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Tag:NCAA tournament recap
Posted on: March 22, 2009 8:54 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2009 2:05 am

NCAA tournament recap (Sunday)

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, Missouri's J.T. Tiller can go from being unable to shoot free throws to being ready to check back in to a basketball game. I know because I saw him do it Sunday . And boy, did it send Marquette's Buzz Williams into a fit.

Here's a rundown of Sunday's NCAA tournament action ...

Story of the day: Pittsburgh beat Oklahoma State and Louisville beat Siena , meaning all four No. 1 seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth consecutive season. The last time a No. 1 seed didn't advance to the Sweet 16 was 2004, when both Kentucky and Stanford lost in the second round (to UAB and Alabama).

Game of the day: Missouri was on defense with a slim lead, needing to prevent its opponent from going the length of the court to ensure a victory in Boise, and why does this sound familiar? Oh yeah. Because Missouri was in a similar position in 1995 against UCLA right before Tyus Edney went coast-to-coast in 4.8 seconds for a game-winning lay-up. For years, Missouri fans have questioned Norm Stewart's decision not to put a man on the inbounds passer, which is why they must've been nervous when Mike Anderson didn't put a man on Marquette's inbounds passer with 5.5 seconds remaining and the Tigers ahead by a basket. But then Lazar Hayward stepped across the inbounds line, the referee blew his whistle, called it a turnover, gave the ball back to Missouri, and the Tigers hit the subsequent free throws to ice an 83-79 victory that ensures 2009 will forever be better than 1995, at least in Columbia.

Upset of the day: Every higher-seeded team beat its lower-seeded opponent, which was a fitting ending to the second round of this NCAA tournament because that's pretty much how things have unfolded, with the teams that are supposed to advance advancing. As proof, consider that all of the No. 1 seeds, No. 2 seeds and No. 3 seeds made the Sweet 16, and two of the No. 4 seeds. The only exceptions were Wake Forest (No. 4 in the Midwest) and Washington (No. 4 in the West). The schools replacing those schools are Purdue (a No. 5 seed) and Arizona (a No. 12 seed).

Predictable star: Cole Aldrich has established himself as an elite college center and future NBA Draft pick, and he looked every bit the part against Dayton. The sophomore center got 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks in Kansas' 60-43 win over the Flyers, becoming the first player to record a triple-double in the NCAA tournament since Marquette's Dwyane Wade did it in 2003.

Unpredictable star: Jamelle Horne took 11 shots, made six and finished with 15 points and five rebounds in Arizona's 71-57 victory over Cleveland State . The effort helped the Wildcats place four players in double-figures, which is rare. But when they do it they're very difficult to defend, and if they do it in the Sweet 16 they could give Louisville a tough time in Indianapolis.

-- Three random notes --

1. James Harden told reporters after Arizona State's 78-67 loss to Syracuse that he hasn't thought about the NBA Draft and isn't sure whether he'll enter it. That's essentially the same answer every talented underclassmen provides after their final loss of the season. But the guys who say that tend to enter the draft within a few weeks, and the smart money has Harden doing it, too, especially when you consider that he's a projected lottery pick.

2. Xavier's 60-49 win over Wisconsin pushed the Musketeers into the Sweet 16, where they will face their coach's alma mater. Yep, Sean Miller once played for the Panthers, and he's long been considered Jamie Dixon's successor, if Dixon ever were to leave Pitt. Expect to read dozens of stories about that this week.

3. Michigan State's 74-69 win over Southern California means Tom Izzo will participate in his eighth Sweet 16 in the past 12 seasons, and that's a good place to start if you're trying to figure out why Arizona would like to hire Izzo if it had the money (or why Kentucky also might if it needed a new coach anytime soon). The guy has been remarkably consistent despite early entries to the NBA Draft and departures from his staff, and now he's just two wins away from his fifth Final Four in the past 11 seasons.

Final thought: More than a month ago I provided a list of six schools -- plus one school that was at the time ranked outside the Top 20 -- and promised that the national champion would come from that list. The six schools were North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma and Wake Forest, and the school ranked outside the top 20 that I included was Syracuse.

Six of those seven schools are in the Sweet 16 (Wake Forest screwed me).

And if you don't mind, I'd rather focus on that instead of my bracket.

Because my bracket is garbage.

Just like always.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 22, 2009 2:26 am
Edited on: March 22, 2009 3:17 am

NCAA tournament recap (Saturday)

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Can somebody get Ken McDonald a timeout?


I think he's still signaling over there.

Just call the timeout, already.

Here's a rundown of Saturday's NCAA tournament action ...

Story of the day: Ty Lawson's toe participated in a basketball game for the first time in nearly two weeks and pushed North Carolina to an 84-70 win over LSU that has the Tar Heels in the Sweet 16. The ACC Player of the Year got 21 points in the second half to finish with 23 points and six assists in 31 minutes, the last of which featured him bending over at the free throw line, motioning to Roy Williams and mouthing the words "Get me out." With the game in hand, Williams obliged. A standing ovation ensued.

Game of the day: "It was a fun game to watch," Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald said by phone late Saturday night, and that he didn't sound too excited should tell you he finished on the wrong end of the fun. Final score: Gonzaga 83, WKU 81 . But McDonald's quote was accurate, because it was a fun game -- one that started with Sun Belt Player of the Year Orlando Mendez-Valdez scoring 17 points in the first 10 minutes, then featured Gonzaga leading for much of the second half, then featured Western Kentucky tying the score on a stickback with 7.2 seconds remaining only to watch Dmetri Goodson go the length of the court to score the game-winner with 0.9 seconds remaining. At that point, McDonald tried to get a timeout to set up a play, and officials are trained to look at the bench to see if a timeout is desired. But McDonald's gestures somehow went unnoticed -- seriously, how did the referees not see him jumping and yelling? -- and Gonzaga escaped with a memorable victory that'll send them to Memphis for a Sweet 16 showdown with Ty Lawson's toe.

Upset of the day: Only one lower-seeded team beat a higher-seeded team, and that was Purdue (the No. 5 seed in the West) beating Washington (the No. 4 seed in the West). JaJuan Johnson got 22 points, six rebounds and four blocks for the Boilermakers, who held on for a 76-74 victory that advanced them to the Sweet 16, where they'll meet Connecticut.

Predictable star: Blake Griffin became the first player in six years to record a 30-15 game in the NCAA tournament by getting 33 points and 17 rebounds in Oklahoma's 73-63 win over Michigan. More important, he was neither concussed nor thrown to the ground, meaning the National Player of the Year should be ready Friday when the Sooners play in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.

Unpredictable star: Texas didn't beat Duke, but it almost did, and the main reason was Varez Ward, a guy who sometimes doesn't play, and rarely plays much at all. The freshman entered averaging just 3.8 points per game. But he got a career-high 16 against the Blue Devils, who endured Ward's unexpected effort and held on for a 74-69 victory .

-- Three random notes --

1. Villanova's 89-69 win over UCLA prevented the Bruins from making a fourth consecutive Final Four. A key stat was that Alfred Aboya had three fouls, meaning the Bruins finished the season with a 6-7 record when Aboya gets at least three fouls, a 20-2 record when he does not.

2. Jim Calhoun had a stress-free afternoon thanks to his Connecticut Huskies simple 92-66 win over Texas A&M. UConn's first two NCAA tournament wins have come by a combined 82 points, which tied a record set by Duke in 1999.

3. The SEC is the only BCS-affiliated league guaranteed to not have a representative in the Sweet 16. That's the result of LSU's second-round loss, and first-round losses by Tennessee and Mississippi State. The SEC went 1-3 in this tournament.

Final thought: Memphis might well finish with a losing record in the ACC.

But I doubt it.

And Greivis Vasquez was silly to say it.

Because there is no team in the country that thrives off a lack of respect -- real or otherwise -- more than John Calipari's Tigers, mostly because nobody is better than Calipari at taking slights and using them to his advantage. The guy is a master motivator, a unique button-pusher, the kind of coach who can take perfectly reasonable quotes and make them seem unreasonable. He doesn't need the other team's help. But he got it Friday thanks to Vasquez, and on Saturday Calipari watched his Tigers completely overwhelm Maryland, just dominate the Terps in a way that left Vasquez humbled, if not humiliated, following the 89-70 blowout .

"They proved me wrong," he said.

Finally, a Vasquez assessment that makes some sense.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 21, 2009 1:03 am
Edited on: March 21, 2009 3:27 am

NCAA tournament recap (Friday)

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- It was after midnight here in the eastern time zone and two games were in overtime, causing Greg Gumbel to frantically guide the nation from one site to the next, back and forth, and that's the way I like my NCAA tournament!

Back in Boise ...

Let's get you back to Dayton ...

Over in Boise ...

It was like a rollercoaster ride via television.

Just a fun, fun reason to stay up late.

Anyway, here's a rundown of Friday's NCAA tournament action ...

Story of the day: The Big Ten split a pair of games decided after midnight. Wisconsin beat Florida State 61-59 in overtime about two minutes before Ohio State lost to Siena 74-72 in double-overtime. Of the seven Big Ten schools (Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota) that received bids, just four (Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin) survived the first round.

Game of the day: With apologies to Wisconsin (and Trevon Hughes, he of the game-winner against FSU), the best game was the Siena game that featured 10 extra minutes and so many clutch shots I thought Bill Raftery's head was going to explode. First, Kenny Hasbrouck made a free throw to force overtime. Then, Ronald Moore made a 3-pointer to force double-overtime. Then, Moore made another 3-pointer to create the final margin and send the Saints to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season despite a 2-5 record against BCS-affiliated schools during the past calendar year. Seriously, the Saints have exactly two victories over BCS schools in the past calendar year, and both came in the NCAA tournament. Last March 21, Siena beat Vanderbilt in the first round. This March 20, Siena beat Ohio State in the first round. In between, the Saints were 0-5 against BCS schools, losing to Villanova, Pittsburgh, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Tennessee.

Upset of the day: A No. 13 seed (Cleveland State) dominated a No. 4 seed (Wake Forest), rendering all those pros on Dino Gaudio's roster useless in an 84-69 thrashing. Now, there's a good chance at least two (and perhaps three) of those pros will turn pro, and, man, this sure was a wasted opportunity for Wake Forest as a whole and Gaudio individually.

Predictable star: North Dakota State's Ben Woodside, best known for getting 60 against Stephen F. Austin, went bananas against Kansas . He made 13 shots and finished with 37 points, leading KU coach Bill Self to call him the best guard the Jayhawks have faced all season. If you're wondering, a list of other guards the Jayhawks have faced includes Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Kalin Lucas (Michigan State), Willie Warren (Oklahoma), and A.J. Abrams (Texas). So that's some nice praise for Woodside, and perhaps a consolation prize in an 84-74 loss.

Unpredictable star: Taj Gibson is Southern California's leading scorer, a guy who made 59.2 percent of his field goal attempts in the regular season. So he's good, no question. But nobody expected him to finish 10-of-10 from the field in a 72-55 win over Boston College because he had never finished 10-of-10 from the field in a win over (or loss against) anybody.

-- Three random notes --

1. Two of the four non-BCS schools to receive at-large bids advanced to the second round, and both were from the Atlantic 10. The Dayton Flyers beat West Virginia 68-60 for the school's first NCAA tournament win in 19 years . The Xavier Musketeers beat Portland State 77-59 to improve to 22-0 when leading at halftime.

2. People always talk about how good finishes can lead to great career opportunities for head coaches, but it works for assistants, too. Two guys who could benefit this year are USC assistant Bob Cantu and Texas A&M assistant Scott Spinelli, both of whom advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and have natural ties to mid-major jobs currently open. Cantu's strong recruiting has helped USC make three straight NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history. He grew-up 30 minutes from, and once worked at, Cal Poly, which fired Kevin Bromley this week. Cantu should and will be among the leading candidates to be the Mustangs' next head coach. As for Spinelli, he's also known as a strong recruiter, one with extensive east coast ties. He graduated from Boston University, which should make him a legitimate candidate to replace Dennis Wolff, who was fired last week.

3. The Big 12 finished 6-0 in the first round thanks to Friday wins by Kansas, Oklahoma State and Missouri. That means 18.8 percent of the schools still alive in the NCAA tournament are affiliated with the Big 12. Also worth noting is that the Big 12 is 11-1 in first-round games the past two seasons, 14-2 in first-round games the past three seasons. So my advice is to never again pick against the Big 12 in first-round games. Consider that your bracket tip of the day.

Final thought: Congratulations to Arizona.

That was an impressive victory.

It was fun to watch.

But let's not pretend that 84-71 win over Utah somehow proves the Wildcats "belonged" in the NCAA tournament, because "belonging" in the NCAA tournament and having the ability to win a game in the NCAA tournament are two totally different things. Understand, whether somebody "belongs" in the NCAA tournament should be based on their body of work on Selection Sunday, and Arizona's body of work, in the opinion of most who objectively look at this stuff, wasn't worthy of inclusion. It just wasn't. But the Wildcats were included anyway, and then paired with Utah in the first round, at which point many (if not most) picked them to advance because their players are better than Utah's players.

Now they'll probably beat Cleveland State, too.

The bracket has opened up for them.

And I honestly couldn't be happier for Russ Pennell.

He's a great dude who deserves good things.

But regardless of what happens going forward, let's be clear about something: Nothing will ever prove that Arizona "belonged" in the NCAA tournament because everything that happens after Selection Sunday is irrelevant to the question of whether Arizona belonged or did not belong. Again, whether a team belongs should be based on a team's body of work on Selection Sunday, meaning Arizona's win didn't prove the Wildcats belonged as much as it proved they were capable of winning a game once included.

Which makes them like Florida.

Or Baylor.

Or Davidson, even.

None of those teams belonged in the NCAA tournament based on their bodies of work.

But could any of them have beaten Utah on a neutral court?

Yes, of course.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 20, 2009 2:23 am
Edited on: March 20, 2009 12:26 pm

NCAA tournament recap (Thursday)

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There were 16 NCAA tournament games Thursday.

Eleven were decided by double-digits.


I hope what's on tap is more interesting.

Otherwise, I'm turning my full attention to the NIT.

Here's a recap of Thursday's NCAA tournament action ...

Story of the day: Jim Calhoun missed Connecticut's 103-47 victory over Chattanooga and spent Thursday night in a Philadelphia-area hospital for precautionary reasons. It remains unclear whether the Hall of Famer will return to the sideline in time for Saturday's game against Texas A&M, although Calhoun is expected to be released from the hospital at some point Friday morning.

Game of the day: Eric Maynor had the ball in the final seconds against one of college basketball's storied programs, and stop me if you've heard this one before. Two years ago in a similar situation, Maynor hit a late jumper to help VCU beat Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This time, it was UCLA on defense, and because UCLA played better defense, Maynor never got a clean look. Instead, he forced a shot at the buzzer that missed badly, allowing UCLA to escape with a 65-64 win .

Upset of the day: I'm not even sure it was an upset, because pretty much everybody I know predicted it to happen. Still, a No. 12 seed (Western Kentucky) beat a No. 5 seed (Illinois) by a 76-72 margin, and now first-year WKU coach Ken McDonald is just one win away from becoming the hottest young coach in America, which would translate into a nice pay raise, at the very least.

Predictable star: Marcus Thornton took 15 shots, made 10 and finished with 30 points in LSU's 75-71 win over Butler . The SEC Player of the Year took over, but only in spurts, getting most of his points in succession, either late in the first half or towards the middle of the second. Next up is a showdown with North Carolina in North Carolina. It'll match the SEC champions against the ACC champions, the SEC Player of the Year against the ACC Player of the Year (assuming Roy Williams allows Ty Lawson to play).

Unpredictable star: Roburt Sallie entered the NCAA tournament with 39 made 3-pointers, meaning he basically sank one every game. And then came this game against Cal State-Northridge, a game in which Sallie shot 15 3-pointers, made 10, and finished with 35 points to help Memphis advance with an 81-70 victory that wasn't safe until the final minutes.

-- Three random notes --

1. Oliver Purnell fell to 0-5 all-time in the NCAA tournament thanks to Clemson's 62-59 loss to Michigan . He's now lost once with Old Dominion, twice with Dayton and twice with Clemson. He lost despite having the higher-seeded team last season and this season.

2. Washington barely had to deal with Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado in a 71-58 win over the SEC tournament champions . The nation's leading shot blocker played just six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. He finished with five blocks in 23 minutes.

3. One of the stories coming out of Selection Sunday was that only four non-BCS schools received at-large bids. After one day of the NCAA tournament, two of those teams are already gone because Texas A&M eliminated BYU and LSU eliminated Butler. Dayton and Xavier (at-larges from the Atlantic 10) play Friday.

Closing statement: Tyler Hansbrough became the ACC's all-time leading scorer in North Carolina's 101-58 win over Radford. It was another monumental accomplishment for the four-time All-American, but that doesn't mean his teammates couldn't clown him, just a little.

"I'm just glad he broke the record on a free throw," said UNC's Bobby Frasor. "I think that's pretty fitting."

Category: NCAAB
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