It’s tempting to spotlight Richmond, an outstanding defensive team with a star in Kevin Anderson. Yet 12-seed Utah State is the only choice. Sure, the seeding committee probably picked the Aggies (27-7) as one of the last teams in the tournament, but that only emphasizes everything.
Check the ratings — the RPI, Kenpom, Sagarin. Utah State’s more along the lines of 7-seed Clemson and far better than 10-seed Florida. When you shoot like the Aggies (49 percent overall), it’s easy to see why. Beating Texas A&M is no easy task, but they’ll be up for it.
Nothing’s been the same for Purdue since Robbie Hummel tore his ACL. The Boilermakers (27-5) dropped two of their last five games and struggled mightily in wins against lowly Penn State and Northwestern. Then came the Big Ten tournament debacle vs. Minnesota, when Purdue scored just 11 first-half points.
Their marvelous season (a share of the Big Ten title) earned the Boilers a 4 seed, but they’re a far cry from that spot. If they make the Sweet 16, it’ll be a marvelous achievement.
The 6-10 junior forward is a game-changer on offense and defense, posting 14 double-doubles and swatting nearly four shots a game. He’s always on the court, grabbing rebounds, playing help defense or scoring. The Bears are a great offensive team, but they’re average defensively. And they’d be even worse without Udoh.
Most likely first-round upset?
Georgetown lost to Old Dominion at home this season. The Hoyas finished 10-8 in the Big East, same as Notre Dame. Add it together and the Irish are in trouble.
The hitch is that Notre Dame (23-11) is finally playing defense. Ever since a Feb. 24 win against Pitt, the Irish are no longer the porous unit that relied on offense to win games. That’ll be crucial against the Monarchs (26-8), who actually play better defense and aren’t too shabby on offense. ODU will find a way for the 6-11 upset.
Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds lives for March. Richmond’s Kevin Anderson is making his first appearance, but is every bit the player Reynolds is. Seeing the two face off in the second-round in Providence will be one for the ages — and something for undersized guards everywhere.
Everything points to Duke. The Blue Devils (29-5) were a mainstay in the Top 10 this season, swept the ACC regular-season and tournament titles and have the most efficient team in the nation (by a hair over Kansas). They have favorable a second-round matchup (either Cal or Louisville) and could face a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16.
Yet ... it’s hard to shake Baylor. The Bears (25-7) have terrific guards in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, solid role players and a future NBA lottery pick in Udoh. They’ll be tested if they face Duke in the regional semifinals, which could play in their favor in a tight game. The Devils should get their due as a quality No. 1 seed, but it’s hard to see them in the Final Four.
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