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Unranked to unparalleled. The UConn Huskies, after winning 5 games in 5 days to win the Big East Tournament, have won 6 more over the course of a few weeks to become the National Champion.
In one of the ugliest games -- let alone championship games -- in recent memory, Connecticut held Butler to 18% field goal shooting and used their superior length to win 53-41. UConn only shot 30%, but it was enough to carry them over the Bulldogs and win Jim Calhoun his third national championship since 1999 and make him the oldest coach to ever win a title. But if you ask him, this is his most rewarding.
"They're so special. Our players, our university, our fans. It may be close to the happiest moment of my life."
After being down 3 at halftime thanks to a Shelvin Mack buzzer-beating three, Calhoun made some of the best halftime adjustments in championship game history to give his team the edge. They started using the baseline to their advantage and got Jeremy Lamb involved, which immediately resulted in a change of momentum. Lamb proved to be most difficult for Butler to cover because they didn't have anyone who could physically match up with him. Khyle Marshall could have done a decent job, but Brad Stevens decided to stay with guards on him, which didn't really work. Lamb scored 12 big points on 9 shots, all of which came in the second half.
But the most valuable player on the night was UConn big man Alex Oriakhi. He scored an efficient 11 points and 11 rebounds, mixing in a few inside moves with a couple nice jumpers. Where he was most effective was on defense. He was responsible for 4 of the team's 10 blocked shots and threw a huge wrench into Brad Stevens' game plan. With he and Charles Okwandu patrolling the lane, Butler completely abandoned the inside - to the extreme of not scoring a point in the paint until halfway through the second half. They forced Kentucky into a terrible shooting night and did the same to these Bulldogs tonight. It continues to prove the theory that if you live by the outside shot, have a backup plan before you die by the outside shot. Butler did not have a contingency plan tonight.
While UConn got the win, a guy who did not play well is Kemba Walker. Though he graduates on May 8th in three years with a championship to boot (as Jim Nance reminded us again and again), he showed poor shot selection and a real inability to initiate the offense. Both defenses were swarming, but for a Most Outstanding Player candidate, 5-21 is completely inexcusable. He didn't record a single assist on the night. It's basically a foregone conclusion that he has played his last game at UConn, but for his pro prospects this game was not the best. He had a terrific year and this team would be under .500 if it weren't for him, but Kemba Walker was not the reason they won this game.
For Butler, it's a very tough pill to swallow. Brad Stevens may be the classiest guy in the world and continues to say all the right things that could get him elected President of the World, but he made a few really bad coaching decisions in this game. He needed to keep taking it to Oriakhi and Okwandu and get them in foul trouble or else they'd have to find a way to get outside shots to fall. And they didn't. Even though their defense was not the problem, with about 8 minutes to play, Stevens went to a zone defense, something he hasn't done much all season. The players were out of sorts and let up a quick, easy bucket to Oriakhi because they weren't covering the backdoor. Definitely had a white flag feel to it, as Clark Kellogg noted. It was a rare flustered moment for the normally cool Brad Stevens.
Once that happened, UConn did an outstanding job taking time off the clock, using at least 20 seconds of the shot clock and shortening the game. Then Butler started pressing and the shots kept bricking. It was all over too soon for the underdogs.
It's difficult to point out any Butler player who did well, because they all shot so historically bad. Matt Howard had the worst game of his college career, going 1-14 and getting completely manhandled on the inside. For a normally tough, gritty player, Matt looked soft and confused all game long. That was exemplified by his injury with 2 minutes that left him hobbled on the court until he was pulled by the refs for bleeding. He and Mack couldn't get anything going, and though they had a few good looks from the outside, the rim was sealed and they didn't do anything to break through.
Butler will lose seniors Matt Howard, Shawn Vanzant, and Zach Hahn, but will get bigger contributions next year out of promising freshman Khyle Marshall and sophomore Andrew Smith, who looked totally overmatched tonight. If Ronald Nored and Shelvin Mack return, they could be making a similar run next season. Brad Stevens will be getting offers from everywhere on the planet and it remains to be seen what will play out with him.
UConn will celebrate for a few days or a few weeks but next season comes soon, and next season will be without Kemba. If Calhoun decides to put off retirement for another year, he'll have to rely on Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, and Alex Oriakhi to take on a leading role in bringing the Huskies back to the promised land. You can't say enough about the role Kemba Walker played in carrying this team throughout the season. He's done some of the most impressive work in college basketball history here.
But the story is tonight, and tonight UConn was the better team. Are they the best team in the nation? Probably not, but they got hot at the perfect time and rode that wave all the way to cutting down the nets on the biggest stage. On a game when Butler was hitting shots, everything would've been different. That doesn't take anything away from either team because they're both spectacular in their own right. Congrats to UConn and Butler, Jim Calhoun and Brad Stevens, Kemba Walker and Shelvin Mack, and everybody else involved.
The countdown to the 2011/12 season begins....now.
The UConn Huskies defeated the Butler Bulldogs 53-41(yes that is the final score) to secure Jim Calhoun’s third national championship since 1999 making him the oldest coach to ever win the title. It wasn’t the prettiest title game, in fact it was arguably the ugliest, but that certainly won’t matter to a guy like Kemba Walker, who will likely now exit college as a champion.
For Butler, this is going to be a bitter pill to swallow. They captured everyone’s imagination last year when they went on their magical run which ended with them giving Duke everything it could handle in the title game. This year, they proved that run was no fluke by getting back to the title game. However, their performance in the game was nothing less than an embarrassment.
Butler shot 18% from the field, which was the lowest percentage in championship history. Kenny Smith said of Butler’s performance "By far the worst performance in a championship game I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately we all had to watch it."
UConn wasn’t a whole lot better to be fair. They managed just 19 first half points and won with the least amount of points since the forties… They shot just 30% from the field including 1-14 from three point range. The difference in the game really was Jeremy Lamb’s performance in the second half. He scored all twelve of his points in the final frame, which ended up being the margin of victory.
The awfulness, and it really was awful to watch, of the final doesn’t change what an incredible run the Connecticut Huskies went on to finish their season. They started by winning five games in five nights to win the Big East tournament, the first team to do so, then followed that up with a NCAA Tournament win. It will certainly go down as one of the great late season surges of all time. They won 11 games in 27 days and every single one was an elimination game. That's incredible.
UConn vs Butler tips off at 9pm eastern on CBS to decide the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion. Be sure to check out our full predictions and preview story.
The game is very much a contrast between the upstart and the traditional power. Butler is a mid major team that came into this conference as an #8 seed, but despite those credentials Cinderella probably isn’t the right word to describe them. Coach Brad Stevens and his team are making their second straight NCAA championship game after losing to Duke last year. They may be from a small school, but this a tournament tested squad. As much as any in the country right now. Stevens talked about the core that has been so successful for Butler.
For me personally, the core of my first team was as important for me in transitioning into coaching as any group we’ve ever had just because we had five 23-year-olds, four fifth-year seniors and one fourth-year senior, and they were nothing but great to a young coach. I think when they left and turned it over to these younger guys, now older guys, they just continued to be great to coach and great to be around. It’s been collective all the way through. We’ve just had unbelievable people and it’s made my job a lot more enjoyable and a lot easier.
Unlike Butler, Connecticut are hardly new to the national scene. They play in the brutal Big East every year, a conference they may well have redeemed with this finals appearance. They’ve been to four final fours and have two national championship banners hanging in their gym. They’ve got as many current NBA players as any other school in the country. They’re old money.
Despite that pedigree though, not a lot of people had UConn pegged as a potential national champion. They’d pulled off a huge feat in winning 5 games in 5 days to take the Big East title and many assumed they’d be out of gas for the tourney… but they kept winning. Alex Oriakhi was asked what point is that they started to believe they could win this whole thing?
I think after we was able to beat Louisville in the Big East championship. I did question our team. I said, Could we really win a national championship? But, you know, I said, We’re hot right now, playing great basketball. I definitely said, Why not? If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, I don’t see why we couldn’t do it. I guess I was right.
Since October, championship favorites were getting tossed around like water balloons at a carnival. Ohio State. Duke. Pittsburgh. Kansas. UNC. Syracuse. BYU. Villanova. Texas. Notre Dame. Purdue.
At number 17 was last year's runner-up Butler. With 8 votes were the Connecticut Huskies. Two less than NC State which finished the season 15-16. Realistically, neither of these teams was supposed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, much less the National Title Game.
But here they are, basking in the unlikely glory of March's shadow, the final two teams vying for a chance to cut down the nets in Houston. One of these teams will be your national champion. Before we get to who that will be, a quick scouting report on both teams.
Coming off a national title defeat at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils, the Horizon League champion Butler lost Gordon Hayward to the NBA and Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes to graduation. They weren't supposed to be as good as last year's team, and they weren't. And when tournament time came around, most people had them losing to Old Dominion in the first round. And if they did beat the Monrachs, surely they'd fall to the #1 seeded Pitt Panthers. No chance they'd even sniff Wisconsin or Florida to close out the region.
But behind the able backs of Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack, the pre-eminent underdogs took care of business all the way to the Final Four where they downed the ridiculously Cinderella'd Rams of Virginia Commonwealth. Both upperclassmen average over 16 points per game, double any other player on the Bulldogs. Mack gets the ball in big shot situations, counted on by Brad Stevens to deliver any way he can. He's good off the bounce and uses his weight to create space for his jumper. Think a taller but less lightning quick Sherron Collins. Howard's got a nice mid-range game that has improved over the season, and he's also added an outside game -- he shoots 41% from beyond. He seems to come up with every loose ball down low and will dive on the ground at least once per game on principle.
Though they're led by these two, they have the depth of a team from one of the power conferences, especially in the guard play. Shawn Vanzant handles the point guard duties for most of the game. He can also stroke it from the outside and plays really solid defense -- in the Final Four game he rose up for an athletic block on VCU's Joey Rodriguez. Zach Hahn is the best pure shooter left and does a great job passing on the perimeter. Though he doesn't excel on the offensive end, Ronald Nored has been a terrific glue guy for Brad Stevens and one who allows him to run a small lineup out there to spread the floor on offense. Chase Stigall is a sophomore that gets a good chunk of minutes and though he's not at the top of the rotation this year, he's got a bright future.
Howard leads a front court that can be inconsistent on the glass. While they dominated VCU inside, they let up a ton of offensive rebounds to Florida and Wisconsin earlier in the tournament and are susceptible to guards who can rebound. Khyle Marshall, though undisciplined, is an extremely effective offensive rebounder, having scooped 22 of his 32 rebounds in the tournament on the offensive end. He's a big x-factor that can match UConn's athleticism inside. Howard and starting center Andrew Smith rely mostly on positioning and anticipation -- Marshall can jump out of the gym.
The best way to beat them is to force Mack to try to do everything on his own and eliminate Howard from the equation. If Mack goes cold, his shot selection gets ugly and could start doing damage to his team. If Butler stays disciplined and keeps swinging the ball for an open shot, they'll stay in this game.
At one point, Kemba Walker was the only player on this team worth talking about. That was until the freshmen grew up a bit. Jeremy Lamb has turned into a complete stud and if Walker goes pro, he'll take the reigns on this young team. He's got a bit of Rudy Gay in him, but with a more refined outside shot than when Gay was at UConn. He's an efficient player that has more athleticism than he lets on and when it becomes his team, he'll show it even more.
But for now, this is Kemba's bunch. They go as he goes. Not since Carmelo Anthony's 2003 Syracuse team has a championship team been more on the back of one person, and even Melo had Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara with him. Kemba shoots approximately 26 shots per game, including opportunities at the foul line. No one else shoots more than 11. He's going to break your ankles, and when you think he's taking it to the basket, he'll pull up on a dime and rise for the same mid-range jumper he beat Pittsburgh and Gary McGhee on in the Big East Tournament. He combines an unbelievable blend of speed and quickness with a motor that never stops and is just a really difficult guy to defend for any one person. The emergence of Shabazz Napier has allowed Kemba to play off the ball, which allows him to focus entirely on getting his own shot rather than initiating a whole offense in the half court.
Alex Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu have been playing much better of late, defending the interior and forcing teams like Kentucky and Arizona to shoot from the outside, closing off the lane. While Butler can shoot it, if they fall in love with the outside shot, it could be to their detriment when they go cold. Along with forward Roscoe Smith, the three of them are responsible for over 80% of all the blocked shots, and almost 50% of the rebounds. They tend to get into foul trouble at times, something Shelvin Mack will surely try to exploit.
The teams are actually rather similar when you put them next to each other. If Butler's hitting outside shots, they'll be really tough to catch up with, but same goes for UConn at the rim -- Butler's going to have to find a way to limit the drives down the lane. This figures to be one of the best championships in recent memory, and I think it's going to come down to the last shot. My gut says Matt Howard will come up with the big play and crush the hearts of Huskie fans everywhere, giving the nation its first #8 seed champion since Nova beat Georgetown in 1985.
Butler 67, UConn 65
The Huskies continue to fight. This time it wasn't Kemba Walker who made the big shots, it was freshman Shabazz Napier. Only a few plays after turning the ball over to let Kentucky back in the game, Shabazz got the rebound off a DeAndre Liggins missed three and was fouled with 2 seconds left. Up 2 points, all he had to do was hit both free throws of a one-and-one and UConn would advance. He did just that, and though Brandon Knight hit a three at the buzzer, the Connecticut Huskies beat the Kentucky Wildcats 56-55 to move on to the title game.
Though Kemba didn't play his best game, a reasonably efficient 18 points (on 15 shots), 6 rebounds and 7 assists was enough to push UConn over the top. He did his best work on defense, where he and Napier held UK's freshman Knight to a completely miserable 6-24 shooting night for 17 of the worst points you'll ever see. He got tired, he lost his legs, and demonstrated poor shot selection all night long that completely derailed the efforts of fellow freshmen Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, who both played much better games.
Jones should have gotten the opportunity to make more plays, demonstrating his X-factorness in 11 points on 8 shots and 16 rebounds. His biggest shortcoming was an embarrassing 0-6 night at the foul line, which adds to the mythology from the Kansas/Memphis Mario Chalmers championship game that John Calipari does not care about free throws. Normally reliable upperclassmen Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins each shot 1-7 on the night, contributing to the 33% field goal percentage which will not cut it on a stage like this. They're a better basketball team than UConn, but when they don't shoot well and their coach doesn't scheme the right plays, the Wildcats can look downright awful.
Alex Oriakhi played a huge role tonight for Jim Calhoun, who looks to win his third NCAA championship for UConn. Oriakhi and fellow big man Charles Okwandu completely outclassed Josh Harrelson and Eloy Vargas, who were basically non-factors all game long. They'll face a different kind of test in Matt Howard and Andrew Smith on Monday. Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb also played well on both ends of the court and were mainly responsible for the poor shot selection of Kentucky's wings.
It's been a long time coming for the Wildcats, after almost losing to Princeton in the first round and squeaking by Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen. Even tonight they were down 10 at the half but came back strong in the early second to take the lead and battle the rest of the game. But they put a really nice tournament run together and it's up in the air as to which of their freshmen decide to hang around for another season under Calipari, especially with 5-star freshmen like Marquis Teague, Anthony Davis, and Michael Gilchrist coming in for next year.
It's all smiles for Kemba and the Huskies though, as they'll move on to the final college game for the next 7 months against Butler on Monday. We'll be previewing that game extensively over the next two days but for now it's time to celebrate the last two teams in the nation vying for a national title: Connecticut and Butler.
One of these magical runs had to end. For Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams, it was the wrong one.
As expected, VCU’s rebounding deficiencies were on full display tonight, surrendering 14 offensive rebounds and giving Butler tons of second chances to make up for their 34% field goal percentage. Jamie Skeen was a huge asset on the offensive end to the tune of 27 points on 19 shots, but he only pulled 6 rebounds, and foul trouble kept him from going full tilt on the glass. When both teams shoot terribly, it’s on the glass and at the foul line where games get decided.
Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack did what they do — scoring 41 points on 23 shots, getting to the line at a tremendous rate and making every play Brad Stevens needed them to make. The guard play of Butler was too much for the Rams to overcome, especially with a really awful game from Joey Rodriguez, who had carried VCU for much of the tournament. He was just 1-11 for the game.
The game was closer than the 70-62 final and VCU should have a ton of pride for the run they pulled off to get to this place. Defying logic and odds for two weeks, it’s unfortunate it had to come to an end.
Butler will continue to carry the Cinderella torch into the Championship Game against the winner of the Kentucky/UConn game which starts momentarily. They’re a tougher matchup for UConn because the Huskies can’t match the Bulldogs depth on the wings, while Kentucky has the personnel to do so. Brad Stevens and his bunch will watch the next game intently to see who they’ll get to face on Championship Monday.
The NCAA tournament resumes tonight as the Final Four tips off from Reliant Stadium in Houston Texas, normally the home of the NFL's Texans. First up is the Cinderella matchup between #8 Butler and #11 VCU. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:09 eastern on CBS as Butler will be looking to advance to its second straight NCAA championship game. Be sure to check out our full in depth preview.
Our own Michael Levin has predicted a 76-65 Butler victory.
when it comes down to it, Butler can comfortably go 8-10 deep, while VCU pretty much has a 6-man rotation. I think the Butler guards will be too difficult for VCU's to contain and with Howard, Marshall and Smith going after rebounds, the Bulldogs will force their way into the championship game again.
The second matchup of the night, scheduled for 8:49 eastern is basically the opposite of the night's first game. Kentucky and Connecticut are not Cinderellas. These are two major basketball programs with resumes of NCAA tournament success from power conferences. Check our full preview of this game.
Levin's prediction is a 71-68 UConn victory
While Kentucky goes deeper and probably is the more talented club top to bottom, I don't think they'll be able to contain Walker for 40 minutes, and Oriakhi cleaning up on the boards. If I'm UConn, I'm worried about how well Kentucky can space the floor and hit open shots, but ultimately it's going to come down to Kemba vs. Knight, and I'm taking the junior from the Bronx in that matchup. Kentucky, who almost lost to Princeton in the first round, will go down here to the last Big East team standing. A UConn-Butler championship game sounds good to me.
In the left regional is a less unthinkable but still unexpected matchup between the college basketball powerhouses Kentucky Wildcats and Connecticut Huskies. It's unexpected because, though both teams have storied histories and top flight coaches, neither was expected to make it to this stage. Kentucky, though ranked for the whole season, lost a boatload of talent to the 2010 NBA Draft and relied on freshmen and role players in '11. UConn, meanwhile, did not receive a single vote in the ESPN preseason top 25 back in November after graduating Stanley Robinson, Gavin Edwards, and Jerome Dyson. On the resilient back of Kemba Walker, the Huskies leapfrogged over 50 or so teams with a strong showing in the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
The only time these teams faced each other this season was in that Maui Invitational, where Kemba owned UK freshman Brandon Knight to the tune of 29 points and a 17-point victory. Knight went an abysmal 3-15 from the field and turned the ball over 5 times. A full season has gone by since that meeting, and the freshmen on both teams have matured a great deal thanks to coaches John Calipari and Jim Calhoun.
UK has beaten all kinds of teams on their road to the Final Four, including the top two seeds in their region, Ohio State and North Carolina. But they haven't faced any point guard with this kind of playmaking ability since they faced Kemba in Maui. While Kendall Marshall, Erving Walker, Aaron Craft, and Trevor Relaford are nice players, neither the tournament teams nor the SEC teams the Wildcats have matched up against contain the sort of player Kemba Walker has become. And though Brandon Knight is a terrific freshman, he will be overmatched this game and, if they don't help on Kemba, he'll make them pay.
A few things have changed for UConn since the Maui Invitational but it's mainly been the development of Jeremy Lamb that has Huskie fans excited. The 6'5 freshman is going on nine straight games of double-digits in points, while shooting 55% from the field and forcing defenders to stay honest on him. Shabazz Napier has also become an integral part of this team's success off the bench. He's played at least 20 minutes per game during the tournament, which allows Kemba to play off the ball and focus on setting up his own shot. Napier has a 14/3 assist to turnover ratio in the tournament.
If Walker and Knight is the most important matchup, Alex Oriakhi and Josh Harrelson is an extremely close second. I'd also throw Charles Okwandu and Eloy Vargas into that mix as well. Both teams have given up an average of over 10 rebounds in the past three games of the tournament, which is a direct knock on the middling big men of both teams. While Oriakhi has the most potential of all of them, he often finds himself lost on the court, making mistakes he should have learned from last year. Harrelson is not the most talented player but sculpted himself into a hard worker on the court with a nice outside shot. He can be out-toughed inside and may find himself in foul trouble if Kemba commits to driving the basketball.
UK is going to have to match power with power -- and for Calipari, that means Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. While Darius Liggins and Darius Miller represent the outside shooting and defensive studs, Jones and Lamb will be the guys who can create matchup problems for UConn and really stretch a Wildcat lead. Jones is going to be looking at Lamb's Oak Hill teammate Roscoe Smith while Lamb will draw some of everybody, including Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Donnell Beverly. Those two guys have the biggest potential to make this game very difficult for Calhoun.
While Kentucky goes deeper and probably is the more talented club top to bottom, I don't think they'll be able to contain Walker for 40 minutes, and Oriakhi cleaning up on the boards. If I'm UConn, I'm worried about how well Kentucky can space the floor and hit open shots, but ultimately it's going to come down to Kemba vs. Knight, and I'm taking the junior from the Bronx in that matchup. Kentucky, who almost lost to Princeton in the first round, will go down here to the last Big East team standing. A UConn-Butler championship game sounds good to me.
UConn 71, Kentucky 68
In what has to be the most unlikely Final Four matchup of all time, the Bulldogs of Butler take their nation's best winning streak of 13 games to Austin to face fellow Cinderella, Virginia Commonwealth. The Final Four stage is nothing new for Butler, having been led by Gordon Hayward and coach Brad Stevens to a semifinal win over Tom Izzo's Michigan State team just last season. What is new is that this will be the first time since the second round of last year's tournament against Murray State that they're not underdogs, because most had Butler falling to Old Dominion in the 8/9 game this year. As of this writing, Vegas has VCU as 2.5 point 'dogs.
Games like this don't adhere to logic or empirical evidence or sometimes even physics. Both of these teams simply should not be here, but they've gotten a few fortunate bounces and made the right plays that thrust them into the national spotlight. Each bounce is going to matter, each second, each breath. Neither this game nor the next game will determine the best team in the country -- simply who's playing the best at the right time. And on that note, let's get to the key matchup.
This is less of an individual offense/defense matchup and more about on-court importance. These will be arguably the two most important players on the court Saturday, and though they may not guard each other for 40 minutes because of Shawn Vanzant or Ronald Nored switching over or either team going zone, it could turn into a battle of play vs. play between them. Mack is second to Kemba Walker of all the remaining players left in breaking his man down off the dribble. He's almost halfback-like in his ability to use his weight to get to the position he wants to in order to have the right angle on the shot. And while clutchness is about as ambiguous a term as there is in basketball, he seems to always come up with the big shot, at least when Matt Howard doesn't hit it first. His 43% field goal shooting this tournament is above his season average of 41%, which has him averaging 21 points in the Dance.
Rodriguez won't be counted on to body him up individually because of the 5 inches and 40 pounds that separate them. He will, however, need to control the tempo of the game and get the Butler bigs into foul trouble. While he's not the best at going to the line, he's crafty enough with the ball that he can set his teammates up in position to make the easy bucket or at least get fouled. He's been dazzling with the handles in the Rams' five tournament games to the tune of 38 assists to just 10 turnovers.
Whoever executes their role in this game will lead their team to the championship game.
This is not VCU's strength. They rank towards the bottom of the nation in the category and have given up 50 offensive rebounds in the last three games. Butler is closer to the middle of the pack, but you can be sure Coach Stevens is figuring out ways to keep Matt Howard, Andrew Smith, and Khyle Marshall around the basket for second chance opportunities. It's amazing that despite the huge rebounding disadvantage, coach Shaka Smart has the Rams this far. If Butler doesn't shoot as poorly as their previous opponents, that could be too many advantages to overcome for VCU.
Somehow lost amid the talk of Skeen, Smart, and Rodriguez has been VCU's leading scorer this tournament in Brad Burgess. The 6'6 forward is a threat from inside and out and could exploit the highly athletic but very raw Khyle Marshall. He leads the team in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage, falling just behind Skeen in overall win shares. He hit a season high 6 three's in the Sweet 16 win over Florida State. Getting him involved and wet from the outside will be crucial to VCU's success.
Both teams can stroke the basketball, but because of the way Butler passes the ball as a team, they often find open shots easier. Matt Howard and Jamie Skeen is bound to be a tough matchup inside and Brandon Rozzell should be a tough cover for the Butler guards off the bench like Nored and Zach Hahn. But when it comes down to it, Butler can comfortably go 8-10 deep, while VCU pretty much has a 6-man rotation. I think the Butler guards will be too difficult for VCU's to contain and with Howard, Marshall and Smith going after rebounds, the Bulldogs will force their way into the championship game again.
Butler 76, VCU 65
There will be no 1- or 2-seeds represented in Houston, as the Kentucky Wildcats have defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels to be the last team in the Final Four. After VCU had already knocked off Kansas earlier, the 4-seeded UK took care of the last 2-seed remaining 76-69 in Newark and will face the 3-seed UConn Huskies in the semifinal.
Kentucky was paced by Brandon Knight, the highly-touted freshman who already has made waves with game winners in this tournament, who had 22, 6 and 4 along with 5 big three’s that always seemed to stop a UNC run. He got help from junior wings DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller, who, in addition to their 23 combined points, played unbelievable defense on the Carolina guards that really set the tone for how John Calipari wanted the game to be played tonight. Freshmen Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb also chipped in 19.
The biggest matchup for the Heels was how John Henson and Tyler Zeller would do against Josh Harrelson and Jones down low, where they seemingly had an advantage. While Zeller delivered in full on the day (21 points and 9 boards), the wiry and dangerous Henson was in foul trouble from the get-go, only managing 23 minutes and fouling out late in the game. Zeller did his best to keep them in it by using an array of post moves and follows throughout the game.
But when the Heels were down 7 with only three to play, it was Harrison Barnes, formerly the assumed #1 pick in the draft, who brought them back to tie it. Barnes didn’t have his shot going on the whole night but stuck with it and finished with 18 tough points in what could be his final game under coach Roy Williams. Kendall Marshall and Leslie McDonald weren’t nearly as efficient as they usually are, mostly because of the swarming Wildcat defense.
But it was Kentucky’s night as a few Brandon Knight foul shots sealed the deal and booked their ticket to the Final Four against UConn. UNC stands to lose senior transfer Justin Knox and possibly juniors Henson and Zeller, who could go pro with freshman Harrison Barnes — unless he signs up for another year at Chapel Hill.
The Final Four is set. Only a week stands between now and crowning a champion.
Yesterday, when #8 Butler advanced to their second straight final four everyone said how you can’t call them a Cinderella anymore. Yes they’re a high seed and yes they’re from a mid major conference, but when you make back to back final fours… it’s not a magical, Cinderella run. The same can not be said for Virginia Commonwealth University.
They are a Cinderella team in every sense of the word. Small school, in a small conference (Horizon league), from a pretty small town (Richmond). In fact, in their small town, they aren’t even traditionally the premier basketball school. When people think of college basketball, they think of the Atlantic 10’s Richmond Spiders long before they think of VCU. Or at least, they did. That might not be the case anymore.
VCU upset #1 seeded Kansas today 71-61 to clinch a berth in the final four for the first time in school history. The Jayhawks had been the only #1 seed left in the tournament, so their elimination means that this will be just the 3rd ever Final Four without a #1 seed in it. For the first time in tournament history, two teams seeded #8 or lower will meet in the Final Four(Butler & VCU).
Just to further illustrate how rare this Final Four will be, two teams from mid-major conferences have never advanced to this point since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. For the last time it did happen, you have to go all the way back to 1979 when Larry Bird and Indiana State were joined by Penn in the Final Four.
Of course since Butler and VCU play each other, we’re guaranteed that one of the two will play for the National Title to become the first non power conference team to win the tournament since UNLV 21 years ago. The winner of the VCU/Butler game will face either UConn, North Carolina or Kentucky… all traditional basketball powers from major conferences. Those three schools have a combined 14 NCAA tournament titles between them.
Today will see the lat two teams book their places in the Final Four to join UConn and Butler, who both advanced yesterday. Both games are on CBS today and Kansas vs VCU tips off at 2pm. That will be immediately followed by Kentucky vs UNC at 4:55.
Kansas coach Bill Self talked about the challenges of facing an upstart team that they just don't know much about.
"I do think that's a challenge. Certainly, you know, the tournament, the further you go it becomes more draining for your players, too. So the time that we want to put in doing scouting and everything will probably be more condensed and shorter during the season, because the guys have more responsibilities and requirements."
VCU's Shaka Smart says the challenge of preparing for Kansas on short notice isn't much different than if they played in the regular season, they're going to be aggressive.
"If we had a month to prepare for Kansas that stuff wouldn't change. It's not so much the short notice. It's more a matter of finding ways to slow down their personnel and to counteract the terrific system they have. They have a great offensive system and they really get after you offensively. So there's really no correct way to guard Kansas, other than the fact that you've really got to do a great job personnel-wise taking away what they do best. You've got to be aggressive."
The heavyweight matchup of the day and the round as a whole is certainly Kentucky vs North Carolina. The challenge for Kentucky is to find a way to deal with the Tarheels big, talented frontcourt.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams talked about the play of his guys up front.
"Well, our front line of Harrison, John and Tyler have been very productive scoring-wise, rebounding-wise and got better and better as the season has gone along defensively. I think Kendall, Dexter and Leslie and the other guys that come in, add something to the mix, also. We do have length. Z at 7 feet and John 6'10" and Harrison 6'8", we can bother some shots around the basket and also score around the basket."
Kentucky forward Josh Harrellson acknowledged that he's got to do better job defending those guys than he did the last time these teams met.
"Yeah, they create a lot of problems for me. You know, Tyler Zeller, he scored a lot on me. He got me in foul trouble. So hopefully I am going to just try to stay out of foul trouble, play big and play like I did last night. Just play strong and just try to outwork him."
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Southwest Region final, San Antonio: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 11 VCU, 2 p.m. ET
East Region final, Newark: No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 2 UNC, 4:55 p.m. ET
For all the beating that the Big East has taken in this tournament, the Connecticut Huskies are proving to be the conference’s one saving grace. Kemba Walker led UConn with 20 as they knocked off the Arizona Wildcats 65-63 to book their place in the final four.
Arizona had two really good looks from three point range in the final seconds, including one from Derrick Williams, but neither sank and Jim Calhoun’s boys advance to face the winner of tomorrow’s UNC/Kentucky game for a place in the national title game.
While Kemba Walker led the Huskies with 20, their most valuable player was probably Jeremy Lamb, who scored 19 points, 8 of which came in crunch time along with a big steal. While he’s been somewhat in the shadow of Walker in this tournament, he’s averaged a little over 18 points a game. During the regular season, he averaged just about 10 a game.
That said, Walker still continues to be the story of the tournament. He’s averaging almost 27 points a game and has now led his team to the final four. With three #1 seeds out, and the final one not in the final four yet, the Huskies are looking like pretty good picks to win this whole thing.
We've spent a good bit of time chronicling what a disappointment the much vaunted Big East was in the year's NCAA Tournament and one of the groups that have taken some delight in that has been Big Ten fans... Not likely anymore. Now that the dust has settled, you'd have to say that the Big Ten's seven teams weren't much more impressive than the Big East's 11. Black Shoe Diaries has a great team by team breakdown of the conference did in this year's tourney and it's nothing special.
In fact, despite have less teams in the bracket the Big 10 were responsible for just as many major choke jobs as the Big East and to a couple of the same teams. The most notable Big East chokejobs were Georgetown getting beat by VCU and Pitt being knocked off by Butler. However, those teams went on to upset the Big Ten's Purdue and Wisconsin respectively. #3 seeded Purdue has to be considered amongst the biggest disappointments of any team in this year's bracket.
Then of course, that brings up to Ohio State. While the Big East had the most teams, the Big Ten had the best team. The nation's #1 and the tournament's #1 overall seed, Ohio St. Buckeyes. There's no doubt that #4 Kentucky was a tough Sweet 16 matchup, maybe the toughest team any top seed had met this year... but the fact is when you're the top team in the nation and have been for most of the year you're expected to win tough games, and you're expected to get past the Sweet 16. Ohio State did not.
Both the Big East and Big Ten put two teams in the Sweet 16, but only the Big East put a team in the Elite 8. While both conferences will be hanging their head at this point, UConn still has a chance to save the integrity of the Big East a bit. If they get a team in the Final Four or maybe even a national champion, the Big East won't leave this tourney looking quite so bad.
The Sweet 16 is over, which means the NCAA Tournament moves on to the regional finals, better known as the Elite 8. First up today we've got #2 Florida taking on #8 Butler at 4:20 pm in New Orleans. Gators coach Billy Donovan is aware of the physical threat that Butler poses,
"We're playing against a team that is extremely, extremely physical, don't think there's any question about that, a team that has got a lot of players that know about success in this tournament from last year."
Butler's standout point guard Shelvin Mack says that his team knows that defense is the key to success in the tournament.
"I'd say with our defense, we realized coming to Butler throughout the year that offense wins a lot of games. But in order to win a championship, you've got to play defense. Our main job on defense is try to limit them to one shot and one possession. When you're able to do that, you have a great opportunity to win."
In the West Region final in Anaheim, Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies try to salvage the reputation of the Big East as they face Derrick Williams and the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona coach Sean Miller was asked about the challenge his team faces in Walker.
"Part of the impact of Kemba Walker isn't just his own scoring, it's how many shots and opportunities he creates for the other players on his team, because a lot like our team, they have some really good players other than him and we respect him a great deal. You watch what Jeremy Lamb is doing, and if you pay attention some of his easiest shots come from Kemba Walker's ability. So it is a tough challenge and in an effort to try to get to the Final Four, we have to meet that challenge as well as we can, or else we won't be in the Final Four because as evidenced by his recent play, when he's playing, Kemba Walker, at that level, it's difficult to beat UCONN."
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Southeast Region final, New Orleans:
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 8 Butler at 4:20 p.m. ET
West Region final, Anaheim:
No. 3 UConn vs. No. 5 Arizona, 6:55 p.m. ET
Southwest Region final, San Antonio:
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 11 VCU, 2 p.m. ET
East Region final, Newark:
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 2 UNC, 4:55 p.m. ET
VCU's magical run continues as the small school from the Colonial Athletic Association knocked off another major conference opponent in Florida St. tonight to book their place in the Elite 8 for the first time in school history. The Rams have now beaten USC from the Pac-10 in the playoff game, Georgetown from the Big East in the round of 64, #3 Purdue from the Big 10 and Florida St. from the ACC. Now they've got themselves a date with Kansas from the Big 12 as they look to slay another giant. Also, VCU's run means that Steve Kerr gets to say the name of their coach, Shaka Smart, another 45 times. He obviously likes it.
After two blowouts to open the night, the final two games really delivered the drama. VCU beat Florida St. in overtime while Kentucky upset Ohio State with a big shot from Brandon Knight with just five seconds left on the clock. It was Knight's second game winner of the tournament, with his previous one coming against Princeton in the first round. William Buford had a shot to steal Knight's thunder with a good look at a three for Ohio State at the buzzer, but it clanged off the rim short as the #1 overall seed in the tourney fell.
Kentucky next faces North Carolina in the East regional final.
If yesterday was all about the upsets, this evening’s early Sweet 16 games have been all chalk. #1 Kansas crushed Richmond 77-57 while North Carolina blew out Marquette 81-63 to book their places in the Elite 8.
The Kansas Richmond game started off with some sparks as the teams pushed and moved in the tunnel prior to the game. Kansas guard Brady Morningstar played down the fracas.
“No, I mean it’s just a lot of energy, getting ready to play a big game. Both teams were excited. So that’s just how sports are sometimes. And I respect Richmond a lot. They’re a heck of a team, and I’m glad we got a good win tonight.”
Although he played it down, it certainly seemed like something had lit a fire under Kansas. The Jayhawks stormed out to 31-9 lead to start the game. Brady Morningstar led the Buckeyes with 18 and Marcus Morris provided 13 points and seven boards as Kansas advanced to it’s fourth elite 8 in the past eight seasons. Kansas has won by an average of 18 points a game so far in the tournament. With Ohio State being eliminated by Kentucky tonight, the Jayhawks have to be the prohibitive favorite to win the whole thing. With their next opponent being the winner of the #11 VCU vs #10 Florida St. game, the highest seed Kansas will have to face before the final four would have been #9 Illinois.
The other game wasn’t much closer… only two points in fact. North Carolina easily dispatched of Marquette 81-63. Much like the Kansas game, this one was over by the half as well with the Tarheels taking a 40-15 lead into the half. Marquette shot just 6-30 from the field in the first half and did not record a single assist.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said that losing in the ACC title game to Duke actually helped his team coming into the tournament
“I think we understand that and started preparation for this tournament, and I think we had our batteries recharged and we were so much more effective with our concentration, we played better since this tournament started. "
North Carolina now faces Kentucky in the East region finals.
The sweet 16 of the 2011 NCAA tournament started last night with three upsets, with Florida being the only favorite to advance. Check out our recaps of Butler beating Wisconsin, Derrick Williams going off as Arizona knocked off Duke, Jimmer Fredette's BYU career coming to end as they fell to Florida, and Kemba Walker leading UConn over San Diego State.
Tonight seems more likely to go by the chalk as the favorites are much less vulnerable in the Southwest and East regions. Marquette has beaten two really good teams so far in Xavier and Syracuse, so their run is no fluke... but North Carolina's big men will be a challenge they haven't really had to deal with yet. For more on this game check our East region picks.
Richmond has led somewhat of a charmed life in the tourney so far drawing the weakest #5 seed in round one and lucked into a matchup with #13 Morehead St in the round of 32. They'll get no such luck this round with one of the tournament favorites, Kansas. We've got more on this one in our Southwest region picks.
Ohio State vs Kentucky is probably the best matchup in terms of talent in the entire round. Kentucky is stocked with future NBA players, but they're young. Ohio State has plenty of talent themselves, but they've got tournament experience.
The Cinderella matchup of the round is #10 Florida State vs #11 VCU. This is a classic good defensive team (Florida St.) vs a good offensive team (VCU) contest.
9:57 p.m., TBS: Florida St. Seminoles vs. VCU Rams
Be sure to check out our Sweet 16 predictions stream.
Pick up an updated Printable NCAA Tournament Bracket.
Butler led by over 20 points for a good chunk of the game, while Wisconsin sleepwalked through the first three-quarters of the game. Jump shots weren’t falling, uncharacteristically bad choices were made, and Bo Ryan’s team was in a huge hole.
Then some shots started to fall. Namely, Jordan Taylor’s. He had a miserable first half but came to ball later on, finishing with 22 points on the night. A straightaway three with under two minutes to go cut the lead to four for the Bulldogs, but the Badgers would get no closer, as Matt Howard’s knack for making plays came back to the surface. Any time there’s a rebound to be had, the big local senior is the one to pull it down. He hit the last two foul shots to end Wisconsin’s dream comeback on the night.
Jon Leuer, the enigmatic senior with such intriguing upside, finished the night 1-12, dropping the Badgers’ field goal percentage under 30% on the night. So much can be said for the Butler defense but the simple fact is that Wisconsin did not commit to taking the ball to the basket this game. Shots weren’t falling, and Bo Ryan’s bunch was not making the right decisions in what to do on the offensive end, allowing Brad Stevens’ defensive schemes to dictate what they would do with the ball. Jump shots can go hot or cold, but when you’re getting high percentage shots from the inside, things tend to go warmer more often than not.
Butler will move on to face Florida in an 8/2 matchup that catches everybody off-guard, looking to advance to the Final Four for the second straight year. A Matt Howard/Alex Tyus matchup should be good. Same goes for Shelvin Mack and Erving Walker. Meanwhile, Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, and Tim Jarmusz will all be graduating from Wisconsin, leaving the team pretty short-handed for next year save for Jordan Taylor.
Another great night of madness in the books. Tomorrow figures to be just as wild, with only two #1 seeds remaining, and there are no more easy outs.
It took a Derrick Williams late block to eek the 5-seed Arizona Wildcats over a Memphis team who wasn’t even supposed to make the tournament. Then they surprised everybody when they beat the criminally underseeded Texas Longhorns in the next round. A matchup against Duke was supposed to end their pleasant season.
But then things got weird.
Duke was up double figures for a good chunk of the first half, but Arizona’s offense came out to ball after the break. Spurred on by their own raucous crowd in Anaheim, they completely wrecked the Dukies 55-33 in the second half. Derrick Williams made his case for a top pick in this June’s draft by putting up 32 points on just 17 shots, including 5 three-pointers and 12 rebounds, 6 of which were offensive. This is without mentioning the barrage of vicious, ferocious, Darryl Dawkins-like throwdowns he stamped on Kyle Singler and the Plumlee brothers. It was completely filthy.
MoMo Jones and Solomon Hill got in on the action for the Wildcats as well, making plays inside and out to drive the dagger deeper into the backs of the Blue Devils, who could not get things together even after multiple time outs by all-world head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Detractors will blame Coach K for playing Kyrie Irving before he was ready but that is, frankly, ludicrous. Arizona shot out of their minds — no fault of the freshman — and he himself scored a terrifically efficient 28 points. He hadn’t played in three months and it looked like he was as fresh and rust-free as if he sat for only a few days. Very impressive showing from the young kid in what may be his final collegiate game.
Arizona gets to face UConn in a 3/4 matchup almost nobody predicted that sends the winner to the Final Four. Duke gets to watch the rest of the tournament from home, and will wait to hear from Mason Plumlee and Irving about their decisions in regards to the NBA. They’ll lose Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler to the draft as seniors, but Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins will take on bigger roles on the team.
But the most important NBA news in this game is that Derrick Williams’ draft stock has never been higher. He’s a very efficient player, but if someone uses the number one pick on him, their expectations better be for a role player.
The Jimmer Fredette Experience has come to an end. Or at least the end of a chapter.
Jimmer went off for 32 points in the Sweet Sixteen matchup against the Gators, but it took him 31 shots to get there. Aside from a few Gus Johnson happy pants deep three’s, Jimmer was miserable from beyond the arc, ending the evening 3-17 behind the line.
While neither team shot particularly well, a few Florida players came out with some terrific nights. Namely, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons. Tyus, the underperforming senior from St. Louis, gave the Brandon Davies-less Cougars fits inside, scoring 19 points on just 9 shots and gobbling up 14 rebounds. He came up with a few monster flushes late in the game that led to Florida outscoring BYU by 9 in the extra frame. Parsons was silky as usual, filling up the box score and making some big shots on his way to 16 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. He got handled on the boards a bit by freshman Kyle Collinsworth, but from the 3-spot, there aren’t many more well-rounded players in the nation.
Erving Walker deserves a mention for what could have been one of the biggest offensive rebounds of the postseason. He grabbed a floor board after not being boxed out, allowing Florida to hold for the last shot and not give Jimmer a chance to give Gus Johnson a heart attack for the win.
With BYU out, VCU and Richmond are the only non-Big 6 schools remaining. There’s a ton of future ahead of Jimmer Fredette, but this is the last we’ll see of him donning a BYU uniform. He’s had a terrific career but ran into a better team tonight. Florida will face the winner of Butler and Wisconsin, which is scheduled to tip off momentarily.
The team that needed two overtimes to escape the Temple Owls wouldn’t get a chance at another one against Kemba Walker and the best Big East team still alive. UConn was led by the two-pronged attack of Kemba and Jeremy Lamb. No other Huskie scored more than 5 points. D.J. Gay couldn’t match Walker on the offensive or defensive end, and let up 36 points to the junior guard. Lamb’s production was stamped with an exclamation point at the end of the game when he stole a D.J. Gay pass that would have otherwise led to an easy finish to cut the lead to 2.
As expected, SDSU did a great job on the boards, securing 10 offensive rebounds to Connecticut’s 5, but Kawhi Leonard was hardly the force he needed to be for the Aztecs to take control of the game, managing just 12 points and 8 rebounds on 12 shots. Against the light Huskie interior, he and Malcolm Thomas needed to assert themselves and counter the huge advantage they’d have in guard play.
UConn’s big game experience came through as well as the game wound down. Calhoun had them running efficient offensive sets, while SDSU put up too many ill-advised shots and missed crucial crunch time free throws.
The Aztecs will be entirely revamped next season, losing seniors Billy White, Gay, and Thomas, and most likely Leonard to the NBA. Connecticut awaits the winner of Duke and Arizona, setting up an Elite 8 matchup with two basketball programs steeped in rich history.
On the other side of the bracket, BYU and Florida are still going at it in overtime.
Two weeks ago when people began filling out their brackets, Florida St. and VCU probably weren’t penciled into too many Sweet Sixteen’s. Yet one of the two will be moving on to the Elite Eight. This is the type of insanity college basketball fans had to deal with thus far during March Madness.My bracket, for instance, looks like a horrible treasure map. There are X’s scattered throughout, especially in the second round.
As we move onto the third (fourth) round, I can only hope I can cut my losses and still end up with a perfect Final Four. The most important lynch pin in my plan is BYU who plays a very good Florida team tonight.
As I have mentioned, I maliciously had the Gators losing to UCLA last round. In my poor excuse for a bracket I have BYU beating UCLA tonight. Since that game is voided I will lay out my predictions for the updated battle between the two and three seeds in the Southeast.
I know I will get hammered for breaking Rule 3 again, but I am going with BYU in this game. To be perfectly honest I don’t think I am breaking the rule because I actually have a reason why I think BYU will win. Now before I continue let me tell everyone…I like Jimmer. I do not love Jimmer.
Everyone I talk to is man-crushing hard on Fredette this season, but he is the same player he has always been. Why now is he just getting the recognition?
That being said, the reason I am picking BYU is because of Jimmer. Florida likes to run and gun, without an emphasis on transition defense. Jimmer likes to exploit teams that don’t find him on the fast break. The Gators will have to re-work their game plan to win this game. They do not want to get into a shootout with the best shooter in college basketball.
Now my usual quick picks for the remainder of Thursday’s games.
No. 2 San Diego St. vs. No. 3 Connecticut
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 5 Arizona
Duke/Breaking my short rule. You can hate Duke, but don’t be stupid. They won the National Championship last year with basically the same team, plus the future No. 1 NBA Draft pick.
No. 3 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Butler
For more predictions, check out our Sweet 16 picks stream.
Now that we've all had a chance to catch our collective breaths from the opening rounds, the 2011 NCAA tournament continues with the Sweet 16. Today's action features the Southeast and West Regions, both of which are fairly star studded. First up is Kemba Walker and the UConn Huskies are in action as what is probably the Big East's last best hope to save some face in this tournament. Jimmer Fredette and his BYU Cougars continue what feels like an upset type run despite the fact that they're a three seed. When Brandon Davis was kicked off the team, so many people wrote them off that we seem to forget how good that team has been all year.
Kyrie Irving, who could be the #1 pick in the NBA draft this year, will reportedly be playing significant minutes as Duke faces Arizona in Anaheim. That game will be followed up by Wisconsin and Butler featuring... umm, well they may not be quite as star studded as the others.
Here's the full schedule. Also check out our Sweet 16 prediction stream.
San Diego State Aztecs vs. Connecticut Huskies 7:15 p.m., CBS
Florida Gators vs. BYU Cougars 7:27 p.m., TBS
The frenzy of the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament is behind us and as the dust settles, we're left with the Sweet 16. If you're looking for an updated printable bracket, we've got you covered. To say the 16 remaining teams are unexpected would seem like an understatement at this point. Who could can even guess what the odds were that two of the final 16 teams in the tournament would be from Richmond, Virginia(VCU & Richmond)?
The Sweet 16 includes a 10 seed, two 11 seeds, a 12 seed and an eight. Plus, it includes only two of the 11 Big East teams in the tournament. Here's what the remaining matchups look like.
The East region will play on Friday in Newark, N.J., and will feature the No. 1 Ohio St. Buckeyes taking on No. 4 Kentucky. No. 11 Marquette shocked its Big East rival Syracuse to advance and will face North Carolina.
The West region plays in Anaheim on Thursday and will feature No. 1 Duke taking on No. 5 Arizona, who pulled off a mild upset of Texas in the round of 32. The other game features No. 3 Connecticut facing No. 2 San Diego State.
The Southwest region tips off in San Antonio on Friday and probably should just be renamed the "Cinderella Region." Three of the final four in the region are 10 seeds or lower. No. 1 Kansas takes on No. 12 Richmond, who upset Vanderbilt in the first round and got past another Cinderella team in Morehead State in the round of 32. The other games features No. 11 VCU, who shocked No. 3 Purdue, facing No. 10 Florida St, who did some shocking of their own when they routed Notre Dame.
The Southeast Region stages its games on Thursday in New Orleans. No. 8 Butler will take on No. 4 Wisconsin, while No. 3 BYU faces Florida in the other game. Despite being a No. 3 seed, BYU's run has an upset kind of feel to it after so many pundits wrote them off in the wake of Brandon Davies suspension.
One of the stories we’ve been following in this tournament has been the disappointment that the vaunted Big East teams have been. Of the record 11 Big East teams that made the NCAA tournament, only seven advanced to the round of 32. Of those seven, just two have qualified for the Sweet 16.
Now, to be fair four of the seven teams were in action against one another, so the max that the conference could have sent was five. However, the only two teams that did move on were ones that played other Big East teams in the round of 32.
The latest disappointment came from #2 Notre Dame, who were blown out by #10 Florida State 71-57. Big East player of the year, Ben Hansbrough did get his 18 points but it was on 5-13 shooting and he fouled out of the game. As a team, the Irish shot just 31.7% from the field. This loss joins other notable Big East upsets like Morehead State over Louisville, VCU over Georgetown & Butler over Pitt.
Notre Dame wasn't the only Big East squad to fall victim to a major upset when #3 Syracuse was upended by a #11 seed, but thankfully the conference saves some face because that #11 seed happened to be Marquette. The only other Big East squad joining the Golden Eagles in the sweet 16 will be the Connecticut Huskies, who advanced past yet another Big East squad, Cincinnati.
Vegas had set the over/under on Big East team wins at 15 1/2, which is no longer possible. We ran a poll before the round of 32 asking how many Big East teams would qualify for the Sweet 16 and 50% of the 850 votes were for “only the two they’re guaranteed to get.” At the time, I kinda thought the ballot was stuffed by some Big 10 and ACC fans that were a bit bitter over all the hype the Big East got all season… the voters may well have been bitter, but they were also right.
Mike Krzyzewski’s 900th career victory will certainly be a memorable one. His Duke #1 seed Blue Devils held off the Michigan Wolverines 73-71 to book their place in the Sweet 16 for the 12th time in the last 14 years. This was the first time the two schools have met in the tournament since the 1992 title game which featured Michigan’s Fab Five. Comments from members of the former Fab Five about the Duke players in the game which were part of a recent documentary, set off a bit of a firestorm over the past week.
Back to present day… Nolan Smith, who led Duke with 24 points, missed a key free throw that would have out the Blue Devils up by three with 8.7 seconds, giving Michigan a chance to win or tie the game on the last shot. However, Darius Morris missed a shot from the lane with just two seconds left to give Duke the win.
Coach K says he got the kind of game they expected from Michigan.
“It was a game, the type of game we anticipated. You know, in the last couple of months of this season, Michigan has really played like a Top Ten team in the country. You know, they’ve only lost to Ohio State twice, and then they lost on a bank shot from 30 feet by one point against Wisconsin, and they’ve just been playing winning basketball. "
Next up, Duke faces the winner of today’s Arizona vs Texas game.
In my second round NCAA bracket, I broke two of my own rules. The first being in the UCLA/Florida game in which I broke rule 3: Don't pick an upset unless there is probable cause. I explained yesterday that there was no logical reason to pick the Bruins when the deck was stacked against them. But I did...And they lost.
The second rule I broke was probably the most important; Rule 5: Don't go with your heart. I went with my heart and picked Temple upsetting San Diego St. Despite an exciting double overtime battle, the Owls lost and so did I.
Why am I breaking my own rules? If I followed the plan I would have ended the day 7-1 as opposed to 5-3. (I did not see the Butler upset coming. I blame the fact that I missed last year's entire tournament while residing in Estonia. When I watched the first game on CBS they showed Gordon Hayward's half court shot which almost won them a National Championship. This reminded me that they are probably not a push-over. If I experienced Butler-Mania last year I probably would not have had them bow out in the first round.)
Last night I was asked for an upset in one of today's games. I told him, gun to my head I would say Washington beats UNC. This is based strictly on the fact that UNC is a younger team. However for today's picks I am adhering strictly to the rules.
Since Friday was a bit of a disaster for my bracket I had to readjust some of my predictions. I will be doing so in the same quick format I used yesterday.
No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 7 Washington
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 8 Michigan
Duke/ Fab Five Documentary Backlash
No. 1 Ohio St. vs. No. 8 George Mason
Ohio St./ Sullinger
No. 4 Texas vs. No. 5 Arizona
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 11 VCU
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Marquette
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 9 Illinois
No. 2 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Florida St.
Coming into the tournament, it was widely accepted that the Big East was the best conference in college basketball. The conference's unprecendented 11 seeds in the NCAA tournament did nothing to change that perception. However, their performance in the tournament just might. Yesterday, we asked the question "was the Big East overrated?" The response was overly negative against the conference.
Of the four Big East teams in action yesterday, only one (Connecticut) advanced to the Sweet 16. Considering that the UConn was playing another Big East team(Cincinnati) and the conference was guaranteed a spot, it's not terribly impressive. West Virgina was drummed out of the tournament by #4 seed Kentucky, while #1 seed and regular season Big East champion Pittsburgh was upset by #8 Butler. So as a one seed, Pitt doesn't even get to the Sweet 16.
The conference will get at least one more team in the Sweet 16 today when Syracuse faces Marquette. Notre Dame could also help salvage the conference's reputation with a win over #10 Florida St as well. Coming into the tournament, Vegas put the over/under on Big East team wins in the tournament at 15 1/2. As it stands now, the conference has 9, with potentially a 10th win headed into the final sixteen. In other words, hopefully you didn't bet the over.
[Update by JasonB, 03/21/11 12:28 AM EDT ] The disappointment continues
The round of 32 rolls on today with eight games on the docket, including three #1 seeds. Yesterday, we saw our first #1 go down when Pitt was shocked by #8 Butler in a game with one of the more bizarre endings you'll ever see.
#1 Duke will renew an old rivalry with the Michigan Wolverines. Anyone who caught the Fab Five documentary last Sunday on ESPN will remember quite vividly how much the Michigan team hated Duke. Unfortunately, this Wolverines squad isn't nearly as talented. Of course, having Grant Hill, Christian Laettner & Bobby Hurley back then... this Duke team might not be quite as talented as it was either.
Notre Dame will try to rescue the reputation of the Big East by becoming the third team from the conference in the Sweet 16. The conference will get one team automatically today with the winner of the Syracuse vs Marquette game.
Here's your full schedule for Sunday.
12:15 p.m., CBS: No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 7 Washington Huskies
2:45 p.m., CBS: No. 1 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 8 Michigan Wolverines
5:15 p.m., CBS: No. 1 Ohio St. Buckeyes vs. No. 8 George Mason Patriots
6:10 p.m., TNT: No. 4 Texas Longhorns vs. No. 5 Arizona Wildcats
7:10 p.m., TBS: No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 11 VCU
7:45 p.m., truTV: No. 3 Syracuse Orange vs. No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles
8:40 p.m., TNT: No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 9 llinois
9:40 p.m., TBS: No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. No. 10 Florida St. Seminoles
Tucson, AZ (Sports Network) – Kawhi Leonard scored 10 of his 16 points after the regulation buzzer, and San Diego State shut down Temple in the second overtime to survive, 71-64, and advance to the Sweet 16 in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.
The Aztecs’ frontcourt — Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas — carried the second seed in the West to a hard-fought victory after squandering a double-digit lead.
White had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Leonard pulled down nine caroms and Thomas put up 13 points, nine boards and four blocks, including a pivotal denial of Lavoy Allen in the final minute of the second overtime.
San Diego State (34-2), which recorded its first tourney win on Thursday against Northern Colorado, will meet Connecticut in Anaheim next week.
“We’ve got a good team. We find different ways to win. We did that again tonight,” SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. “Collectively we’ve won 34 games, so we feel we belong. We’re excited to be playing next week.”
Ramone Moore totaled 17 points to lead the seventh-seeded Owls (26-8), who were attempting to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001. Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez and netted 14 points apiece in the loss.
San Diego State went cold from the field late in regulation, allowing Temple to score nine of 11 points over a seven-minute span to tie the game.
With under a minute to play, the Aztecs had the ball with the score tied, 54-54, and White missed a gimme from the left block. The rebound, however, was swiped out of bounds and touched Temple’s Rahlir Jefferson sitting on the baseline, giving the Aztecs the ball with 25.6 seconds left.
The Owls committed a non-shooting foul with four seconds to go, and after a timeout, Chase Tapley stepped into a leaner along the right baseline. Despite contact on the play, the whistles stayed silent and the shot fell off the mark, sending the game to an extra five minutes.
Fernandez, who hit the game-winning basket against Penn State on Thursday, opened the extra session with a three-pointer. The Owls stayed in front until Thomas converted a three-point play with two minutes left to tie it, 61-61.
Fernandez missed a deep two and a three on Temple’s final possession of the first overtime. San Diego State held for the final shot, but Thomas’s turnaround from the right side fell short.
Two Leonard free throws 2:22 into the second OT gave SDSU a lead, 63-61, it did not relinquish.
Trailing 67-63 with under two minutes to play, Wyatt came up with a steal in the backcourt and was fouled. He hit just 1-of-2 from the line, but the Owls got the ball back when Leonard was well short on a straightaway three.
A frenetic Temple possession ended with Allen taking a shot on the left block and getting rejected by Thomas with under a minute to play.
“When the shot went up, you know, my natural reaction was to try to block it and I got it. I’m just excited that I blocked it,” Thomas said.
Leonard made two free throws at the other end, then threw down a dunk after causing a turnover to seal the Mountain West Conference Tournament champions’ first trip to the Sweet 16.
The first half was nip-and-tuck before San Diego State ran off nine straight points to go up 23-16 with seven minutes showing.
Tapley started the run with a three-pointer and later hit another from long range for a 34-23 left with four minutes to go.
Temple scored the final six points of the half to stay within five, 36-31, at the intermission, and closed to 38-36 on a Moore three-pointer three minutes into the second half.
Temple had a chance to take its first lead of the second half 7 1/2 minutes in, but Jefferson missed a layup in transition. The Aztecs scored eight of the next 10 points, with Tapley’s three-pointer yielding a 50-43 lead near the midway mark.
The Owls continued to miss makeable baskets but stayed within striking distance by hounding SDSU on the defensive end.
Allen’s jumper from the right elbow cut the deficit to 52-49 with under five minutes remaining, and it stayed that way until a Leonard bucket three minutes later.
Wyatt drained a huge three from the right wing to make it a two-point game, and following D.J. Gay’s rushed scoop shot from 15 feet, Allen tied the game with a jumper inside the final minute.
“I’m so proud of our guys and how they hung in there. We were struggling mightily at one stretch and somehow found a way to get it back and have an opportunity to win the game,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. “In the second overtime we didn’t do a couple things that we needed to do.”
San Diego State was 0-6 in the NCAA Tournament prior to this season…Temple fell to 32-29 in the event…Tapley ended with 12 points for SDSU, which had a 16-7 advantage in fastbreak points…Gay made up for a 3-for-13 shooting effort with six rebounds and five assists…Allen chipped in 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Owls, while Jefferson pulled down 12 caroms in defeat…The Aztecs held a 42-35 edge on the glass.
Here we are in Round 2 (Round 3) of the NCAA Tournament and I will make this one short and sweet. First let me start off by saying this...Why is it when Richmond wins I get two messages saying great call, but when Villanova loses I get ten messages saying the following:
"What happened to Nova bro?"
"Great call on Villanova. Never doubt Greg Anthony again."
"Hey dude, I just wanted to tell you I did not take your advice and pick Villanova. Now I am happy and you are sad, which makes me happier."
"Don't worry big guy, it's ok...They need analysts for the NIT as well."
And so on. Of the four games I picked, the only loss was Villanova. I also said Wisconsin would win by 15. (They won by 14) That is three out of four! If I played baseball I'd be in the Hall of Fame!
As you can see from my bracket, I may have had too much confidence in Nova. It is what is referred to as a "bracket buster". I decided to give my analysis on today's games whether you like it or not.
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 5 West Virginia
I have Kentucky in this one based strictly on Brandon Knight. Knight had a tough time of it during the Wildcats opening round victory against Princeton, however Kentucky still moved on. If Knight plays up to his ability today, the Mountaineers will be in trouble.
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 7 UCLA
Here is another pick of mine that may end up being a mistake. Florida on paper looks better in pretty much every way. They have a stronger schedule, they play a more up-tempo style and the game is being played in Tampa, Fl. But, like my old coach used to say, "That's why they play the games."
No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 13 Morehead St.
I was sitting in the Costco parking lot during the end of the Richmond/Vanderbilt game on Thursday, praying that Richmond would pull it off. One reason being, they were my first round upset special, and a win would make me look like a genius. My other reason being, after an upset of Louisville by Morehead St, the Spiders would have a favorable match-up to make me look even more like a genius.
In my original bracket I had the Spiders knocking off Louisville in a hard fought battle. Now I have Richmond beating Morehead St. in a slightly less hard fought battle.
No. 7 Temple vs. No. 2 San Diego St.
I rarely remember being as excited while watching a college basketball game, then I was during the Temple/Penn St. game. The Owls pulled out the victory giving Fran Dunphy his first NCAA Tournament win since arriving on Broad St.
Now the Owls face a red hot San Diego St. team which easily disposed of Northern Colorado Thursday evening. I don't think Temple played their best game against Penn St. in the first round. If the Owls can put it together I think they will beat the Aztecs and move on to the Sweet Sixteen.
Didn't I say I was going to keep this short and sweet? Ok, sorry. For the remaining games scheduled today I will give you my pick and one word that sums up why.
No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 8 Butler
No. 3 BYU vs. No. 11 Gonzaga
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Kansas St.
No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 6 Cincinnati
#7 Temple (26-7, 14-2 A10) vs. #2 San Diego State (33-2, 14-2 MWC)
6:10 PM EST March 19, 2011
McKale Center Tuscon, AZ
Arizona State leads the series 1-0. The only meeting between these two squads came back in 1981.
12/30/1981 - The Aztecs knocked off the visiting Owls by a score of 75-64 in the Cabrillo Classic at the San Diego Sports Arena.
Record at Temple: 110-56 (5th season)
All-Time Record: 420-219 (21st season)
San Diego State
Record at SDSU: 231-151 (12th season)
All-Time Record: 415-233 (20th season)
PPG: G Ramone Moore - 15.2
RPG: F Lavoy Allen - 8.5
APG: G Juan Fernandez - 4.0
San Diego State
PPG: F Kawhi Leonard - 15.6
RPG: F Kawhi Leonard - 10.6
APG: G D.J. Gay - 3.2
Lavoy Allen F - 11.6 ppg. 8.5 rpg. 1.9 bpg.
Rahlir Jefferson F - 5.6 ppg. 5.1 rpg. .539 fg%
Aaron Brown G - 3.3 ppg. 1.0 rpg. 9.9 mpg.
Juan Fernandez G - 11.1 ppg. 3.0 rpg. 4.0 apg.
Ramone Moore G - 15.2 ppg. 4.2 rpg. 3.1 apg
San Diego State
Malcolm Thomas F - 11.5 ppg. 8.2 rpg. 2.3 apg.
Kawhi Leonard F - 15.4 ppg. 10.7 rpg. 2.5 apg.
Billy White F - 9.9 ppg. 3.8 rpg. .567 fg%
Chase Tapeley G - 8.4 ppg. 2.4 rpg. 1.9 apg.
D.J. Gay G - 11.2 ppg. 2.0 rpg. 3.2 apg.
Temple (66-64 victory over Penn State)
From the Associated Press:
Fernandez, double-teamed as time was running out, forced up the winning shot off his right foot while fading to his left just inside the 3-point line. The clock read 0.4 seconds as the ball went through the net.
In the timeout that preceded the shot, Temple's Khalif Wyatt had some advice for his coach: Put the ball in Fernandez's hands and let him determine the outcome.
"I was thinking about shooting a jump shot but I killed my dribble and [Tim] Frazier was right there," Fernandez said. "For some reason he jumped over to my right and that gave me the space to go left."
It's not the kind of shot anyone practices, Fernandez said.
"Like coach said," he said, "it was our time."
San Diego State (68-50 victory over Northern Colorado)
From the Associated Press:
The Aztecs (33-2) had their hands full with the 15th-seeded Bears of the Big Sky early and looked to be in trouble when Beitzel hit 3-pointers in rapid succession to open the second half.
San Diego State withstood the flurry and calmly turned Northern Colorado away behind its defense, answering Beitzel's burst with a 13-0 run that turned the potential upset into a runaway win.
Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and 10 rebounds, Billy White added 12 points and 13 rebounds, and James Rahon hit some big shots during the big run on his way to 12 points.
One tournament win finally in the books, the Aztecs move on to face Temple on Saturday, looking to make it two straight.
"Relief? Kind of, but we're not satisfied yet," San Diego State guard D.J. Gay said. "We know we're a very good team capable of making a run. This one feels good, but we win the next one, that one will feel a lot better."
Hey, have you guys heard? Tomorrow's matchup between Temple and San Diego State is really a match up between the gritty East Coast and the flashy West! Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez were asked about their gritty East Coast style today in a press conference and they both effectively no-sold the query.
JUAN FERNANDEZ: Well, like I just said before, we're a team that, you know, tries to slow down the ball a little bit, play more half-court offense and defense, I think. That is where we feel more comfortable. On the other hand, they prefer to play an up-tempo game and go up and down and, you know, try to get as many fast-break points as they can. So we will have to try to establish ourselves and play our rhythm.
RAMONE MOORE: Like Juan said, it's one of those teams that like to get up and down. I think we have to do a good job of managing the game and doing the things that we like to do to control the ball and not let them get in transition and do the things they want to do, which is something they've been doing a pretty good job, which is why they had a good season.
All kidding and lazy sports writing cliches aside, tomorrow's game offers a distinct contrast in styles between the two teams. SDSU has the ability to get out and run in transition and, if given the chance, they will do just that for a full 40 minutes. Temple is a slow-it-down, grind-it-out team that likes to limit possessions.
Kawhi Leonard is the Aztec's big time player. The 6-7 sophomore forward is averaging a double-double for the season with 15.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. While he is more comfortable down low, Leonard does have the ability to step out beyond the arc and knock down an open three. He has connected on 24 three-pointers this year.
His true value comes on the boards as he is simply a ball hawk. His offensive and defensive rebounding percentages are outstanding at 12.2 and 26.5 percent respectively. Fran Dunphy has already said that Aaron Brown will start the game on Leonard and that Scootie Randall will also draw his number when he enters the game.
As a Temple fan, all you can hope is that Randall has shaken the rust off as a healthy Randall would be an intriguing matchup for Leonard. The prospects of a still injured Randall guarding the Aztecs star are less encouraging.
If the prospects of guarding a dynamic player like Leonard worry you then you may want to skip this next paragraph. The Aztecs have rotation players that are 6-7 or taller, including 6-11, 300 pound center Brian Carlwell. Malcolm Thomas and Billy White are both starters who play 25 to 30 minutes a game while forward Tim Shelton is capable of providing quality minutes off the bench. Even if Micheal Eric was available for this game there would still be potential size mismatches all over the court.
The bright side? Much like Penn State, the Aztecs feature two smaller guards in D.J. Gay and Chase Tapely. Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez will need to exploit that whenever possible for the Owls to compete. The Aztecs have a pair of 6-5 guards that come off the bench in the form of James Rahon and Jamaal Franklin, so you can probably expect to see a lot of them to try and offset the Owls' size advantage in the backcourt.
My heart says Temple, my brain says San Diego State. I tried to make this prediction with cherry colored glasses on but I just couldn't do it. San Diego State 73, Temple 62
The round of 64 is in the books and saw no less than five big upsets. So how bar are your brackets looking at this point(if you need a freshly <a href="http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/564166/2011_ncaa_basketball_bracket.pdf" target="new">updated printable bracket</a> we've got one for you)? Honestly, unless you went all chalk they shouldn't be so bad. All the #1 through #3 seeds are still alive and other than possibly Louisville, no major contender has gone yet. Personally I hit on 24 of the 32 opening games, which puts me in the 82nd percentile on Yahoo. My elite 8 is still fully intact and I'm only missing two sweet 16 teams. Of course, picking the first round is the easy part...
There's some great games on tap for today, but the one I've got my eye on is #12 Richmond or #13 Morehead St. Since those two play each today, we're guaranteed to see a #12 or #13 seed in the Sweet 16.
Locally, everyone will certainly have their eyes on Temple vs San Diego St. Does Juan Fernandez have another magic shot in him? Here's the full schedule for Saturday.
12:15 p.m., CBS, Tampa -- No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 5 West Virginia
2:45 p.m., CBS, Tampa -- No. 2 Florida vs. No. 7 UCLA
5:15 p.m., CBS, Denver -- No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 13 Morehead St.
6:10 p.m., TNT, Tucson -- No. 2 San Diego St. vs. No. 7 Temple
7:10 p.m., TBS, Wash. DC -- No. 1 Pittsburgh vs. No. 8 Butler
7:45 p.m., CBS, Denver -- No. 3 BYU vs. No. 11 Gonzaga
8:40 p.m., TNT, Tucson -- No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Kansas St.
9:40 p.m., TBS, Wash. DC -- No. 3 Connecticut vs. No. 6 Cincinnati
Villanova led most of the way, but clutch shooting from George Mason allowed the Patriots back into the game as they beat Nova 59-57 to advance to the next round of the NCAA Tournament. Just moments after Corey Fisher hit three free throws to restore Villanova's lead, Luke Hancock's three pointer with under twenty seconds left proved to be the game winner. Villanova led by as many six in the final two minutes and this makes their six straight loss.
With five minutes gone in the first half, Villanova took the lead and looked a lot like the team that was ranked #7 in the nation back in January. They would not surrender that lead until the final minute as this collapse is just another heartbreaking chapter in an awful second half of the season which saw Villanova lose 11 of their last 16 games.
The Wildcats settled for a lot of bad shots in the second half and never could seem to get their offense set the way they wanted. Corey Stokes shot just 4-15, Maalik Wayns was only 2-9, and Corey Fisher, who led the team with 20 points, shot 7-17. Altogether, Villanova shot just 37.3%. What's worse, their traditionally strong free throw shooting really seemed to let them down at the end. Nova missed just five free throws all night, but three of those misses came in the final two minutes with Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou the guilty parties.
The game's hero Luke Hancock led George Mason with 18 while forward Mike Morrison had 10 points and 11 rebounds. The Patriot's bench outscored Villanova's 18-3.
Michigan was part of a laugher, while Texas got a serious scare as both big state schools advanced to the round of thirty two to kick off a busy Friday of NCAA tournament action. Michigan blew out Tennessee 74-45 in an 8-9 matchup that talent-wise should have been a much better game. However, with the Tennessee program under fire and Bruce Pearl probably on his was out, the Vols just folded today.
It was the most lopsided 8-9 matchup in tournament history. Although the most amazing stat from that game is that Michigan won by 30 despite not hitting a single free throw. They’re the first to ever win a game without a free throw. Tennessee scored just 16 points in the second half.
Next up for the Wolverines is a matchup with #1 seed Duke, assuming the Blue Devils can handle their business against Hampton…
Texas looked like they were going to cruise with a 15 point lead in the final five minutes, but 13-seed Oakland went on a furious run to get to game to within five in the final minute. However, Texas hit their foul shots and held on for a 85-81 win. J’Covan Brown scored 21 points for the Longhorns, while Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton lead all scorers with 25.
Texas next plays the winner of the Arizona/Memphis game.
In what figures to be one of the most even matchups of the first round, Villanova takes on George Mason at 2:15pm today. George Mason enters the game as just a one point favorite as the Patriots embark on their sixth ever NCAA tournament. Their most famous run came in 2006, when they made a cinderella run to the Final Four, knocking off traditional powers like UNC, UConn & Michigan St in the process.
Villanova makes its 32nd appearance in the big dance having won the tournament in 1995. This is their seventh straight appearance, which ties a school record. Just two years ago they were in the Final Four. Had someone told you Jay Wright's squad be a #9 seed and an underdog to George Mason back in January, you probably would have called them crazy. At the time the Wildcats were the #7 team in the nation, undefeated in the Big East and looked primed for a serious run in March. However, February would not be so kind to the Cats as they'd finish just 9-9 in the conference, lose in the first round of the Big East tourney to lowly USF and finish the season on a five game losing streak.
Villanova has never lost in four meetings with the Patriots, including a 69-68 victory in 2009. They'll get back a major piece in Mouphtaou Yarou, who was injured in the first half of the opening game of the Big East tournament. After Yarou went down in that game, Nova was dominated on the boards and blew a 16 point halftime lead.
Injuries certainly played a part in the Villanova's nightmare end to the season, with Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher both missing time. However, the two Coreys and Yarou are all playing today, which bodes well for the Wildcats.
Sixteen of the 32 second round games are in the books (yes they're calling it the "second round" this year) with the last half of the round on the slate for today. It's almost tough to imagine how day two could top day one, which saw four games decided in the last 4 seconds. Morehead State is now in our national conscience and will likely become the #1 best selling hat among frat boys everywhere. If you don't get why, just think about it for a second and it should come to you... Of course, whenever we think we've seen the best of march madness it usually just gets crazier.
Locally, all eyes will be on Villanova, who will be looking to rebound from their nightmare second half of the season in a first round matchup with George Mason. Gus Johnson is on tap to call that game, so it's almost certain to come down to the wire making Gus totally lose his mind in the process.
Hopefully your brackets aren't in too bad a shape after the first day. Personally, I went 11-5 and lost two of my sweet 16 picks. That was mostly due to me getting too upset happy in the Southeast region. I did get the Gonzaga pick right though and I nailed Richmond over Vanderbilt... For today, I went mostly chalk picks. Florida St. over Texas A&M is my only upset pick for day two.
Here's the full schedule for Friday.
12:15, CBS, Tulsa -- Texas vs. Oakland (Marv Albert/Steve Kerr)
12:40, truTV, Charlotte -- Michigan vs. Tennessee (Nantz/Kellogg)
1:40, TBS, Chicago -- Notre Dame vs. Akron (Spero Dedes/Bob Wenzel)
2:10, TNT, Cleveland -- George Mason vs. Villanova (Gus Johnson/Len Elmore)
2:45, CBS, Tulsa -- Arizona vs. Memphis (Albert/Kerr)
3:10, truTV, Charlotte -- Duke vs. Hampton (Nantz/Kellogg)
4:10, TBS, Chicago -- Texas A&M vs. Florida St. (Dedes/Wenzel)
4:40, TNT, Cleveland -- Ohio St. vs. UTSA (Johnson/Elmore)
6:50, TBS, Tulsa -- Kansas vs. Boston U. (Marv Albert/Steve Kerr)
7:15, CBS, Charlotte -- North Carolina vs. Long Island (Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg)
7:20, TNT, Chicago -- Purdue vs. St. Peter’s (Spero Dedes/Bob Wenzel)
7:27, truTV, Cleveland -- Xavier vs. Marquette (Gus Johnson/Len Elmore)
9:20, TBS, Tulsa -- UNLV vs. Illinois (Marv Albert/Steve Kerr)
9:45, CBS, Charlotte -- Washington vs. Georgia (Jim Nantz/Clark Kellogg)
9:50, TNT, Chicago -- Georgetown vs. VCU (Spero Dedes/Bob Wenzel)
9:57, truTV, Cleveland -- Syracuse vs. Indiana St. (Gus Johnson/Len Elmore)
Just like the title suggests, here's the video of Juan Fernandez's off balance 18 footer that propelled Temple past Penn State and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. You can read a recap of the entire thrilling first round tilt here. Without further ado, take it away Mr. Fernandez.
TUSCON, Ariz. -- The streak is over!
Juan Fernandez hit a leaner with under a second to go in the game to lift the Owls to their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2001. Temple beat Penn State then and they beat them again today, this time by a score of 66-64.
The Owls took a 64-61 lead with 28 seconds to go on a pair of Fernandez free throws. Talor Battle, Penn State's all-time leading scorer, knotted the game with 14.2 seconds remaining on a long three-pointer from the wing.
Fernandez took the ball out of a timeout and drove just within the three-point line, picking up his dribble with Penn State's Tim Frazier draped all over him. He made a few pivot moves and leaned into the jumper that won the game for the Owls and gave head coach Fran Dunphy his second career NCAA Tournament victory.
Dunphy, ever the player's coach, said in the post game presser that it was Khalif Wyatt's idea to give the ball to Juan to close the game.
"When we called time-out we were discussing what to run, and Khalif Wyatt, who I listen to all the time, he's got sage advice for me often, said, 'I think we need to just put it in Juan's hands,'" Dunphy said. "'Then if he is not ready to do it, then give it -- Juan will give it to Ramone and that's how we'll win the game.'"
Wyatt said the decision to give Fernandez the ball just made sense.
"Juan's our leader," said Wyatt, who finished the game with 10 points off the bench. "The ball's in his hands most of the game so we trust Juan to make smart decisions down the stretch."
"And when the time came we were in the huddle I just told coach that I think our best bet was to put the ball in Juan's hands and let him make a play. And I mean, Juan made a great play and rewarded us with a win."
Fernandez scored a season-high 23 points with 17 of them coming in the game's opening twenty minutes. The junior guard also had three assists and three rebounds.
Talor Battle led the Nittany Lions with 23 points but had a tough outing shooting the ball, going 8 of 21 from the field. He was 5 of 11 from beyond the arc and it seemed like all of his three-pointers came at critical junctures of the game for Penn State.
Dunphy called Battle's game-tying shot a 41-footer but the senior said distance doesn't matter to him.
"I just wanted to try to get to wherever I could shoot the ball clearly," said Battle. "One guy ran, Tim (Frazier) threw it to me and I just shot it. Right when I shot it it felt so good. I saw Reggie Miller and them going nuts, so I figured I was pretty far when I shot."
As big as Battle and Fernandez were for their respective teams, Ramone Moore may have been the most integral part of Temple's victory. The Philadelphia native scored 23 points 17 of them coming in the second half, interestingly enough.
11 of Moore's 17 second half points came in the game's final 7:20, including a run of nine straight that kept the Owls clinging to a precarious lead.
"Penn State were making a lot of baskets, and I kind of got on a roll," said Moore. "And I think my teammates noticed that. During the time-out coach said, Let's get the ball in Ramone's hand and running plays for me."
"And I think I capitalized, which is something I need to do for this team."
Temple started the game slowly as Penn State jumped out to a 20-11 lead with the game just eight minutes old. The Owls were able to chip into the Nits lead after senior forward Jeff Brooks was forced to take a seat on the bench after picking up his second foul with 10 minutes remaining.
Temple closed the half on a 23-13 run to take a two point lead into intermission.
Brooks lasted less than a minute in the second half as he dislocated his right shoulder for the second time this season. Junior guard Cameron Woodyard stepped in admirably for the senior forward but the injury changed the complexion of Penn State's offense.
"Jeff Brooks is a big part of what we do offensively we try to give him the ball around the basket," said Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis. "We really didn't get to the free-throw line tonight at all. And he usually is the guy we try to get the ball to around the basket to get fouled and get to the free-throw line and also rebound the basketball. So, you know, that was a little -- got us a little sideways for awhile.
"But that's not an excuse. I think our other kids came in and when Cam came off the bench, I had a gut feeling we needed to go with somebody else and went with him and he made a basket or two. We had a great fight. We had great energy. This is March, stuff happens. Good for Temple. Bad for us."
Lost in all the hubbub over Fernandez's game winner was the fact that senior Lavoy Allen had a very quiet night for the Owls. He had just three points despite the fact that he played the entire game. Allen did atone for his lack of offense with a game-high 11 rebounds and four blocks.
To outsiders, the fact that Allen was unable to impose his will offensively with Brooks out of the game may be damaging to Temple's long term NCAA plans.
From the way Dunphy spoke after the game it does not sound like he agrees with that sentiment.
"He didn't shoot the jumper well in the first half which meant he became a little reluctant to do that. He gets an offensive foul call in the second half, so he gets a little more reluctant," said Dunphy. "But I think there's nobody out there that trusts his teammates more than that. He doesn't need do all that."
"He is a deferring kind of guy. But seemed to me he was blocking and changing a lot of shots. He gets 11 rebounds and he is such a significant part of our team and I think a significant part of the game if you don't look closely at the box score."
Scootie Randall saw his first action since suffering a hairline fracture in his right foot against Richmond on Feb. 17. Randall certainly looked rusty despite the fact that he has been campaigning to rejoin the team for a few weeks now.
The junior was 0 for 1 from the floor in six minutes of action. Dunphy said that he was "thrilled" to get Randall some playing time but that he will be looking for him to get more comfortable at game speed.
The Owls will have their hands full on Saturday as they will take on the number two seed Aztecs of San Diego State, who handled Northern Colorado 68-50 Thursday afternoon.
The Temple Owls knocked off Penn St. 66-64 in what was arguably the wildest ending of the NCAA tournament so far. With under twenty seconds left, Nittany Lions guard Talor Batter hit a three pointer from at least 3-4 feet behind the 3-point line to to tie the game at 66. On the ensuing possession, with less than a second to go, Temple point guard Juan Fernandez hit an off balance 18-footer while double team to beat the buzzer and book the Owls place in the second round.
The game started with Talor Battle and Penn State on fire as they surged to a 9 point lead on the back of three early Battle threes. The Nittany Lions scored 20 points in the first 8 minutes of the first half, but Temple's defense tightened and held them to just 13 over the remaining 12 minutes of the half. The Owls would fight back to take a 35-33 halftime lead.
The second half wasn't characterized by the runs of the first half. In fact, neither team would lead by more than three for the rest of the game as the lead changed back and forth.
While Fernandez will deservedly get the headlines after his game winner and 23 point performance, the man that really kept Temple in the game in the second half was Ramone Moore who scored 17 of his 23 in the final frame. Penn State did do a great job of preventing LaVoy Allen from getting the ball in spots where he could score, limiting Temple's best player to just 3 points on 1-7 shooting. However, Allen still had a major influence on the outcome with his game leading 12 rebounds and 4 blocks
It was Temple's first NCAA tournament win since 2001 and broke coach Fran Dunphy's 11 game tournament losing streak. They will take on the winner of the San Diego State/Northern Colorado game.
No. 10 Penn State (19-14, 9-9 B10) vs. No. 7 Temple (25-7, 14-2 A10)
2:15 PM EST March 17, 2011
McKale Center Tuscon, Ariz.
Temple leads the series 59-32. These two teams met in the 2001 Sweet 16 with Temple coming out on top, 84-72. The Nittany Lions' last win in the series came on Dec. 9, 2001 by a score of 66-60.
12/5/2009 - The Owls and Nittany Lions combined for 87 total points in a game that set offensive basketball bag a few decades as Temple won 45-42. Penn State shot 34.9 percent (15 of 43) while Temple shot 30 percent (18 of 60). Ryan Brooks scored a game-high 19 points while Talor Battle scored eight on 3-of-15 shooting. Lavoy Allen was 3 of 12 from the field but finished the game with eight points to go along with his 12 rebounds.
Record at Temple: 109-56 (5th season)
All-Time Record: 419-219 (21st season)
Record at Penn State: 114-137 (8th season)
All-Time Record: 219-230 (15th season)
PPG: G Ramone Moore - 14.9
RPG: F Lavoy Allen - 8.4
APG: G Juan Fernandez - 4.1
PPG: G Talor Battle - 20.1
RPG: F Jeff Brooks - 6.5
APG: G Tim Frazier - 5.0
Lavoy Allen F - 11.8 ppg. 8.4 rpg. 1.8 bpg.
Rahlir Jefferson F - 5.6 ppg 5.1 rpg. .545 fg%
Aaron Brown G - 3.4 ppg. 1.0 rpg. 10.0 mpg.
Juan Fernandez G - 10.7 ppg. 3.0 rpg. 4.1 apg.
Ramone Moore G - 14.9 ppg. 4.3 rpg. 3.2 apg
Jeff Brooks F - 13.3 ppg. 6.5 rpg. 1.7 apg.
Andrew Jones F - 6.1 ppg. 5.5 rpg. 30.0 mpg.
David Jackson F - 9.8 ppg. 4.5 rpg. 0.6 apg.
Tim Frazier G - 6.0 ppg. 3.8 rpg. 5.0 apg.
Talor Battle G - 20.1 ppg. 4.5 rpg. 2.9 apg.
Temple (58-54 loss to Richmond)
From the Associated Press:
Juan Fernandez, the most outstanding player in last year's tournament, had a miserable day, shooting 3 of 17 from the field and missing a one-and-one chance with 17 seconds to play and the Owls down 57-54.
Temple did not score in the final 5 minutes after taking a 54-53 lead on a layup by Moore.
Trailing 46-43 after Wyatt hit a 3-pointer with 12:25 to play, Richmond scored the next eight points to take a 51-46 lead, with Anderson hitting a 3-pointer and a jumper to cap the spurt.
After Moore made a free throw and Harper hit a layup to push the lead to 53-47, Temple scored the next seven points.
Wyatt converted a three-point play and Moore scored on a pair of fastbreaks, putting the Owls ahead 54-53 with 5:03 to play and bringing the many Philadelphia-area fans in the crowd to their feet.
After a couple of fruitless possessions on both sides, Harper drove the lane and tipped in his own missed shot to put the Spiders ahead 55-54 with 3:48 to play.
Penn State (71-60 loss to No. 1 Ohio State)
From the Associated Press:
Penn State's Tim Frazier, who scored 22 points in the semifinal win over Michigan State, didn't score against Ohio State until 6:50 remained and finished with five points.
The Nittany Lions had allowed 45.3 points per game in their three tournament wins, but Ohio State surpassed that total with 13 minutes remaining. The Buckeyes shot 64 percent from the field in the second half.
The Buckeyes won their seventh straight game and became the second team in conference history to play in the final for three straight years. They also became the first repeat tournament champion since Michigan State in 1999 and 2000, and both of those teams reached the Final Four.
Temple and Penn State renew their hardwood rivalry in an odd location - 2,500 miles away from the Keystone State in Tuscon, Ariz. - I am not quite sure anyone knows what the committee's reasoning behind sending two East Coast programs out west is, to be honest.
Regardless of location, tomorrow afternoon's game is monumental for two reasons: 1) it marks the first time a Fran Dunphy led squad plays as an at-large team and 2) it is the first time in a very long time that Temple is matched up with a team it should be able to beat.
That's not to say that it will be a cake walk as the Nittany Lions are led by one of the nation's best kept secrets at guard in the form of senior Talor Battle. Check out this quote from Ohio State's Aaron Craft, a very solid defender.
"Talor's a great player," Craft said. "He does a great job of changing speeds, and you never know where he's going to go. Once I got into the game, I tried to do my best to keep him in front of me, and at times, he still goes by me."
That may sound like bad news for a team whose best perimeter defender is coming back from a hairline fracture in his right foot (don't worry folks, Keith Pompey reported tonight that Scootie is pain free and will play!). Word is that Ramone Moore more than held his own against Battle when the two teams met in a closed-door preseason scrimmage in State College but that was then and this is now.
Battle is an integral part of what Penn State does. He is used on 28.4 percent of Penn State's possessions and takes 31.8 percent of the team's shots this year. Battle has also played a whopping 95 percent of Penn State's total minutes. He is second in scoring behind Purdue's JaJuan Johnson in the offensively challenged Big 10 with 20.2 points per game.
One thing I have read on Temple message boards is that the key is getting Battle into early foul trouble. The problem with that theory is the fact that he has committed just 50 personal fouls all season. He averages 1.6 fouls committed per 40 minutes played which is good enough for 29th in the country. Conversely, he draws 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes.
Keeping Battle in check is the key. He scored just eight points in last year's defensive war at the Liacouras Center but had 19 in State College two years ago. A combination of Moore / Randall / Rahlir Jefferson with a little bit of T.J. DiLeo would be an idea way to try to counteract Battle's influence on the game.
(As an aside, I read on a Penn State website that will go nameless that Juan Fernandez is Temple's defensive stopper. I love Fernandez as much as the next 21-year-old girl but that might be the dumbest thing I've read since proofreading my last entry.)
Jeff Brooks is the other Lion that Temple will have to account for. He is second on the team with 13.3 points and shoots the ball very efficiently. His effective field goal percentage is 59.1 and his true field goal percentage is 61.2. Both are good enough to rank in the top 100 nationally.
While Brooks leads the team with 6.5 rebounds per game he isn't considered a banger down low. 6-10 senior and Philadelphia native Andrew Jones is Penn State's inside presence but at 6.1 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game he is not a game changer. I wouldn't be surprised to see Allen on Jones on most possessions while Rahlir Jefferson or Aaron Brown checks Brooks.
Penn State is essentially a five man team as the starters all average over 30 minutes per game. Third year freshman Billy Oliver sees the most time off the bench at 14.3 minutes per game. The Owls lucked out big time in drawing a team that has even less depth and size than they do.
The Nittany Lions average a Big 10 worst 63 points per game while they allow 62.4. The game is shaping up to be a defensive struggle but the one advantage that the Owls have is the fact that they have more players who are capable of going off offensively. Khalif Wyatt, Moore, Randall, Allen and Fernandez all have the ability to fill the basket up while Jefferson and Brown have the ability to surprise people offensively every now and then.
After last year's debacle I convinced myself that I would never pick Temple to win until they actually did so. I changed my tune when I saw the draw this year as Penn State is a vulnerable squad. I don't think that this game is going to be a laugher by any means but I do believe that the Owls have more than enough quality to advanced to the round of 32 on Saturday. Temple 61, Penn State 53
The NCAA tournament begins in earnest today in what they're now calling the "second round." This year, they're calling those four play-in games the "first round." You've probably already noticed this oddity on your brackets... Whatever it's called, the schedule today features the most anticipated local game, Temple vs Penn St. Vegas has the Owls as 2.5 point favorites and ESPN's bracket predictor has Temple winning in three of its four categories. When they based the outcome on the Decision Tree Model, which Leverages hundreds of team stats and contextual game information, Temple wins 72% of the time. Based on scoring margin and schedule strength, Temple wins 55% of the time while the computer simulation has the Owls taking 54% of the matchups. The "Similar Games Model" came out even.
So Temple certainly has a slight edge here, but this is still a pretty wide open matchup. Here's the full schedule for today.
THURSDAY, MARCH 17 (Noon-5:00, ET)
The Wall Street Journal came up with an interesting method for making their NCAA Tournament picks. They call it their "blindfold brackets." The idea is that they give you detailed descriptions of two teams without their names and you make you picks "blind." Forget seeds, forget conferences... just pick who appears to be the better team.
They enlisted a few bracket experts to use the service and the pickers were surprised at how different their blind picks were from their regular bracket. In fact, the pickers surveyed admitted that some of their picks were influenced by biases against certain conferences and players. But without those biases playing a factor, their brackets came out looking very different.
I did the blindfold bracket myself and came up with a final four of Ohio State, San Diego St, Kansas and BYU. San Diego State actually ended up as my national champion. Suffice to say, this was certainly different than my regular bracket. As for the locals, I had Temple and Villanova both winning a game, but losing in the second round.
My unblindfolded bracket had Ohio State, Connecticut, Florida & Kansas in the final four. I also only have Temple winning a game amongst the locals.
The Journal also picked the tournament using their analytical model and came up with a final four of Ohio St., Duke, Kansas & Wisconsin. They like the Badgers for their offensive efficiency and ability to prevent turnovers.
With the real round one of the tournament starting up TODAY, everyone is affixing their DVR’s to roll on Ludicrous Speed for as many games as it can hold without deleting the Glee episodes you haven’t watched. But if you can only watch/DVR one game (aside from the Temple/Penn State game that has been dividing counties all around us), the one to do it is Louisville vs. Morehead State. It’s a No. 4 vs. No. 13 matchup and rematch of the 2009 first-round No. 1 vs. No. 16 game that Morehead made interesting versus Terrence Williams and the Cardinals. It could get even more interesting today.
The game, which takes place in Denver 1:40 pm Eastern on TBS, pits two scrappy teams together without a superstar to showcase. But Kenneth Faried has as much rebounding talent as the NCAA has seen in years, having put up 13+ rebounds per game in each of the past three seasons. With the NBA Draft a few months away, people are throwing around Dennis Rodman comparisons, only without the crazy. He’s a guy to really look at today, if not only for his awesome dreadlocks. The team itself came just 6 points of beating current 2-seed Florida early on in the season, and could give Louisville fits on the glass if they don’t hit their shots.
The Cardinals are led by an odd trio of Peyton Siva, Preston Knowles, Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric, all of whom are under 6’4 but can seriously move on the court. If you like a team of unheralded guards, this is it. The game will pit Morehead State’s rebounding dominance against the outside shooting of the Big East powerhouse.
Should be a really interesting game, and has the makings of the best of the day.
Just like last year, President Obama has taken a few minutes to fill out his own presidential brackets for the NCAA Tournament. And just like last year, he's going with the chalk picks with all four No. 1 seeds in his final four. Also just like last year... he's got the Kansas Jayhawks winning it all. The commander-in-chief went 25-7 in the first round last season, but his bracket was blown up when Kansas was upset early. The previous year, he did nail the winner when he picked North Carolina.
His only upset in the East region is Marquette over Xavier. To be fair to the prez, most everyone is picking this region to go as expected. There aren't tons of really good upset picks in the East. In the West region he's got no upsets, but he does have UConn beating San Diego State to reach the Sweet 16. In the Southeast he's got Michigan State and Gonzaga pulling off first-round upsets, but still has Pitt coming out of the region.
"Because they’re in what looks like the weakest bracket in the tournament, I think Pittsburgh is going to pull this one out," he said.
He's got Kansas and Purdue coming out of the Southwest with the Jayhawks winning it all.
"I picked Kansas last year and I got hurt," Obama said. "But I’m looking at those twins – the Morris brothers – and I think they’ve got depth and experience."
Hey Philadelphia 76ers...I brought you to this thread to tell you something. Boy this is hard. Listen, there is someone else. Please don't yell. It's just a fling...It will only last a few weeks. After that I will be back. It's just...It's just they give me something you don't. They remind me of you in so many ways...Just younger and more ambitious. Their name? Why do you want to know their name? Fine...It's the NCAA Tournament. Wait...where are you going? Don't leave! (Awkward)
Sorry you had to read that folks, was supposed to be private.
Anyway, after a great weekend covering the A-10 Tournament, I am in full on college basketball mode. I figured I would grace you all with some of my picks...After all, I am an official "Bracketology Scientist." (It's true, ask analyst Greg Anthony! He will vouch for me.)
First let me give you the rules I use to fill out my bracket:
Here are a few first round games which may be difficult to pick.
No. 9 Villanova vs. No. 8 George Mason
Let's start with one of the two Philadelphia teams. Many experts are predicting a GMU victory here. Not surprising considering the slide the Wildcats have been on. George Mason almost knocked Nova out of a tournament in Puerto Rico last year and returns everyone. But I would not pencil in the Patriots just yet.
Villanova was one of the best teams in the nations earlier this year when they were at full strength. Since then they have been decimated by injuries to starters Corey Stokes and Mouphtaou Yarou. Now Nova has the advantage of having a full week of practice with a healthy roster.
Villanova is a very talented team who could make a run comparable to 1985.
Regardless of whether or not the Wildcats win the NCAA Championship this year, I am going with Rule 7. Villanova will win this game.
No. 7 Temple vs. No. 10 Penn St.
Let's get the local schools out of the way first. This match-up had me floundering on my first rule: Don't second guess yourself. If you asked me about this game on Sunday, I would have answered like I did to a friend of mine who called for advice.
Friend: So who do you like in the Temple, Penn St. game?
Friend: Really that confide...
Friend: But what about...
Friend: You're an a-hole!
However, after watching Comcast SportsRise this morning I learned more about the Nittany Lions season. They've beaten Wisconsin twice and Michigan St. twice. Senior guard Talor Battle is averaging 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists on the year. Statistics like these frightened me.
I needed to reassess the rules...Oh No, Rule 5! We need another rule! Nice...Rule 2! Temple's match-up zone is one of the best and most complex to figure out. As I mentioned before, Dunphy has his team running very efficiently. With Scootie Randall back at practice, I have Temple winning this one.
No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Richmond
This is my upset special. I was shocked when I saw how high of a seed Richmond received. The Spiders finished the season 27-7 in a good Atlantic 10 Conference. They won games against ranked teams Purdue and Temple as well as the A-10 Conference Championship.
Besides a win against UNC, Vanderbilt has played a weak out of conference schedule. In conference they lost to Florida three times, Tennessee twice and split with Kentucky. The only other tournament teams they beat were Georgia, Marquette and Belmont, none of which are below a 10 seed.
Now a lot of you are probably saying, "Umm...they beat UNC who is a two seed." True, they did, but it was during a Thanksgiving tournament in Puerto Rico. To give you a little more information about how many upsets occur at tournaments in tropical places; my alma mater, Monmouth University, beat nationally ranked Vanderbilt in Hawaii when I was playing. It happens.
Richmond matches up well against the Commodores, in a contest which adheres to several of the rules. Spiders win this game and move on.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Belmont
People are going crazy with this game. This has become everyone's upset special. But why? Belmont is the number one team in several computer simulations based on points scored, margin of victory, etc. They were definitely the best team in the Ohio-Valley Conference...Playing against the likes of Tennessee St., Tennessee Tech, and the wildly popular University of Tennessee at Martin.
People, it is Belmont! Sure Wisconsin's style allows for close games, but those games are against teams like Purdue and Ohio St. My prediction, Wisconsin by no less than 15.
Those are four of the more challenging games some of you may be undecided on. I have included my bracket of the first round for you all to peruse. I would put the remaining rounds, but I don't give all my information right away. I'm not that kind of guy. You will need to read my analysis for each round.
Last little bit of analysis...Pace yourself people! Don't celebrate the early games too early then be a belligerent mess for the evening.
Happy St. Patty's Day!
It’s a full night of Gus Johnson and play in games tonight on TruTV, if you can find it. Yesterday, Clemson crushed UAB and UNC Asheville got by Arkanasa Little Rock to play their ways into the tournament. Today, the tournament will welcome its final two teams into the fray.
Tiny Alabama State takes on UT San Antonio in the first game tonight at 6:40 pm. The winner unfortunately gets Ohio State in the first round, but for these two teams just being there is probably the reward. Both were low seeds in small conference tournaments, so before last week no one would have predicted either of them would be here. UTSA is favored by 4 and amazingly is the only team in the the field of 68 who has not played another team from the field this season.
At 9:10pm USC takes on Virginia Commonwealth in a game where the Trojans are favored by 4.5. The player to watch in this game is USC forward Nikola Vucevic, who averaged over 17 points a game and over 10 rebounds a game. He’s got NBA size at 6-10, 260-pounds and could make himself a first round pick with a big showing in the tournament. The winner of the USC/VCU matchup will face sixth seeded Georgetown on Friday in Chicago.
Everyone knows that guy in the office that nailed picked Cornell or St. Mary's or Washington in his NCAA tournament bracket last year and has been bragging about it since then. Picking the big upsets is where the glory is and it's how you separate yourself from all those people making the "chalk" picks and ending up with four #1 seeds in the final. So we're here to help with some upset picks for the first round of the NCAA tournament.
These are all based on Accuscore game simulations that have been run 10,000 times.
#11 Missouri Tigers over #6 Cincinnati Bearcats - The Mizzou Tigers won 55% of these matchups with average score of about 72-70. So as 6-11 matchups go, this one is close, which makes Mizzou a nice upset pick.
#12 Richmond Spiders over #5 Vanderbilt Commodores - The 5-12 matchups are always ones ripe for upsets and this year look for Atlantic 10 tournament champs Richmond to knock off Vanderbilt. The Spiders won 55% of the simulated matchups.
This leads us to the Southeast region, which is absolutely rife with potential upsets. This is an interesting region because it has good #1 and #2 seeds, but otherwise could really be totally open.
#13 Belmont Bruins over #4 Wisconsin Badgers - Belmont is 21-1 over their last 22 games, has only lost 4 times all year and is one of the hottest teams in the country coming into the tournament. Over 10,000 simulations these two split 50/50, making Belmont the best bet for an upset among the 12 seeds.
#11 Gonzaga Bulldogs over #6 St. John's Red Storm - This is a really solid upset pick with the Zags winning 57% of the simulations. The loss of the Johnnies leading rebounder and defender, senior forward D.J. Kennedy is likely a big factor here.
The 2011 NCAA Tournament field is set, and we can finally focus on the actual matchups as opposed to what they may be. So let's take a look at when the local teams will be playing, and where you can find those games.
Two Pennsylvania teams will be matched up when Temple faces Penn St. in the first round. That game will be played in Tucson, Arizona at 2:10 p.m. on Thursday. You can find the game on TNT and it will be called by Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Dan Bonner. So hopefully someone loses their regard for human life at some point during this one.
Villanova is the other local team that made the field, and they have one of the more interesting matchups in the entire tournament. They face George Mason in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday at 2:10 p.m.. The game can seen on TNT and will be called by Gus Johnson and Len Elmore, who has a history of being even more ridiculous than Harlan.
So get ready for a few days of good old fashioned afternoon basketball, and keep checking this stream for all the latest news and updates.
The selection committee has completed their work and the brackets for the 2011 NCAA Tournament have been released. Ohio State takes the #1 overall seed in the tournament and will be in the East bracket. Kansas takes the #1 seed in the Southwest, Duke is a #1 in the West and Pittsburgh is the final #1 seed in the Southwest bracket.
Three locals will be dancing as well. Temple is a #7 seed in the West bracket and will face #10 seeded Penn State in the first round. Temple is one of three Atlantic 10 teams in the dance. There should be some pretty good trash talk around a lot of Philly area watercoolers on Monday morning about this game. As our pals at Black Shoes Diaries pointed out, these two schools are very familiar with one another and while Penn State has dominated Temple in football, the Owls have dominated the series in basketball.
Villanova is a #9 seed and gets to stay near home in the East bracket. They will take on CAA champs George Mason in the first round. Should Nova get past George Mason, they'll likely have a second round matchup with the tournament's #1 overall seed Ohio State. As expected, the Wildcats were among 11 Big East teams in the tournament.
This year, it's a 68 team tournament and will begin on Tuesday. Two games will pit #16 seeds against one another and the other two games will feature the "last four" at large teams playing one another.
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