Des Moines was ripe with parity, as (8) Arkansas upended defending champion (1) Kansas to march right into the second weekend of March Madness.
2 seed Texas and (8) Arkansas made waves in Des Moines in the first two rounds, while (7) Texas A&M flamed out early against a hot-shooting (10) Penn State squad before Texas took out the Nittany Lions. Arkansas took out (9) Illinois in the first round and then staged a comeback against Kansas in the second round of March Madness.
Des Moines Region Most Outstanding Player
Ricky Council IV
Council played 39 of 40 minutes in the first game against Illinois, recording a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He led the Razorbacks in both points and rebounds in the first round and was an integral part of the victory.
Council is one of the better athletes on all already very physical team, and he had quite a few highlight dunks. Against Kansas, Council played all 40 minutes and recorded 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists to his credit, along with a block. In a game where the final score was a 72-71 margin, Council was truly the difference-maker.
Des Moines Region First Team
- G: Ricky Council IV, Arkansas – 2 games (19.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 91.3 FT%)
- G: Davonte Davis, Arkansas – 2 games (20.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.0 SPG)
- G: Jalen Pickett, Penn State – 2 games (15.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 4.5 APG)
- F: Dylan Disu, Texas – 2 games (22.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG)
- F: Jalen Wilson, Kansas – 2 games (12.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.0 BPG)
#1: Arkansas continues March dominance
Arkansas has quietly made three straight Sweet Sixteens with their latest appearance following the victory of 1 seed Kansas. While they haven’t looked great this season, they’re playing their best ball when it matters most, in March.
A quartet of guards in Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black, Davonte Davis, and Ricky Council IV all average at least 10 PPG, and they all contributed against Illinois and Kansas.
In the paint, they don’t have as much firepower, especially after Trevon Brazile got knocked out for the year in the non-conference portion of the schedule. But, they’re clicking right now, and that’s what matters in March Madness. Eric Musselman always seems to have his team worked up for the tournament, and UConn will have their hands full on Thursday.
#2: Texas’ depth of scoring is impressive
Coming into the game against Penn State, Texas hadn’t been challenged since playing TCU in the first week of March. That changed when the Nittany Lions came back from an 11-point deficit to take the lead in the second half against the Longhorns.
However, with help from Dylan Disu’s 28-point, 10-rebound double-double, Texas came right back and won the game. And that’s what makes this offense so lethal. Usually, it’s one of Tyrese Hunter, Marcus Carr, or Timmy Allen who comes up big on the offensive end. When those three struggle and Texas still wins, that’s a scary sight for opponents.
Texas may have an interim coach with the reins in hand right now, but it’s certainly arguable they’ve been a better team with Rodney Terry than Chris Beard. After all, they’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10, and it’s hard to name a team playing better the Longhorns right now.
#3: It’s hard to repeat in a 68-team gauntlet
Kansas was deserving of a 1 seed this year, just like last year when they went all the way. Many pundits had them repeating as champs again this year, but they ran into the March version of Arkansas, which is clearly the best version of Arkansas. Especially since Bill Self was out for both games that the Jayhawks played, it’s not surprising that Kansas was unable to repeat, and it’s not because the team lacked star-power.
Jalen Wilson, Gradey Dick, and Dajuan Harris are all extremely good players, as is Kevin McCullar and the rest of the Jayhawk roster. But winning six games in a row against the best teams in college basketball two years in a row is so incredibly difficult. That’s what makes the tournament so fun, there is parity and no one really has a clue what will happen once the ball tips off in March. So when Arkansas came into Des Moines as just +3.5 point underdogs, it was a precursor to the madness of a 72-71 victory by the Hogs.
Kansas was great all year. But it’s March, and anything can happen. It shouldn’t be seen as a disappointment that this team couldn’t repeat, especially with Self out.
Lookahead for Texas
Texas is scary, in a good way. Yes, they had some trouble putting away Penn State, but it’s easy to forget that the Nittany Lions were one of the hottest teams in the country coming in. Dylan Disu ended up with 28 points to lead the Longhorns, and the fact that Disu was able to do that shows the depth of this Texas team. Even on a night where they shot 1-of-13 from three-point range, they were still able to score 71 points and hold a very good Penn State offense to just 66. Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice didn’t have great games either, but Texas still held tough and won when it mattered.
They’ll face an Xavier team that beat Pitt easily but the Musketeers struggled against Kennesaw State in the first round. Solely Boum and Jack Nunge are very good, but the loss of Zach Freemantle earlier this year means that Sean Miller’s squad is not playing at full strength. Texas should handle the Musketeers, but they’ll likely draw Houston in the Elite Eight if the Cougars can get past Miami. They certainly could beat Houston, but the Cougs are playing possibly the best basketball out of any team left in the tournament. I don’t think they’ll get by Houston, but if they do, they could very well win the whole tournament.
Lookahead for Arkansas
Arkansas may have one of the toughest roads to the Final Four out of all the teams remaining. They’ve got to beat a very dangerous UConn team in the Sweet Sixteen, and if they win that game they’ll have to play either UCLA or Gonzaga. Of course, they beat Gonzaga in last year’s Sweet Sixteen, but this is not the same Bulldog team as last year, nor the same Razorback squad.
The Hogs are physical and rely on 2PT shots more than threes, although that has changed slightly with the regular addition of Nick Smith Jr. back to the lineup. That philosophy will be tough against a tall, Adama Sanogo-led Husky roster. Sure, Arkansas can beat anyone with the level of talent they have on their roster, but they’ve had trouble consistently putting it all together.
Even if Arkansas manages to get past UConn, I don’t think they’ll be able to go back two days after and beat UCLA or Gonzaga.