Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Sports

Bracket talk: The South

Antonya English, Times staff writer

Must see TV

If — and that's a big if — North Carolina can get past Villanova in the first round, it almost certainly sets up a game against No. 1 seed Kansas. Okay, really a matchup between current North Carolina coach Roy Williams and his former team. Jayhawks fans still haven't forgiven Williams for jumping ship (after he declined to do so a few years earlier). He'd most likely love to stay away from Kansas. But TV could make this matchup a ratings bonanza. First, Carolina should focus on Villanova. Even as a middle-of-the-road Big East team, it beat Marquette, Syracuse and Louisville.



Settle the score

Florida and Georgetown met in a highly anticipated game on an amphibious Naval ship at Mayport in November. But the game was called off at halftime because of extreme condensation on the ship's makeshift playing floor. The Gators tried to reschedule the game, but the schools couldn't agree on a time and place. If Florida and Georgetown advance to the Sweet 16, they finally will get to settle things on the court.

Best nickname

What can top the Jackrabbits? You know the guys doing the highlight shows are hoping for some highlight-reel plays from South Dakota State in its opening game against Michigan just so they can keep shouting the word "jackrabbits."

Upset special

No. 11 seed Minnesota might have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the nation all season; from a win over then-No. 1 Indiana to a loss to Northwestern. But when the Gophers, coached by Tubby Smith (left) are on, they are tough to beat. That's because they have athletic big men. Meanwhile, No. 6-seeded UCLA must play without Jordan Adams, its second-leading scorer. He broke his right foot on the final play of the Pac-12 semifinals on Friday. The Gophers enter the tournament on a three-game losing streak. Adding more intrigue? Both Smith and UCLA coach Ben Howland are considered on the hot seat. Just a little pressure there.



Player to watch

Michigan's Trey Burke is the Big Ten player of the year and made a case for being the national player of the year. He's averaging 19.2 points, shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range and already has 1,000 points despite being only a sophomore.

Tough dance

Florida Gulf Coast is making its first trip to the Big Dance. But facing Georgetown, one of the best teams in the Big East, isn't necessarily how you'd like to hit the dance floor. FGCU is playing in just its second year of Division I and got its ticket to the tournament by winning the Atlantic Sun tournament. So while the opening game won't be easy, Georgetown might want to take this game a little more seriously than you might any other No. 15 opponent. FGCU enters on a hot streak, having won 12 of its past 14 games, and has scored 70 or more points in 23 games.

On a roll

A few years ago, Shaka Smart was the third assistant on Billy Donovan's Florida staff. Now he's taking VCU to its third straight tournament. The Rams like to play pressure defense and up-tempo offense. They have Smart's fire and intensity. And in tournament time, both can carry you a long way.

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