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UCLA vs Kentucky
NCAA March Madness!

#3 UCLA vs #2 Kentucky
6:39 PT at FedExForum

To watch UCLA and Kentucky play is like taking a peek into the future of the NBA. Both teams have several prospects, some of which will be in the league next year. These two teams met earlier this season, and UCLA knocked off UK who was ranked number 1 at the time. UK’s 42 game home win streak was snapped that night, and in 8 seasons that was only Coach John Calipari’s 5th loss at home. UK would love to avenge that loss, and showcase their star freshman Malik Monk, De’aaron Fox, and Edrice (Bam) Adebayo. Monk poured in 24 points, and Fox had 20 that night as the young Wildcats fought hard. Adebayo has NBA scouts salivating over his size and athleticism, with some comparing him to a young Dwight Howard.

For all the freshmen talent Kentucky has, Lonzo Ball is one of the best freshman in the country right now. Ball leads the nation in assists, and is an almost unstoppable floor general. Combine him with Sr SG Bryce Alford’s 3 point shooting and you have possibly the best backcourt in the country. Historically, the better backcourt wins in this tournament, and the nod goes to UCLA here. They are also more experienced at other positions, and freshman TJ Leaf can be an impact player any game. Vegas has this game at even, but it looks to me like UCLA has the edge with the number 1 scoring offense, and a slightly better defense than UK.

 

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NCAA Sweet 16 Preview

#4 West Virginia Mountaineers vs #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs

Where: SAP Center in San Jose, CA
When: March 23 at 4:39 PM PT
TV Broadcast: TBS

In the NCAA Sweet 16, Gonzaga finds its toughest hurdle yet as they face an opponent who can stand toe-to-toe both on offense and defense. The Bulldogs rank in the top 15 nationally in scoring offense (83.9 ppg) and in the top five in scoring defense (61.1 ppg). The Mountaineers are in the top 20 in scoring offense (82.1 ppg) and top 50 in scoring defense (66.8 ppg).

Gonzaga is in the Sweet 16 for a third consecutive season after dispatching No. 16 South Dakota State and No. 8 Northwestern. West Virginia reached the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons after holding off No. 13 Bucknell and No. 5 Notre Dame.

Gonzaga junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, the WCC Player of the Year, leads the Bulldogs in scoring (16.7), assists (4.7) and converts better than 90 percent from the free throw line. He has a better than 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio with 161 assists and 72 turnovers. This will be significant as he faces West Virginia. Josh Perkins, the other significant ball-handler, has less favorable numbers with 113 assists and 68 turnovers.

“Press Virginia” as the Mountaineers are affectionately called, are a well-oiled, well-coached machine that gives teams fits with its full-court pressure and in-your-face defense. The Mountaineers have the best turnover margin in college basketball. They’ve forced 724 turnovers, while committing 442, for a ratio of 7.8 — nobody else in the country has a ratio better than 4.9. The Mountaineers have proved themselves throughout the season with big wins against Baylor, Kansas and at Virginia.

West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, is the team’s top scorer (13.3) and is sixth nationally with 91 steals. Because the Mountaineers use the entire length of the court, they employ a deep rotation with 10 players averaging at least 11 minutes played per game. Jevon Carter is the only Mountaineer to play at least 30 minutes per game (31.7).

My Take- Gonzaga hasn’t put together two successful halves in a game so far this tournament and the lack of consistency is going to hurt them. West Virginia presses the Bulldogs out of the tournament.

#7 Michigan Wolverines vs #3 Oregon Ducks

Where: Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO
When: March 23 at 4:09 PM PT
TV Broadcast: CBS

Michigan vs Oregon looks to be a good game, as both teams have unique offensive systems that bear some similarities. Both teams want to spread the floor to create space for shooters, and get scoring production from all 5 positions.

Michigan is led by Derrick Walton Jr, who has put the Wolverines on his back the last few weeks. He has shown the ability to impact the games even if hes not scoring- but he typically is. Michigan is on a hot run, having channelled some March magic in their conference tournament, and are playing inspired basketball. If they shoot well beyond the 3 pt line they can beat anyone.

Oregon has 5 players that averaged double figures in scoring this year. Three of those shot over 50% from the field. They were at the top of the daunting Pac 12 all year, and played several games vs the likes of UCLA and Arizona. The Ducks are battle tested.

Michigan faced OK State, an offensive team, and Louisville, who relies on their defense. The Ducks are the definition of balance though, shooting 48% as a team, and holding opponents to around 40%.

My Take- This looks like it could be the end of the road for Michigan.

 

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NCAA Men’s Tournament- What Now?

 

Oh the March Madness!

With early-round upsets, top seeds losing early, and unexpected heroics, the 2017 NCAA men’s basketball tournament has been nothing short of compelling. Vegas favorite Duke only managed one win in the tournament, before being sent home by a scrappy South Carolina team. Duke was a number two seed in the tournament and the number one seed in their region. Villanova was also defeated in the second round.

ncaa men's tournament

Who’s Really Still in it?

This leaves a vacuum in many brackets as Villanova was the defending champs, and Duke was the Vegas favorite. Looking to fill the void are Wisconsin vs Florida, and S. Carolina vs Baylor. The winners of those games meet for the chance to play in the final four. Florida is the best team of this group, but none of these look strong enough to take the title home.

Gonzaga will face off against a tough West Virginia team known for its defense. It’ll be the first really strong defense the Zags have faced, and it could be the end of the road for them. The other game in the region has Arizona against Xavier. Arizona has played really well lately, and is likely the survivor from this group when the dust settles.

A New Darling

ncaa men's tournament

The Michigan Wolverines have become the darlings of the tournament after they had a truly harrowing experience. They were forced to disembark their plane on the runway, delaying their arrival at the Big 10 tournament. Playing in practice jerseys, they went on to win the Big 10 title and have ridden that momentum to a sweet 16 appearance. They will play Oregon, with the winner facing the winner of Purdue vs Kansas. Bill Self has Kansas looking like the best team in the country, and they’re in the drivers seat heading into the weekend.

And Then There was One

ncaa men's tournament

North Carolina is the only ACC team left in the sweet 16. Many experts said the ACC was the toughest conference this year, but the SEC and BIG 10 both have 3 teams left, despite having been accused of having “down years”. The Tarheels will face off against Butler, while the winner of Kentucky and UCLA will certainly be a formidable opponent for the victor. This was the toughest region, and any of these four could beat the other four.

Its anyones tournament to win. Follow DKlegends.com for more information as we get closer to tip-off. Follow us on twitter to stay informed!

NCAA March Madness is here!

The 2017 NCAA tournament starts tomorrow! We hope you’re as excited as we are. It would be exhausting to preview every game in the round of 64, so here are a few of Thursday’s matchups that intrigue us.

#9 Virginia Tech vs #8 Wisconsin

This is Virginia Tech’s first tournament appearance since 2007. They run an efficient, yet odd offense that ranks ninth nationally in 3pt percentage (40.9) and 18th in 2pt percentage (54.8). They have four players that averaged double digit points this season, yet strangely, their two highest scoring players don’t even start. Seniors, Zach DeLay and Seth Allen combined for nearly 30 points per game off the bench. Head coach, Buzz Williams has steadily improved the program since his arrival in 2014. The team may not have any tournament experience but Williams has shown that he can conjure March magic, most recently as Marquette’s coach.

The Badgers were a top-10 team for the first three months of the season but then hit a cold streak. They rallied for the Big Ten conference tournament and managed to make it to the championship game where they lost 71-56 to Michigan. Wisconsin’s trademark is their defense. They ranked 11th nationally in defensive efficiency. They are not good shooters, but they are experienced in tournament play. This is the team’s 19th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. They have made the Sweet 16 the last three years and five of the last six years, and they have won more NCAA tournament games (11) over the last three years, than any other team.

My take-
I think experience wins out. VT can do some good things offensively but the Badgers can play well enough on defense to slow down a Hokies team that lost a major inside presence in Chris Clark, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in February. I think Wisconsin will win this game by single digits. The winner will likely play #1 seed Villanova.

#10 VCU vs #7 Saint Mary’s

The Saint Mary’s Gaels put together a 28-4 season and finished the regular season ranked 21 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and 19th by the Associated Press. Three of their four losses were to top seeded Gonzaga. Yet with this success comes the fact the Gaels only have two wins against RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) Top 50 teams (Nevada and Dayton). They were 8-4 against top-100 teams and 15-0 against teams top-150 and higher. Saint Mary’s was the second best defensive team in the nation during the regular season, holding opponents to 56.5 points per game. They are second nationally in rebounding margin (9.3 per game) and fourth in fewest total fouls (14.8 per game). This is their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013.

VCU has a deep team and aggressive style of play. This season they suited nine players who played in 30+ games and averaged double-digit minutes. This is a deep team. VCU had a 19-game win streak this year, was 3-3 over the last six games, and reached the conference tournament finals. The Rams are 28-8 and have one of the nation’s best scoring margins (8.6) and they have an aggressive defense that forced just over 15 turnovers per game in the regular season. This is VCU’s seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. This is the third consecutive year the Rams have been given a No. 10 seed.

My take– St. Mary’s has a quality team that hasn’t had much quality competition and that is going to be a factor. VCU has been in a slump lately, but they’ve been here before and I think their aggressive style is going to be too much for St. Mary’s to handle. VCU wins in single digits.

#5 Minnesota vs #12 Middle Tennessee

Middle Tennessee made the tournament last year as a 15 seed, and pulled a first round surprise upset over perennial powerhouse Michigan State; a 2 seed. MT returns to the tournament as an even better, more experienced team, and added a transfer from Arkansas, JaCorey Williams, who is the teams leading scorer and rebounder. The Blue Raiders have an effective outside game as well, shooting 37% from 3 point range as a team.

Minnesota won 24 games this year, after losing 23 the year before. They are led by Big 10 coach of the year, Richard Pitino, son of HOF coach Rick Pitino. They are a good defensive team, leading the nation with 6.8 blocks a game. They also have the Big 10 defensive player of the year, Reggie Lynch, who had 111 blocks this year; a Golden Gopher record. Unfortunately, they lost 3pt specialist, Akeem Springs and his almost 10 points a game, for the rest of the year in the Big 10 tourney.

My Take– If you could call a potential upset a lock, this would be one. Middle Tennessee is a strong team with tournament experience, while this is Pitino’s first trip to the Dance. The Gophers are grossly overrated at a 5 seed, and MT is the best 12 seed. Historically, we’ve seen a lot of upsets in the 12vs5 matchup, and this looks like another. The winner of this game gets the winner of Winthrop/Butler. Don’t be surprised if Middle Tennessee makes the sweet 16.

#8 Miami vs #9 Michigan St.

Miami finished seventh in the ACC and had wins over Virginia, UNC and Duke, which were key for getting into the tournament. The Hurricanes are led by guard, Davon Reed, who averages 15.0 points per game. Miami is making its third NCAA Tournament appearance under coach Jim Larranaga, who guided the Hurricanes to the Sweet 16 in their two previous March Madness excursions. Last season, Miami advanced through the first weekend before losing to eventual national champion Villanova.

Michigan State finished fifth in the Big Ten, and recorded wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Spartans are led by Miles Bridges, who averages 16.7 points per game. The team is making its 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Spartans finished in a four-way tie for fifth in the Big Ten standings, but they’re still a team that nobody wants to see in March. Michigan State advanced at least to the Sweet 16 every year from 2012 to 2015 and earned a Final Four berth in 2015.

My Take– Due to injuries the Spartans only have two players averaging double-digits in points, and their third highest scorer is only at 6.7 points per game. Miami features the stronger defense and I can’t see the Spartans doing enough offensively in this game.

#8 Northwestern vs #9 Vanderbilt

This is one of the best stories in college basketball – the program’s first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament following the best season in the school’s history. Sans, the ugly Big Ten semifinal loss to Wisconsin, it’s a better team than many are giving them credit for. Northwestern is an aggressive team and they are great at blocking shots, coming up with big rebounds, and playing with high energy. Northwestern received the No. 8 seed with big wins over Wisconsin, Michigan, Maryland, and Wake Forest in non-conference play. There are a couple of players to watch here. Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law have played at a high level this season. Standing 6’5″ and weighing 210 pounds, Lindsey scores an average of 14.2 points per game. The 6’7″ Law averages 12.4 points per game from the forward spot.

The #9 seed Vanderbilt Commodores have the dubious distinction of being the first team ever selected for the NCAA Tournament with 15 losses on the season. Vanderbilt helped its cause by beating the ranked Florida teams, three times during the season, including a win over the Gators on Friday in the SEC Tournament. They’re not deep, and they rely on the three way too much, but the Commodores could be dangerous. From his days at Valparaiso, head coach, Bryce Drew, knows a little about stepping up with big performances in March. If they hope to advance in the tournament, they can’t get into shootouts. When the outside shot is going down, they can hang around with anyone, but their defense doesn’t force enough mistakes and they don’t move the ball around well enough. Keep it close, though, and they’ll win it with a 3 or on the free throw line.

My take– Thanks for the heartwarming story, Northwestern, now go home.

 

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NCAA March Madness Bracket Preview

The seeding is finished, the brackets are set, and the NCAA basketball tournament tips off on Tuesday. Who will reach the final four and who will lose early? Who will be the bracket-busting underdogs? These questions and more will be answered over the next 3 weeks as we crown another champion. For now though, we’ll examine some of the intriguing aspects of the 2017 bracket.

Questionable Seedings

Somehow North Carolina was given a number 1 seed, despite a poor road record and 7 losses. Although they have a very talented team, this has the feel of a reputation pick. After all, the Heels were bounced in the semifinals of the ACC tournament..

UCLA is a 3 seed, despite an outstanding season. Star PG, Lonzo Ball, lead the nation with 7.7 assists per game and the Bruins are a very fun team to watch. Their games should be entertaining as they cruise through the first weekend.

Illinois State was left out of the field of 68, despite 27 wins and a 17 and 1 Conference record. We’ve seen in years past that mid-majors can have success in the tournament. However, it seems as though the committee consistently chooses the bigger schools. While Illinois State did not have any top 50 wins, they can only play who was on their schedule and how will we know how good they are if they’re not given a chance to prove themselves? If it’s TV ratings the committee wants, they will get them. But the people want upsets!

Potential Bracket Busters

UNC Wilmington is good defensive team. Also, the team is very efficient on the offensive end as well. They shoot a lot of threes. Furthermore, the team is more than capable of getting hot as a team.

Wichita State: With 30 wins in the regular season, they’ve now topped at number 4 out of the last 5 years. Coach Greg Marshall leads an experienced team and a program that is known for knocking off higher seeds. With only 4 losses this year, they are underrated as a 10 seed. Watch out for the Shockers.

Middle Tennessee: Another 30-4 team, the Blue Raiders are staring down an overrated Minnesota team. With several close victories over quality opponents, Middle Tennessee has shown they can win. A 12 seed is much too low for them.

The Year of the Coach

In a season without a clear frontrunner in the field and a lot of parity, it’s hard to pick a final four much less a champion. However, coaching will play a big part of the action, as team management and play styles will be on full display. Here are some coaches that can push their teams to win it all.

Rick Pitino

He has Louisville playing strong, and his experience will definitely show itself in the tournament. They’re always strong defensively with Slick Rick at the helm. Combine that with a weak region and the team is once again a threat; they just may win it all.

Bob Huggins

This couch leads a West Virginia team, nicknamed Press Virginia. This team is one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Furthermore, he boasts tons of tournament experience and knows what it takes to reach the final four. Don’t be surprised if they come out of the West Region.

The top winning coach in NCAA men’s basketball history, Coach K, led the Blue Devils to yet another ACC tournament championship. After an up and down year, Duke avoided what could have been a dumpster fire season, in large part to Coach K’s leadership. While the haters would love to see Grayson Allen cry his way home, Vegas has them as the favorites to win it all.

Roy Williams

He is on the back end of his career, but there is still plenty of fire on the sidelines when North Carolina plays. When this team manages to match Roy’s intensity, they look unbeatable. They also want to avenge their loss in the title game last year. The Tar Heels have the toughest region with the possibility of matching up with Kentucky for a chance to go to the Final Four, so coaching will definitely be a factor.

Bill Self

This couch has Kansas playing incredible basketball. After a hiccup in the Big 12 tournament, KU is hungry, and they are certainly talented enough to take home the title. They are my favorite to win it.

John Calipari

Calipari at Kentucky, Steve Alford at UCLA, and Sean Miller at Arizona are names to know as well. If you’re not sure who to pick in a matchups, go with the coach.

The Madness is overwhelming; therefore, it can’t be ignored. Embrace it; love it; and may your Final Four be intact. Check in with DKLegends.com for more stories and information as the tournament progresses.

The Madness is upon us!

As the small conference tournaments wind down, and the power conference tournaments gear up; fans everywhere prepare their excuses for skipping work to watch what has become one of the largest sporting events in the world, the NCAA basketball tourney. Even the most casual sports fan will feel compelled to fill out a bracket, as office pools and “friendly” wagers are impossible to escape. Today we’ll touch on some of the storylines that are sure to make this year’s tournament one of the best we’ve seen.

Small schools, big-time teams

This season has been incredibly exciting as many programs have experienced more success than they typically have. A lot of small schools have spent time in the top 25 during the season, and several others look to make their mark on the tournament with program-defining wins. Gonzaga will likely be a number 1 seed as they try to make it to the Final Four for the first time in school history, and their conference foe St Mary’s is a top 25 team with their eye on some upset wins. A few other teams who are sneaky good are Vermont, Middle Tennessee State; and Wichita state are as good as they’ve ever been (remember they were in the final 4 in 2013, losing to eventual Champs Louisville). The Butler Bulldogs are also a team to watch out for, as they’ve handed defending champion Villanova 2 of their 3 losses this season.

Goliath shall fall

Many of the historically successful programs have glaring weaknesses this year, making it a prime year for potential upsets and early exits for some popular teams.

Kentucky: looks good on paper with a great record and alot of talent, but they’ve not beaten any of the top teams that they faced. they also play alot of freshman, led by Malik Monk, De’aaron Fox, and Bam Adebayo, and without alot of experience this team is not good enough defensively to make a deep run in the tournament.

Duke: The preseason favorite to win the ACC this year, the Blue Devils have instead struggled through a mediocre season by their standards. they do have the usual talent associated with Duke, but Coach K missed time due to a back surgery, and they have not gelled very well as a team. Of course they’re always dangerous when they shoot well from beyond the arc, but this could be one of those years when they go out early.

Arizona: a top 10 ranking most of the year has many AZ fans looking for a final four appearance, but the Wildcats struggled against top notch competition. They could be highly overrated, and a high seed might set the table for a huge upset loss to one of these smaller, but still very good, schools

Potential champions

The parity in college basketball this season means there is no clear cut favorite. Let’s face it though, you can’t win your bracket without picking a champion, so here are a few teams that are strong enough to win it all.

Louisville: led by their signature defensive pressure, the Cardinals offense has been clicking as of late. Without any true superstar players , their strength is in the team concept. Rick Pitino has this team playing at a high level and poised to make a deep run

UCLA: led by freshman sensation  Lonzo Ball, and Sr shooting guard Bryce Alford, UCLA boasts one of the top back courts in the country. They are an athletic team and like to impose their will on their opponents. If they can manage a few more defensive stops per game, they could be cutting down the nets when it’s all said and done.

North Carolina: with one of the best PGs in the country, and ACC player of the year Justin Jackson on the wing, the Tarheels can score from outside as well as in the paint. They have 3 former McDonald’s All Americans down low that they rotate, along with Luke Maye, a very capable outside shooter who often pulls other teams bigs out of the paint. The Tarheels have struggled with ball security at times, but have shown an ability to lock down their opponents on the defensive end, making them a prime championship contender.

With the NCAA tournament almost here, each game is more meaningful than the last. We will bring you more updates as we get closer to the final 68 teams. Check back with dklegends.com and/ or follow on twitter @thedklegends.