Posted on: March 28, 2010 7:54 pm
Edited on: March 28, 2010 7:56 pm
Duke 78, Baylor 71
After watching fellow one seeds Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse go home early from the tournament, Duke avoided upset against Baylor to advance to the Final Four. It is the Blue Devils first trip to the Final Four since 2004.
Nolan Smith was unstoppable.
Smith scored a career-high 29 points to the lead the Blue Devils. John Scheyer added 20 points and Kyle Singler couldn't buy a bucket. Singler needed 5 free throws to get on the scorecard while shooting 0-10 from the field.
Baylor did an atrocious job of boxing out and grabbing defensive rebounds late in the game. Duke scored much of its big points down the stretch on second chance shots, including three big 3-pointers in a two minute span.
Grow a pair, ref.
Baylor had momentum and was looking to stretch its lead to five with 4:37 to go when Quincy Acy was called for an offensive foul. Had it gone the other way (the correct way), the foul would've been on Brian Zoubek, his fifth. The call was terrible and completely changed the game from that point forward. Zoubek remained in the game and momentum swung to Duke's favor. I guess the easiest road to the Final Four wasn't enough for Duke, they needed a few crucial calls, too.
Ekpe Udoh is the real deal.
Udoh is a long, athletic big man that can rebound, create his own shot, and dunk. And he dunks quite often. This kid should expect a big NBA check soon.
Scott Drew needs a statue on Baylor's campus.
In 2003, the Baylor basketball team hit the lowest of lows with the disappearance and murder of Patrick Dennehy. Insert new head coach Scott Drew and seven years later, the Bears are in the national spotlight and fell just short of a trip to the Final Four. It's truly a remarkable turnaround.
"LaceDarius" and "Tweety" are two awesome names. I'm considering changing my name to one of the two. Or, maybe even a combination like LaceTweety or TweetDarius.
Bring on the Huggy Bear
Duke moves on to face West Virginia in the tournament semifinals. This one might as well be the title game.
Posted on: March 27, 2010 12:29 am
Edited on: March 27, 2010 12:31 am
In case you weren't aware, Purdue was playing without Robbie Hummel tonight.
Truly, you haven't been able to hear the name Purdue over the past month without someone chiming in that they've lost Hummel, arguably the Boilermakers' greatest star this season. Seriously. It's everywhere. I think I myself have written that upwards of a hundred times since this blog began. He hasn't played a second, and he's all anyone can talk about regarding Purdue.
That said, how would you like to be Purdue and battle that for your entire postseason? How many times a day do you think JaJuan Johnson gets asked each day what this tournament season would be like if Hummel were there? The doggedness of having to field questions and judgments about Hummel's absence is probably more of a detriment than Hummel's actual absence.
Tonight that absence may have finally caught up to the surging, overcompensating Boilermakers as Duke sent them packing 70-57. Coach K's number one seed was simply a better team than the boys from Indiana, and though Matt Painter's expert coaching job kept finding new ways for his team to dismount solid opponents, it wasn't meant to be. Perhaps their luck just ran out. Perhaps they were just tired. Or perhaps Duke was just too good for them.
We're going to hear more about Duke in the next few days, perhaps even the next week, but I don't think we should let this Purdue team slide into the night without giving them their due. Here's a team that, for weeks now, has been told they can't do something because one of their key players is out. Siena was everyone's "lock" to beat them because it was believed that without Hummel, they were nothing. Wrong. Then it was Texas A&M's turn to get pumped because, as the press would have us believe, Purdue couldn't do it again without Hummel. Again, wrong. Strangely enough, it seemed there were other guys on this team; and amazingly, they wanted to win this tournament as well. Imagine that.
I say kudos to the Boilermakers in this tournament. Everyone kept expecting them to lose, and tonight they did -- to a one-seed -- but not before proving everyone that losing one guy doesn't mean it's time to hang it up and go home. This was a great story that's very underreported, and these guys deserve a standing ovation for putting up with all the slings and arrows tossed their way since Hummel's injury on February 24th. So way to go, guys. You may have been a four seed on paper, but the world for some reason was against you. And you shut a lot of folks up.
Duke progresses to play the three-seed Baylor in the South region finals on Sunday at 5:05 PM.
Posted on: March 26, 2010 2:23 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2010 2:25 pm
Welcome to Houston, everyone -- also known as "Space City" -- for two great matchups from the Southern Region of the bracket tonight. I can tell you're not from here, because your car doesn't have giant cattle horns attached to the grill, so let me break down the head-to-heads going down at Reliant Stadium this very evening:
SAINT MARY'S vs. BAYLOR (7:27 PM)
Jim Nantz, with his matinee idol good looks, and Clark Kellogg, with his interesting pronunciations of everyday words, will be on-hand tonight for the games in Houston, opening up with surprise Saint Mary's taking on the number three-seeded Baylor Bears. From a logistical standpoint, this should be a Baylor lean -- but the Gaels have astounded everyone in this tournament (for my money, they've been the most consistently strong cinderella in a wacky, wacky season), and I'm not sure that Saint Mary's isn't in some circles a bit of a favorite here. The Bears are good, but the Gaels are constantly proving that they're better than you thought they were.
So is there anything we should know? Yes, actually.
Watch out for Tweety Carter, running the show from behind the scenes. He's not going to be a leading scorer. He's not going to blow you away with assists or rebounds. In fact, if you look at the box scores you may not even know he's a major factor But watch any amount of Baylor playing basketball and you'll see that Carter is the engine that makes this team run. He's a huge leader on this team as far as setting the pace and keeping his teammates pumped, and that means a lot for a team. He's quiet and consistent and his teammates look to him often. If he's taken off the court, it's a step in the right direction for the Gaels to diffuse the Baylor bomb.
Omar Samhan isn't going to be the biggest man out there. The Saint Mary's center is going to have his hands full with a tall Baylor team tonight, including 6'10 Ekpe Udoh, 6'10" Anthony Jones and 7-foot Josh Lomers. We've seen how Samhan can run roughshod on a shorter team, but tonight we'll see how he goes head-to-head with some other big men, which should be fun.
Mickey McConnell is shooting 52% from three-point land right now. Yes, I hate the phrase "three-point land," too. But Samhan has a great supporting cast, including point guard Mickey McConnell, who has been a great backup to Samhan thus far. The two make a great tandem that brings a lot of firepower to the battle, and Baylor needs to double-tier their game plan to effectively cover whoever's "on" tonight. Because one of them, if not both of them, will be. Bet on that.
Baylor has the best names in the Tournament this year. You have to love a team that not only has a Tweety, a Quincy Acy, a LaceDarius and a Dragan, but at the same time has a Fred, a Nolan and an Oscar. That beats Saint Mary's Bens, Matthews and Tims any day.
Scott Drew is a good coach, if widely unliked. Baylor's coach has been slammed by Rick Barnes for negative recruiting tactics and rumors abound that he's not even incredibly liked by his own staff. Drew himself even has said that he'd do things differently as far as his approach to staff and colleagues if he had it to do over again. The Dallas Morning News even compared him to Eddie Haskell. That said, he's done very well for Baylor and if the Bears do well in this tourney, Drew could get some offers elsewhere. Although we know what happened the last time a semi-unliked coach from Texas had a great stint and took a major league job. How'd that work out, Kentucky?
The Bottom Line: If Baylor thinks this is in the bag, they're wrong. The Gaels are cruising on adrenaline big-time and Omar Samhan's tweets from this week not only hit on Taylor Swift and referenced GTL-ing, they also gave a glimpse into a team that knows they have to work hard but doesn't see why they shouldn't make the final four. Could be a bare-knuckler in Houston tonight between these two if Saint Mary's trademark scrappiness shows up again.
DUKE vs. PURDUE (9:57 PM)
On one hand, Duke's not exactly a surprise to be where they are right now. On the other, I don't know that anyone expected Purdue to really have handled the absence of gamechanger Robbie Hummel this well. So what happens when the Boilermakers and the Blue Devils go at it tonight?
Purdue's number could be up. Let's be honest, the Boilermakers have more than exceeded expectations in this tournament after losing Hummel (they're an impressive 5-2 since they lost him in February), especially since one of the major storylines coming into this tournament was the oft-echoed -- and as it turns out, ultimately wrong -- "Purdue's no good without Robbie Hummel." JaJuan Johnson and Chris Kramer in patricular are really stepping up. That said, they're really going to have to scale the wall to beat a Duke team that seems to have that trademark Duke NCAA Tourney luck and magic this season. Purdue shouldn't be counted out, but this may be the first game this tournament where they're gonna wish they had Hummel. How they cope with that is up to them.
Duke's stats stack the chips in their favor. Statistically, Duke is 17-1 at neutral sites over the last two seasons, and in NCAA Tourney play they're 10-4 against the Big Ten. Coach K always has his boys ready to play in the postseason, and this team was already rollin' ("stroking" as Billy Raftery might creepily say) coming in to this tournament. They're going to be a handful for the Boilermakers tonight, but this Purdue team is constantly finding ways to keep themselves on top.
This will be a classic offense vs. defense game. Just as some baseball games are hyped as "pitchers vs. hitters," so this game sits in a very black and white place. Purdue's playing great defense right now, a sense heightened by necessity after losing Hummel. But Duke's offense is a complete blitzkrieg right now. The victor of this game could come down to as simple as whichever team's doing its thing better. If Purdue's defense cracks or Duke's offense slips up, this game could change at a moment's notice.
Luke Wilson and the Ivan Brothers will, once again, wear you out. Yes, we get it. The fictional Ivan Brothers are really good -- but so unconvential! And yes, we also get that Luke Wilson's phone must not be ringing a lot these days (even with his amazing at&t plan). Every year there's something at every commercial break that you just start tuning out, and this year it's these guys.
The Bottom Line: Duke has the edge, but Purdue for some reason seems to have a lot to prove, and that's a big motivator for them right now. If their gas doesn't run out, they could give the Blue Devils a scare -- but they're going to need to be at the top of their game.
Either way, Houston's going to be a good time tonight. Join me, won't you?
Posted on: March 19, 2010 10:03 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2010 10:04 pm
Let's look back on Arkansas-Pine Bluff's great memories from this tournament. There was that day and a half they had between the play-in game to the first round, where they could get excited in the hours they weren't sleeping. So that's probably about twenty hours total of excitement and preparation. Then there's the long trip from Pine Bluff to Providence. The hotel check-in, where someone on the team probably said something funny and everyone laughed. Good times. Maybe someone made a funny face and someone else took a picture of it. Then it's off to Dunkin' Donuts Arena, where Duke's Kyle Singler shoots over you for roughty thirty-two minutes, and then it's back to Pine Bluff. Times to remember.
Unfortunately for the Golden Lions, there's no charm for a charm bracelet that signifies "You worked your ass off in the play-in game and had less than a day to truly prepare to be fed to an unforgiving number one seed" (QVC, I'm working on that charm, so hands off). And while you might find the odd 16-versus-one seed game that looks competitive up until about five minutes into the second half, there's also that 16-versus-one seed game that just sits up in the corner of your screen, growing grimmer and grimmer, like something decomposing, and you're glad you didn't watch that game.
I did, in fact, watch that game. And in case you were wondering, Duke drilled Arkansas-Pine Bluff directly into the ground, 73-44. For some reason, it always seems to be Duke with the first-round demolition, probably because they're often a number one seed, and even when they're not, they're usually handed a piece of cake as a first game.
But let us, tonight, not bury Arkansas-Pine Bluff but instead praise them. Because you can take nothing away from the Golden Lions. You guys made it here fair and square, and you deserved to be here. It's not your fault you were a sixteen-seed tournament champ who had to play the play-in. And it's not your fault that you drew number one seed Duke. But you know what? You made the Big Dance, Golden Lions. You were a part of the whole thing. Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg called your game, and Clark talked about your "strimpf." You earned the same treatment as anyone else in this tournament, and don't let this crushing get you down. You were here. And that's still a lot more than many teams will ever be able to say. So hold your head high. Remember you played your part in the 2010 NCAA Tourney. And don't forget to turn in your room keys to the front desk and pay for any incidentals incurred during your stay. See you later.
Posted on: March 14, 2010 4:22 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2010 4:28 pm
If we learned anything from Duke's 65-61 win over Georgia Tech today, it's that Kyle Singler will not tolerate anymore of Dick Vitale's ranting. Singler dove into the broadcast table with the fury of a masked luchadore, taking out Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman in the process. Luckily, everyone was ok after the play and Vitale's glass eye stayed in place.
As for the actual game, Duke looked to be cruising to victory but let an 11 point lead with six minutes left slip to just one. The Blue Devils needed a three-pointer from Jon Scheyer with 18 seconds on the clock to fight off the late Georgia Tech run. Scheyer finished with 16 points and Kyle Singler scored 20 to lead Duke to their league-record 18th tournament title. Duke has now won nine of the past 12 ACC Tournaments.
Duke likely sealed the deal on a #1 spot in the NCAA Tournament with the win.
Posted on: March 12, 2010 12:16 am
Edited on: March 12, 2010 1:17 am
After what already seems to be four to five weeks of conference tournaments in our rear view mirror, Selection Sunday is now coming up on the horizon and things are starting to sort themselves out a bit. On Thursday, some teams were relegated to the bubble and prayers (Memphis) while some teams continued their post-season hoops hopes (Notre Dame). With 27 games on the docket for Friday, including the Patriot League Championship, answers are certain to be headed the way of all college basketball fans. Before we get started, though, let's look back at what turned out to be a big-time Thursday in the world of college basktball.
Will the Onuaku injury affect seeding? - Perhaps the biggest story on Thursday (besides Syracuse's loss) was the injury suffered by Syracuse big man Arinze Onuaku which, depending on who you talk to, is either major or minor. Onuaku will have an MRI on Friday and the results will be available….probably after the seeding is announced. Especially if it’s serious. Regardless of what the injury turns out to be, you’d have to assume the Orange is fairly safe with their #1 seed. What they need to be more concerned about, however, is how a team that is now essentially only six-deep is going to respond in a two games in three days tournament setting.
The Big Names are Done - It was really only a matter of time until they all bid adieu to this year’s college basketball season, but a trio of big name programs finally had the final nail placed in their post-season coffin on Thursday. North Carolina jumped out to a double-digit lead against Georgia Tech and then came out in the second half looking all North Carolina-like and gave the game away. Tom Crean’s Indiana Revival, still sputtering along in year two, took a thumping at the hands of mighty Northwestern while Arizona’s run of 25 straight NCAA tourney appearances came to an end (after two years of undeserved bids) against another traditional power on life support, UCLA. They say things are going to get better. I say at least they didn’t give up like UConn. I am worried about Sean Miller, though. The losses seem to be taking their toll and he’s gone from looking like a sober Billy Gillispie to Texas A&M Billy Gillispie. That’s not a good trend.
If a tree falls in the Staples Center, does it make a sound? - The national media wrote the Pac-10 off a long, long time ago. Surprisingly, the Pac-10 fans apparently have done the same. Outside of the Salt Lake City's Megaplex 12 during the premiere of I Got the Hookup, it’s possible that no venue has ever been so empty for such a fan-friendly event. I watched Oregon and Washington’s overtime affair Wednesday night (a great game) while feeding my son and the Staples Center appeared to have about only 7-8 people more than my couch. When UCLA plays in their home city and can’t get fans, you know it’s bad. However, the Pac-10 tournament did introduce me to Rebecca Haarlow, so it can’t be all bad, right?
Coaching redemption in C-USA - With John Calipari gone from Memphis, the national spotlight has dimmed significantly on the only official conference of the United States. UTEP seized the opportunity and grabbed the regular season title with a 15-1 record, but it’s a couple of underdog coaches that are making the most of their chances. Seventh-seeded Houston coach Tom Penders is being reported as a dead man walking whose employment only lasts as long as his team’s season. After an upset of second-seeded Memphis, it lasts another day. His semifinal opponent, Southern Miss, is coached by another recognizable name trying to make the most of his situation. Larry Eustachy, the disgraced former Iowa State coach, has made steady improvements in his sixth season in Hattiesberg and brought home his 20th win in an upset of UAB (and their former big name coach Mike Davis). By Friday evening, one of these two maligned coaches will be one win away from going dancing.
Jimmer! - Obviously wanting to prove that Montana's Anthony Johnson isn't the only guy out west who can fill it up, BYU junior Jimmer Fredette poured in a Mountain West tournament record 45 points in a win over TCU. Fredette, who had been battling strep throat, mono, a stomach virus, typhoid fever, the mumps, pink eye, an ingrown toenail and Osgood Schlatter's disease, returned to the lineup with a bang, though I feel his 45 points are cheapened a bit by 23 made free throws. Anthony Johnson wouldn't do that. But, I do respect The Jimmer for his honesty displayed in this interview, perhaps the most honest in college basketball history (fast forward to 3:45).
The Almosts - Oh, how close they came. Air Force and LSU, winners of a combined three conference games, pushed a pair of highly ranked teams to the brink. LSU gave Bruce Pearl and Tennessee all they could handle before fading down the stretch and Air Force lost a heartbreaker to New Mexico, 75-69. I wish we could say some inspiring things to both teams but there’s nothing left to say. Except maybe to just clean out their lockers. You don’t want this season lingering any longer than it has to.
The other #1 seeds take the floor Friday - On Thursday, Syracuse fell to Georgetown and Kansas got a good little push from Texas Tech. On Friday, the presumed other two top seeds, Kentucky and Duke, take the floor and try to get used to their dancing shoes. Duke will square off with Virginia, a team that once lead the conference and snapped a nine-game losing streak Thursday, in a game where they’ll be heavily favored. With West Virginia still in contention for a Big East title, the Dukies might have to win the ACC tournament to keep their top seed. Meanwhile, John Calipari will lead his troops against Alabama in his first ever SEC tournament game. The Cats beat the Tide on February 9 and shouldn’t encounter much trouble. However, they then will likely face Tennessee and Vanderbilt in loseable games. Their #1 footing is more solid than Duke’s, but it's important that the young Cats get comfortable in the post-season tournament setting before embarking on the what is shaping up to be a journey full of very high expectations.
Illinois vs. Wisconsin 2:00 pm
* denotes championship game
Posted on: February 28, 2010 10:11 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2010 10:23 pm
The Duke Blue Devils came into John Paul Jones Arena to face Virginia and left with a blowout win. The #5 team in the nation took out the Cavs 67-49 in front of a packed house. Virginia was doomed from the start as their star player Sylves Landesberg warmed up before the game but sat out with a thigh bruise. Landesberg scored 27 in UVA's last game against Miami.
Duke's Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler combined for 41 (8 points shy of tying Virginia's entire team) and were the only Blue Devils in double-figures.
Although the game was about as entertaining as Duke's "Great Moments in Cinematic History", the atmosphere and, more importantly, the media room buffet were great.
Here are a few random notes from our final stop on this man-tastic voyage:
John Paul Jones Arena is awesome. I can see why SI.com named it the "Best New Arena" of the decade. It's like an NBA arena but with the feel of the college atmosphere. Students fill most of the lower level of the arena with luxury suites surround both sides of the court behind them. If I could just make my way into one of the suites, there could be some heavy boozing and cougar hunting going down after the game.
JPJ holds 14,593 people in orange t-shirts and 14,000 of them get to participate in contests during breaks. At halftime, one student was unable to identify Eminem and Britney Spears in the "Hoo's that Face?" celebrity photo game.
John Paul Jones was a naval commander in the American Revolutionary War. He is not John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. He is not James Earl Jones of having a deep voice. He is not Paul Jones, Ricky Steamboat's NWA tag team partner. And he is certainly not Mark Paul Gosselaar of Saved By The Bell. (Although, all of the aforementioned people would make awesome arenas.)
Tony Bennett is the head coach of Virginia. It wasn't until the 5:00 minute mark in the second half that I realized it's not the same Tony Bennett that sang along with Barbra Streisand. Damn.
Duke is good. Or Virginia is bad. I think it's a mixture of both. Like Matt said earlier, I want to hate the Blue Devils but they're tough. I think they'll make a run in March but lack the dominant post presence to win it all.
Jon Scheyer is a candidate for National Player of the Year. Not really. But that's what the flyers in the media room said. Seems like a waste of print to me.
Virginia's Sammy Zeglinski is tough. Unfortunately, he's undersized. At 6'0, he's having a hard time defending and getting his shot off but he certainly isn't getting pushed around, either. I think we're watching a Charlottesville YMCA legend in the making.
JPJ Arena is the leader in t-shirt cannon technology. I don't know what's powering that fan-friendly weapon but it'll take your head off if you're not ready. I think everyone in Upper Level Row DD will be leaving with a new addition to their wardrobe. JPJ also has a tank known as the "Ball Blaster" which encourages fans to "catch the blue balls". As if the group of male students behind the cheerleaders need more of those.
JJ Redick jerseys were prevalent in the visiting section. Unlike his basketball career, JJ Redick jerseys are still relevant.
Duke fans travel. Not quite as much as we do, but more than the home crowd. The Blue Devils had quite the crowd showing tonight despite the insignificance of this game in the big picture.
I'm tired. As much as I'd like to keep on living the college basketball dream in a Kia Rondo, I don't know if my body can take any more Super 8's or gas station food. We have a 7 hour drive ahead of us and then the College Basketball Road Trip will be no more.
Stay tuned for a few tour wrap-up posts before we bid farewell for good.
Posted on: February 28, 2010 7:36 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2010 7:43 pm
I will be honest, hating Duke has been a big part of my life. From the moment Christian Laettner made his famous shot in 1992 against my Kentucky Wildcats until the present day, I have spent too much of my life hoping Duke would lose basketball games. It isnt really a healthy way to be, as we all should rise above such petty problems and move onto a higher level of consciousness. And I definitely try. But then I would see Greg Paulus slap the floor or Coach K bait an official, and cheering for a loss seemed so natural. It has been even worse for me because I actually attended Duke for law school, and while I was there they won a national title in 2001. You dont know misery until the team you dislike with all your heart wins a championship with you on campus...it
But now it is time to attempt to move on. Since we have been doing this CBS gig, I have done my best to remain neutral. That has meant that I have called them as I have seen them, with praise coming for Evan Turner and scorn for Rick Pitino. Those werent due to biases, but the facts as I saw them. But this is Duke...and that makes it harder. Still I can do it. This Duke team is legitimately good ans actually is surprisingly under the radar. So I will give them a fair take here in Charlottesville, no matter how hard it is for me to stomach.
On the basketball end of things, UVA has the best newer arena in America. For you Kentucky fans out there, when they build a new Rupp Arena, it will look like a larger version of this place. All the seats are great, the setup is modern, with lots of space and luxury boxes that are not gaudy. It was an expensive building, but they have managed to keep the students around the court and when UVA plays well (which hasnt been all that often on this six-game losing streak), the place rocks. This is actually my third game here and I have had a great time at all of them and I hope this one is similar.
So hating Duke and loving Charlottesville must be put aside. We are quasi-journalists darnit and as much as I may want to go nuts when I see a Plumlee brother or Ryan Kelly get up off the bench and cheer like a 12 year old school girl, I wont do it. Objectivity rules, at least for one night.
By the way it has been suggested that you guys may have missed some of our columns on the various games that we have attended, since they havent been linked here. These are a few, and make sure and check them out if you can. More during the game: