March Madness at Ball Arena: Analysis ahead of opening-round games in Denver

One of the first big assists of the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball tournament came from a school nobody had in their bracket: the Regis Rangers.

Grand Canyon coach Bryce Drew recalled Thursday that his team was forced to work out Wednesday evening in gear borrowed from Regis, where the 14th-seeded Antelopes practiced. Some players wore gear donated by Baylor coach Scott Drew, his older brother, whose team is also at the Ball Arena site, or items purchased from local sporting goods stores.

The bags containing the team’s equipment didn’t arrive from Phoenix until after 11 Wednesday night.

“We had Regis, we had GCU t-shirts and we had Baylor scout jerseys,” the younger Drew recalled. “We improvised and the guys made a good time of it, so it actually turned out as a positive.”

The ‘Lopes are the largest underdogs at the Denver site, 15.5 point dogs to Gonzaga.

Seasoned Creighton. Over a three-week span from the day before Thanksgiving to mid-December, Creighton didn’t look like a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. In fact, the Bluejays didn’t look like a tournament team at all, losing six in a row.

But the Bluejays didn’t blink from going from 6-0 to 6-6, and used that skid as fuel for a season-long comeback that featured a dozen double-digit wins over Big East foes.

“I’m really proud of this team and the journey that we’ve been on to get here,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It’s been a little bit unique, with starting the season so strong and then losing six in a row, and then fighting our way back to finish third in the Big East.”

McDermott is expecting a different effort from his No. 6 Bluejays on Friday against No. 11 NC State than the one he got in Creighton’s 80-62 loss to Xavier in the Big East semifinals a week ago.

“(Our veterans) understand that it’s still preparation (that wins games in the tournament),” McDermott said. “I’ve been very, very pleased with our preparation this week. ”

Healthy Horned Frogs. No. 6 Texas Christian is making its first back-to-back appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 70 years as the Horned Frogs take on No. 11 Arizona State on Friday.

TCU got to Ball Arena by using 15 different starting lineups this year, the most among Power 5 teams. TCU had the depth to overcome a rash of injuries, including to star guard Mike Miles Jr., who missed nine games.

Now, the Horned Frogs are healed up.

“I feel pretty good about where we are health-wise, and we feel like we’re playing our best basketball,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said.

Sleepy Sun Devils. Arizona State got into Denver at about 4 a.m. Thursday after flying overnight from Dayton, Ohio, where they ran roughshod over Nevada in a 98-73 First Four victory Wednesday night.

While head coach Bobby Hurley and the Sun Devils admitted to being a little tired after their cross-country journey, they’re more than happy to be in Denver.

“Quick turnaround, but I’m thrilled with the way my team performed in Dayton and the quality of the game and how well played it was from our end on both ends of the floor,” Hurley said. “It’s a good feeling when you have a group that has that confidence.”


Source: Read Full Article