March Madness: Watch North Dakota State Gearing Up for San Diego State Matchup

This behind-the-scenes video of North Dakota State preparing to face San Diego State in the round of 32 shows an intimate look at the relationships formed between players and coaches.

Following the game, watch how both locker rooms react, including an emotional Saul Phillips and Steve Fisher focusing on the Sweet 16.

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Jimmy Fallon’s March Madness ‘Pros and Cons’ Are Hilarious and ‘Creigh, Creigh’

Jimmy Fallon has a video that is pure March Madness hilarity. Actually, if one were so bold, they might claim that it’s March “Creigh, Creigh.”

SportsGrid’s Matt Rudnitsky spotted one of the latest videos from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, which takes aim at the “Pros and Cons” of March Madness. 

You know, that thing that has completely dominated all that you care about this month?

Fallon takes shots at President Obama, Duke and wraps it altogether in the kind of delivery that has garnered immense ratings for his budding iteration of the show. 

Of course, the man to take the biggest ribbing during the bit is the president, who gets two jokes tossed his way. The last is, “And finally, Pro: Spending all day at work filling out your brackets. Con: Then going back to your job as President of the United States.”

One of the best lines has to be the jab at Duke: “Pro: A low-seeded team that goes far in the tournament is known as a ‘Cinderella.’ Con: A high-seeded team that loses early is known as a ‘Duke.’”

It’s a new day, and there aren’t nearly as many people sticking around late at night to take in various shows as they used to. 

The name of the game is get as much viral content to float across the transom of the Internet, where a sizable chunk of the audience lives each day. 

With so many hosts and late-night fare to choose from, Fallon has mastered the ability to lead a show and also create bite-sized snacks of comedy. 

Thankfully, his latest is exactly what we needed to sate our hunger for the tournament ahead of what will be a very delightful Sweet 16. 

Pro: Jimmy Fallon leads late-night. Con: We can’t think of any. 

 

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Jimmy Fallon’s March Madness ‘Pros and Cons’ Is Hilarious and ‘Creigh, Creigh’

Jimmy Fallon has a video that is pure March Madness hilarity. Actually, if one were so bold, they might claim that it’s March “Creigh, Creigh.”

SportsGrid’s Matt Rudnitsky spotted one of the latest videos from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, which takes aim at the “Pros and Cons” of March Madness. 

You know, that thing that has completely dominated all that you care about this month?

Fallon takes shots at President Obama, Duke and wraps it altogether in the kind of delivery that has garnered immense ratings for his budding iteration of the show. 

Of course, the man to take the biggest ribbing during the bit is the president, who gets two jokes tossed his way. The last being, “And finally, Pro: Spending all day at work filling out your brackets. Con: Then going back to your job as President of the United States.”

One of the best lines has to be the jab at Duke: “Pro: A low-seeded team that goes far in the tournament is known as a ‘Cinderella.’ Con: A high-seeded team that loses early is known as a ‘Duke.’”

It’s a new day, and there isn’t nearly as many people sticking around late at night to take in various shows as they used to. 

The name of the game is get as much viral content to float across the transom of the Internet, where a sizable chunk of the captivated audience lives each day. 

With so many hosts and late-night fare to choose from, Fallon has mastered the ability to lead a show and also create bite-sized snacks of comedy. 

Thankfully, his latest is exactly what we needed to sate our hunger for the tournament ahead of what will be a very delightful Sweet 16. 

Pro: Jimmy Fallon leads late-night. Con: We can’t think of any. 

 

Hit me up on Twitter

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March Madness 2014 TV Schedule: Sweet 16 Viewing Info and Predictions

Each of the 16 teams left standing in the 2014 NCAA tournament are just four wins away from a national championship. Even more intriguing is the fact that three rounds have been played and there still isn’t a clear favorite to capture the coveted title.

It’s an outlook coaches have probably been preaching to their teams ever since they survived the opening weekend: hit your peak now and there’s a good chance to reach the Final Four and potentially even cut down the nets, regardless of seed or outside hype.

First, let’s check out all of the updated bracket information for the big dance. We will then follow with a complete viewing schedule and predictions for the Sweet 16 as well as a ranking of the top contenders heading into the fourth round of tournament action.

 

All Your Bracket Essentials:

 

Sweet 16 TV Schedule and Predictions

 

Ranking Top Contenders

1. Florida

If Florida had slipped from the No. 1 contender spot after a lackluster showing against Albany in the second round, the top overall seed reestablished itself by completely neutralizing Pittsburgh. The Panthers were are a far better team than their No. 9 seed would suggest, and the Gators were in still control throughout Saturday’s contest.

Next up is a meeting with UCLA. The Bruins are a lot like Kentuckywhich knocked out Wichita State in the last round—as they feature a lot of NBA talent with good size. Myron Medcalf of ESPN thinks that such length could present a serious test for the Gators:

The one area where Florida has a distinct advantage is on defense. The Gators should be able to slow down the up-tempo Bruins. That makes each possession more important, and it bodes well for an experienced, battle-tested squad of veterans who excel on the defensive end.

Looking aheadshould the Gators get past UCLA—Florida has the best path to the title of any top contender, with a guaranteed double-digit seed opponent in the Elite Eight before potentially taking on whichever team survives the toss-up East Region.

Things are setting up well for Florida.

 

2. Louisville

The reigning champions were clearly under-seeded by the selection committee. The Cardinals were always a much bigger repeat threat than their No 4 seed indicates, and their performance in a 15-point win over Saint Louis was enough to rank them as the top remaining Midwest Region team on this list.

In order to capture a title, however, head coach Rick Pitino knows that improved offensive efficiency is crucial. Pitino noted that most teams play strong defense at the business end of the tournament, so offense is key, via Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal:

You know, the NCAA, the one thing I’ve known throughout the years, being in this business, is people get very conservative, and they talk about—I’ve always felt—you hear the expression defense wins championships. A lack of offense keeps you from winning a championship. All these teams can guard. And it’s really, really important—we beat Michigan and Wichita State and the teams before that, and we were a very good defense because of our offense. We didn’t win because of our defense. Every team can play defense at this stage. So you’ve got to have great offense to win, and you’ve got to really execute and make free throws, do smart things.

The good news for Louisville in that respect is how many options it has on that end of the floor. The Cardinals have four different players averaging in double figures, and any one of them can step up to lead the offense in any given contest, from Russ Smith to Chris Jones.

A high-profile matchup with Kentucky awaits. The Wildcats have been inconsistent, which isn’t a surprise for a young team, and makes it tough to predict whether they can back up their win over the Shockers. Regardless, the more reliable Cardinals squad should be able to keep pushing toward another Final Four.

 

3. Arizona

There was some concern about Arizona after a tournament opener which saw the Wildcats fail to pull away from Weber State. They bounced back strong against Gonzaga, though, as their 23-point victory over the Bulldogs was enough to put them back in the central title focus.

While most of the focus is on Arizona’s elite defense, it’s a team that becomes nearly impossible to beat when Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell are clicking on offense. At that point, the Wildcats become the most well-rounded team in the nation.

The reason they check in third is the tougher road ahead as compared to Florida and Louisville. Just to reach the Final Four, they would have to beat a fellow defensive-minded team in San Diego State before facing either Wisconsin or Baylor, two teams that are playing some of their best basketball of the season.

That’s why having perhaps the best defense in the nation is such an advantage. Arizona can lean on it and hope the team’s hot shooting continues to carry it toward the title. It’s a tricky path, but the Wildcats are still one of the best remaining tournament picks.

 

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March Madness fans cannot name a single college basketball player

Jimmy Kimmel’s brand of comedy strikes again.

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March Madness 2014: Ranking Each Sweet 16 Matchup

Three teams with double-digit seeds try to keep their surprising postseason run alive as the frenzied NCAA tournament moves into the second weekend.

Each of the eight Sweet 16 games Thursday and Friday offers its own type of drama, whether it be the potential for a nail-biting finish, the reputation of the teams involved, an interesting clash of styles, the possibility of an upset or the appeal of the players and coaches.

We considered all those factors when ranking the Sweet 16 games. Ultimately it came down to one visceral criterion: Which one is most eagerly awaited?

Begin Slideshow

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March Madness 2014 Predictions: Analyzing Biggest Storylines, Bracket Matchups

Now that 48 teams are officially finished with their seasons, just 16 remain to claim college basketball’s ultimate prize of a national championship.

This season’s Sweet 16 includes several historically great teams like Kentucky, UCLA and Arizona, but it also has several darlings in the running like No. 11 seeds Dayton and Tennessee. With the excitement of the opening weekend finally coming to a close, the stage is set for a sensational second weekend.

All Your Bracket Essentials

Fans clamoring for action to start back up will have to wait for another few days, but the buildup to the teams taking the court again has already started.

With matchups like Louisville and Kentucky taking place along with three No. 1 seeds in Virginia, Florida and Arizona still in the field, there is plenty of intrigue for fans all over the country. Before the Sweet 16 officially gets underway, here’s a look at the best storylines and matchups during the second weekend.

 

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State

A high-scoring offense versus the best defense in the country. That’s what fans will get when Virginia and Michigan State match up during the Sweet 16.

It has taken Tony Bennett a few years, but he’s finally got the talent and experience on his team to run the style of play that he’s shown flashes of with both Washington State and the Cavaliers. While the defense is No. 1 in points allowed (55.5 per game), the offense has been explosive during the tournament, as NCAA March Madness points out:

Bennett has experience against both Tom Izzo and the Spartans. After serving as an assistant coach for Wisconsin from 1999 to 2003, the former point guard has knowledge of the offense he’ll be facing.

With the best all-around player on the team in Gary Harris and the smooth play of Keith Appling, stopping Michigan State might seem like an easy task. But with the way Adreian Payne has been playing as of late, it’s tough to see Virginia limiting the star power that Sparty brings to the table, per the NCAA account:

By no means are the Hoos a fluke No. 1 team that’s undeserving of the honor, but the Spartans are clearly firing on all cylinders during the tournament. If Michigan State can hold down the Cavs offensively, Izzo will once again have a shot at a Final Four with one more game to get there.

Prediction: Michigan State 58, Virginia 52

 

No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 10 Stanford

Cinderella vs. Cinderella. Both of America’s darlings now have to face off after pulling off monumental upsets over a couple of tournament favorites in Kansas and Syracuse.

How huge is the run by Dayton? So big that Archie Miller has already been locked into a long-term deal, according to ESPN, and even President Barack Obama congratulated the underdog Flyers, per The White House’s official Twitter account:

Ironically enough, the matchup between Miller and Johnny Dawkins actually goes back to their days playing on Tobacco Road. While Miller got his start as a guard and assistant coach with N.C. State, Dawkins followed the same path with Duke under Mike Krzyzewski.

Shawn Ley of Local 4 in Detroit also shares another reason why these two coaches have ran into each other recently:

As for Stanford, the Cardinal went from relative unknown as a No. 10 seed—Kansas players didn’t even know who Chasson Randle was the day before the game—to one of just 16 finalists with a shot to win it all.

Thanks to sharp shooting from Randle and good defensive play against Andrew Wiggins, who scored just four points during the matchup, the Cardinal now look like a complete team under Dawkins.

But the glass slipper can only fit for one double-digit seed. With Dayton already having to make its way through two teams in Ohio State and Syracuse, it’s difficult to imagine the road ending so close to home against a nearly equal opponent.

Prediction: Dayton 62, Stanford 57

 

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky

Talk about the storylines. These two fanbases hate each other on a regular basis, much less having to face each other for a chance to advance in the NCAA tournament.

Kentucky won the NCAA tournament in 2012. Louisville then took the title last season. Oh, then there’s the fact that Rick Pitino won a national championship with the Wildcats in 1996 before doing so with the Cardinals.

Needless to say, there’s plenty of reason to watch even if you don’t have a vested interest in either team. As for the way the game might go, Adam Lefkoe of Bleacher Report and the producer of “Red V. Blue” gives his thoughts on the two teams:

It won’t take much for either team to go on a run and pull away thanks to their dynamic offensive players, but the Cards’ ability to limit teams offensively will put them over the top.

With Louisville playing much better defensive basketball since losing earlier in the season to the Wildcats, expect Pitino to once again trump John Calipari and fight for a chance at a second straight Final Four.

Prediction: Louisville 81, Kentucky 77

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter. He goes hard in the paint.

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March Madness 2014 Bracket: Complete Schedule and Bold Picks for Sweet 16

If your 2014 NCAA tournament bracket is still showing some signs of life at this point in March Madness, you’ve done well for yourself. However, don’t get too comfortable, as the Sweet 16 is sure to bring some unexpected results.

Now, the surviving 16 teams will begin their journeys to reach the coveted title of national champions. However, each will be heavily tested along the way.

 

All Your Bracket Essentials:

 

The upcoming action will be tremendously intense and not a moment should be missed. Let’s take a look at the Sweet 16 schedule and give some bold predictions of what may transpire during the tournament’s fourth round.

 

Sweet 16 Schedule

Each Sweet 16 game can be live streamed on NCAA.com.

 

Bold Predictions

No. 4 Michigan State Takes Down No. 1 Virginia

Virginia could be the next top-seeded team to bite the dust in the 2014 NCAA tournament.

The Cavaliers don’t match up particularly well with the Spartans.

Virginia still boasts the nation’s top defensive unit; however, the size, speed and aggressiveness of the Spartans may be too much to handle.

While the Cavaliers are incredibly difficult to score on, they haven’t exactly been efficient down low. Virginia only averages 24.6 defensive rebounds per game, while Michigan State averages 26.1. This should give the Spartans plenty of added scoring opportunities against the Cavaliers.

Speaking of scoring opportunities, the Spartans have the nation’s 55th-ranked offense and are ranked 31st in field-goal percentage and sixth in assists per game. Virginia has trouble putting points on the board, ranking 294th in the nation and 122nd in field-goal percentage.

What these statistics show is that Michigan State is a much more well-rounded team. This is partly credited to head coach Tom Izzo. He has been dominant in this tournament for a long time, and according to ESPN Stats and Info’s Twitter account, 2014 bodes well for the coach:

Michigan State will continue surging into the Elite Eight and possibly beyond.

 

No. 6 Baylor Topples  No. 2 Wisconsin

Watch out, the Baylor Bears are on a hot streak.

This club has looked fantastic since entering the 2014 NCAA tournament and are showing no signs of slowing down. The Bears were lighting up scoreboards and playing some stout defense over the first two rounds of the tournament.

Baylor took care of Nebraska with ease, defeating the Cornhuskers 74-60 in Round 2. The Bears followed that up with an impressive win against Creighton on Sunday by a score of 85-55.

Creighton’s Doug McDermott looked unstoppable heading into Sunday’s game; however, once he met the Bears defense, he lost his luster. McDermott finished the game with just 15 points.

During a postgame press conference with The Associated Press, via ESPN.comBears coach Scott Drew simply remarked, “We did a good job making it tough on him.”

Wisconsin doesn’t have a McDermott-caliber player but is very deep. During its third-round win over Oregon, all five starters scored double-digit points.

The Badgers relied heavily on their stout defense throughout most of the season, but that has changed of late. They allowed 77 points to the Ducks on Saturday.

Baylor’s defense should make it very difficult for the Badgers to replicate their recent offensive prowess. Meanwhile, after Oregon exposed Wisconsin’s defense, the Bears have plenty of film to study in order to potentially duplicate that success.

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March Madness 2014: Prospects Who Have Raised Their NBA Draft Stock

The Sweet 16 will not include any of the three players who have been most often mentioned as potential No. 1 picks in the 2014 NBA draft.

Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid are out of the tournament thanks to Stanford. Duke’s Jabari Parker didn’t even make it out of the second round, as he and his team were upset by Mercer.

It’s hard to imagine that this trio will slip out of the top five picks in the draft, but none of them helped their stock in the tournament. 

However, the following are a few players who have opened the eyes of NBA scouts with their performance in the tournament so far. 

 

Click here to see an updated bracket.

 

Xavier Thames, G, San Diego State

Chances are, if you’re not in California or on the West Coast, you don’t know a lot about Thames. If he keeps scoring the way he has through the first two games of the NCAA tournament, though, his name will become well known soon.

The 6’3″ guard from San Diego State has averaged 23.5 points and five assists through two tournament games. He lit up North Dakota State for 30 points, helping to drive his team to the Sweet 16.

Just how dominant was he? Check out this statistic from ESPN Stats and Info:

Ever the humble star, Thames gave credit to his teammates, per this quote captured by Marty Caswell of the Darren Smith Show:

Though Thames is lighting up the scoreboard, he is a legit point guard prospect with excellent size. He’s averaging 10.5 free-throw attempts per game in the tournament, and that’s no fluke. Over the course of the season, Thames has gone to the line regularly.

He is attempting 6.5 free throws per contest, and most importantly, he has made 83 percent of them. While he isn’t a freakish athlete, he’s smart and possesses a polished mid-range game.

Damon Bruce of 95.7 The Game thinks Thames’ play isn’t going to go unnoticed:

If he can keep his strong play going, he might make himself a first-round selection.

 

Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State

It’s perplexing that Michigan State’s Payne isn’t more highly thought of. At 6’10″, Payne can score on the block and make shots consistently from the perimeter, and he’s also decent at putting the ball on the floor 15 feet away from the basket.

Still, you almost never hear his name mentioned as one of the top-five forward prospects in the draft.

He is 23 years old, which isn’t ideal, but he’s averaging 26.5 points per game in the tournament through two games.

How well is Payne shooting the ball? He’s made 20-of-21 free-throw attempts and 5-of-8 attempts from beyond the arc.

He exploded for 41 points in the Spartans’ second-round win over Delaware, helping him to grab the attention of everyone around the nation.

If he continues to play the way he has in the first two games, he may earn a spot in the NBA draft lottery.

 

Shabazz Napier, G, Connecticut

UConn’s star does just about everything for his team. He isn’t the picture perfect point guard prospect, but he has a special knack for taking and making big shots.

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports made an accurate comparison after Napier went for 25 points against Villanova in the third round:

Napier had struggled mightily against Nova in the past, but he showed up big time against them on Saturday when his team needed him. As an instant-offense guy off the bench, Napier could really help a team in the NBA.

He may not be a potential star at the next level, but his talents could help him find a niche role.

 

Stats courtesy of Statsheet.com, unless otherwise noted.

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UVA vs. Memphis: Score, Twitter Reaction and More from March Madness 2014

The Virginia Cavaliers earned a trip to the Sweet 16 on the heels of another dominating defensive performance against the Memphis Tigers, emerging victorious by a score of 78-60 on Sunday night.

Early in the first half, Memphis did a great job keeping pace with the Cavaliers, going shot for shot and matching Virginia’s defense with a stout stand of its own. This boded well for the Tigers, according to a tweet from Dan Wolken of USA Today:

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead tweeted an anomaly early on that looked to put the game in Memphis’ favor:

However, that didn’t last long.

The Cavaliers turned it on, going on a huge run and forcing the game to get quickly out of hand.

Virginia played nearly flawless basketball for the remainder of the first half, reestablishing the notion that they are a legitimate No. 1 seed.

The Cavaliers defense held the Tigers to just 26.7 percent shooting from the field over the first half of play. Virginia dominated the boards as well, out-rebounding Memphis 19-10.

This defensive display allowed the Cavaliers to take a 35-20 lead heading into the break.

Pete Themel of Sports Illustrated tweeted the enormous uphill battle that was ahead for the Tigers:

Virginia’s first-half dominance made believers out of many. This included ESPN’s Andy Katz, according to his Twitter account:

The second half brought with it a surge of offense from both teams. Both Virginia and Memphis traded buckets over the first 14 minutes, with the Cavaliers outscoring the Tigers 33-25 after the break.

At that point, Virginia was on cruise control to the Sweet 16. Head coach Tony Bennett began substituting his starters in an effort to rest them up for what should be a very difficult matchup against No. 4 Michigan State.

Bennett deserves plenty of credit for what he has done with this team, and that notion was mentioned in a tweet from ESPN’s Andy Katz:

Before he was pulled from the game, Virginia forward Mike Tobey excited the arena by connecting on a rare three-pointer with just over three minutes left in the game. That put the Cavaliers up 73-47—it may not have been the game’s dagger, but it was certainly an exclamation mark.

Everything was working for Virginia, and this was noted by Philip Sikes of Clemson University in a late-game tweet:

Even before the game ended, college hoops guru Ken Pomeroy was already looking forward to the Cavaliers’ Sweet 16 matchup, according to his Twitter account:

It certainly will.

Three of Virginia’s starters and two players off the bench finished with double-digit points on the day. This team is deep, experienced and poised. Its Sweet 16 matchup against Michigan State could be one of the most highly anticipated contests of the tournament.

Be sure to get your popcorn ready.

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