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McDonalds Nuggets: NCAA Tournament, Scottie Lewis, picks

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Top 75 of 2021

MORE: McDonald's All-Americans predict the NCAA Tournament

Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition explains why less upsets is better, offers some McDonald’s All-American Game thoughts and gives some gambling advice on Friday night’s NCAA Tournament games.

HOT TAKE: Tournament is better without a ton of upsets

Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson (AP Images)

As we predicted last week in this column, the amount of real upsets was pretty small compared to the usual craziness that comes with the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, only one team not ranked as a top five seed made it to the Sweet 16 and that was an Oregon team that was highly ranked in the preseason polls. All the top three seeds made it to the Sweet 16 this weekend.

And you know what? The NCAA Tournament is better for it. I know most people love the Cinderella teams like Loyola Chicago last year or Florida Gulf Coast a few years back or George Mason or VCU. Those stories are awesome and I’m not saying I don’t get caught up in them. Sister Jean’s moment in the national spotlight was really cool. However, I live in Atlanta where Loyola Chicago’s regional was played and the buzz in the city and the arena just wasn’t the same as it would have been had Kentucky been able to make it to the Elite 8.

This weekend, we are set up for some potential monster matchups. On Sunday, we could be watching North Carolina vs Kentucky and Duke vs Michigan State. College basketball doesn’t get much better than traditional powers playing each in the Elite 8. The best case scenario for college hoops is for games with tons of drama down the stretch like the Duke-UCF this past weekend where the underdog almost pulls it out but loses in dramatic (and the Duke haters would say controversial) fashion.

I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely pumped for the games this weekend!

PREDICTION: Scottie Lewis and his NBA future

Scottie Lewis
Scottie Lewis (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

I had the opportunity to spend some just a little bit of time at McDonald’s All-American Game practice this week here in Atlanta. Easily my biggest takeaway is just how impressive Scottie Lewis is in this setting. He was easily the competitive kid in the practice. He has a motor that doesn’t stop and he just makes plays.

My prediction here is that he sticks in the NBA for a long time. The players that generally make it into their mid-to-late 30’s in the League generally are good team guys, have good work ethics, and they are leaders. Lewis checks all those boxes in a big way, and he can really play. Whether he’s ever a star or not, time will tell, but he’s going to be a valuable piece wherever he ends up. Mike White and his staff will love having him in Gainesville.

RECRUITING NOTE: More McDonald’s All-American Game thoughts

Cole Anthony
Cole Anthony (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

I’m not surprised Cole Anthony ended up winning the MVP in the 2019 game on Wednesday night. He’s one of the very best prospects in the entire class. Like Lewis, I liked his overall competitiveness in the practice and I love his ability to play a ball screen and make the right decision. He’s a really good finisher in traffic. His ability to make shots will determine his ceiling as a player.

Isaiah Stewart was another prospect I thought was really impressive. He’s going to be a load for Pac-12 opponents when he gets to Washington next year. He’s in great shape now, plays his tail off, and is an absolute beast on both ends on the block.

Josiah James is going to be such a good player for Rick Barnes at Tennessee. He’s a true defensive stopper with a lot of versatility on that end. In Tuesday’s practice, he gave Anthony some problems with length. I have seen him shut down bigger wings in the past as well. Offensively, he’s such a good facilitator and he’ll have scorers around him at Tennessee.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Purdue

Carsen Edwards
Carsen Edwards (AP Images)

How ‘bout the Boilermakers!? Matt Painter’s group cruised through the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament to make his fifth Sweet 16 as head coach at Purdue. But their run didn’t stop there as the Boilermakers pulled out a thriller in overtime against Tennessee after blowing an 18-point lead in regulation. Purdue is now in its first Elite Eight since 2000 with a real chance of taking a trip to Minneapolis next weekend for the Final Four. Carsen Edwards’ 42-point performance to knock off the defending champions Villanova was arguably the most impressive performance of the opening weekend, and he was really impressive in the Sweet 16 win Thursday night as well.

GAMBLING PICKS

Coming off a 3-2 week with the picks along with feeling pretty good about the future play of Houston making the Final Four, let’s jump into the Friday night games. LSU is a more talented team than Michigan State, but Tom Izzo is tough to beat deep in March. Tony Benford’s LSU Tigers (+6) cover, but the Spartans win outright. Auburn barely escaped on Thursday, but absolutely throttled Kansas on Saturday night. North Carolina cruised through the weekend after a hot start by Iona on Friday night. Let’s go with the over (165) because these two teams can really score and play at a fast pace and also take North Carolina (-5.5). Justin Robinson is a week healthier for Virginia Tech and the Hokies already stung Duke once this year. Take the Hokies (+7) to cover, but Duke survives again. I have Houston making it to the national championship. Sorry Big Blue Nation, but the Cougars (+3) win this game outright.