A wrist injury to the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year, Virginia’s, has people across the country scrambling to mark up their bracket with last-minute changes as the NCAA Tournament kicks into action. And with good reason.
Hunter is a bonafide stud in the shadows for UVa who many believe has a future in the NBA. He has been a key cog for the Cavaliers and their No. 1 ranked defense this season. Without him, Tony Bennett’s still got a solid squad who can make March noise. But the No. 1 overall seed Cavaliers almost certainly won’t — and shouldn’t be — considered the favorite to cut down the nets in San Antonio.
So before the Round of 64 begins early on Thursday, you’ve got up until the first game — bracket through CBS Sports.at 12:15 p.m. ET — to make any last-second alterations to your online
With UVA’s injury bug in mind and other factors to consider elsewhere across various regions, let’s take a look at five factors to consider before you finalize your bracket.
1. Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter is out
Say what you will about Tony Bennett and his lack of success in March, but the Cavaliers were the odds-on favorite to emerge out of the South Region as the No. 1 overall seed. Without the injured aforementioned De’Andre Hunter, they will need to ride even harder the steady hands of Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and Ty Jerome.
And here’s the deal with this injury, which will keep him out for the remainder of the season: Virginia’s defense is hardly a question mark, Hunter or not. It has the top defense in adjusted efficiency according to KenPom. Who coach Tony Bennett tabs to fill the offensive void left by Hunter’s prolonged absence will be the storyline to follow with this team.
And it’s a storyline right now that has a big question mark, which is why you should seriously consider Virginia as an early exit candidate. I think if it advances to the Sweet 16, it will be overmatched. Especially if it faces the likes of Kentucky or Arizona, both of which have hit the postseason with a full head of steam.
So my advice: Don’t pick UVa to advance past the Sweet 16. I’ve already accounted for it in my own bracket, and you should too.
2. Miami’s leading rebounder and assist man remains out
The absence of Hurricanes guard Bruce Brown has loomed large for them over the past month, as Miami has gone 7-4 without him in the lineup. Brown’s absence is expected to linger into the postseason, too, as the foot injury that has sidelined him is likely to keep him out for the entirety of the Big Dance.
Without Brown, I don’t see the ‘Canes putting much of anything together. Brown is the third leading scorer who leads the team in both rebounds and assists. When he’s on the bench, Miami’s been increasingly more predictable to guard.
So call me crazy, but the loss of a projected future first-round talent such as Brown has, unsurpsingly, been hard to account for. Which means I think No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago should be your pick in Round 1 to upset the ‘Canes.
3. Florida State should be your No. 9 seed over No. 8 seed pick
The ninth-seeded Seminoles enter the postseason having lost three of their last four games.
So why would I tell you to pick them over No. 8 seed Missouri?
Because veteran Missouri forwardfor the first round of the tourney after being charged for DWI.
The Tigers have a wealth of talent, including potential top 5 pick in Michael Porter Jr. and his younger brother, Jontay. But they too have struggled of late, including four losses in their last six games and an early exit in the SEC tourney. The Seminoles have the talent and depth to make it five losses in seven for Mizzou, especially with Barnett, the Tigers’ second leading scorer and rebounder, riding the bench in Round 1.
4. St. Bonaventure is officially the hottest 11 seed
I’ve got good news, Bonnies fans: your team rocks.
After handling UCLA in the play-in game on Tuesday, I’m even more convinced of that fact. They’ve now won 14 of their last 15 games, and junior forward Courtney Stockard, the team’s third leading scorer this season, is rounding into form as the go-to option for coach Mark Schmidt at just the right time.
Stockard had 26 points against the Bruins on Tuesday and is now averaging 23.3 points over his last four games. His emergence alongside potential NBA talents in Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley makes this team officially the most dangerous 11 seed in the bracket.
So as quick as you can find a computer, race to your bracket and pick this team to knock off No. 6 seed Florida in the Round of 64.
The Bonnies have all the makings of a second weekend team, especially if Jaylen Adams can find his footing.
5. Kansas State is on revenge alert
Foster spent two seasons in Manhattan, Kansas before taking his talents to Omaha, Nebraska to play for coach Greg McDermott. And in those two seasons, he’s emerged as a star in the Big East — and as Creighton’s best player.
You could call this the Marcus Foster revenge game, as Matt Norlander and Gary Parrish have smartly tabbed it on the Eye on College Basketball Podcast. Because I think K-State may be on the receiving end of a nasty revenge game from Marcus Foster.
So if you weren’t aware of this tiny nugget, I think it’s absolutely noteworthy. A motivated Foster might be the difference in this game for Creighton.