HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04: Tyler Olander #10 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after defeating the Butler Bulldogs to win the National Championship Game of the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament by a score of 53-41 at Reliant Stadium on April 4, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

NCAA Championship Game 2011: UConn Wins National Title With 53-41 Win Over Butler

Jim Calhoun becomes the oldest coach to ever win a national title

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How UConn Beat Butler to Win the National Championship

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.

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NCAA Championship Game 2011: UConn Wins National Title With 53-41 Win Over Butler

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.

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NCAA Championship Game: UConn Vs. Butler Preview and Prediction

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.

Butler Bulldogs

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.

Connecticut Huskies

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.

Though Jim Calhoun had played Niels Giffey and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel more in the season, he has limited his rotation to really just 6 guys during the tournament.

Prediction

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

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NCAA Tournament Final Four: UConn Eliminates Kentucky to Advance to Championship Game

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.

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NCAA Tournament Final Four: Butler Ends VCU's Run, Will Return to National Title Game

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.

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NCAA Tournament Final Four Preview: Kentucky Vs. UConn

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.

Prediction

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

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NCAA Tournament Results: Kentucky Edges UNC, Final Four is Set

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.

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NCAA Tournament Results: VCU Shocks Kansas, Advances To Final Four

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.

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NCAA Tournament Results: Big Ten Joins Big East As Tourney Disappointments

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.

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NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: Butler Stifles Wisconsin to Advance

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.

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NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: Derrick Williams Goes Insane, Arizona Upsets Duke

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.

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NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: Florida Ends Jimmer Fredette's BYU Career

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.

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NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen: Kemba Walker Leads UConn over San Diego State

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.

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NCAA Bracket Update: The Sweet 16

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.

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NCAA Bracket Update: Temple Falls In Double Overtime To #2 San Diego St.

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.

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NCAA Tournament: Temple - San Diego State Gameday Preview

#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

ALL-TIME
Arizona State leads the series 1-0. The only meeting between these two squads came back in 1981.

LAST TIME
12/30/198
1 - The Aztecs knocked off the visiting Owls by a score of 75-64 in the Cabrillo Classic at the San Diego Sports Arena.

HEAD COACHES
Temple

Fran Dunphy
Record at Temple: 110-56 (5th season)
All-Time Record: 420-219 (21st season)

San Diego State
Steve Fisher

Record at SDSU: 231-151 (12th season)
All-Time Record: 415-233 (20th season)

TOP PERFORMERS
Temple
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

PROBABLE STARTERS
Temple

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.

LAST OUTING
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."

THE MATCHUP
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.

PREDICTION
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

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NCAA Bracket Update: Villanova Collapses Again, George Mason Advances

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.

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Juan's Shining Moment: Fernandez's Buzzer Beater Lifts Temple Over Penn State 66-64

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.

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NCAA Tournament Results: Juan Fernandez Buzzer Beater Lifts Temple Over Penn State

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.

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NCAA Basketball Tournament: Temple - Penn State Preview

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.

ALL-TIME
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.

LAST TIME
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.

HEAD COACHES
Temple

Fran Dunphy
Record at Temple: 109-56 (5th season)
All-Time Record: 419-219 (21st season)

Penn State
Ed DeChellis
Record at Penn State: 114-137 (8th season)
All-Time Record: 219-230 (15th season)

TOP PERFORMERS
Temple

PPG: G Ramone Moore - 14.9
RPG: F Lavoy Allen - 8.4
APG: G Juan Fernandez - 4.1

Penn State
PPG: G Talor Battle - 20.1
RPG: F Jeff Brooks - 6.5
APG: G Tim Frazier - 5.0

PROBABLE STARTERS
Temple

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

Penn State
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.

LAST OUTING
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.

THE MATCHUP
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.

PREDICTION
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

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