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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Tuesday / September 26.
  • Bilas: Expect ‘Carnage’ and ‘Landmines’ in the NCAA Tournament; Monmouth Deserves an At-Large

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    It’s been a wild and wacky year in college basketball and things figure to get even crazier come March Madness.

    It’s been a wild and wacky year in college basketball and things figure to get even crazier come March Madness.

    Already this season there have been five different No. 1-ranked teams — North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Oklahoma.

    In just the last 48 hours three Top 5 teams — No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Kansas and No. 5 Xavier — have all gone down.

    And on Wednesday ESPN posted the above graphic showing that a record 19 Top-5 teams have already lost this season, the most ever at this point in the season.

    “I would take the sixth or seventh best team last year and I think it would be No. 1 with a bullet this year and would be dominating this field” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said Wednesday on The 4 Quarters Podcast.

    “College basketball is great every year, there’s never a year where I don’t love it, but it’s different this year. We don’t have dominant teams. We have a bunch of very good ones.”

    Bilas pointed to the lack of dominant players — including potential one-and-done freshmen like LSU’s Ben Simmons and, to a much different degree, Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere  — and the absence of a collection of dominant players.

    “The influx of talent this year has not been as good,” he said.

    So what’s all this mean for March Madness and your bracket in the office pool?

    “I think this year could be kind of carnage where you’ve got landmines everywhere and teams are falling down because there’s not overwhelming strength at the top and usually there is,” he said.

    Carnage, yeah, that’s not gonna be good for anyone’s bracket.

    As for the Player of the Year race that includes Simmons, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Providence’s Kris Dunn and Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, among others, Bilas thinks the answer is pretty clear right now.

    “If it ended now, Buddy Hield would win it by a landslide,” Bilas said. “I just think winning is the biggest component of it and Oklahoma’s been winning and he’s been scoring at an incredible clip. There’s the same kind of view of Buddy Hield right now as there was a couple years ago of Doug McDermott. It’s his award right now and it’s going to take a long time for that 46-point game at Allen Fieldhouse to fade from memory.”

    As for Monmouth, a team that Joe Lunardi currently has as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Bilas believes they deserve an at-large without question.

    “They could be like Florida Gulf Coast was a couple years ago,” Bilas said. “I think absolutely they can win [in the postseason] because there’s nobody out there. They’ve proven they can beat good teams, not that that was a murderer’s row of teams that they took out in USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and Georgetown but you win those games, you’re legit. And they’re legit.

    “They should be a tournament team this year, they should be an at-large team, and they’ve proven that…If they don’t make the field, if they continue to play the way they’ve been playing, then they gotta clean house on that whole [NCAA Selection] Committee because Monmouth should be in this year.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.