Tag:Southwest regional
Posted on: March 28, 2011 3:49 am
Edited on: March 28, 2011 8:49 am

Southwest wrap-up: VCU makes history

VCU celebrates a Final Four berth

Posted by Jeff Borzello

SAN ANTONIO – Well, where to start?

How about the most impressive Final Four run in NCAA tournament history?

VCU’s First Four to Final Four story is the first of its kind, and certainly won’t be repeated for a very long time, if not ever. Two weeks ago, the majority of people were saying the Rams didn’t belong in the NCAA tournament. Now, there’s very little room left on the bandwagon. The chances of VCU making the first Final Four in program history after finishing fourth in the CAA were next to nothing; this run is absolutely mind-boggling.

The emergence of Shaka Smart as the hottest name in the coaching world has been a story itself. The affable young coaching whiz has had a weirdly interesting relationship with the media throughout the entire regional. Media members love him, swoon over him, stop at nothing to praise him. At the same time, Smart has played the “nobody believes in us” card every game, using media clips to demonstrate the doubt.

A loose, easygoing group of disrespected kids led by a likeable young coach who feeds into that personality? It’s easy to fall in love with the Rams, and their play on the court has cemented that feeling. They pressure the ball defensively, knock down 3-pointers on the offensive end and get up and down the court in a hurry.

Write off VCU at your own peril. Your words are sure to be repeated over and over, and then rubbed in your face afterwards.

And you’ll still love this team and its leader.

Regional MVP: Jamie Skeen, VCU. Skeen’s performance against Kansas on Sunday was nothing short of extraordinary. Going up against three future first-round picks in the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson, one might think Skeen was at a disadvantage. All he did was go out and finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds, knocking down four 3-pointers in the process. He played 38 minutes and didn’t pick up a single foul.

All-regional team

  • Joey Rodriguez, VCU
  • Bradford Burgess, VCU
  • Jamie Skeen, VCU
  • Brandon Rozzell, VCU
  • Marcus Morris, Kansas

Game to remember: VCU 72, Florida State 71. The only overtime game in the regional, and a welcomed change after four third-round blowouts and a 20-point Kansas-Richmond margin. Florida State overcame a nine-point deficit in the final seven minutes to force overtime, and it looked like VCU’s run might be over. Not with Shaka Smart at the helm. With six seconds left, Smart designed a play that got Bradford Burgess a wide-open layup to give VCU the one-poiint win.

Game to forget: Florida State 71, Notre Dame 57. Blowouts are ugly. Florida State plays ugly. When the Seminoles are on the winning end of a blowout? Hideous. Second-seeded Notre Dame shot 32 percent from the field, and Florida State led by as many as 23 points in the second half. The Seminoles completely dominated the Fighting Irish with their physicality and athleticism.

Biggest disappointment: Everyone. With only three higher-seeded teams advancing out of the round of 64, this region had its share of disappointments. Purdue and Notre Dame were manhandled in the third round and Kansas also fell earlier than expected. When a No. 11 seed wins the region, it’s tough to single out just one disappointment.

Best individual performance in a losing effort: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue. It wasn’t Johnson’s fault that Purdue was blown out by VCU, 94-76. Johnson went for 25 points and 14 rebounds, blocking three shots and shooting 11-for-20 from the field.

Most memorable moments

Team to watch out for next year: Louisville. The Cardinals vastly outperformed expectations this season, despite not having much talent on the roster. Next season, that will change. Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan are McDonald’s All-Americans, and Rakeem Buckeles and Jared Swopshire should finally be healthy. Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric are also primed for breakout seasons.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 27, 2011 7:50 pm

Another year, another disappointing loss for Self

Posted by Jeff Borzello

SAN ANTONIO – Maybe there’s something to the idea that Kansas overlooks opponents and disappears in big games.

The Jayhawks looked loose heading into Sunday’s regional final against VCU, and came out of the gate on a tear.

Then VCU punched back – and Kansas was befuddled. The Jayhawks simply did not handle the pressure well, and couldn’t recover until it was too late.

“I think we understood this year, you couldn’t look ahead,” Kansas guard Brady Morningstar said.

Sure, that’s what he told the media, but it certainly didn’t look like that on the court. Kansas did not seem ready for VCU’s response.

They were looking around at each other for answers. Bill Self was shuffling players in and out of the game. Nothing worked.

As a result, Bill Self is now 1-5 in Elite Eight games. For the second consecutive year, Kansas has been bounced earlier than expected by a lower-seeded mid-major team.

The Jayhawks’ players said all week that they were treating every opponent from here on out as a No. 1 seed.

VCU played like a No. 1 seed; Kansas didn’t.

“If we played shirts and skins today, you wouldn’t have much of a difference on players or how they look,” Self said. “They got what they deserved today. They certainly outplayed us.”

VCU was knocking down 3-pointers, attacking the rim, playing aggressive half-court defense.

That’s what Kansas usually does, but the Jayhawks were lost at both ends of the court on Sunday. Their shots weren’t falling and they could not adjust to VCU’s perimeter shooting.

Like last season, Kansas won the Big 12 title, finished with a gaudy record and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Like last season, the Jayhawks fell short when it mattered.

“It’s hard for me to say this was a special season,” Self said. “We did a lot of good things, but we didn’t accomplish what we set out to accomplish.”

It wasn’t Self’s fault that the Jayhawks shot 2-for-21 from 3-point range or only received three points from their usually reliable bench.

However, it’s tough to ignore the 1-5 record in regional final games, or the current reputation his teams have. As my colleague Matt Norlander pointed out earlier, Kansas’ modern-day legacy is this: Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa, VCU.

Four NCAA tournament games in which Kansas entered as a heavy favorite.

Four NCAA tournament games in which Kansas didn’t rise to the occasion and lost.

“It was just one of those days,” guard Tyrel Reed said.

Under Self, though, “one of those days” seems to happen far too often.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 26, 2011 6:02 pm

Kansas not worried about being the favorite

Posted by Jeff Borzello

SAN ANTONIO – With Ohio State losing to Kentucky on Thursday night, only one No. 1 seed remains in the field.

Kansas becomes the heavy favorite to win the national title, a position that has been a problem for the Jayhawks in the past.

It’s been more of a burden than a benefit for Kansas, with the most recent example coming in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks entered the Big Dance as the No. 1 overall seed, but fell to ninth-seeded Northern Iowa in the second round.

Friday’s dominant win over Richmond might have erased the sour memories of overlooking double-digit seeds, but the Jayhawks now have an even bigger target on their backs.

“Some of these guys still remember what happened last year, and right now, we are just hungry,” freshman Josh Selby said. “I don’t feel like we are just going to run through this with ease. We are just as much underdogs as they are and that is how we play.”

“There’s eight teams capable of winning; we’re one of those eight,” senior Tyrel Reed added. “I don’t think there’s any more pressure.”

Kansas faces off against No. 11 seed VCU on Sunday with a berth in the Final Four on the line. The underdog Rams are looking to channel the Mason Magic that CAA brethren George Mason used in 2006 to reach the national semifinals 

Eerily, VCU is in the same spot in the bracket as Mason was, going against the bracket heavyweight in the Elite Eight.

“We’ve got the best team left in the field standing in our way,” VCU head coach Shaka Smart said.

The Jayhawks don’t feel as if it’s an additional burden, though.

In fact, head coach Bill Self enjoys being the hunted. “It’s exciting because we’re the one,” he said.

If Kansas continues to play the way it has been in the NCAA tournament, beating all its opponents by at least 15 points, the Jayhawks shouldn’t have trouble with upstart VCU.

Kansas is simply more talented and deeper than the Rams, and could overpower them at both ends of the floor.

On the other hand, VCU was the underdog against each of its first four NCAA tournament opponents – and managed to come out on top in all four games.

“We’ve had experiences in the past, with overlooking Northern Iowa a little bit,” Reed said. “’Mid-majors’ have given us trouble in the past, but we’re going to respect every opponent.”

“We just have to play the way we've been playing, and let our play do the talking,” senior Brady Morningstar added.

Kansas needs to just look at the other top teams in the NCAA tournament if it needs a lesson on what will happen if it doesn’t play to its potential against VCU on Sunday afternoon.

Duke was blown out by Arizona in the second half, Ohio State struggled throughout against Kentucky and Butler made plays down the stretch to knock off Pittsburgh. Arguably the best No. 2 seed, Notre Dame, was handled from start to finish by 10th-seeded Florida State.

“Just because we’re a high seed, we’re supposed to win,” Morningstar said. “But so were all the other No. 1 seeds.”

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 26, 2011 12:50 am
Edited on: March 26, 2011 12:58 am

VCU can channel Mason Magic for one more win

Posted by Jeff Borzello

SAN ANTONIO -- Will the Mason Magic ever run out for VCU?

Despite winning its fourth game in the NCAA tournament, a 72-71 overtime victory over Florida State, VCU is still one step away from the Final Four.

Standing in the Rams’ way is top-seeded Kansas, the favorite to win the championship and the deepest and most talented team left in the field.

The scenario seems eerily similar to George Mason’s run to the national semifinals from 2006. From the same spot in the bracket – upper right-hand corner, No. 11 seed – going against the giant, the Goliath of the Elite Eight. Mason did it against Connecticut; can VCU do it against the Jayhawks?


Sure, the Rams have far less talent and will be overmatched at nearly every position, but it’s impossible to write off Shaka Smart’s troops at this point.

Smart has proven himself as one of the brightest young coaching minds in college basketball, consistently designing effective game plans and then crafting effective plays out of timeouts. I’m sure he will have something up his sleeve against Kansas.

With the way VCU is shooting 3-pointers, it can hang with anyone in the country. The Rams weren’t supposed to have the size to compete with USC; they weren’t supposed to have the experience to beat Georgetown; they simply weren’t supposed to be good enough to beat Purdue.

Against Florida State, the Rams once again came in as the underdog. They were undersized and got absolutely destroyed on the glass, getting outrebounded 47-32 and allowing 21 offensive rebounds.

It didn’t matter.

VCU knocked down 12 3-pointers and forced 16 turnovers, getting great bench production and making shots when it mattered. After Bradford Burgess was blocked near the end of regulation, the Rams looked devastated. They lacked energy and had zero momentum in the overtime period.

Burgess then nailed a 3-pointer and Joey Rodriguez picked up a steal, getting VCU right back into the game.

After Chris Singleton’s layup with 29 seconds left, VCU called a timeout to design a play with eight seconds left. Most people thought the Rams would go drive-and-kick – Smart wanted no part of that. Burgess got free near the rim, Rodriguez found him and VCU was able to escape with a one-point win.

Nothing fazes this VCU team.

Kansas won’t faze them. The Jayhawks’ talent and depth won’t faze them.

It won’t be easy. VCU will need to what its city brethren couldn’t do – knock down 3-pointers. Richmond came into its game shooting 40 percent from deep, but went just 4-for-26 from behind the arc against the Jayhawks.

The fact that the Rams won’t be able to keep Kansas off the glass? The fact that VCU will have trouble taking care of the ball against Kansas’ ball pressure? Won’t be factors.

This VCU team is on a roll right now, proving it can beat any sort of team in the field.

Shaka Smart and company might not beat Kansas on Sunday, but no one thought George Mason could beat Connecticut in 2006 either.

The Mason Magic might have one more win left in its bag.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 23, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 3:54 pm

Richmond's journey not over yet

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Richmond is the lowest seed in the Sweet 16, and one of the better stories of the NCAA tournament so far.

Head coach Chris Mooney has put his name on the map, while Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper have cemented themselves as one of the better inside-outside tandems in the country.

Not bad for a team that might not have made the NCAA tournament without a late seven-game winning streak and Atlantic 10 tournament title.

But is the journey over?

Richmond will be overmatched by Kansas’ talent and depth, but that’s not a reason to write off the Spiders.  If games were won on paper, neither the Spiders nor their Richmond, Va. brethren, VCU, would still be around heading into San Antonio.

Chris Mooney’s troops have impressive wins this season, over Vanderbilt, Purdue, Temple and VCU. None of those teams are on the same level as Kansas in terms of talent, but Richmond has proven it can beat good teams.

Harper is one of the toughest matchups in the country, with the ability to score on the block and then step outside and knock down 3-pointers with consistency. He’s efficient offensively and his strength and athleticism makes him tough on the glass.

Anderson is stepping up when it matters, scoring at least 20 points in six of his last eight games, including 25 against Vanderbilt in the second round. He takes care of the ball distributes effectively.

With those two leading the way, Richmond has a chance against anyone. But that’s not all.

Dan Geriot is a big man who can shoot from the perimeter; Darien Brother is an effective scorer; and Kevin Smith is one of the best defenders in the nation. Darius Garrett has proven he can block shots off the bench, Cedrick Lindsay provides scoring punch; and Francis-Cedric Martel put up 12 points and five rebounds off the bench in the round of 64.

Defensively, Richmond stifles opponents. The Spiders guard the perimeter very well and rarely foul. On the other end, they are a highly-effective 3-point shooting team that takes care of the ball and can hurt teams in a variety of ways.

Against Kansas, the key will be Richmond not getting dominated on the glass. Marcus and Markieff Morris are excellent rebounders at both ends, while the Spiders have struggled at times. With Harper and Geriot bringing the twins out to the perimeter, though, Kansas might not control the boards as well as they have all season. When Geriot is hitting his perimeter shots, opposing big men have trouble defending him. Kenneth Faried and company couldn’t guard Harper and Geriot away from the rim.

On the perimeter, Anderson has been taking advantage of matchup problems throughout the NCAA tournament. He dominated Brad Tinsley in the second round, and will have an edge against Tyshawn Taylor. If Anderson can take care of the ball and control tempo by keeping it a half-court game, Richmond will stay in the game.

Kansas has had problems with keeping its emotions in check at times this season. If the game is close near the end of the game and the crowd starts siding with Richmond, the Jayhawks could feel the pressure. Down the stretch, Anderson has proven he can make big shots.

It will take a lot, but don’t count out Richmond just yet. We could be bound for an all-Richmond Elite Eight battle between the Spiders and VCU. Both teams were written off in late February, but could be fighting for a spot in the Final Four just one month later.

Oh, the beauty of the NCAA tournament.

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 21, 2011 1:34 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 4:11 am

Southwest Regional preview

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Where to start? The San Antonio regional has been dominated by upsets, with five lower-seeded teams advancing to the round of 32 and three double-digit seeds still alive in the Sweet 16. In fact, top-seeded Kansas almost seems like the outcast in a foursome that features the lowest seed remaining in the field and two of the last 10 at-large teams invited on Selection Sunday. The Jayhawks are obviously the heavy favorite, but it’s tough to bet against three teams playing with house money right now.

Three storylines dominating San Antonio

1. Cinderella reigns supreme, with three double-digit seeds still alive.
2. Kansas is the favorite, but not the most impressive team so far.
3. Florida State is rolling despite Chris Singleton being a non-factor due to injury.

How they get to Houston

No. 1 Kansas: Don’t get overconfident. The Jayhawks are clearly the favorite in the Southwest regional, with more talent and depth than any of the other three teams remaining. They have dominant inside players with Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, perimeter shooters in Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar and a playmaker with Tyshawn Taylor. They are also one of the best defensive teams in the country. If Kansas plays to its potential, it should not be tested until the Final Four.

No. 10 Florida State: Defense, defense, defense. The Seminoles are the most efficient defensive team in the country, allowing only 0.86 points per possession. They completely stifled Texas A&M in the second round, then held a high-powered Notre Dame group to 50 points on 31 percent shooting. Florida State is physical and athletic, overcoming a lack of offensive explosiveness with lockdown half-court defense. If Chris Singleton can get healthy, this team can play with anyone.

No. 11 VCU: Pressure in the halfcourt. The Rams pressure the ball as well as anyone in the country, creating turnovers and forcing difficult shots in a half-court setting. USC, Georgetown and Purdue shot a combined 14-for-60 from the 3-point line against VCU in the NCAA tournament, also turning the ball over 39 times in three games. The Rams have been able to overcome their lack of size inside by creating match-up problems at the offensive end.

No. 12 Richmond: Create match-up problems. Richmond won its two NCAA tournament games in different ways. The one constant was taking advantage of individual match-ups. In the round of 64, Richmond used Kevin Anderson constantly down the stretch and also put Justin Harper in areas where he could score. Against Morehead State, Harper and Dan Geriot forced the Eagles to bring their big men out to the perimeter. What can the Spiders do against Kansas?

San Antonio's five best players

1. The Morrii, Kansas: Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris form one of the nation’s top inside tandems. Marcus is better facing up, while Markieff is a load down low.
2. Justin Harper, Richmond: Harper is a legitimate NBA prospect and match-up nightmare with his inside-outside talents.
3. Jamie Skeen, VCU: Skeen has more than held his own against USC, Georgetown and Purdue. Averaging 17.6 points in his last eight games.
4. Kevin Anderson, Richmond: One of the best point guards left in the field, Anderson is averaging 20.4 points in his last eight games.
5. Chris Singleton, Florida State: A healthy Singleton could be the difference between the Seminoles reaching the Final Four or losing on Friday.  

The Kansas Jayhawks are clearly the favorite in the Southwest regional heading into the Sweet 16. The other three teams still alive are nowhere near the Jayhawks in terms of talent and depth, and Kansas is capable of blowing out each opponent. The Jayhawks have not been at their best in the first two rounds, but were still able to win handily. Better starts in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight will end any doubt very quickly as to which team is the best in the region. Bill Self and co. march on.

Photo: US Presswire 
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Posted on: March 17, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 4:43 pm

Morehead State shoots down Louisville

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Matt Howard had the first buzzer-beater, Morehead State has the first upset.

Demonte Harper knocked down a pull-up 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds left to beat fourth-seeded Louisville, 62-61. 

The Cardinals had a chance to win it on a last-second shot, but Kenneth Faried made a terrific defensive play to block Mike Marra's 3-point attempt. 

In such a volatile year, this could be the first of many Round of 64 upsets.

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