This college basketball season is hitting the home stretch has the calendar gets ready to flip to February, and as such, there are plenty of questions facing a number of teams around the country as the tournament approaches. We're posting these every Wednesday now throughout the course of the season to try and help answer those questions. Hit me up on Twitter or Facebook if you want to join the conversation! Now, let's get into it:
Who are some players that can help their team make the second weekend in March? - Dave Russell (@DRuss1396)
We've seen a number of players take over the NCAA Tournament in years past, whether it be Stephen Curry or Kemba Walker or Shabazz Napier. This year, Oklahoma's Trae Young (30.3 ppg, 9.5 apg) is the obvious answer considering the way he has carried the Sooners all season, but a few other players have the potential to carry their teams to the Sweet 16 as well.
I think people will start appreciating how good Texas Tech's Keenan Evans (17.7 ppg, 3.4 apg) is once he's on the national stage, and Ohio State will only go as far as Keita Bates-Diop (19.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg) carries them. The same could be said for Saint Mary's and Jock Landale (22.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg), whose stardom will also benefit from being on the national stage.
Another pair of mid-major stars to keep an eye on will be Oakland's Kendrick Nunn (26.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.0 apg) and South Dakota State's Mike Daum (23.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg). Those teams won't make the Sweet 16, but Nunn and Daum are good enough to lead their teams to a first-round upset.
Should I hit the panic button on UNC? - @Ppuro31
You should hit the panic button on North Carolina if you expect the Tar Heels to make another long run in the tournament. That's not happening this year. They're over-reliant on Luke Maye (18.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg) and Joel Berry (17.5 ppg) offensively, yet it's their perimeter defense that really kills them. UNC gives up a higher percentage of points from the three-point line than anyone else in the country (43.1 percent) and their three-point defense ranks 315th in the country (opponents are shooting 38.5 percent).
The Heels are talented enough to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, or maybe even two if the matchups turn out the right way, but they'll lose whenever they face a perimeter-oriented three-point shooting team. Right now, I'd have them getting bounced in the second round but can be upset in the first round if they get a bad matchup.
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Who is Purdue's best player? - PurClemsondue (@LegendofSM)
Carsen Edwards. You could make the case for a number of different players, namely Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas, but Carson Edwards is the most crucial to Purdue's success. On top of being their best perimeter defender, he's their leading scorer (16.7) and drives their whole offense with his quickness, penetrating ability, and decision-making. Plus, he makes a number of hustle plays every game that always seem to change the momentum or start a rally for the Boilermakers.
Purdue is certainly a group that functions best when they're a unit playing together, but Carsen Edwards is the biggest key and best player for them.
Is Purdue the team with an offense best suited to beat Virginia? - Ed M. (Ace95Boiler16)
I would've said Duke before the weekend, but I was incredibly impressed with how UVA limited them. Purdue's offense really good, but I think the best offense for Virginia's defense is Villanova - which is why they're so good. The Wildcats are more athletic than UVA, play just as smart and can beat you both on the perimeter and on the inside. Haas is obviously Purdue's trump card. If he is playing well offensively, like he has been of late, his scoring on the post and subsequent kicks out for three could be problematic for Virginia.
Will next year get better for St. John's with their incoming recruiting class? - CT24 (@ctommoli24)
St. John's does welcome a quality recruiting class headlined by top-80 prospect J'Raan Brooks, but the Red Storm will be fine as long as they stay healthy. They were arguably the fifth or sixth best team in the Big East this season before the injuries started to pile up, especially the one to Marcus LoVett. Assuming everyone will be back next year, the Johnnies will be good.
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Who are your top 2 seeds in each region? - Ted Newhard (@Newhardted)
Here are my projections for the top two seeds in each region right now: