ESPN was the destination for college basketball fans, as host Rece Davis and analysts Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg, Jay Williams, Tom Crean and Dan Dakich provided their analysis and thoughts as the field for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship was revealed. The commentators were a part of live SportsCenter coverage, and Bracketology (7 p.m., ESPN).
Coverage on SEC Network included a two-hour SEC Now: Selection Special presented by Principal, with host Peter Burns and analysts Daymeon Fishback, Pat Bradley and Jimmy Dykes. A special basketball edition of Thinking Out Loud with co-hosts Greg McElroy and Marcus Spears was included in SEC Now coverage, because you can’t spell BrackeTOLogy without TOL.
Quotes, reactions and opinions from the three-hour coverage can be found below.
Greenberg on Villanova’s potential fate: This bracket lines up well for Villanova to get to the Final Four.
Jay Williams on Purdue: Casen Edwards is one of the top guards that no one is talking about. They have size up front with the front line
Bilas on Purdue: Size, versatility, shooting and experience: What does Purdue not have?
Williams: I don’t see anyone stopping Villanova from getting to the Elite 8.
Bilas: it is going to be Villanova and Purdue making it to the Elite 8.
Bilas on Texas Tech-Stephen F. Austin matchup: If Kennan Evans is healthy then Texas Tech wins.
Greenberg on the Midwest: “This bracket sets up for Michigan State to go the Final Four.”
Williams on Kansas: “NC State could be a huge obstacle for Kansas. They are underrated.”
Bilas on Kansas: “I don’t think they have a challenge that they cannot handle.”
Greenberg on Michigan State: “If I’m Michigan state, I absolutely love this bracket.”
Williams on who challenges Kansas: “It is a second round game; whoever wins of NC State-Seton Hall.”
Bilas: New Mexico State is an excellent rebounding team. Jemerrio Jones is one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. Zach Lofton averages 20 points a game. When you have a 20 point a game scorer, you are dangerous.
Greenberg on region: “South region is brutal… it’s physical, has athleticism.”
Jay Williams, on tough road for Virginia: “South is the most difficult region.”
Bilas: “Arizona is grossly under-seeded.”
Bilas on biggest problem for No. 1 overall seed Virginia: “Arizona. They are big and physical and they can handle Virginia.”
Greenberg on Virginia: “This team is different because they are better offensively than recent teams.”
Bilas: “A lot of defense in this bracket. I still think Arizona and Virginia are the best teams in this bracket.”
Greenberg on Stephen F. Austin: “That team absolutely disrupts you. They turn you over. They are physical. They don’t let you run offense. That is going to be a rock fight.”
Bilas on Stephen F. Austin: “The press. They force turnovers. They are a very good basketball team.”
Bilas: “Arizona is one of the best teams in the country with one of the best players in the country.”
Greenberg: “Arizona is as talented a team as there is in the tournament.”
Bilas on Nevada: “They are very, very talented with major conference talent.”
Greenberg on Gonzaga: “Gonzaga is a lot better than people think. You’re talking about an experienced front court team. Killian Tillie makes every shot he takes. As long as Josh Perkins can take care of the basketball. Gonzaga is going to be tough to beat… As long as their guard play holds up, Gonzaga is coming out of this region”
Williams on Xavier: “I don’t see Xavier getting through the second round. I would say that Xavier will be the first number one seed to go down if Missouri can get by Florida State.”
Bilas on Gonzaga: “Gonzaga’s got really good guards. They’re not as good up front as they were last year but they are still very capable.”
Williams on the Aggies: “Texas A&M is just one of those teams that scare me. They have the talent.”
Bilas on challenges for No. 1 seed Xavier: “Gonzaga is the biggest challenge for Xavier in this bracket.”
Greenberg on Mizzou’s potential: “Missouri is kind of like the x factor here for me. they can advance in this bracket.”
Bilas on Houston: “Rob Gray is an outstanding scorer. He can put up 30 in any game. This is a team, in Houston, that can really rebound. Devin Davis is an outstanding rebounder. It’s a great offensive rebounding team. They defend pretty well.”
Bilas: “San Diego State, very good defensively, but they’ve been on a nine-game winning streak since they blasted Nevada.”
SEC Network Analysts
Fishback on Tennessee: “The 3-seed was well-deserved. This is a team that I believe has a quality opportunity to beat Wright State.”
Bradley: “I’m optimistic about Auburn at least being able to get to the second weekend.”
Dykes on Kentucky: “The SEC Champions come in at a 5 seed, but if you look ahead they’re going to be facing a possible monster matchup against Arizona. But this is a team that just continues to get better. They now know who they are. It’s a typical Coach Cal bracket. Everyone’s going to be coming at them and he knows it.”
Daymeon Fishback: “I love Florida’s guard play. Having a guard like Chris Chiozza with his ability to dissect defenses paired with his basketball IQ, coupled with guards as strong as KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson, their guards will be key. Florida’s also defending at a high level right now.”
Bradley: “The three senior guards are going to lead the way for Arkansas. If you want to go far in the NCAA Tournament, you’ve got to have guards and you’ve got to have length.”
Dykes on Texas A&M-Providence matchup: “This will be a tough game for Texas A&M. Ever since they lost Duane Wilson, they’ve been susceptible to lose to anybody. If they can take care of the ball and Starks has a good FG-to-attempts ratio, and Williams gets fed the ball, they have a chance. But I’m telling you, this is a Providence team with a chip on their shoulder and they play tough as anyone in this bracket.”
Fishback: “It’s going to be a ton of length on this court. Coach Leonard Hamilton does a fantastic job in preparing his team for moments like this. Michael Porter Jr will have to play a pivotal role in this game. Paint and turnovers will be crucial. It’ll be up and down, but defensively, it will be a physical game.”
Bradley: “Collin Sexton is a tournament takeover kind of player, but Bama’s defensive versatility will be the game changer for them. Their ability to switch on the perimeter and spread offenses out, that’s crucial for them.”
Dykes: “The selection committee got this right for the Southeastern Conference with every team in between seeds 3 and 9.”
Vitale: “The kids at Oklahoma State got a raw deal.”
Overall impression from Bilas: “Balanced for the most part. I like the Midwest. that is going to be fun to watch. I like Kansas’ draw and I like Michigan State’s draw. Michigan State and Duke have a great opportunity to get through.”
Bilas on double-digit seeds that could make it to regional semifinals: “I don’t see a bunch of double digit seeds I’m in love with. The Arizona state I don’t think Davidson will beat Kentucky, but they’re going to give them a really hard time. the top seeds are a little better than we think.”
Williams: “I have no double-digit seeds going into the Sweet 16.”
Greenberg on what double-digit seed can get to the Sweet 16: “Providence at the 10 seed.”
Bilas: “Michigan State, head-to-head is better than Kansas simply because they can rebound at such a high rate and they are bigger and stronger.”
Greenberg on potential upsets: “Marshall over Wichita State. They play wide open, Wichita State is not great defensively. If nothing else, that’s going to be an entertaining game.
Dakich’s takeaways: “Trae Young was going to get in the NCAA Tournament no matter what. My other takeaway was how did Arizona State get in? USC comes in second in the conference tournament and doesn’t get in.”
Crean on Oklahoma: “I had Oklahoma three times, and everytime I had them, they were getting better. There’s no question in February they trended down, but I’m going to go with the body of work – they stayed consistent on the body of work.”
Crean on Big Ten: “I spent nine years in the Big Ten, and I know this is not the year it’s been [in the past]. It’s hard to get 13 wins in that league. I feel bad for Nebraska… I get the numbers and what the math says, I feel bad for Penn State. I’m not being an apologist, I just think those teams were really good.”
First-round game to look forward to
Greenberg: Texas A&M v. Providence
Williams: Seton Hall v. NC State
Bilas: Rhode Island v. Oklahoma and Arkansas v. Butler
Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) on how things have changed over time: “In the almost 40 years I’ve coached at Duke, you have to continue to adapt to the kids you have the privilege and honor to coach. We have probably change the way we approach things eight or nine times… This is our 34th time having our team in there. . .and when you’re younger you say oh they should have done this or they should have done that. I’ve learned just be happy man.”
John Calipari (Kentucky) on what he told the team after their SEC Championship: “I told my kids… ‘We will have the toughest road… and why would you want it any different?!”
Tony Bennett (Virginia) on being number one overall seed: “It reflects the whole season—the regular season, the ACC, even non-conference and then just to go through that three game gauntlet in the ACC tournament. That part is good. It’s kind of a reward for the whole body of work.”
Bennett on difference between this team from past teams: “This team is may be the most connected. . .Our leadership is terrific. The guys that are leading the way in Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins and Jack Salt. They just do all of the little dirty things you need to do. They make big plays. Then we have certainly some talent. De’Andre Hunter has emerged for us. We haven’t had a guy that can play the three or the four quite as versatile as him and that makes us and that makes us a little more diverse.”
Jay Wright (Villanova): “We are happy to be there. We’re going to Pittsburgh. Close for Villanova fans. A lot of Villanova alums there so we like that… The biggest challenge is always the first game. Take it one game at a time.”
Jalen Brunson (Villanova): “ it is very important that we stick to what we do. It may be the NCAA tournament where you when and keep going or lose and go home but nothing changes for us. We have to keep going out there and play Villanova basketball for 40 minutes”
Mark Few (Gonzaga): “We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’re excited to be sent to Boise… it’s an easy journey for our fans, but know we’re in for a tough one.”
Few on making another run in the tournament after last year’s Final Four appearance: “We’ve walked the path to the Final Four, we know what it takes, we know we’re going to have to endure some tough times, adversity, calls not going our way. I have a group who have been a major part of getting to a championship. I’m hoping our guys can carry the same feeling that Joel Berry carried all the way through for North Carolina last year.”
Avery Johnson (Alabama): “We were cautiously optimistic, but I don’t know that we were comfortable. It says a lot about our conference to get 8 teams in, almost 9 teams in. We challenged ourselves in non-conference play, so I know people want to focus on the negative, like our five-game losing streak, but we had a lot of quality wins and beat a lot of good teams this year.”
Bruce Pearl (Auburn): “We’re excited and we’ve known for a while that we’re going to go but it’s always special to hear your name. When it’s not special anymore, it’s time to do something else. But for us to be the 4-seed with Kansas as the 1, Duke as the 2, Michigan State as the 3 and Auburn as the 4. All household names in the world of college basketball (laughs).”
Mike Anderson (Arkansas): “Butler is a really good basketball team. I’ve seen a few glimpses of them, not anything too in depth yet, but they’re a strong team out of the Big EAST and they’ve got a great coach. We have to continue to play with the swagger we’ve been playing with. Our team is geared toward this time of the year. People get excited about just being in the dance. Not us. We want to dance.”
Cuonzo Martin (Missouri): “We’re grateful for the opportunity to be in the tournament. To see our guys’ eyes as our name was called, as a coach and a father, that’s why we do this. It was a great feeling for me to see how happy they are. For me, turning this program around was about making sure that we’re focusing on the right things and doing things the right way. I was happy to see Mike on the floor (in St. Louis) and it meant a lot to me to see a young man say, I want to do what’s best for the team. We don’t change our preparation just because it’s the NCAA Tournament. We embrace the adrenaline and the excitement.”
Analysts’ Final Four picks
Dick Vitale (Champion – Michigan State)
Jay Williams (Champion – Arizona)
Seth Greenberg (Champion – Michigan State)
Jay Bilas (Champion – Michigan State)