free.

The championship game will be Monday, April 2. Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson will be on the call for the main broadcast on TBS, while each team that makes it will have an independently produced “Teamcast” for hard-core fans.

Final Four TV schedule

SATURDAY, MARCH 31

6:09 p.m.: Loyola-Chicago vs. Michigan

  • TBS: National Broadcast (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson)
  • TNT: Michigan TeamCast (broadcasters not announced)
  • TruTV: Loyola-Chicago TeamCast (broadcasters not announced)

8:49 p.m.: Villanova vs. Kansas

  • TBS: National Broadcast (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson)
  • TNT: Kansas TeamCast (broadcasters not announced)
  • TruTV: Villanova TeamCast (broadcasters not announced)

All times Eastern.

*Second game starts 40 minutes after conclusion of first

NCAA Basketball Tournament 2018: Bracket, scores, schedule, updates ® Final Four

The 2018 NCAA Tournament has the Final Four games next. Below is the NCAA bracket, final scores, schedule and updates for the Final Four and the rest of the tournament.

The Final Four is Michigan vs. Loyola (Chicago) and Villanova vs. Kansas.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Bracket

2018 NCAA Tournament: Scores

ELITE EIGHT

FINAL: No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) 78, No. 9 Kansas State 62

FINAL: No. 3 Michigan 58, No. 9 Florida State 54

FINAL: No. 1 Villanova 71, No. 3 Texas Tech 59

FINAL: No. 1 Kansas 85, No. 2 Duke 81 (OT)

2018 NCAA Tournament: Schedule for Final Four

 NATIONAL SEMIFINALS

Saturday, March 31

6:09 p.m. ET — No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) | TBS

8:49 p.m. — No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas | TBS

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Monday, April 2

9:20 p.m. — Semifinal winners | TBS

2018 NCAA Tournament: Scores, results

FIRST FOUR (in Dayton, Ohio)

Tuesday, March 13

  • FINAL: No. 16 Radford 71, No. 16 LIU Brooklyn 61
  • FINAL: No. 11 St. Bonaventure 65, No. 11 UCLA 58

Wednesday, March 14

  • FINAL: No. 16 Texas Southern 64, No. 16 NC Central 46
  • FINAL: No. 11 Syracuse 60, No. 11 Arizona State 56

FIRST ROUND

Thursday, March 15

  • FINAL: No. 7 Rhode Island 83, No. 10 Oklahoma 78 (OT)
  • FINAL: No. 3 Tennessee 73, No. 14 Wright State 47
  • FINAL: No. 4 Gonzaga 68, No. 13 UNC Greensboro 64
  • FINAL: No. 1 Kansas 76, No. 16 Penn 60
  • FINAL: No. 2 Duke 89, No. 15 Iona 67
  • FINAL: No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) 64, No. 6 Miami (Fla.) 62
  • FINAL: No. 5 Ohio State 81, No. 12 South Dakota 73
  • FINAL: No. 8 Seton Hall 94, No. 9 N.C. State 83
  • FINAL: No. 1 Villanova 87, No. 16 Radford 61
  • FINAL: No. 5 Kentucky 78, No. 12 Davidson 73
  • FINAL: No. 3 Texas Tech 70, No. 14 Stephen F. Austin 60
  • FINAL: No. 6 Houston 67, No. 11 San Diego State 65
  • FINAL: No. 9 Alabama 86, No. 8 Virginia Tech 83
  • FINAL: No. 13 Buffalo 89, No. 4 Arizona 68
  • FINAL: No. 6 Florida 77, No. 11 St. Bonaventure 62
  • FINAL: No. 3 Michigan 61, No. 14 Montana 47

Friday, March 16

  • FINAL: No. 7 Texas A&M 73, No. 10 Providence 69
  • FINAL: No. 2 Purdue 74, No. 15 CS Fullerton 48
  • FINAL: No. 13 Marshall 81, No. 4 Wichita State 75
  • FINAL: No. 2 Cincinnati 68, No. 15 Georgia State 53
  • FINAL: No. 2 North Carolina 84, No. 15 Lipscomb 66
  • FINAL: No. 10 Butler 79, No. 7 Arkansas 62
  • FINAL: No. 5 West Virginia 85, No. 12 Murray State 68
  • FINAL: No. 7 Nevada 87, No. 10 Texas 83 (OT)
  • FINAL: No. 9 Kansas State 69, No. 8 Creighton 59
  • FINAL: No. 3 Michigan State 82, No. 14 Bucknell 78
  • FINAL: No. 4 Auburn 62, No. 13 College of Charleston 58
  • FINAL: No. 1 Xavier 102, No. 16 Texas Southern 83
  • FINAL: No. 16 UMBC 74, No. 1 Virginia 54
  • FINAL: No. 11 Syracuse 57, No. 6 TCU 52
  • FINAL: No. 5 Clemson 79, No. 12 New Mexico State 68
  • FINAL: No. 9 Florida State 67, No. 8 Missouri 54

SECOND ROUND

Saturday, March 17

  • FINAL: No. 1 Villanova 81, No. 9 Alabama 58
  • FINAL: No. 2 Duke 87, No. 7 Rhode Island 62
  • FINAL: No. 5 Kentucky 95, No. 13 Buffalo 75
  • FINAL:  No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) 63, No. 3 Tennessee 62
  • FINAL: No. 1 Kansas 83, No. 8 Seton Hall 79
  • FINAL: No. 4 Gonzaga 90, No. 5 Ohio State 84
  • FINAL: No. 3 Texas Tech 69, No. 6 Florida 66
  • FINAL: No. 3 Michigan 64, No. 6 Houston 63

Sunday, March 18

  • FINAL: No. 2 Purdue 76, No. 10 Butler 73
  • FINAL: Syracuse 55, Michigan State 53
  • FINAL: Texas A&M 86, North Carolina 65
  • FINAL: Nevada 75, Cincinnati 73
  • FINAL: Clemson 84, Auburn 53
  • FINAL: Kansas State 50, UMBC 43
  • FINAL: Florida State 75, Xavier 70
  • FINAL: West Virginia 94, Marshall 71

SWEET 16

Thursday, March 22

  • FINAL: No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) 69, No. 7 Nevada 68
  • FINAL: No. 3 Michigan 99, No. 7 Texas A&M 72
  • FINAL: No. 5 Kansas State 61, No. 5 Kentucky 58
  • FINAL: No. 9 Florida State 75, No. 4 Gonzaga 60

Friday, March 23

  • FINAL: No. 1 Kansas 80, No. 5 Clemson 76
  • FINAL: No. 1 Villanova 90, No. 5 West Virginia 78
  • FINAL: No. 2 Duke 69, No. 11 Syracuse 65
  • FINAL: No. 3 Texas Tech 78, No. 2 Purdue 65

ELITE EIGHT

Saturday, March 24

  • FINAL: No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) 78, No. 9 Kansas State 62
  • FINAL: No. 3 Michigan 58, No. 9 Florida State 54

Sunday, March 25

  • FINAL: No. 1 Villanova 71, No. 3 Texas Tech 59
  • FINAL: No. 1 Kansas 85, No. 2 Duke 81 (OT)

Why each NCAA® Final Four team will won’t leave ® San Antonio

This weekend, four teams will collide in San Antonio for the last chapter of the 2017-18 college basketball season — one of the most intriguing campaigns in recent history.

LaVar Ball pulled his son LiAngelo from school and took him to Lithuania after the former UCLA freshman had been detained in China for shoplifting. In September, a bribery scandal rocked the entire sport and led to the arrests of four Division I assistants and the dismissal of Rick Pitino at Louisville.

Top recruit Michael Porter Jr. played just two minutes of the regular season for Missouri because of a back injury. Collin Sexton nearly led Alabama to a win over Minnesota with just him and two of his teammates eligible to play in the final 10 minutes of a game in December.

The season will conclude in a matchup between four teams that have endured their own unexpected twists.

On Jan. 18, Nebraska, a squad that missed the NCAA tournament, beat Michigan by 20 points. But the Wolverines found a rhythm. They’ll come to San Antonio riding a 13-game winning streak. Bill Self led Kansas to the Final Four a decade after Mario’s Miracle and the school’s 2008 national title run. Villanova is back to compete for its second national title in three years.

And Sister Jean will accompany Loyola-Chicago, the most intriguing Cinderella since George Mason, to the national semifinals, too.

Every team in the field possesses the talent to leave San Antonio with a crown. But they’re all flawed enough to miss out on their dreams.

We’ll break down the details of both scenarios for each team.

Why Michigan will cut the nets down: The Wolverines are the bad boys of the Final Four

John Beilein’s team returns to the Final Four five years after its loss to Louisville in the national championship game. Beilein said he had no interest in claiming that title after the NCAA vacated Louisville’s win in that game because of the Katina Powell sex-for-pay scandal. But the team he’s taking to San Antonio this week can leave the Alamodome with the undisputed national title because the Wolverines will enter the Final Four with the best defense among the remaining teams. Beilein’s squad held Florida State to a 31.4 percent clip from the field in their Elite Eight matchup on Saturday. The Wolverines also contested 90 percent of FSU’s shots, per ESPN Stats & Information data. Think about that. The only Final Four team ranked within the top 10 on KenPom.com in adjusted defensive efficiency challenged nine of every 10 FSU shots. The Wolverines will win it all because the constrictive defensive pressure they apply is too sturdy to crack.

Why Michigan will leave San Antonio without a championship: Its inconsistent offense

Michigan’s defensive pressure has fueled its 13-game win streak. But every Michigan fan in the country is probably worried about the up-and-down offensive production of this defensive juggernaut. The same Michigan squad that connected on nearly 60 percent of its 3-point attempts in a win over Texas A&M in the Sweet 16 finished 4-for-22 from beyond the arc in Saturday’s victory against Florida State. The Wolverines rolled to a Big Ten championship with a potent offensive attack. In the NCAA tournament, however, Charles Matthews & Co. have averaged more than a point per possession in only one of their four games. They’ll need their best offensive output to compete with the hot shooters in San Antonio. A fluctuating offense, one that has failed to rise to its potential in the NCAA tournament, remains a concern.

Why Loyola-Chicago will cut the nets down: Destiny and quickness

If you had erased the Loyola-Chicago name and just focused on the numbers throughout the season, this run to the Final Four would not have seemed as miraculous. This is a team that has made more than 40 percent of its 3-pointers and played top-20 defense this season. But the Ramblers’ offensive charisma in the NCAA tournament, fueled by speedy guards Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer, has centered on their ability to get by players, draw extra defenders and open the floor for their shooters. The Ramblers have made 60 percent of their shots inside the arc during the NCAA tournament. They’re a hard team to contain because of their agility. But that is not the only reason to anticipate a Loyola-Chicago national championship. The Ramblers have reached this point off buzzer-beaters, wild bounces and clutch 3-pointers. Maybe that touch of fortune will continue in San Antonio.

Why Loyola-Chicago will leave San Antonio without a championship: A lack of elite playmakers

An 11-seed has never won the national championship. Why? When the best teams in the country come together to vie for the ultimate crown in a single-elimination event, the distance between the Cinderellas and their blue-chip opponents often shows. Loyola-Chicago is a talented team that has exceeded all expectations. But the Ramblers enter a final stretch that features legit NBA talent. To win it all, they’ll have to deal with Moritz Wagner and perhaps Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk or Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson, all players who might secure spots on NBA rosters next season. This is where the fun often ends for the underdogs of the NCAA tournament, in part because they just can’t match the talent of the opposing teams they must beat to advance. And don’t mention Butler. The Bulldogs had lottery pick Gordon Hayward and second-round pick Shelvin Mack — who is averaging 6.6 points a game in the NBA right now — when they faced Duke in the national championship game in 2010. Loyola-Chicago does not have similar talent. It’s an uphill climb from here.

Why Kansas will cut the nets down: Malik Newman, KU’s third superhero

Both Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk will enter the NBA draft this summer and probably secure spots with pro teams. But Malik Newman is the best player on the roster right now. He could join them in the NBA. Since the start of the Big 12 tournament, he has led the team in scoring six times in seven games. He has made 55 percent of his 3-point attempts during that stretch, too. Before he scored 32 points in KU’s Elite Eight overtime victory against Duke on Sunday, Newman had led a Kansas squad that had registered 1.16 points per possession when he was on the floor in three previous NCAA tournament games, per hooplens.com. With Newman excelling at the right time, Self possesses a backcourt full of NBA prospects. And that’s why the Jayhawks will capture his second national title. Locking up three savvy guards is not an easy task.

Why Kansas will leave San Antonio without a championship: Fouls and Free Throws, the Udoka Azubuike Story

Udoka Azubuike is the most important player on the Kansas roster. He’s ranked seventh in ESPN.com’s player efficiency rating. Entering Sunday’s game against Duke, he had led the team in points per possession differential (hooplens.com) in the NCAA tournament. But he has fouled out in KU’s past two games, and he picked up four against Seton Hall in the second round. He has not played more than 25 minutes in a single NCAA tournament game this year as a result. His recovery from a sprained MCL has been a factor, too. The Jayhawks survived Azubuike’s late foul trouble against Duke, a great team with two potential lottery picks in the paint. In KU’s past four losses, however, Azubuike drew four fouls. Plus, he’s a 41 percent free throw shooter and a liability in the final minutes of tight games. To win another crown, Kansas might need Azubuike to avoid foul trouble and make free throws on the biggest stage in the sport. Neither is a guarantee.

Villanova Wildcats

Why Villanova will cut the nets down: It’s the best team in America

Jay Wright’s squad boasts a level of excellence that’s unmatched in college basketball. The Wildcats beat Gonzaga by double digits. This is a team that defeated Xavier, a No. 1 seed, by 40 points combined during two regular-season outings. Villanova, No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, scored 90 points against West Virginia in the Sweet 16. Mikal Bridges (18.0 PPG, 45 percent from beyond the arc) is a lottery pick. Jalen Brunson could win the Wooden Award before he earns a spot in the first round of this summer’s NBA draft. Six players on the roster have made at least 39 percent of their 3-pointers. But when the team’s shots weren’t falling against Texas Tech on Sunday in the Elite Eight, it relied on defensive discipline and contested 86 percent of the Red Raiders’ layups (ESPN Stats & Info). If every team in the field plays to its potential in the Final Four, Villanova will be the final team standing.

Why Villanova will leave San Antonio without a championship: The Wildcats aren’t unique

It’s difficult to identify any challenge that could ruin Nova’s pursuit of its second national title in the past three seasons. But this run does not resemble the team’s trip to the Final Four two years ago. That season, every opponent Villanova faced played a traditional two-big lineup. Meanwhile, Villanova used Kris Jenkins at power forward even though he was more of a wing than a big man. That design perplexed opponents that lacked the personnel to match up with Villanova. That’s not the case this season. Michigan, Loyola-Chicago and Kansas can all knock down 3-pointers. They’re all comfortable with their small-ball lineups. They all have crafty, quick guards. Villanova is not unique this time around. And that’s why the Wildcats could leave San Antonio without a championship.

NCAA Elite Eight: Bracket, scores, results from NCAA® Tournament 2018 games

March Madness is nearing an end, as the NCAA Tournament field has suddenly shrunk to four following the conclusion of the Elite Eight on Sunday. Two No. 1 seeds, Villanova and Kansas, punched its tickets to San Antonio, joining Loyola-Chicago and Michigan, which did the same on Saturday.

Villanova paved its way relatively drama-free, as has been the case for the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats knocked off Texas Tech 71-59 — its closest contest of the tournament to date — and reserved their date Saturday with 1 seed Kansas out of the Midwest Region.

Speaking of Kansas: The Jayhawks survived and advanced by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin. It took an overtime period to decide their eventual 85-81 victory over No. 2 seed Duke, but now Bill Self returns to San Antonio — the place he won his only national title a decade ago — with hopes of repeating that same magic Mario Chalmers and those Jayhawks formulated.

Elite Eight: Sunday’s games

  • No. 1 Villanova 71, No. 3 Texas Tech 59
  • No. 1 Kansas 85, No. 2 Duke 81