Posted on: March 27, 2010 6:57 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2010 9:11 am
Brad Stevens and his merry band of Horizon League over-achievers were heading back to Indianapolis tomorrow no matter what. Unlike you at your high school reunion, though, they're still going to be the hottest thing in town thanks to a 63-56 victory over the second-seeded Kansas State Wildcats. After 113 years of playing basketball, the Butler Bulldogs are heading to the Final Four.
And, even better, they're hosting the party.
Thanks mostly to Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack combining for 38 points and 16 rebounds, the tiny school that was expected to be a major player next year shut the door on the Big 12 power that had all the right ingredients for a trip to the Final Four this year. In winning their 24th consecutive game, Butler made all the right plays and found themselves in all the right places. Most importantly, they found themselves on the right side of the three super brilliant points made here on "One Blogging Moment" earlier today.
Before the game, we said the contest would be won on the glass and Butler responded by out-rebounding Kansas State, 34-29. We said this game could be lost by the Wildcats at the free throw line and Frank Martin's team shot only 7-14. We also said the game would be won in the back court and Shelvin Mack would need some help from Ronald Nored. Though Nored's four points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds don't look sexy, he scored his points in the final two minutes and got two of his four steals in that same time.
There was already going to be a party next weekend in Indianapolis. But, thanks to the complete effort of the Bulldogs, the Butler is going to be the one hosting the bash.
America, get ready for a throwdown.
***It should also be noted that Indiana Hoosier fans are super-pumped about this. And they also are not the least bit upset that their team has gone 16-46 the past two seasons while former players and commits have found success all over college basketball and other in-state teams have become some of the nation's best squads. Because they are the most compassionate people on the planet. And just flat-out kind hearted people. If the world were only made of Indiana Hoosier fans, it would be a better place.
Posted on: March 27, 2010 4:21 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2010 4:23 pm
Last night, Bruce Pearl's Tennessee Volunteers did away with the Evan Turner-led Buckeyes to advance to its first regional final ever in Tennessee men's basketball history. If you're like me, this seems rather surprising to you. After all, it's not as if Tennessee basketball is by-and-large terrible -- quite the opposite, in fact. The Vols are fairly routinely, especially under Bruce Pearl, a notable team, generally close to if not in the top 25, especially since Pearl's arrival in Knoxville five years ago. And he's becoming quite the celebrity in Knoxville.
Pearl is quickly making a Ray Mears-esque play for the hearts of Vol fans. As a coach, he's beloved by the Orange Nation -- some might even argue that the only thing he exudes more than salty, excessive amounts of sweat is confidence and charisma. Don't believe me? Check out his credentials. in seventeen seasons as a head coach, Pearl:
-has the fourth-best winning percentage among all Division 1 head coaches with at least three years of experience
-was the fastest coach to log 200 wins at one school
-was the second-fastest active head coach to win 300 and 400 career games
-owns the best career winning percentage among all Southeastern Conference head coaches
If you have any questions about these accolades, don't take them up with me; take 'em up with Bruce. After all, every one of those stats comes from Pearl's own official website CoachPearl.com. I might suggest he also add "is obsessed with superlatives" to his list of accomplishments. And "master showman and PR professional." Want proof? For Lady Vols games, Pearl has both painted his entire upper body orange and dressed as a Volunteer cheerleader. While this information and these mental images may deter you from attending Tennessee women's basketball, however, you can't say Pearl isn't making himself part of the fabric there on campus. I personally know several people who've met Pearl and have heard on multiple occasions how infinitely likable he is in person. And those weren't Tennesssee fans, mind you.
Also, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee seems to think he's still the head coach there.
And now Pearl takes the Volunteers to their first Elite Eight, facing Tom Izzo's Michigan State tomorrow afternoon in St. Louis, in a game which is absolutely bound to be packed with both green and orange, given Missouri's easy accessibility from both East Lansing and Knoxville.
How far can Bruce Pearl take this team? We'll see. All we know for a fact is that tomorrow's game is big for Tennessee. I mean, like "five extra sticks of Degree antiperspirant and possibly a few alternative t-shirts" big. Because two things are sure: the Volunteers are gonna be ready, and Pearl's gonna be sweaty. But Tennessee fans are fine with that -- after all, he's taking places they've never been before.
Posted on: March 27, 2010 4:02 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2010 4:04 pm
1. On the Glass: While Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats use a barrage of athletic bodies to hit the offensive boards and shut down their opponents on the defensive end, Butler carries more of the Tiger Woods marriage philosophy when it comes to rebounding. Yeah, whatever. The Bulldogs have been out-rebounded in every game this tournament and are facing their most physical opponent yet. If they want to make the Final Four, their streak of being out-rebounded will have to end today. That means the eyes of the whole world are on Matt Howard, YMCA superstar.
2. The back court: Kansas State sports one of the premier guard duos in the country in Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. Butler, meanwhile, can boast of underrated star Shelvin Mack and, well, Shelvin Mack? Rarely does a team make it this deep in the tournament without an experienced, steady point guard. Though Ronald Nored has played well above his normal output the past two games (11 ppg and 2.25 assist to turnover ratio), he is nowhere near the top-level floor general that his counterpart, Jacob Pullen (who only has four turnovers the entire tournament), is and shot 18% from the three-point line during the regular season. The Bulldogs will need him to take his game to a whole new level today.
3. The free throw line: If you were trying to find a consistent theme in Kansas State’s seven losses this season, you’d find that the closest thing to a recurring weakness is free throw shooting. Outside of their loss late in the season to Iowa State where they shot 79% from the line (and 13% from three), the Wildcats struggled knocking down the freebies. Given their athletic advantage over the Bulldogs, you’d think that the foul situation would favor them and give them plenty of time to do damage at the line. If they so choose.
4. Salt Lake City: That’s where the game is being played. Duh.
Posted on: March 27, 2010 2:30 pm
Baylor is one win away from reaching the Final Four for the first time since 1950, when there were only eight teams in the field. The Bears face top-seeded Duke in the South Region's final game tomorrow afternoon.
Before we can all root for the Bears to take down the ACC perennial powerhouse, we must first know a little more about Baylor University. So, here ya go...
10 Things You Didn't Know About Baylor University
(1) Baylor is a private Christian-affiliated research university in Waco, Texas
(2) The university campus is located just southeast of downtown Waco, roughly bounded by Interstate 35, La Salle Avenue, Eighth Street and the Brazos River.
(3) The school's motto is "Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana" (Latin for "For Church, For Texas")
(4) Baylor's first mascot, an American black bear, was donated by Herbert E. Mayr who won the live animal a poker game.
(5) Notable Baylor alumni include Trey Wingo, Laura Bush, Jeff Dunham, and many former students.
(6) 73 percent of Baylor's entering freshmen were in the top 25 percent of their high school graduating class.
(7) Baylor junior forward Ekpedeme Udoh's middle name is Friday. Seriously.
(8) Baylor head coach Scott Drew is the older brother of NCAA Tournament legend Bryce Drew.
(9) Baylor has four vacated NCAA Ribbon Dancing Championships.
(10) Despite not being located on a shore, Waco, Texas constitutes one-fourth of the world's sand dollar sales.
There ya go.
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 27, 2010 12:05 am
Edited on: March 27, 2010 12:07 am
In the last two months, I was privileged enough to see both Northern Iowa and Michigan State play basketball on their home courts. The vibes were distinctively different during those games, and tonight the very reasons why those experiences differed were almost precisely the same reasons the outcome of tonight's game was what it was.
In case you missed it, Tom Izzo's Spartans -- sans big gun Kalin Lucas -- ended the University of Northern Iowa's dream tonight by dealing them a 59-52 loss and sending the Panthers back to Cedar Falls. Michigan State simply proved too much for the small school to handle.
Visiting each team on its home turf painted the picture that would ultimately seal this game's fate. UNI's small arena was rabid with a community who believed in their Panthers, knowing with each shot that their boys were capable of making waves, and that the rest of the world would soon find discover that for themselves. It was raucous and loud, exploding with support and confidence that this was their year.
Michigan State's home base, while similarly loud, had a bit of a different vibe. If UNI's McLeod center was a cockfighting ring, the Breslin Center is almost a cathedral of college ball, presided over by the beloved Tom Izzo with die-hard fans surrounding the court like bodyguards over their beloved Spartans. Seeing the Izzone in action is the precise portrait of a storied program's devoted followers. Michigan State, that classic program, inspires and instills reverence in the college basketball fan. Here was a school -- and a coach -- expected to take a rightful place in each year's postseason dance.
Ultimately tonight, that Spartan experience would crush the joyous partycrashing enjoyed by Northern Iowa in a close-fought game that, until the last two minutes, could have gone either way. But the ace in the hole would trump the joker in the deck, with guard Durrell Summers punching out at 19 points, and Michigan State steps forward to face Tennessee Sunday at 4:30.
There's no doubt that right now Tom Izzo is talking to the press and saying wonderful things about the Northern Iowa Panthers -- not only because it's true that their run was amazing, but because that's what great, classic coaches do. Both of these teams deserved to be in this game tonight, for both very different reasons and very similar reasons, but both can't progress. That's not how this works, and the world says goodbye to the Panthers. But don't think they won't show up in "One Shining Moment." And just try not to get all tingly when they do.
Posted on: March 26, 2010 10:30 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2010 10:31 pm
Bruce Pearl reportedly told his Tennessee Volunteers of their Sweet Sixteen game against the Ohio State Buckeyes "It's our team versus their six." Afterward, he added "We were a better ten than their six."
Often this season the Buckeyes only needed one, however -- and that's Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner, who tonight did his best to hoist his team upon his shoulders and go to work with a stellar 31 points and 7 assists. In the end, though, Turner's fervent swinging couldn't fend off Pearl's ninja squadron of scrappers, led by Wayne Chism and his oddly placed headband. Chism turned in 22 points, backed up by J.P. Prince's 14 -- and the Volunteers were on their way to their first regional final.
A last second three-point attempt by Turner -- who has that kind of last-second magic, as evidenced by the Big Ten tournament -- didn't see the pixie dust fall for him today, and the court was swarmed quickly by fans in orange, whom Chism and Prince celebrated with and whom Pearl sweat upon.
Tennessee will head forward to play the winner of Michigan State - Northern Iowa, in action now. Why are you not watching that? Get off the internet; if you love basketball so much you have two great games going right now, you knucklehead. That is all.
Posted on: March 26, 2010 9:31 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2010 9:45 pm
I feel like I should call Crimestoppers or something.
"Hello? Yes, I saw who murdered the Saint Mary's Gaels. Saw the whole thing. It was Baylor. Yes, I'd like to remain anonymous, please."
It's probably good that Saint Mary's had the week they've had, with Omar Samhan openly asking Taylor Swift to call him and offering Bill Simmons an interview over Twitter if he wants it, because they sure did walk into a buzzsaw tonight.
The inherent problem with loving a cinderella team is that eventually, probably, you may have to put that team down. Because these teams are cinderella teams for a reason -- they're loved in this tournament because they weren't supposed to, by conventional basketball wisdom, be able to do what they're doing. Saint Mary's was absolutely living proof of that. Their unbelievable offings of both Richmond and Villanova were the stuff of which great headlines were made.
But let's be honest here -- and this will probably be an unpopular stance: there's a reason why cinderella teams don't win the NCAA tournament. It's because almost every time, they just can't keep unseating teams that are just more experienced and better coached than they are. Cinderella teams traditionally have a good run, and we all grow starry-eyed by their childlike wonder at the Big Dance, some colorful character from their bench, and then eventually they just get crushed.
Before you hate me completely, I want to be clear that no one was more surprised and happier than I was to see this hodgepodge of everyman kids and Australians doing so well. I followed Samhan on Twitter and read his blogs. I loved the good feeling surrounding them. It was great. It was magical. But it was never meant to mean the Saint Mary's Gaels were going to win the national championship. You know it and I know it. I love you, Mr. and Mrs. America, but did you ever really think they were going to be the last team standing?
Yes, they were a great team. I agree. And yes, on any given saturday a team as good as the Gaels could -- and did -- beat teams that on paper were favored over them. But they just couldn't keep it going forever.
It's just a shame their demise had to be so gruesome. It really was never even close. LaceDarius Dunn dropped 23 points on the Gaels with 14 more donated by Tweety Carter to bust down Saint Mary's 72-49. In the end, Baylor was simply a better team -- in general, only tonight, whatever you want to believe. Sorry to break that to you, but if it wasn't Baylor it was gonna be Duke. It's true. I'm sorry. Just being honest.
But it was really cool while it lasted, wasn't it? And we all now have a new little tourney crush to watch for next year. Where they'll keep winning and knocking off giants until they win it all. At least, that's what we'll let ourselves believe for a little while. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's what makes this tournament so great.