Destination Dallas: 2014 Tournament Home Page
Published on Sunday, 3/16/14, at 8:55 p.m. Eastern.
Updated on Tuesday, 3/25/14, at 3:36 p.m. Eastern.
By Brian Edwards
Bookmark this page and make it your home for everything you need to know about the 2014 NCAA Tournament. I’ll add daily thoughts and links starting on Selection Sunday through Monday night (April 7) in Dallas when the next national champion will be crowned. I’ll be in Memphis next Wednesday through Sunday for the South Region semifinals and final. I’ll be appearing on the Chris Vernon Show live in studio on Thursday (March 27).
–Let’s start with this viewable bracket.
–Florida won the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2007 with a 61-60 win over Kentucky on March 16. However, the Gators failed to cover the number as 6.5-point favorites. They led for the entire 40 minutes and beat the Wildcats for the third time this season, which is a first in school history. UF was up by double digits for most of the game, but John Calipari’s team mounted a furious rally late in the second half. Billy Donovan’s team has won 26 consecutive games and hasn’t tasted defeat since losing on a buzzer beater at UConn back on Dec. 2. The Gators will face the winner of the Mt. St. Mary’s-Alabany play-in game in Orlando on Thursday.
–According to the Gainesville Sun, Florida reserve center Chris Walker was non-committal when asked about if he would return to school next year. Walker gave UF his best minutes of the year in the first half of Sunday’s game against UK. He had five points, two rebounds and one steal in just three minutes when Pat Young went to the bench with two fouls.
–Billy Donovan owns a 31-11 record in the NCAA Tournament. Only four active coaches have better winning percentages than Donovan — Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, UNC’s Roy Williams and Kentucky’s John Calipari. If Donovan wins his third national title three weeks from today, his winning percentage would improve to 77.1%. Coach K has the best current percentage (76.7%) going into the tourney.
–Like I tweeted late last night, I find it comical that seemingly every analyst I’ve heard on various shows across CBS and ESPN platforms has already eliminated Cincy (vs. Harvard) and Kansas St. (vs. Kentucky). And hey, I liked how Kentucky looked this past weekend in Atlanta. But let’s not get too enamored with this squad (isn’t that what happened in November & December?) just because it beat LSU and Georgia. Florida only beat Kentucky by a point and pulled away from Tennessee to win by seven, but anyone who watched those games knows that the Vols clearly played UF tougher than UK (UT led most of the game, while the ‘Cats trailed for the entire 40 minutes). But the main point is that K-St. is very legit. If I have to make a list of five ‘bigs’ that I would want to put some muscle, toughness and attitude on UK’s Julius Randle in the lane, K-St. center Thomas Gipson would be on it. And K-St. has plenty of size coming off the bench, too. For any analyst to imply that UK will just step on the court and run through Bruce Weber’s team is an absolute joke. The ‘Cats are favored by five.
—Here’s my annual Bracket Analysis column filed to VegasInsider.com late last night.
–Auburn has hired Bruce Pearl as its next head coach. Wow! That’s a grand-slam hire and he’ll have success fast. My bad, Aubbies! I didn’t think it would happen. I figured Pearl would be patient and have better options. But he does have a new arena and can recruit Atlanta, which is only about a 2.5-hour drive from The Plains.
–Xavier was a 2.5-point favorite yesterday for tonight’s First Four game vs. N.C. St. in Dayton. The number is now up to 3.5 in favor of the Musketeers. My preview of tonight’s action can be found here at VegasInsider.com.
–VCU will be without its best shooter Melvin Johnson against Stephen F. Austin. Johnson injured his knee in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Shaka Smart, who owns a 7-3 career record in the NCAA Tourney, hasn’t ruled out Johnson beyond the team’s opener.
–I’ll be a guest talking college hoops today at 5:20 p.m. Eastern with Dave Cokin and Matt Youmans on ESPN 1100 in Las Vegas. You can listen to the archive of the interview here.
–Hard to think about hoops after the family of a missing spring breaker knocks on your door asking if I’ve seen their son. Reny Jose, a senior engineering student at Rice University, has been missing since March 3. He disappeared from a house on Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach, roughly 25-30 miles east from where I live in Santa Rosa Beach. More information on the search and a picture of Jose can be found here.
–Iowa head coach Fran McCaffrey arrived in Dayton with his team on Monday. He flew back to Iowa City at 8:30 Central on Tuesday night to be with his family. McCaffrey’s son Patrick will have surgery Wednesday morning to remove a mass from his thyroid. “Assuming all goes well,” McCaffrey told the assembled media, “I’ll be back for the team meeting right after our pregame meal.” The Hawkeyes are favored by 2.5 vs. Tennessee in Wednesday night’s First Four showdown. The Volunteers have won six of their last eight games and they’re 4-1 ATS their last five times out.
–Seth Davis chafes me more than Mark May. He is absolutely unbearable.
–I have to give Auburn AD Jay Jacobs a lot of credit. He obviously made a great hire with Gus Malzahn and was able to get Bruce Pearl when I didn’t think he could. According to AL.com, Pearl’s contract is for six years and is worth $2.2 million per season. The former Tennessee coach brought more excitement to Auburn basketball Tuesday than the program has had since getting to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual champ Syracuse in the 2003 Tournament. Cliff Ellis, who is back in the NCAAs this season with Coastal Carolina, was the coach of that team and the star was Marquis Daniels. The Tigers haven’t tasted an NCAA bid since then. Pearl took UT to six straight tourneys before getting fired for lying to the NCAA about Aaron Craft attending a barbeque at his home in Knoxville. And now, he’s back!
–I’ll be talking college hoops with Damon Benning and Gary Sharp on 1620 The Zone in Omaha in 20 minutes (11:45 a.m. Eastern).
–N.C. St. and Albany were winners in the First Four openers in Dayton last night. As I hope many of you heard yesterday (by listening to the archived interview (above) from my radio spot in Vegas), my NCAA Tourney picks got off to a good start with an easy winner on the Wolfpack last night. ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren dropped 25 points on the Musketeers, so the ‘over’ hit for his prop bet of 24.5 points scored. Warren has scored 20 points or more in 18 consecutive games. Mark Gottfried’s team will face Saint Louis on Thursday. The Billikens are favored by 2.5 or three.
–I went 3-0 on Wednesday night, cashing winners with Georgia and Illinois in the NIT, in addition to Tennessee in its First Four win over Iowa in overtime. Yes, I needed comebacks in all three games, but I’ll take it. I’m 4-0 on the week to improve to 146-118 for the season. That’s a 55.3 percent clip that’s produced 18.72 units of profit.
–Tennessee trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, but a surge late in the first half allowed the Volunteers to slice the deficit down to three at intermission. Jordan McRae scored 20 points and also had five rebounds and three assists. Jarnell Stokes finished with 18 points and 12 boards. Cuonzo Martin’s squad advances to face UMass on Wednesday. I made the Vols three-point favorites vs. the Minutemen.
–The SEC went 4-0 in postseason play last night. Texas A&M thumped Wyoming in the CBI Tournament, while LSU won at San Francisco as an underdog in an NIT matchup.
–Best wishes to Patrick McCaffrey in his recovery from surgery on Wednesday morning.
–If you wish, check out my podcast conversation last night with Andrew Lange at Sports Memo. We break down games 710-724 on Thursday’s college hoops betting board.
–Mercer and Stephen F. Austin stole the show on Friday. Here’s my breakdown of the action, in addition to some interesting coaching news involving Buzz Williams and former UConn coach Jim Calhoun. There was also a serious injury that will most likely prevent a No. 3 seed from having a good chance to advance to North Texas. Stanford and Gonzaga also pulled moderate upsets, with New Mexico getting sent packing before the Round of 32 for a second straight year. Speaking of the Round of 32, it starts in less than 8.5 hours when Florida meets Pitt in Orlando for a 12:15 p.m. Eastern tip. The Gators were favored by five or 5.5 early this morning.
–Here’s the latest from Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on the Marquette coaching search that appears to be focused on VCU’s Shaka Smart.
–Bovada has released the following odds for the player to win the award for the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player:
Scottie Wilbekin 7/1
Russ Smith 9/1
Gary Harris 10/1
Adreian Payne 10/1
Nick Johnson 12/1
Casey Prather 15/1
Patric Young 15/1
Luke Hancock 18/1
Montrezl Harrell 20/1
Aaron Gordon 20/1
–Reports out out of both Milwaukee and Richmond indicate that VCU coach Shaka Smart isn’t leaving. Marquette and Wake Forest had been interested in Smart, who called VCU’s incoming recruits Monday night and said he wasn’t going anywhere. An erroneous report from Jim Ganzer (below) sent the Internet into a frenzy yesterday. Ben Howland wants the Marquette job but according to Michael Hunt, the Marquette beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Howland hasn’t heard back from the school.
Shaka Smart is the new coach at Marquette. #mubb Done Deal
— Jim Ganzer (@theIWB) March 25, 2014
–According to multiple reports last night, Wake Forest has targeted Xavier’s Chris Mack for its vacant job.
–Billy Donovan got a raise and an extension earlier today that runs through 2019 and bumps his annual salary to $3.7 million per season.
Be sure to check back later for more NCAA Tourney info/thoughts/links, etc…