1. Florida vs. Duke: Florida could lay claim to being No. 1 if it knocks off Duke tonight in the PK80 Motion bracket final in Portland. Yes, it’s true. The Gators would own two of the most important wins this season by beating Gonzaga in double overtime and Duke in a championship game.
That’s a lot of ifs, but the Gators certainly looked the part of a possible top team in the win over the Bulldogs. They were relentless, answering every Gonzaga basket and surge. Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson was sensational with 35 points and Chris Chiozza added 26 and Keyvaughn Allen 23. The Blue Devils beat Texas in OT without Grayson Allen (fouled out). The trio of Marvin Bagley III, Wendall Carter and Trevon Duval is as good a freshman threesome as… well maybe since 2015 when the Blue Devils won the national title.
Marvin Bagley III. Have yourself a day!!!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 25, 2017
Bagley's 34 points against Texas ties JJ Redick's record for most points scored by a Duke freshman in a single game pic.twitter.com/kUgx1q7eY6
2. Michigan State vs. North Carolina: Tom Izzo is 1-11 against Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. He’s lost seven straight against North Carolina. So, don’t you think the Hall of Fame coach is due? Michigan State has the goods to beat the Tar Heels now and in March or April. And I’m sure Izzo would like nothing more than to beat one of the Blue Bloods on the way to a PK80 Victory bracket win tonight in Portland.
The good news for the Spartans is that they have reached the title game without major production from Miles Bridges (ankle injury out kept him out of DePaul, scored six and grabbed eight boards against UConn). Cassius Winston scored 28 in the win over the Huskies and could give the Tar Heels some trouble. The question is can Luke Maye continue to carry North Carolina or is this the game where other players like Joel Berry or Theo Pinson bust out and dominate the game. Is that even needed?
How about @luke_maye is Carolina’s first player to score 100 points (has 106) and grab 50 rebounds (54) in first five games since Antawn Jamison in 1996-97 (thanks ESPN stats for that one) #GoHeels pic.twitter.com/C0UJQ6NjYr— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) November 25, 2017
3. Texas vs. Gonzaga: Amazingly, either Texas or Gonzaga will leave Portland 1-2 after stellar semifinal games, resulting in each suffering a loss. Texas played as well as it has under Shaka Smart, losing to Duke in overtime. Gonzaga had yet another epic Zags performances, but lost in double overtime to Florida. The PK80 gave the teams a day off Saturday, allowing each one of these teams to rest and recharge.
The question is whether Johnathan Williams (39 points against Florida) and/or Josh Perkins (17) can duplicate their impact against a Longhorn team that has to be feeling overwhelmingly confident. Dylan Osetkowski put up 19 on Duke. But he’ll have to deal with the Zags’ blossoming bigs. If it’s a late-game possession loss for either, neither should fret. Texas will be in the mix for a top four Big 12 finish and the Zags are still the team to beat in the WCC.
4. Saint Mary's vs. Georgia: Saint Mary’s doesn’t have as many resume chances outside of the two WCC Gonzaga games. That’s why beating Georgia (loser to San Diego State in a semifinal) is critical later today in a third-place game at the Wooden Legacy. The Gaels shot 56 percent on 3s in the semifinal loss to Washington State but gave up 84 points.Up next for Saint Mary’s will be a road game at Cal, which lost to Chaminade last week in Maui. That lowers the impact of that game for the Gaels. The only other game of note left is a home game against Dayton, a team that right now may not contend for a top three finish in the A-10. That puts even more emphasis on landing a knock out punch to an SEC team in Georgia that could finish in the top five in that league.
5. Texas A&M vs. USC: Texas A&M could make another loud statement about its SEC title chances if it can win at USC later tonight. The Aggies, who haven’t been whole yet due to suspensions, get JJ Caldwell back for this game after he suspended for the first five games. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said last week that he has to figure out how to integrate him into the lineup. But he will be a factor. USC escaped Vanderbilt with an overtime win. The Pac-12 could use another resume win after ASU thumped Xavier in the second half to win in Las Vegas. Arizona going 0-3 in the Battle 4 Atlantis dinged the league’s perfection a bit. A USC win over the Aggies would certainly lift some of the stain.