UConn and Miami (Fla) were the big winners from the Albany region, advancing on to the Sweet Sixteen in March Madness.
Four games on Friday followed by two more on Sunday ended up with (4) UConn and (5) Miami (Fla) moving on to the Sweet Sixteen. While the Huskies were favorites to come out of their pod, the Hurricanes dominated (4) Indiana to move on to their second straight Sweet Sixteen appearance.
Albany Region Most Outstanding Player
Adama Sanogo totally controlled both games for UConn on the first weekend of March Madness. Against Iona, Sanogo dropped 28 points and 13 rebounds, one of the best stat lines of anyone in the round of 64. Then, against a defensive team in Saint Mary’s, Sanogo powered his way for 24 points and 8 boards.
On a UConn team with so many scoring options, Sanogo led the charge in both games, propelling the Huskies into the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2014.
Albany Region First Team
- G: Nijel Pack, Miami (Fla) – 2 games (16.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG)
- G: Alex Ducas, Saint Mary’s – 2 games (12.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.5 SPG)
- F: Norchard Omier, Miami (Fla) – 2 games (9.5 PPG, 15.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 1.5 SPG
- F: Adama Sanogo, UConn – 2 games (26.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 72.7 FG%)
- F: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana – 2 games (23.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 5.0 BPG, 63.0 FG%)
#1: UConn is a legitimate threat to win it all
Remember when the UConn Huskies started 14-0 and were winning by double-digits nearly every time? Those UConn Huskies are back. The team has only lost four games since Jan. 18, each by a single possession.
Adama Sanogo is playing at a high level, probably with a chip on his shoulder, after Tyler Kolek was named the Big East Player of the Year. Jordan Hawkins and Tristen Newton are hitting shots, and the Huskies are a mismatch for pretty much anyone who can’t handle Sanogo and Donovan Clingan inside.
The Huskies did benefit from a nice draw, which included two straight mid-major opponents in (13) Iona and (5) Saint Mary’s. Next up is (8) Arkansas, who just took down (1) Kansas in one of the biggest upsets of the NCAA Tournament. If I was a betting man, the Razorbacks’ run ends on Thursday night.
#2: Indiana’s Rd. of 32 loss isn’t that surprising
A lot of people thought this might be Indiana’s year. If not to win it all, the Hoosiers admittedly had their best chance at making a long run in March Madness in a handful of years. But after losing Xavier Johnson on Dec. 17, the road to Houston became more difficult.
For what it’s worth, Xavier and UCLA are dealing with injuries to star players and they’re both still alive. But not every team can handle it the same, and the Hoosiers are a prime example. Since Johnson went down, they finished the year 15-9. Not a great record, but not a bad record either. But certainly not the same team that won at Xavier and against North Carolina.
Take the Johnson injury out of the equation, and Indiana also met a Miami (Fla) Hurricanes team playing under the radar. Miami’s won 11 of their last 13 games, and don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So, for Indiana, while the way the season ended was underwhelming, I don’t think they really failed to meet expectations. The expectations just weren’t as high as they were initially made out to be.
#3: Drake should still be playing
This is no disrespect to Miami. In fact, I picked the Hurricanes to the Elite Eight in my bracket, so I’m happy they’re still dancing. In that same breath, Drake had one of the worst collapses in March Madness this tournament.
Up 55-47 with under 5 minutes to play, the Bulldogs would proceed to finish the game 0-of-7 from the field with 4 turnovers. That’s not exactly a blueprint on how to close out a round of 64 game against a 5 seed.
So yes, Miami deserved to win the game and doubled that up on Sunday with the Rd. of 32 win over Indiana. But Drake lived up to the upset pick a lot of people were calling. They just couldn’t finish the job when it mattered.
Lookahead for UConn
There’s a lot to unpack with UConn, and the same could be said about most teams left in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are capable of winning it all, and I do believe they will ultimately make the Elite Eight. But they’re playing an Arkansas team who knocked off one of the favorites to win it all. Given that, a UConn loss in the Sweet Sixteen is also possible.
The most likely case would be a UConn loss in the Elite Eight or Final Four. While it’s a team with a national championship makeup, there are still other, more worthy teams out there. Alabama, Texas, and Gonzaga have just as good credentials to take home a March Madness victory, if not even better. But with how well UConn is playing, you can’t count them out of any game.
Lookahead for Miami (Fla)
Miami is also playing very hot but has a much tougher road than UConn. It starts with playing a 1 seed in Houston, who with a healthy Marcus Sasser, looked all the part in the win over Auburn. Even if the ‘Canes are fortunate enough to get past the Cougars, they’d have to play the winner of Texas and Xavier in the next round. It’s just their luck that they got placed in what’s been the chalkiest region to this point in the tournament.
When it gets down to it, Miami is capable of a Final Four run. They’ve just got a much harder path to get there. Norchard Omier will need to keep up his rebounding ways. Isaiah Wong will have to score at a more consistent and efficient rate. And Jim Larranaga better hope there’s some more magic left in the tank after last year’s Elite Eight run.