Bay Area College Basketball: Who’s coming for the NCAA tournament?

If you’re hoping to see Zion Williamson and Duke when the NCAA tournament comes to San Jose next month, forget it.

The NCAA’s selection committee is not expected to send the second-ranked Blue Devils across the country to play at the SAP Center on March 22 and 24 in a subregional. Since 2004, Duke has not played farther west than Pittsburgh in the tournament’s first weekend. That’s Pittsburgh with an “h,” and not the industrial suburb in the East Bay.

Still, enticing possibilities remain among the eight teams that will play in San Jose.

Here are seven to consider:

Gonzaga: The third-ranked Bulldogs might be sent to Salt Lake City, but they’d be a headliner anywhere. Born in Japan, Rui Hachimura will be an NBA lottery pick this spring, but the local attraction would be former San Jose State forward Brandon Clarke. Even on a team jammed with talent, the 6-foot-8 junior averages 16.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and has broken the school record with 77 blocked shots. “He was phenomenal, coach Mark Few said after Clark had 20 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks last week against USF.

Murray State: Sophomore guard Ja Morant takes “phenomenal” to another level, but the Racers (19-4) will need to win the Ohio Valley Conference tournament to earn a bid. The projected top-three NBA lottery pick averages 23.9 points and leads the country with 10.1 assists per game. And at 6-3, 175 pounds, Morant is the most spectacular dunker this side of Durham, N.C. If you haven’t seen him fly over the head of a 6-foot-8 defender from Tennessee-Martin for a dunk, that’s why YouTube was invented.

Loyola Chicago: Will the darling of the 2018 tournament — 99-year-old Sister Jean, not the Ramblers — get another moment in the spotlight? Loyola upset teams seeded No. 3, 5, 7 and 9 to reach the Final Four. The Ramblers, currently sitting atop the Missouri Valley Conference, got much attention last year for their charming team chaplain sister Jean, San Francisco native.

Campbell: Watching a team nicknamed the Fighting Camels would be cool enough but if Campbell can win the Big South tournament, little Chris Clemons will get a big stage. The 5-foot-9 senior is the country’s leading scorer at 29.1 points per game. With 2,930 points and counting, he is on pace to become the ninth Division I player to score 3,000 in a career.

Nevada: An appearance by the No. 7 Wolf Pack in San Jose could attract a large partisan crowd from Reno. Former Warriors coach Eric Musselman has transformed Nevada (23-1) into a powerhouse. the team is led by 6-foot-7 twins Caleb and Cody Martin and high-scoring Jordan Caroline.

Marquette: Junior guard Markus Howard scored 52 points against Providence last season and had 53 against Creighton this one. Averaging 25.2 points, he settled for 38 on Saturday as Marquette knocked off defending national champion Villanova 66-65, running its record to 20-4.

South Dakota State: Mike Daum is trying to lead the Jackrabbits to their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament. The 6-foot-9 senior has 2,883 …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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