Tag:Southeast region
Posted on: March 28, 2011 1:57 am

Southeast wrap-up: The best and worst of 15 games

Posted by Matt Jones

In the history of the NCAA tournament, there are very few accomplishments that match what Butler pulled off this weekend in New Orleans. With their victory over Florida, Butler is now going to back to back Final Fours, an utterly unbelievable feat for a program that lives outside of the BCS power conferences.

When Brad Stevens’s group made it to the national championship game last season, it was considered by most to be an exceptional Cinderella run, brought about by a unique combination of a NBA lottery pick leader, outstanding clutch play and a run of good fortune. But now, after four consecutive thrilling wins that will send Butler to Houston for another go-around on college basketball’s biggest stage, such simplistic reasoning will no longer suffice.

With the win on Saturday, Butler basketball has shown that it deserves to be seen as one of the top ten current basketball programs in the country. It is only one of those types of programs that can lose a player like Gordon Hayward to the NBA draft and then come back and contend immediately again. Teams like Kentucky, Duke, UNC and Kansas are used to seeing superstars leave, and then immediately reloading. Now we must put Butler in that same group.

This year’s Butler group is now realistically on the brink of winning a national championship. Matt Howard’s last second win over Old Dominion got the tournament off to a rocking start and showcased just how clutch a performer the senior has been throughout the course of his career. The upset over Pittsburgh produced the most shocking ending of March, and removed the biggest obstacle to a second Final Four run. 

And then in New Orleans, the Bulldogs came to play, but not as the upstart from a small conference seeking to shock the world. Rather, they were the cool, calm and collected team that had been there before and could handle the moment. The Bulldogs handled their business from the opening tap in the Sweet 16 against Wisconsin and then were the more poised team down the stretch against a veteran Florida team who they rattled in the final minutes. 

Butler now goes to Houston with a chance to win the whole thing. It will be favored against VCU in the national semifinal and in a one game scenario against either Kentucky or UCONN, the Bulldogs would once again have a chance to shock the world. What Butler has accomplished is unheard of in modern college basketball and it may not yet be over.

Regional MVP: Shelvin Mack: Since Butler turned around its performance midway through the season, Shelvin Mack has been the driving force in big moments. Saturday’s final versus Florida was no different, as Mack scored 27 points and hit a number of crucial shots. Mack may be the most clutch performer left in the NCAA tournament and he showcased in New Orleans that he could be the most underrated perimeter player in America.

All-Regional team

C Vernon Macklin, Florida
F Matt Howard, Butler
F Alex Tyus, Florida
G Shelvin Mack, Butler
G Kenny Boyton, Florida

Game to remember: Butler 71, Pittsburgh 70. This is a game that will be remembered for a long time and could define these programs for years to come. Butler’s win allows the Bulldogs to lay claim to one of the great accomplishments in recent college basketball history. While Pittsburgh’s loss means that Jamie Dixon will not yet be able to get rid of the stigma of having never made a Final Four. Add to it, the bizarre late foul calls and the Nasir Robinson pain of costing his team the game late, and this will be one of the 2-3 most remembered games of the tournament.

Game to forget: Wisconsin 72, Belmont 58.  It happens every year. One trendy upset pick comes into the tournament and lays a total egg, making everyone who talked about them all week look silly. This year’s team was Belmont, who most thought had earned respect through its demolition of the Atlantic Sun and thus respect was given before playing against a slow team from the Big Ten. But that slow team controlled tempo, used its dominating size and the game was a dud. Never listen to the 4-13 pick that is trendy...it rarely works.

Biggest disappointment: St. John’s. It was a great regular season for Steve Lavin’s club and a late injury did temper expectations. But after the senior-laden squad did so well, the Johnnies fans wanted more than simply a harsh defeat to Gonzaga. Lavin will have St. John’s back sooner, rather than later. But a better showing this year was expected.

Best individual performance in a losing effort: They don’t get much better than the show Jacob Pullen put on for Kansas State in its 70-65 loss to Wisconsin. Pullen willed his team to the tournament towards the end of the season and then showcased all of that same desire in his two games. 38 points against Wisconsin was part of one of the great tournament performances so far, win or lose.

Most memorable moments:

  • Matt Howard makes a great putback at the buzzer to get March Madness off to a great start. We knew the tournament was back in session. 
  • Michigan State put forth an amazing comeback, down 25 late, but coming back and only losing by two. It was a miserable performance up until the end, but Tom Izzo teams can never totally be counted out.
  • Any time Jimmer Fredette plays, it is worth watching. He ran out of magic against Florida, but in the first two games, his deep threes were quite a sight.
  • The late fouls by Shelvin Mack and Nasir Robinson in the Pitt-Butler game won’t soon be forgotten and ignited a debate on the roll of officials at the end of games.
  • How can a team like Gonzaga look so dominant against St. John’s and then so terrible against BYU? Every game is different.
  • Billy Donovan coached well all tournament...until the end. I still do not know what the offensive gameplan was at the end of regulation or in overtime versus Butler.

Team to watch out for next year: This was a senior-laden bracket, with most of the best teams losing most of their best players. But there were some signs that UCLA could get out of its recent funk. Josh Smith is fun to watch and is able to do some amazing things in the paint. If Ben Howland can keep everyone around, the Bruins will join Arizona at the top of the Pac 10 once again next year.

Posted on: March 21, 2011 12:21 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 12:26 am

Southeast Regional Preview

Posted By Matt Jones

The New Orleans Regional was supposed to be the most wide open of any of the four regions and after the first weekend, that is still the case. With No. 1 seed Pittsburgh losing to Butler, a case can be made for any of the four remaining teams ending up in the Final Four. None of the four teams provide significant matchup issues for the others and all four have the capability of beating each other in a one-game scenario. No matter what happens in New Orleans, the games there will be the hardest to forsee and thus likely, the most exciting.


Three storylines dominating New Orleans

  1. Jimmer Fredette tries to will his BYU team to the Final Four
  2. Butler seeks to prove last year was not a fluke and get to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
  3. Florida coach Billy Donovan goes for his fourth Final four in just over a decade

How they got to New Orleans

No. 2 Florida:  The Gators have been one of the most impressive teams so far in the NCAA tournament and are playing their best basketball of the season. SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons led Florida throughout the year with his ability to score both inside and outside and hit the offensive glass. However in the last four weeks, guard Erving Walker has also stepped up and shown that not only does he want to take the big shots, he can also finish them. The Gators dominated UC-Santa Barbara in the first round, in as thorough a win as any team took in the round of 64. In the round of 32, the Gators struggled at times with UCLA, but executed down the stretch, thanks to the multitude of scoring weapons and Walker’s big play. No team in the New Orleans region has more weapons and the Gators will be the one team that can exploit advantages at its fourth and fifth options in both regional games.

No. 3 BYU:  It was unknown just how the Cougars would respond in the NCAA tournament, after the loss of Brandon Davies just two weeks prior. But BYU has answered the call and played some inspired basketball. The story with BYU will always be Jimmer Fredette, who was amazing once again in the Cougars’ round of 32 victory over Gonzaga. The win over the Zags was one of the most impressive of the tournament due to just how thorough it ended up being. Most believed that the Cougars were susceptible to a team that played physical and would try to exploit them on the interior, but BYU showcased that when its offense is clicking, defensive mismatches will not have much of an effect. They go into New Orleans with an opening game against a team they defeated last year and with a legitimate chance to overcome the late season turmoil and reach the Final Four.

No. 4 Wisconsin:  After the Badgers played so dreadfully in a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin was considered a potential first round upset victim in the NCAA tournament. But after a convincing win over Belmont in the round of 64 and a gritty, hard-fought victory over Jacob Pullen and Kansas State, Wisconsin now moves on to New Orleans for the Southeast regional. Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer are one of the best one-two punches left in the tournament and will be difficult for any of the teams remaining in New Orleans to stop. The Badgers must however have other players step up and hit big shots to advance. Against Kansas State, Tim Jarmusz and Mike Bruesewitz both hit big shots from behind the three-point arc and it will require a repeat performance in New Orleans for Wisconsin to make a trip to Houston for the Final Four.

No. 8 Butler:  The Butler Bulldogs are as close to America’s team in college basketball right now as anyone in the sport. After two exciting, harrowing winds in Washington D.C., Butler is now on to try and make another miracle run to the Final Four for the second consecutive year. Matt Howard’s lay-up at the buzzer versus Old Dominion was the culmination of a great battle between two teams playing each other far too early in the tournament. The Bulldogs then moved on to get an impressive win over Pittsburgh in one of the better first weekend games in the past decade in the NCAA tournament. While most will remember the game for the bizarre ending, Butler had a near perfect performance throughout and showcased just how much it has improved since its rough early start to the season. Now the Bulldogs go to a regional in which there is no team it cannot beat and a Final Four is once again on the doorstep. 

New Orleans’s five best players

  1. Jimmer Fredette: The biggest star in college basketball has had an amazing season and is two games away from entering college basketball immortality.
  2. Jordan Taylor: There is no more explosive player in the country that is lesser known than the Wisconsin star who is one breakout performance away from stardom.
  3. Chandler Parsons: The SEC Player of the Year has had ups and downs in his career, but when he plays well, he is a matchup nightmare for any defender.
  4. Matt Howard: One of the best tournament players of the last 15 years. He finds a way to score in the post where it seems impossible.
  5. Jon Leuer: The Wisconsin big man is a load to handle and can step out and shoot, making him a very dangerous weapon.

This is the most wide open regional and a case can be made for any of the teams advancing. I will pick the Florida Gators, only because they have the most variety of weapons and are thus best suited to withstand a bad game by one of their star players. I look for Florida to play Wisconsin in the regional final and get the victory to send Billy Donovan to yet another Final Four.

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 10:41 pm

Video: Butler upsets Pitt amid controversy

Posted by Eric Angevine

Butler, man.... Butler. They're becoming the miracle children of college basketball. Credit experience, or inside play or even Brad Stevens' glasses, but these guys turn it on in the postseason.

In upsetting the No. 1 Pitt Panthers today, the Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in program history. For a team that had to win the Horizon League auto-bid to get to the Big Dance a year after reaching the final game, the breaks just keep falling their way.

Some viewers questioned the officials' decision to call either of the two late fouls in such a close game, but league supervisor of officials John Adams appeared on CBS shortly after the game ended and assured viewers that the fouls were properly called.

The bigger question, and the one both head coaches will no doubt hammer their kids with in the future is "what the heck was anyone doing fouling in either of those scenarios?" Butler had the lead with 2.2 seconds left, and should have been playing D and forcing a tough jumpshot. After the missed free throw, the odds of Matt Howard doing anything but heaving the ball in the air were pretty much nil, so why foul him?

Then again, that's March Madness for you.

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2011 12:25 pm

Winning is in the cards for Utah State

Flashcards help Utah State coaches control the game.

Posted by Eric Angevine

Fans of college football went wild for Oregon this season. The Ducks played fast on the gridiron, in part because of a visually arresting play-calling style that allowed the coach to signal in plays from the sideline quickly. In Eugene, it was huge pieces of posterboard with seemingly random images, big enough to be seen from yards away.

Visual play calling on that scale was a relatively new thing to college football, but college hoops coaches have used flash cards for years. Utah State's Stew Morrill, for instance, has a sophisticated system of play calling that dates all the way back to his time as an assistant at Montana, where he worked with current Cal coach Mike Montgomery in a system they learned from the legendary Jud Heathcote.

"I think the origination of calling plays with cards goes back to those guys," Morril said. "It’s always been what I’ve been comfortable with. I like knowing what my team’s running and being able to change it."

The system has had to evolve, of course. The simplistic version Morrill ran years ago was cracked over time.

"We went to two sets of cards a number of years ago. Actually, way back when I was at Colorado State, we had the student body at BYU chanting out our calls to their players," Morrill said with a chuckle.

After that, Morrill had his artistically talented son, who was around 13 at the time, add illustrations to change the interpretation of each card before he adopted the two-card system. The images only lasted that one year, but changes kept coming. The longer he coaches, the more complex the system becomes.

"Now we have color coded cards and we can use the red, we can use the blue. We can also designate it by which assistant is holding the cards," Morrill said. "Our plays can be called three different ways. We have a play called ‘dribble’. We can just verbalize it, say ‘dribble’, we can hold up the card, and the third way we can use is a hand signal. It’s a little more sophisticated than people might think."

Morrill's team has led the nation in field goal percentage three of the past seven years. He credits the play-calling system for giving him flexibility and precise control over the action on the court, even on the fly. He says every player on the floor is responsible for looking to see what play is being run, not just the point guard. The Aggies begin practice from day one with the card system in place. By the time the regular season comes around, everyone is expected to know the ins and outs of Morrill's approach.

"They are getting a college education," Morrill deadpanned. "So they ought to be able to read signs."

No. 12 Utah State will take on No. 5 Kansas State on March 17 at 10:00 p.m. ET. | USU vs. KSU Edge Matchup

Photo: Getty Images

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