NCAA Midwest Region preview: Duke will be tough to beat

Mike Krzyzewski gives Duke a big edge. Tim Bello/Getty Images


Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Auburn



Duke has a lot of the things you look for in a champion. They have a great coach, they have more freshman talent than anyone in the country, and they have a senior guard to hold it all together. They are the only team in the country that finished in the top 10 of both adjusted offense (3rd) and adjusted defense (7th). They have been even tougher to score on since switching to a zone at the end of the season. They also have a head to head win over Michigan State.


Michigan State

Sparty doesn’t draw a cakewalk in the first round, as Bucknell is going to give them a run for their money, but they do get to play their first two games in Detroit. The Spartans have two superior talents in Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson, and both guys are still getting better. Bridges came back to play for a title, and he will not be short on motivation. If the last few weeks are an indicator, Jackson will be a feature of the offense, and will likely see some time at center. Tom Izzo also gives the Spartans an edge that most teams don’t have. 


Marvin Bagley, III- Duke

Arguably the best player in the country, Bagley will hope to turn a deep tournament run into an audition for NBA scouts. He averaged 21.1 PPG and 11.5 RPG while shooting 61% from the floor. The ACC player of the year turns 19 on Wednesday, but already has the on-floor IQ of a veteran. He is incredibly athletic for a big man, and will create matchup problems in every round. 

Devonte’ Graham- Kansas

Graham has established himself as one of the best clutch players in the country, not just this year but over his entire career. The senior averaged 17.3 PPG and 7.5 assists to lead the Jayhawks to a 1 seed. The Big XII player of the year came up big in the conference championship game, scoring 18 to go along with his 13 assists and only two turnovers. 

Trae Young- Oklahoma

If Young had not faded down the stretch, the Sooners wouldn’t have been such a controversial inclusion to the tournament. He struggled down the stretch, but his early season was so outstanding that he still led the country in scoring (27.4 PPG) and assists (8.8 APG). He has to control the turnovers and needs to shoot a better percentage for Oklahoma to have a chance, but he can dominate a game on any given night. 


Rhode Island vs. Oklahoma

This is an interesting style matchup, as Lon Kruger’s Sooners will look to push the pace against the much more methodical Rams. Oklahoma lives and dies with Trae Young, and he will be the focal point of the Rams’ physical backcourt, but junior guard Christian James will be counted on to pick up any slack. Rhode Island’s Stanford Robinson is a lockdown defender and the matchup between he and Young could determine who wins this game. Jeff Dowtin and Jared Terrell will look to provide the backcourt offense for Rhode Island, while E.C. Matthews will provide matchup problems for the Sooners down low. The Rams looked unstoppable early in the season and cooled late, while the Sooners limp into the tournament after a hot start. 


New Mexico State

The Aggies are not a great offensive team, but their defense is good enough to keep them in any game. They rank 14th in the country in adjusted defense. They have won six straight going into the tournament by an average of 16 points per game. They also have a special player in Zach Lofton. Lofton is 25 years old, and won the SWAC Player of the Year last season at Texas Southern. He averaged 19.8 PPG and if he can get hot from 3, New Mexico State is a serious contender to pull off the upset. 

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.

Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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