Around Champ Week: Best performances, tournaments and look ahead to March Madness

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) dunks over Villanova’s Brandon Slater during the second half of a college basketball game in the semifinal round of the Men’s Final Four NCAA tournament, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Championship Week is over, and the first round of the NCAA Tournament continues today, so what better time to recap the craziness that is Champ Week and take a look at the first-round matchups than right now? So sit back, check your bracket for the billionth time, drink some coffee, and enjoy a recap of arguably the best week in college basketball.

Best tournament

Big East Tournament

The Big East Tournament never disappoints, and it certainly didn’t this year as Marquette cut down the nets on Saturday night for the first time in program history. Outside of maybe two games, every single game went down to the wire, with the best game being the Marquette-UConn semifinal matchup. The Big Ten Tournament was full of upsets, including a dark horse run by Penn State, but nothing beat the competitiveness, quality and atmosphere that the Big East Tournament has.

Best conference tournament run

Texas Southern

The Tigers may have just lost last night in a blowout First Four game to Fairleigh Dickinson, but what Texas Southern had to do to make their third consecutive NCAA Tournament was so impressive. They were the last team to qualify for their conference tournament, as the top eight teams in the SWAC qualify. They upset the top two seeds in the tournament and won 61-58 over Grambling State to win the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. They made the Big Dance with one of the worst records in tournament history, 14-20.

Best tournament performances

Dylan Disu, F, Texas (14.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 73.9 FG%)

Disu has played a key role in his senior year as the Longhorns secured a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, which is the highest seeding Texas has received since 2008, the last time they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. He had 18 points in Saturday’s Big 12 Championship victory over Kansas and only missed six shots throughout the entire tournament, not missing more than three in each game.

Tyler Kolek, G, Marquette (18.6 PPG, 7 RPG, 5 APG, 2.3 SPG)

Kolek is arguably the best point guard in the country, ranking second in the nation in assists with 7.7 per game. He didn’t rack up the assists as much as he has in past games, but was a force on the glass and stealing the ball. He had 20 points, eight rebounds, and three steals in Saturday’s dominant Big East Championship over Xavier.

Kyle Filipowski, C, Duke (19.6 PPG, 7 RPG, 66.7 FG%)

Filipowski is the best freshman not named Brandon Miller, as he led Duke to their first ACC Championship under head coach Jon Scheyer. He recorded a 20-point double-double along with three steals in their ten-point victory over Virginia in the ACC Championship. He showed off his ability to lead on offense in the semifinal round, where he showed his ability to pass the ball, recording five assists.

Azuolas Tubelis, F, Arizona (18.6 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 55 FG%)

Tubelis showed why he deserved to be named an All-American this season, earning the Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player award after the Wildcats won their second-straight conference tournament title. Tubelis’s field goal percentage in the tournament was tanked by a 29.4% shooting performance in the championship game against UCLA. However, he had a strong night from the free throw line, going 9-for-11 from the charity stripe.

Brandon Miller, F, Alabama (20.3 PPG, 11 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.6 SPG)

I’m not here to talk about Miller’s actions off the court. What he has done on the court is remarkable, improving his draft stock game-by-game. He was named the SEC Tournament Most Outstanding Player after a phenomenal performance in the SEC Championship against Texas A&M, recording 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Best First-Round Matchups

No. 9 Illinois vs. No. 8 Arkansas (Thursday, 4:30 p.m., TBS)

Two of the better defenses in the country battle in Des Moines in a matchup to face top-seeded Kansas. Both teams had high expectations going into the season but did not meet those expectations, playing in the 8 vs. 9 game. One of the key players in this game is Terrence Shannon Jr., who played like one of the best guards in the Big Ten all season long. He will go up against one of the SEC’s best guards in Ricky Council IV. Two strong coaches will pace the sidelines in what should be a low-scoring game. Both teams are poor at shooting from long range.

No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 7 Texas A&M (Thursday, 9:55 p.m., TBS)

Speaking of two star guards, there will be exactly that later that night in the same arena as Penn State’s Jalen Pickett and Wade Taylor IV will face off in a nightcap. Micah Shrewsberry is one of the rising star coaches in college basketball, leading the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten Championship game.

No. 11 Pittsburgh vs. No. 6 Iowa State (Friday, 3:10 p.m., truTV)

This may not be full of amazing plays that we’re used to seeing in nearly every NCAA Tournament game, but there is upset potential in Greensboro Friday night. Iowa State has one of the best defenses, going up against one of the better offenses in college basketball. Iowa State’s offense is poor outside their rebounding ability. I cannot wait for this one.

No. 11 Providence vs. No. 6 Kentucky (Friday, 7:10 p.m., CBS)

I love this matchup, as this is between two of the top 20 offenses in college basketball. Providence is led by Bryce Hopkins, who’s going up against Kentucky, the team he transferred from in the offseason. Greensboro will be electric Friday night.

No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 8 Memphis (Friday, 9:20 p.m., TNT)

The most even matchup of the first round looks to be a nightcap in Columbus Friday night. Both Florida Atlantic and Memphis are ranked in the final AP Poll and match each other in about every stat on the KenPom comparison. Kendric Davis has been red-hot, leading the Tigers to their first-ever AAC Championship. Whoever wins this matchup could make a deep run, even with a possible second-round meeting against No. 1 seed Purdue.

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