The Team That Will Threaten Zion and Duke’s Hopes of a National Title

The East region of the NCAA March Madness might be the toughest. With the top 4 teams making it to the Sweet 16 (Duke, Michigan State, LSU, Virginia Tech), it honestly could be a toss-up for which team will make it out of there. We all know what the majority is saying though: Duke can’t lose. Duke with Zion Williamson is destined to win the National Championship this year, because no one could possibly stop him. Well, what if I told you there was a team in the East region that could threaten Zion and Duke’s hopes of making it to even the Final Four? No, this isn’t a 30/30, but it is something that is just as thought provoking. That team isn’t Michigan State or Virginia Tech, but rather the LSU Tigers.

I know what you’re thinking, “No way! LSU doesn’t have a head coach and they lost to Florida twice this year!” Just hear me out. Let me address the teams abilities first. So, LSU might be one of the most talented, athletic, and long teams in the country. They have both size and speed. Tremont Waters has established himself as one of the most talented point guards in the country; Skylar Mays has given the team the needed leadership and shooting ability that they desperately needed all year; Javonte Smart has emerged as one of the great young talents in college basketball with his new found confidence; Kavell Bigby-Williams is one of the only seniors on the team, but he has been the perfect 6’11” 250 lbs center that the team has needed; finally, the absolute freak of nature himself Naz Reid. Naz is scary good. He can eat you up down low or pop it from three. LSU is also a deep team with guys like Emmitt Williams, Marlon Taylor, and Darius Days. All of these guys help make LSU one of the best teams in the country.

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So then what are they so great at aside from having absolute athletes on their team? They can beat on both offense and defense. Where they might struggle from behind the three, they are one of the nationals leaders in offensive rebounding. When they get that ball down low in the paint they are almost automatic. They don’t get blocked often either. The fact that they spend a lot of time in the paint, LSU spends a lot of time at the free throw line. This is where they have had a lot of success this year averaging roughly 75%. On defense, they are lockdown. They are one of the nationals leaders in steals and blocks. It is very hard to get the shots you want against this very long and athletic team. One of LSU’s biggest struggles is following asleep on defense when the shot clock get to about 10 seconds, and also becoming too conservative on offense. They have a knack for letting teams back into the game because they try to park the bus and it never works for them. So, I think that those are one of the only things that you can do to take advantage of this team.

Next, addressing the Will Wade situation. Yes, I know that it is difficult to be successful when you don’t have your commander in chief, the guy that has led this team all season; however, they have still played very well. People forget, Tony Benford has been with the team all year. It is not like this guy has just randomly stepped in to take over a team that he knows nothing about. These players trust him to lead the team in Wade’s absence and can use this “Us Against the World” mentality to their advantage. No one has given them a look all tournament. I mean, they were one of the potential upsets in the first round. They’re playing great basketball, and have all the talent they need.

Obviously, for LSU to play Duke then both teams would have to make it to the Elite Eight. This is entirely possible. I think that these Sweet Sixteen match-ups (Duke – Virginia Tech and Michigan State – LSU) are going to be really fun. I just have never had confidence in Michigan State all year, and Virginia Tech has a very tough task ahead of them. Anything is possible come tournament time. That is why they call it March Madness, so that is yet to be seen. However, if LSU and Duke do play then I think LSU can have a lot of success against Duke.

Duke may have 3 of the top 10 NBA prospects in college basketball on their team with Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish, but that doesn’t mean that they are unbeatable. As we have seen throughout this year, Duke has struggled in some major scoring areas, mainly from behind the three. Duke might be the worst three point percentage shooting team in all of college basketball. That is not a joke. Their three point percentage is just above 30% (30.7%). That is atrocious. That is 329th/353 teams in college basketball. Yikes. They also don’t make their free throws, which is a cause for concern. Leaving points at the line can cost a team a game, and it almost happened to Duke versus UCF on Sunday. Zion missed the game tying free throw and luckily for Duke RJ Barrett was there to get the offensive rebound and make the layup. That could have been a completely different outcome had Tacko Fall not fouled out when he fouled Zion on that last play.

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The size and speed of LSU, coupled with their raw talent, would be something that Duke has not seen yet in this tournament. They may get a little of that against Virginia Tech, but LSU is a different animal. UCF was a challenge to Duke because of their ability to guard within the paint. That was something that forced Duke to shoot outside shots, which they cannot shoot well.

So, if LSU and Duke meet in the Elite Eight, look for the upset. LSU will control the paint and keep Duke from getting what they want inside and be forced to shoot threes. Duke is on upset watch. You heard it hear first.

Just a reminder that the last time LSU and Duke faced off during March Madness, the Glen “Big Baby” Davis led LSU Tigers beat number 1 Seed JJ Redick led Duke Blue Devils to advance to the Elite Eight back in 2006.

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-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm

Saturday Morning Sports Trivia: NCAA Tournament Edition

Every sports fan fills out a bracket with the same dumb thought that this year could be the year that they fill out a perfect sheet. We all think that we know everything there is to know about NCAA basketball. But how much do you really know? As I say every week, I love you all for your minds. And I bet nobody can get a perfect bracket or 15/15.

Questions:

  1. What team, led by CJ McCollum, beat Duke as a 15-seed in 2012?
  2. 2-seeds have combined for a total of 8 losses to 15 seeds. What school has 2 of those losses?
  3. A 15-seed has only advanced to the Sweet 16 once. What team did it in 2013?
  4. Murray State’s Ja Morant posted a triple double with 19 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds. This was the first NCAA Tournament triple-double since who?
  5. Steph Curry and Davidson’s historic tournament run in 2008 ended with a loss to what team?
  6. What is the lowest seed to ever advance to the Elite 8 (16 being the lowest)?
  7. Has a 7-seed ever lost in the National Championship game?
  8. Two coaches have taken three different schools to the Final Four (both coaches had two appearances vacated). Name them both.
  9. When was the last time Tom Izzo won a national title?
  10. What team overcame a 25 point deficit to Iona in 2012 to move past the First Four?
  11. This is the 81st NCAA Tournament. How many schools have won a title?
  12. How many times has the number 1 overall seed won the tournament?
  13. What conference had the most teams receive a bid to this year’s tourney?
  14. Who has more NCAA Tourney appearances: Tennessee or their coach Rick Barnes?
  15. How many different combinations can the NCAA Tournament Bracket have?

Answers:

  1. Lehigh
  2. Duke
  3. Florida Gulf-Coast
  4. Draymond Green
  5. Kansas
  6. 12 (Mizzou in 2002)
  7. No.
  8. Rick Pitino (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville), John Calipari (UMass, Memphis, Kentucky)
  9. 2000
  10. BYU
  11. 35
  12. 3 (Florida, 2004; Kentucky, 2012; Louisville 2013) I guess I have to also accept 2 for this answer
  13. Big 10- 8
  14. Rick Barnes (24/22)
  15. 9,223,372,036,854,775,808- yes, I realize this question is unfair.

ACC Tournament Quarterfinal Evening Game Predictions

Louisville vs. North Carolina

When: 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: North Carolina -7.5

Over/Under: 150

The Cards and Tar Heels split their season series 1-1. The first game they played, Louisville absolutely bitch slapped them, 83-62, at UNC. The second game, the Tar Heels got their revenge in the KFC Yum! Center, 79-69. As much as I want to say that the Cards can win this game, I don’t see them beating this UNC team twice. North Carolina is playing really, really strong right now. They are peaking at this time of the year. They have won 7 in a row with two of those games against Duke. In that stretch the least amount of points they scored was 77 against Florida St. So, Louisville is really going to have to use their good defense to force North Carolina into tough shots.

If the Cards can force them to miss shots then they might have a chance, but their offense will have to be on too. If Jordan Nwora makes his shots and they limit their turnovers, which will be tough, their is a chance. However, I think that is too much to ask, and I don’t think that it will work completely for the Cards. It may be a close game, but I don’t see anything good about this game for the Cards.

Prediction: North Carolina 79 – 74 Louisville

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Syracuse vs. Duke

When: 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: Duke -11.5

Over/Under: 144

Duke and Syracuse split their season series 1-1. The first game Duke lost in Overtime 95-91 at home, and the the second game Duke handled Syracuse pretty easily, 75-65 at Syracuse. With Zion Williamson coming back for the tournament, fully healthy, Duke has their X factor back. Zion is the biggest game changer. His absence is the sole reason for their slide at the end of the season. He didn’t play because he wanted to become fully healthy and that is what Duke is going to get, a healthy Zion. That is scary. Zion, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish are going to be firing on all cylinders. That offense is going to be on and it will not let up. Syracuse may have a decent defense, but I’m not sure. Duke is not Pittsburgh. Duke is a different animal. I think think that this will probably be Zion’s “hey, remember me” game. Duke is going to roll.

Prediction: Duke 81 – 68 – Syracuse

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-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm

 

ACC Tournament Quarterfinal Afternoon Games Prediction

North Carolina St. vs. Virginia

When: 12:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: Virginia -11

Over/Under: 132

In their only meeting all year, NC St. took Virginia to Overtime and lost 66-65 at home. The home court advantage might have been one of the factors that played a role in their success in that game. For Virginia, they are obviously one of the best teams in the country. They have lost only two games this season and both of those were to Duke. Where Virginia has thrived, NC St. has struggled. They aren’t the most fun team to watch offensively; however, like Virginia, they are a really good defensive team. That being said, Virginia is the best defensive team in the country. If NC St. could only put of 24 points against Virginia Tech, then I don’t think that they are going to really pour it on this Virginia team. Virginia is also one the best offensive teams in the country and have plenty of weapons that can hurt you from both inside and out. I just don’t see this being much of a game from the start. Virginia is going to win this pretty handedly and it’s going to be low scoring. NC St. will struggle in the first half to score more than 30 points, and I don’t see it getting much better in the second.

Prediction: Virginia 71 – 59 North Carolina St.

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Virginia Tech vs. Florida State

When: 2:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: Virginia Tech -1

Over/Under: 134.5

These two teams have played once this year and it was at Florida St. That game ended with FSU pulling out the victory in Overtime 73-64. That was a game in which Virginia Tech looked as though they had that game locked. They were leading for most of the game and then were outplayed by FSU in the final few minutes. Then in Overtime FSU took over, outscoring Virginia Tech 12-3.

I do not see this game following the same storyline. While FSU is a really strong team, they tend to fall back early. That being said, they tend to finish strong. I think that the key for Virginia Tech is to use their strong offense. They are one of the best shooting teams in the country. FSU will try to use their stellar defense against the strong shooters of Virginia Tech and it’ll be fun to what. However, the real difference is Virginia Tech’s defense, I think, is significantly better than FSU’s offense. While FSU is a very good offensive team, I think that Virginia Tech is just too strong on defense. This will start with Virginia Tech with an early lead going into halftime that will eventually be whittled down by FSU, but ultimately won’t get there. I think Virginia Tech wins this fight, and avenges their earlier Overtime loss at FSU, proving that they are a team to watch out for.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 70 – 67 Florida State

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-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm

ACC Tournament Second Round Evening Game Predictions

Notre Dame vs. Louisville

When: 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN 2

Spread: Louisville -7.5

Over/Under: 135

This will be the second meeting of the year for these two teams and the last time they met at Louisville, the Cards won handedly 75-61. In that game Louisville shot 68% and completely out rebounded the Irish. The difference in this game will be if Notre Dame can limit Louisville at the free throw line and the amount of shots made. They will have to stop Jordan Nwora from taking over as well. I don’t think that they will be able to do that since they don’t have much of a defense. Louisville’s defense will really limit the amount of made shots by Notre Dame which will make things an uphill battle for them. The only real shot Notre Dame has is if they can force Louisville to turn the ball over, and when they have the ball they need make their shots. That’s not super realistic though, seeing as Notre Dame is not as strong as they had been in the past.

That being said, this game won’t even be close. Louisville is just the better team, and although they have lost a lot of games in the past month and a half, I think they are a better team because of it. They have been playing good basketball but just can’t find ways to close out games, and against a weak Notre Dame team, I don’t think that will be an issue.

Prediction: Louisville 76 – 64 Notre Dame

 

 

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Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse

When: 9:00 p.m. ET ESPN 2

Spread: Syracuse -7.5

Over/Under: 131.5

Pittsburgh had an really rough stretch in the end of the year. They lost 13 in a row. In that stretch they lost both of their games to Syracuse with scores of 74-63, and 65-56. On the other side, Syracuse had their fair share of quality wins this season. They beat both Duke and Louisville, but they didn’t have anything else that special this season. What Syracuse is going to do is probably block Pitt a lot. Syracuse is one of the best shot blocking teams in the country, and probably can do some damage against Pitt who gets their shot blocked almost more than any other team in the country. Syracuse also does a great job of stealing the ball. This is a suffocating team, but their offense isn’t really anything to write home about. They are a terrible three point shooting team and are not that good down low either.

Pitt’s best shot is causing Syracuse to take bad shots, and they probably will. They are a competent team. However, they are also one of the youngest teams in college basketball. I don’t think Pitt can get this one done; however, they will be able to keep it close. It will be a tough ACC battle in tournament time that will ultimately result in a Syracuse victory.

Prediction: Syracuse 68 – 63 Pittsburgh

 

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-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm

Louisville Basketball ACC Tournament Expectations

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After a ROUGH February and early March for the Cards, in which they went through the gauntlet of schedule. The Cards went a terrible 3-7 with losses to Virginia twice, North Carolina, Duke, Florida St., Syracuse, and Boston College. Those last two should not have happened, and the losses to Duke, Florida St., and one of the losses to Virginia were absolute choke jobs. That being said, there is a lot to be very excited about as a Cards fan. The team has been, although losing, playing pretty well. While they seemed to struggle to finish games off, the team was starting games off really strong. Coach K actually said that UL was one of the most prepared teams they had played all year. 

So, what does that mean about them going into the ACC Tournament?

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Their first game is against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and if you follow us at Soft 7 Sports you know we hate Notre Dame! Just kidding. But not really. Notre Dame was one of the 3 teams Louisville had beaten during that season ending stretch. They won 75-61 at home. I honestly don’t think that this is going to much of a different game. I’ll be doing a full game breakdown tomorrow, but for now, I don’t see any reason why the Cards should struggle in this game.

So, I expect that the Cards would match up with the 2 seed North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC Semifinals. The Cards and Tar Heels split their season series 1-1. The first game they played, Louisville absolutely bitch slapped them, 83-62, at UNC. The second game, the Tar Heels got their revenge in the KFC Yum! Center, 79-69. As much as I want to say that the Cards can win this game, I don’t see them winning against this UNC team. That North Carolina team is playing really, really strong right now. They are peaking at this time of the year. It may be a close game, but I don’t see anything good about this game for the Cards. It also helps that the ACC Tournament is in Charlotte, North Carolina. If we’re being honest, North Carolina might win the ACC Tournament this year.

So, I think the Louisville Cardinals will be bounced in the Semifinals of the ACC Tournament by the North Carolina Tar Heels. There is a prediction.

-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm

ACC Tournament Second Round Afternoon Game Predictions

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Clemson vs. North Carolina St.

When: 12:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: Clemson -1

Over/Under: 140

In there only prior game this season, Clemson lost to NC St. 69-67 on the road. That game was won on a buzzer beater 3 by Braxton Beverly. While NC St. may have won the game, Clemson clawed back from a first half 6 point deficit, and this is somewhat of a revenge game for them. Both teams have had a pretty hit or miss end of the season; however, the one difference that I can pull from these two teams is that Clemson has actually beaten a good team this year. Clemson beat Virginia Tech in early February 59-51 at home. That Virginia Tech team is actually the team that limited NC St. to the fewest point total in the shot clock era with 24 points. That is something that was uncommon for them, because they were averaging about 84.4 points per game at the time. That being said, neither team really comes into this game with any momentum.

Looking at these teams head to head, this is going to be a defensive heavy game. Clemson is one of the top defensive teams in the country and NC St. isn’t half bad either. It will come down to the offense. NC St. will have to limit Clemson on the offensive glass to have any shot in staying in this game. If they fail to do that then this might be a blow out. Clemson can take over this game by controlling the boards. NC St. will try to keep this a high paced game, but I think Clemson really slows it down and tries to throw off this NC St. team. As a result, Clemson will likely win this game.

Prediction: Clemson 69 – 67 North Carolina St.

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Miami vs. Virginia Tech

When: 2:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: Virginia Tech -7.5

Over/Under: 137

In their two meeting this season, Virginia Tech handled Miami pretty handedly with scores of 82-70 and 84-70. Their last meeting was the last game of the season and Virginia Tech’s last game. So these teams are quite familiar with each other and haven’t had a lot of time to change or develop. Miami is coming off of a win against Wake Forest in the First Round of the ACC Tournament, winning 79-71. I think this is where their luck runs out.

This Virginia Tech team might be playing their best basketball all season. They recently beat Duke, and while that may not be totally crazy since Zion didn’t play, they still looked really good in that game. While Virginia Tech is still without senior point guard Justin Robinson, they have been able to lean against junior Kerry Blackshear and sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Both those guys have really come into their own and made Virginia Tech a force to recon with. Virginia Tech might have one of the best offenses in the country, shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc and around 56% from FG range. Also, if they go to the free throw line then they are almost guaranteeing points, with an average of 76.2% as a team. That is good enough to be one of the best in the country. Their defense is no slouch either, and Miami has really struggled against them all year.

That is why I don’t even think this is a question. Virginia Tech is winning this game pretty handedly, and they will likely beat the spread too.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 81 – 68 Miami

-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm