We are exactly a week away from Selection Sunday. It's one of the most exciting times of the college basketball year, but the weeks leading up are a whole lot of fun, too.
Here are five things we learned this weekend.
North Carolina is a scary team heading into the NCAA tournament
Sure, North Carolina beat Duke without Zion Williamson. But the Tar Heels are on fire lately and have had a recent history of NCAA tournament success. You don't want to see these guys in your region of the bracket.
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North Carolina has one loss since Jan. 12. It just has so many guys who can go off on a given night. Luke Maye only scored seven points against Duke, but had 16 rebounds and seven assists. Coby White led the way with 21 points, and he's turned himself into one of the best bucket-getters in the country. Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams are outstanding 3-and-D guys.
Nassir Little is playing his best ball all year, too, and it's always nice to be able to bring an athletic freak like that off of the bench. North Carolina is heading into the ACC tournament with plenty of confidence.
Ja Morant is worth the hype
Just get out of this man's way:
Ja Morant weighs 175 pounds, but dunks like a man twice his size.pic.twitter.com/YM9olLvCON— Sporting News (@sportingnews) March 10, 2019
Belmont has better roster balance than Murray State, but Murray State has Morant. He was the best player on the floor by far on Saturday night, scoring 36 points and going 9-for-9 from the free-throw line as Murray State picked up the first 2019 NCAA tournament auto bid as OVC champions.
Morant has a magnetic force to his game. Similar to Russell Westbrook, you feel him on every possession. Morant was beating defenders off the dribble at will last night and gliding to the rim for acrobatic finishes. No other Murray State player scored more than 12 points.
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The OVC may wind up getting two teams in the dance once all is said and done, but it's going to be incredibly exciting to have Morant in the NCAA tournament field.
Charles Matthews is so important for Michigan
Michigan lost to Michigan State again on Saturday, and the Wolverines lacked offensive punch throughout the night. Credit the Spartans defense, which held Michigan to 0.95 points per possession.
But the Wolverines were without Matthews, and his health is pivotal moving forward. He's averaging 12.8 points per game, which may seem modest, but he's Michigan's most talented and reliable two-way player. Matthews can do a bit of everything: shoot, handle, make plays for others, lock up opposing scorers. No individual skill stands out, but he's just good in a lot of areas. That adds up.
Isaiah Livers only scored five points starting in his place on Saturday. Michigan needs more out of that spot, and it's certainly hoping Matthews can return at full strength soon.
The Big East's best are cooling off
Villanova and Marquette were easily the two best teams in the Big East this year, but neither is playing its best right now. It should make the conference tournament interesting.
The Golden Eagles, in particular, are struggling. They've lost four in a row, and a home defeat to Georgetown is a tough look. Markus Howard is still balling, but the supporting cast has faded a bit, and the new and improved defense is looking like the 2017-18 version at times. Marquette has the tools to be a scary tournament team, but this is bad timing for a rut.
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Villanova isn't struggling as much as Marquette. The worst of it came during a three-game losing streak in mid-February for the Wildcats. But it looked like they had turned a corner until they lost to Seton Hall on Saturday, and Villanova has now dropped five of its last eight.
It was a rebuilding year for a lot of Big East teams. It will be fascinating to see how these schools perform come tournament time.
Texas Tech may not get a 1 seed, but it's playing like one
Texas Tech has just been mashing people lately. The Red Raiders beat Iowa State in Ames on Saturday and have now won nine straight games.
Jarrett Culver poured in 31 points on Saturday, and the supporting cast is really coming on strong. Davide Moretti scored 20, and the defense is still ranked No. 1 in the land. Texas Tech has won seven of those nine games by double digits.
The Red Raiders hit a bit of mid-season lull, losing three straight games in mid-January. They won all but one of their nonconference games, but their schedule wasn't difficult. So Tech doesn't have the resume of a 1 seed.
But it absolutely looks the part. When you have a stud like Culver and the best defense in the country, you're cooking. Like North Carolina, Texas Tech is not a team you'd want to face in March.