Friday, March 30, 2012

Final Four Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Kansas Jayhawks

National Semi-Final, Saturday, March 31

(2) Ohio State (31-7) vs. (2) Kansas (31-6), 8:49 pm EDT - The second game of the Final Four is likely to be a battle down to the final buzzer, as both Kansas and Ohio State have done everything needed to reach the penultimate game of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

The Buckeyes, headed by coach Thad Motta, with a career coaching record of 323–95 (.773) and 221–64 (.775) at Ohio State, will be coaching in his second Final Four game, after getting Butler, Xavier and the Buckeyes into the tournament eight times, reaching the championship game in 2007, when they lost, 84-75, to the Florida Gators.

For Kansas, coach Bill Self has distinguished himself as one of the nation's finest coaches, having taken over the KU program from Roy Williams following the 2002-03 season. In his nine years at Kansas, Self has produced an outstanding record of 268–52 (.838), having won the national championship with the Jayhawks in 2007-08. He has a career mark of 475–157 (.752).

On the court, battles will rage in both the front and back courts, as these two teams are about as evenly matched as any contest in the tournament.

Up front, the Buckeyes feature the burly Jared Sullinger, a strong scorer in the paint and a ferocious rebounder, who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding at 17.6 points and 9.3 boards per game. Aside him will be 6'7" sophomore, Deshaun Thomas, who has flourished in Motta's free-flowing system. Thomas, a big time scoring threat is dangerous from just about anywhere on the court, but his best forte may be from the seven to ten foot range, where he can either nail jumpers or back opponents into the paint.

Contesting the boards with Thomas and Sullinger will be Kansas' star Thomas Robinson, who, like Sullinger, leads his team in scoring and rebounding, with 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. His wingman is 6'11" Jeff Withey, a shot-blocking machine who is not a great rebounder, but has shown more than adequate ability in the low post.

The back court battle will be vied by the two point guards - Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Kansas specialist Tyshawn Taylor. Craft, more of a defensive specialist, will be on curt for almost the entire duration, trying to stay in front of Taylor, who is a slick dribbler and excellent finisher at the rim.

Role players will be vital to each team. For the Buckeyes, William Buford is the best pure shooter of the starters, and he will be joined by Lenzelle Smith Jr. a slasher with good inside moves and a nice shooting touch.

Opposing them for Kansas, Elijah Johnson will be a key player, as he has been throughout the tourney, providing key baskets at critical moments. He's very much like Smith, though probably has more offensive potential than his Ohio State foe. Travis Releford doesn't do much scoring, but he's a capable passer and strong rebounder for the Jayhawks.

Another player to watch is Ohio State's Even Ravenel, who has performed quite well when spelling either Sullinger or Thomas.

For an idea of how close this match-up is, the statistics tell the story. Ohio State is 35th nationally in scoring at 75.1 points per contest, 57th in rebounding, at 36.8 and 12th in the nation in field goal percentage, stroing it at a .486 clip. The Jayhawks are 36th in scoring (75.0), 54th in rebounding (36.9) and shoot a field goal percentage of .485, 14th nationally.

Las Vegas has installed the Buckeyes as a 2 1/2 point favorite, but this one is really up for grabs.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Final Four Preview: Kentucky Wildcats vs. Louisville Cardinals

National Semi-Final, New Orleans, LA

(1) Kentucky Wildcats (36-2) vs. (4) Louisville Cardinals (30-9), 6:09 pn EDT - Seriously, does it get any better than this?

Two storied programs located just 69 miles apart in the great state of Kentucky, Louisville and Kentucky will meet for the 44th time in their shared histories in a series that dates back to 1913, the year the Federal Reserve was formed.

The Wildcats hold the series edge, 29-14, with the most recent meeting being earlier this season, on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2011, when Kentucky escaped with a 69-62 home win at Lexington.

The programs and their coaches - Louisville's Rick Pitino and John Calipari - are no strangers to the Final Four. Kentucky has been there 14 times, Louisville, eight. The Wildcats' last Final Four appearance was in 2011; the Cardinals last made it into the Final Four in 2005.

The coaches will get plenty of attention in this match-up, as they are two of the greatest of all time. Rick Pitino, 26 years a college basketball coach, has a career record of 627-229, for a .732 won-loss percentage. Since 2001, Pitino has been head coach of Louiville, where he's compiled a record of 275-105. He's guided teams to the Final Four six times, and this will be his second Final Four appearance as coach of the Cardinals.

Ironically, Pitino won his only national championship when he was head coach of Kentucky, a position he held from 1989 through 1997, winning the national championship in 1996. A year later, he left the Wildcat program and headed down the road to Louisville after racking up a record of 219-50 in Lexington.

John Calipari has a similar resume. In 20 years of coaching, he's amassed a career record of 545-154, a winning percentage of .780. His earlier stints at Massachusetts (193-71) and Memphis (252-69) led to his hiring as head coach of Kentucky, replacing Tubby Smith in 2009. In just three seasons with the Wildcats, Calipari has produced a record of 100-14, the best of any Division 1 coach during that span.

Calipari is becoming quite the regular at the Final Four, having taken Kentucky there last season, losing in a semi-final game to eventual national champion, Connecticut, 56-55. He took Memphis there in 2008 and UMass was a Final Four team in 1996 under his guidance. Calipari has never won a national championship, though he came awfully close with Memphis in 2008, losing to Kansas, 75-68, in the national final.

The two used to be good friends, though lately, the descriptions of their acquaintance have ranged from "frenemies" to rivals to unfriendly associates.

While the sidecourt drama will be something of a sideshow to the main event on the court, the players will ultimately decide which team advances to the title game, and here, Kentucky seems to have a large advantage.

According to the latest line, Kentucky is an 8 1/2 point favorite over the Cardinals, a number that may well add more fuel to the underdogs' fire.

The Wildcats have a decided height advantage, with freshman Anthony Davis patrolling the lane along with fellow frosh Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and sophomore Terrence Jones. David stands 6'10", Jones, 6'9" and Kidd-Gilchrist, 6'7".

By contrast, the Louisville front line has center Gorgui Dieng at 6'11", who, like Davis is a ball-swatter and shot-changer, but after that the height drops off dramatically. Freshman Chane Behanen is only 6'6", but his bulky 250-pound frame allows him to bang with the big men. The usual Louisville lineup will feature three guards, though Kyle Kuric, a 6'4" swingman who does most of his scoring from the perimeter, isn't going to help out much on the boards or in the paint. The disparity in size - on paper, at least - gives Kentucky a huge inside advantage.

In the back court, there's no faster player than Louiville's senior point guard Peyton Siva, who will match up with larger rivals, either Marcus Teague, the starter or Darius Miller, who is a real spark off the bench. Siva will likely play at least 36 minutes, while Teague can get plenty of rest, so in this match-up, Siva, who is in exceptional condition, may be worn down by the time the game reaches the crucial last four or five minutes.

The shooting guards are somewhat of a stand-off. Chris Smith and Russ Smith of Louisville have responded well to the rigors of tournament play with solid games in the regionals. They'll have to be on the mark if Louisville is going to keep pace with the Wildcats, which sports players that can score in a variety of ways from virtually anywhere on the court. Sophomore Doron Lamb is Kentucky's best scoring guard, hitting at 47% both inside and outside the 3-point line.

Statistically, the Wildcats enjoy even more advantages. They are the 20th-highest scoring team in the country, at 77.1 points per game, are 15th in rebounding (39.2) and 10th in field goal percentage, at .487%. The Cardinals rank 155th in scoring at 68.8 ppg, 27th in rebounds (38.2) and a troubling 255th in field goal percentage, checking in at .425%.

None of this is particularly bothersome to the confident Pitino nor his troops, who have taken the same path as last season's national title-holders, UConn, winning the Big East tournament and all four of their NCAA games, for an eight-game winning streak.

Kentucky doesn't seem the least bit concerned either. They've lost only twice all season and they've already avenged one of the losses. A December, 73-72, defeat at Indiana was reversed when the Wildcats thumped the Hoosiers, 102-90, in the South regional semi-final. Their other loss was to Vanderbilt, in the SEC championship. Though it was a disappointment for Kentucky, it didn't matter, as they were named the tournament's overall #1 seed, remain the #1 team in the polls and now have a chance to prove it in New Orleans.

Stopping Kentucky on offense is going to be difficult of the Cardinals, though penetrating their huge defense could prove to be just as daunting a task. Key to Louisville's success will be the shooting of Kuric, who can be a dagger from downtown, and the Smith boys, along with Siva's penetration. The Wildcats can spread the scoring around, but their defense is probably the most critical aspect of this contest.

We'll all know how it turns out shortly after dusk on Saturday.

Friday: Kansas vs. Ohio State Preview

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Week Before Final Four the Perfect Time for Golf

March Madness really slows down between the Regional Finals and the Final Four games, so, with time on your hands and no hoops on the tube (except for the NIT, but who really wants to watch the battle for #69?), warming temperatures and sunny days make it the perfect time to get a head start on your golf game.

If you're like most guys and gals, the clubs have been neatly tucked away in the garage or breezeway, just sitting there, patiently awaiting a chance to get out to the links.

Before you had out to your favorite course, it pays to check the contents of the bag in advance, making sure you've got all the necessities, from clubs (probably could use a good wash), golf balls, tees, glove, shoes, and any other necessities.

Since many amateur golfers - from duffers to 5-handicappers - won't be hitting the links for a few more weeks, most courses will be pretty desolate, which offers the opportunity to play more than just one ball per hole, so, to take maximum advantage of your practice rounds, a small investment in some premium golf balls might not be a bad idea.

There are deals online and your pro shop may have some specials. Nothing like some new balls to get your golf game moving in the right direction.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tyshawn Taylor Lifts Jayhawks into Final Four

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 25, 2012

Experience matters in almost every walk of life, but Tyshawn Taylor's four years of tutelage under coach Bill Self at Kansas paid huge dividends for the senior guard as he lifted his team past North Carolina and into the NCAA Final Four.

Taylor was the catalyst in the Jayhawks' 80-67 win in the the Midwest regional final. It didn't hurt that North Carolina's regular point guard, Kendall Marshall had been sidelined with a fractured wrist, leaving Taylor one-on-one for much of the game with less-capable replacements - Stilman White and Justin Watts - who together tallied just nine points for the Tar Heels.

Able to guard players with limited understanding of North Carolina's attack, Taylor was able to pick off five steals, and snatch six rebounds while the bigs battled under the hoop, while on the offensive end he scored a game high 22 points and dished out five assists to grateful teammates.

Playing all but four minutes of the game, Taylor slowed Carolina's offense and while he was 0-for-5 from three-point range, he was effective otherwise, hitting 10 of 19 shots from the field and turning the ball over just three times.

Kansas will face the East region's Ohio State in Saturday's semi-final in a battle of #2 seeds. Ohio State, like Kansas, defeated their region's #1 in the regional final - in Ohio State's case, Syracuse - to advance to New Orleans.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard: ACC Out, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC Reach Final Four

Four teams from four different conferences have reached the Final Four: Kentucky from the SEC, the East region champion, will play Louisville, from the Big East, out of the West region; Ohio State, the Big Ten representative, emerged from the East region and will play Kansas, of the Big 12, from the Midwest region.

The two semi-final games will be played on Saturday, March 31, in the New Orleans' Superdome, the vidtors advancing to the national championship game on Monday, April 2.

Through games of Sunday, March 25

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 4 4
ACC 6 5
Big East 14 8
Big Ten 11 5
Big 12 9 6
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 2
Mountain West 1 4
Ohio Valley 1 1
PAC-12 1 2
SEC 9 3
West Coast 2 3
All others 7 20

Kansas Punches Out Tar Heels, Heads to Final Four

Midwest Regional Final

(2) Kansas 80, (1) North Carolina 67 - The loss of Kendall Marshall turned out to be an achilles heel for North Carolina as they could not make plays down the stretch and Kansas overwhelmed the Tar Heels late, en route to a date with Ohio State in the Final Four.

A frenetic first half ended in a 47-47 tie. Thomas Robinson led all scorers with 14 first-half points, James Michael MacAdoo had 10 for Carolina; Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes, 8 apiece. Kansas made a 12-2 run to lead, 40-33, but Carolina quckly scored eight straight to grab a brief, 41-40 advantage.

Kansas set the tone for the second half by scoring the first seven points and held the lead throughout most of the period. Elijah Johnson broke the game open with a 3-pointer at 3:09, followed by Tyshawn Taylor's layup and 3-point play, then a Travis Relaford dunk gave Kansas a nine-point lead - their largest of the game to that point - with just 1:28 to play.

Carolina could not muster any offense in the final minutes. Kansas ended the game on a 12-0 run, holding North Carolina scoreless for the final 3:58. Taylor led all scorers with 22 points, plus six rebounds, five assists and five steals. The Jayhawk big men dominated inside. Jeff Withey had 15 points and eight rebounds. Thomas Robinson scored 18, with nine boards.

Kansas will face East region #2 seed Ohio State in the Final Four at New Orleans next Saturday in one of two semi-final games.

Kentucky is the sole #1 seed remaining. Ohio State and Kansas are both 2-seeds, while Louisville was the #4 seed from the West.

Wildcats Cruise into Final Four with 82-70 Win over Baylor

South Regional Final

(1) Kentucky 82, (3) Baylor 70 - For the first 6:35 of the first half, the Baylor Bears made a game of it, when they had Kentucky tied at 10 apiece. From there the Wildcats put on an exhibition of extraordinary basketball execution, outscoring Baylor, 32-12, into the half time break.

The half time deficit was the largest of the season for Baylor and the 22 points their lowest scoring half.

With the game well in hand, Kentucky was less ferocious on offense in the second half, allowing Baylor to chip away at the lead, getting it down to 13 on a couple of occasions and eventually to 10 with only 0:50 seconds left. Though the outcome was never in doubt, the final score was deceptive of how completely Kentucky dominated the affair.

Quincy Acy and Pierre Jackson scored 22 and 21 for the Bears, but had little support. Kentucky was paced by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's 19 points with five rebounds. Anthony Davis had 18, with 11 boards and six blocked shots. Four Wildcats ended in double figures, the team shooting a brisk 53% for the game, taking only nine three-pointers, making four.

Kentucky also had a huge edge on the foul line, making 30 of 44 free throws, compared to 16 of 19 for Baylor.

The Wildcats will face Louisville, the #4 seed from the West region, in one of two Final Four semi-final games next Saturday in New Orleans.

Jared Sullinger Leads Buckeyes to Final Four with Win over Orange

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ohio State is in the Final Four for the first time since 2007 after defeating Syracuse in the East region final, 77-70, on Saturday.

The Buckeyes head to New Orleans with an experienced squad that finished the Big Ten regular season tied with Michigan and Michigan State for the title at 13-5 and is 31-7 overall. Their on-court leader, sophomore Jared Sullinger, the team's top scorer and rebounder, was once again a key factor in the Buckeyes' success.

Sullinger was forced to sit out the final 16 minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul just four minutes into the contest. Still, he finished with a game-high, 19 points, scoring 15 points in the second half and leading the Buckeyes to break open a 29-all tie at the break. Sullinger has had four fouls in a game 11 times this season, fouling out just once, in a February 21, 83-67, win over Illinois. On Saturday, he committed just one more foul over the last 20 minutes of play.

Leading all scorers with 19 points, Sullinger also was a factor on the boards when he was allowed to play his usual fearless, low-post style. He ripped down seven rebounds for the Buckeyes, which led Syracuse, 37-22, in rebounding. Considering he played only 26 minutes, his personal numbers and the final score might have been vastly different had he been on the floor his normal 32-35 minutes.

Ohio State will face Sunday's winner of the Midwest regional final between North Carolina and Kansas. They'll be in New Orleans for one of the two national semi-final games on Saturday, March 31.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ohio State Defeats Syracuse, 77-70, Heads to New Orleans

East Regional Final

(2) Ohio State 77, (1) Syracuse 70 - Despite playing only six minutes of the first half due to two early fouls, Jared Sullinger scored 15 of his game high 19 points during the second half, turning a 29-29 tie at the break into a win and trip to the Final Four for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Sullinger was 5-for-9 from the field, made nine of 12 free throws and pulled down seven rebounds, leading four Ohio State starters in double figures.

The game was tight throughout, with Ohio State maintaining a narrow lead through most of the second half. Syracuse committed a number of crucial turnovers late in the contest, but overall the game was a statistical draw, except on the boards, where the Buckeyes held a 37-22 advantage and at the foul line, where Ohio State was 31-42 compared to 20-25 for the Orange. Two Syracuse players fouled out of the game and three others finished with four.

Ohio State will advance to the Final Four next Saturday to face the winner of Sunday's Midwest regional final, pitting top seed North Carolina against the region's #2 seed, Kansas.

Louisville Reaches Final Four with Comeback Win over Florida

West Regional Final

(4) Louisville 72 (7) Florida 68 - Russ Smith came off the bench for 19 points, sparking the Louisville Cardinals to a win over Florida and a trip to the Final Four. The Cardinals were outshot, 50% to 45% and out-rebounded, 32-27, but won the turnover battle, 13 to 6, overcoming as much as an 11-point deficit to rally back against the Gators for a hard-earned victory.

Smith added five rebounds and Chane Behanen had 17 points and seven boards for Louisville. Florida, which led most of the game and took a 41-33 lead into the half, made eight three-pointers in the first half but none in the second.

It was the seventh time Louisville coach Rick Pitino had faced his protege, Florida coach Billy Donovan. Pitino's teams have prevailed in all seven meetings.

Louisville will meet the winner of Sunday's South region final between Kentucky and Baylor in the Final Four, Saturday, March 31, in New Orleans.

Elite Eight Regional Final Previews, Saturday and Sunday Games

You've seen the games and heard all the commentary from Digger and Clark and the bloviating Vitale. You're maxed out on previews and predictions, so College Basketball Daily is here to cut through the noise and present some really brief snippets of what to watch for in the four weekend games.

Saturday, March 24

West: (4) Louisville vs. (7) Florida, 4:30 pm EDT - Pace wins the race. Florida wants to go fast; Louisville wants to control the flow and the clock. It's also Obi Wan Kenobi (Rick Pitino, Louisville) against Luke Skywalker (Billy Donovan, Florida). They've engaged in light saber duels six times in the past. Obi Wan has won all six.

East: (1) Syracuse vs. (2) Kansas, 7:05 pm EDT - One of two 1-2 match-ups (Midwest is the other). Syracuse 2-3 zone faces the double headed monster of Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State front men. The team that keeps their hands up and active on defense the most wins. Back court duel between Kraft and Trish/Jardine will be epic.

Sunday, March 25

South: (1) Kentucky vs. (3) Baylor, 2:20 pm EDT - Size matters, but Kentucky's interior players are bigger and more active than Baylor's. The Bears have done well so far, but they'll need more back court contributions ot stay in this. Kentucky coach John Calipari has been close before, but this is his best chance to win a national championship.

Midwest: (1) North Carolina vs. (2) Kansas, 5:05 pm EDT - Without Kendall Marshall, the Carolinians are wounded ducks. Thomas Robinson needs to step up for the Jayhawks and overpower Zeller and Henson in the paint. Elijah Johnson can play a huge role in the back court as disruptor, distributor and scorer. May be close, but only Kansas wins if it's a blowout.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard:

With just eight teams remaining after Thursday and Friday's regional semi-final games, all of the smaller conferences have been ousted, leaving only the ACC (North Carolina), Big Ten (Ohio State), Big East (Syracuse, Louisville) Big 12 (Kansas, Baylor) and SEC (Kentucky, Florida).

Regional final match-ups include only one scenario that could produce a Final Four meeting within the same conference, that being the potential South-West game that could come down to an all-SEC showdown between Florida and Kentucky.

Suffered the worst in regional play was the Big Ten, which entered the week with five teams still in the hunt (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State and Indiana), but was decimated in the semi-finals, leaving only the Buckeyes to fend for the conference.

The Big East, which sent nine teams to the tournament, still has two left - Syracuse and Louisville. Syracuse could eliminate the Big Ten completely with a win over Ohio State on Saturday, while the Cardinals hope to whittle the SEC down to one with a win over Florida, also on Saturday.

Two potential meetings in the championship game could involve teams from the same conference. Syracuse could face Louisville in an all-Big East final or Kansas could meet up with Baylor, a Big 12 championship assured.

The SEC, which sent only four teams to the tourney, leads the way with a 7-2 record. Alabama went down ot Creighton in the opening round, while Vanderbilt won one game before falling to Wisconsin in the sub-regional round of 32.

Through games of Friday, March 23

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 4 4
ACC 6 4
Big East 13 7
Big Ten 10 5
Big 12 8 5
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 2
Mountain West 1 4
Ohio Valley 1 1
PAC-12 1 2
SEC 7 2
West Coast 2 3
All others 7 20

Tyler Zeller Bails Out Tar Heels in OT Win over Ohio

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 23, 2012

Without their playmaker, Kendall Marshall, North Carolina barely survived their regional semi-final tilt with the Ohio Bobcats, Friday night, having to go into overtime to eventually conquer their upset-minded opponents, 73-65.

Marshall suffered a fractured wrist in the Tar Heels' previous game, an 87-73 win over Creighton this past Sunday (March 18) that set up the Sweet 16 meeting with the Bobcats. Coach Roy williams was forced to start freshman Stilman White in his place, and, while White was an adequate replacement, North Carolina still turned the ball over 23 times against Ohio.

What the Tar Heels lost with Marshall's absence was compensated for by the steady play of senior forward Tyler Zeller, the ACC player of the year, who tallied 20 points and 23 rebounds. Zeller's 20+ double-double was the first time any player in the NCAA tournament had accomplished such a feat since Tim Duncan did it when playing for Wake Forest in 1997, putting Zeller and his accomplishment in elite company.

Besides the scoring and glass-cleaning, Zeller was a powerful force in the middle, with four blocked shots and numerous others altered as Ohio players tried in vain to penetrate the middle against him and fellow front court stalwart John Henson.

Carolina's win sets up a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Kansas, the #2 seed in the Midwest region. The winner will earn a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four.

NCAA Tournament Regional Semi-Final Results and Recaps, Late Friday Games

South Region

(1) Kentucky 102, (4) Indiana 90 - The Kentucky Wildcats prevailed in a game played at a breakneck pace from start to finish and avenged one of just two losses suffered this season by taking Indiana out of the tournament.

The Wildcats advanced to a Sunday regional final against third-seeded Baylor, which took down Xavier in the region's earlier semi-final.

Indiana's Christian Watford led all scorers with 27 points, but Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist equalled his career high with 24 points and had 10 rebounds.

Midwest Region

(2) Kansas 60, (11) NC State 57 - Elijah Johnson scored a layup off an inbounds pass to put Kansas up 60-57 with 13.5 seconds to play, and NC State could not respond in the final seconds as the Kansas Jayhawks advanced to the regional final to face the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday.

Thomas Robinson led the Jayhawks with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Jeff Withey had a career high 10 blocked shots. Kansas barely survived a poor shooting night, making just one of 14 three-pointers and shooting only 37.5% for the entire game. The Jayhawks were only 11-20 from the foul line, but held the Wolfpack to 28% from the field.

Friday, March 23, 2012

NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Friday Early Games Results & Recaps

South Region

(3) Baylor 75, (10) Xavier 70 - Baylor looked like they would blow out the Musketeers, opening up an 18-point lead in the first half, but Xavier closed with a 13-3 run to go into the break down 36-29. Baylor shot 53% in the opening half, but tailed off in the second half as Xavier closed the gap to four points, and finally to three with 22 seconds left, but Brady Heslip nailed down the win with four free throws in the final seconds for the win.

Xavier's Tu Holloway led all scorers with 22 points, but the game ball belonged to Baylor's Quincy Acy, who had a monster game with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Acy was 8-for-11 from the field and made all four of his free throws. The Bears advance to the regional finals where they will face the winner of tonight's Kentucky-Indiana regional semi-final.

Midwest Region

(1) North Carolina 73, (13) Ohio 65 OT - The David vs. Goliath match-up of the tournament went to... Goliath, but David forced North Carolina into overtime.

The Tar Heels were clearly out of sorts without point guard Kendall Marshall, who was in street clothes due to a fractured wrist suffered in Carolina's win over Creighton. Freshman stillman White started in Marshall's place, but Carolina committed 13 first half turnovers and, despite leading by 15 at one point, took a 29-22 lead into intermission. North Carolina turned the ball over 23 times in the game, allowing Ohio to remain close and eventually tie the game late, sending it into an extra five-minute session.

North Carolina scored the first five points in OT, and outscored the worn-down Bobcats, 10-2, for the hard-earned win. Walter Offutt scored 26 for the Bobcats, but North Carolina's Tyler Zeller owned the night, with 20 points, 21 rebounds and five blocks. It was the first time any player had scored 20 points with 20 or more rebounds since Wake Forest's Tim Duncan did it in 1977.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard: SEC Rising

With Florida's 68-58 win over Marquette in the West region semi-final, the SEC - which sent just four teams to the tournament - suddenly is looking pretty good, especially since, beside the Gators, the only other remaining team from the conference is Kentucky, the #1 seed in the South and the tournament's overall #1 seed.

The Wildcats face Indiana (one of just two teams to beat Kentucky this season) on Friday, while the Gators have a Saturday date with Louisville for the right to advance to the Final Four.

Elsewhere on Thursday night, the Big Ten and Big East took turns beating up each other. Syracuse took out Wisconsin, and Louisville beat #1 West seed, Michigan State. Ohio kept the Big Ten looking good with a win over Cincinnati. The Big East won two and lost two, while the Big Ten won just one, and lost two.

The SEC's .750 winning percentage is better than either of those two conferences.

Through games of Thursday, March 22

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 4 3
ACC 5 3
Big East 13 7
Big Ten 10 4
Big 12 6 5
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 2
Mountain West 1 4
Ohio Valley 1 1
PAC-12 1 2
SEC 6 2
West Coast 2 3
All others 7 19

Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas Lead Buckeyes Past Bearcats

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ohio State's 81-66 win over Cincinnati in the East region semi-final was the largest margin of victory of the four games played Thursday night.

The primary reason that the #2 seeded Buckeyes were able to put away the Bearcats so handily was their dominance in the paint, on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

Jared Sullinger recorded yet another double-double, his second - in three games - of the tournament and his 16th of the season, with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Sullinger was 7-for-13 from the field and made nine of 10 free throws. Five of his rebounds were offensive.

His front court running mate, Deshaun Thomas, poured in a game high 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including three of five three-pointers. Four of Thomas' seven rebounds were of the offensive variety.

If Ohio State reaches the Final Four (they face East region #1 seed Syracuse on Saturday for the right to advance), Thomas could be looking at tournament Most Outstanding Player. He scored 31 points with 12 rebounds against Loyola (MD) and dropped in 18, with seven boards, in Ohio State's win over Gonzaga.

NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Results & Recaps, Thursday Late Games

East Region

(2) Ohio St. 81, (6) Cincinnati 66 - The Sweet 16 battle of Ohio became Cincinnati's Waterloo as the Ohio State Buckeyes cruised past the Bearcats and onto the regional final against Syracuse.

Buckeye forwards Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger led the charge with 26 and 23 points, respectively. Point guard Aaron Craft's heady defense and 11 points, six steals, five assists and four rebounds were a huge contribution to the success of Ohio State.

The East region will conclude with a chalky complexion, as the #1 and #2 seeds battle for the right to advance to the Final Four in New Orleans.

West Region

(7) Florida 68,(3) Marquette 58 The Florida Gators will face the region's #4 seed, Louisville, in Saturday's regional final after taking out Marquette Thursday night.

Florida freshman Bradley Beal led all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-19 shooting, along with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

Billy Donovan's efficient Gators held the edge in rebounding and assists and made 13 of 15 free throws.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

NCAA Tournament: Results & Recaps of Thursday Sweet 16 Early Games

East Region

(1) Syracuse 64, (4) Wisconsin 63 - 32-2 Syracuse survived their second one-point victory of the season, advancing to the regional final as the #1 seed. Wisconsin, forced to foul with 18 seconds to play and down by a point, put Kris Joseph on the line for a one-and-one. When Joseph missed the front end, Wisconsin had their opportunity for the upset, but Jordan Taylor's heave from well beyond the three-point line did not catch iron and the clock expired on the Badgers.

The only other one-point win for the Orange this season was a 52-51 nail-biter at Louisville, on February 13. Wisconsin stayed in the game by hitting an amazing 14 of 27 three-point shots (52%). The two teams combined for just 12 turnovers, six by each team. Jared Berggren and Jordan Taylor each had 17 points for the Badgers. Syracuse had four players in double figures, led by CJ Fair's 15 points. The Orange shot 55% from the field, including five of nine from three-point range and the same (5-9) from the foul line.

West Region

(4) Louisville 57, (1) Michigan St. 44 - Louisville's defensive effort produced an easy win over Michigan State, the first #1 seed in the tournament to taste defeat. The Cardinals held the Spartans to a mere 29% from the field and 24% (5-for-21) from three-point range. Louisville was superior in the paint. Chane Behanen was the game's leading scorer with 15 points, along with eight boards. Center Gorgui Dieng scored just five points but blocked seven shots and ripped down nine rebounds.

Louisville has run off seven straight wins, including four in a row to capture the Big East championship.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Previews, Thursday Games

East Region

(1) Syracuse (33-2) vs. (4) Wisconsin (26-9), 7:15 pm ET - A serious contrast in styles awaits fans at the TD Garden in Boston. The Syracuse attack is predicated on turnovers and fast break points out of their 2-3 zone defense that most teams have trouble penetrating successfully. Wisconsin, however, does have advantages in three-point shooting and their own steady, heady defense on the opposite end.

While the Orange haven't seemed to have missed their center, Fab Melo, they also haven't played a team as disciplined as the Badgers, who don't turn the ball over very often. In their 60-57 win over Vanderbilt, Wisconsin suffered only eight turnovers and despite coming up on the short end in rebounds, shooting percentage and free throws, still managed to prevail. It gets tougher in the round of 16, and even though Syracuse has played well enough to win their previous two games, they'd better not get down early, because the Badgers have a way of milking leads and making others pay for their mistakes.

(2) Ohio St. (29-7) vs. (6) Cincinnati (26-10), 9:45 pm ET - The all-Ohio regional semi-final will be a gut-check for both teams, though if the Buckeyes get hot, they may be able to romp home with a win here because the Bearcats are not a great shooting team, relying more on defense to survive low scoring games. Cincinnati's wins in the tournament were both in the 60s, and, during the Big East regular season, they topped 80 points only twice.

By contrast, the Buckeyes have the players and system that can put up points in a hurry. Through their Big Ten season, they scored 80 or more four times and had a slew of wins in the 70s. Their two tournament wins were both in the 70s as well, and they won them by comfortable margins - 19 points over Loyola (MD) and seven better than a solid Gonzaga team.

West Region

(1) Michigan St. (29-7) vs. (4) Louisville (28-9), 7:47 pm ET - Both West regional semi-final games will be played at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ, so there won't be any perceived home advantage for any of the contestants. Both Michigan State and Louisville have been impressive through the first two games of the tournament and play very similar styles, though the Cardinals depend more on penetration by point guard Peyton Siva, whereas the Spartans have a go-to guy in Draymond Green, who registered a triple double in Michigan's opening win and a double-double taking down St. Louis to get to this point.

This is likely to be the defensive struggle of the night, as neither team is blessed with an abundance of offensive talent. A score with both teams in the 60s would not be surprising. Louisville, which ended their regular season with four losses in six games, has turned things around nicely, winning six straight, including the Big East tournament.

(3) Marquette (27-7) vs. (7) Florida (25-10), 10:17 pm ET - The Gators are arguably the faster team in this Big East-SEC match-up, but the Golden Eagles are a determined, consistent bunch who are difficult to label. They are surely among the best defensive teams remaining in the tourney, but they can go cold for long stretches on offense, which will hurt them badly if they don't score well against Florida.

Marquette made a shambles of their first two opponents in the tourney - BYU and Murray State - but Florida has big school credentials and demolished Virginia, 71-45 and Norfolk State, 84-50, making the Gators the tournament's biggest margin-of-victory team remaining. They have big time scorers in Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Eric Murphy. Either team will be a tough out, but Florida has coaching expertise in Billy Donovan and the scoring punch that could turn this into a catch-up game for the Golden Eagles, a condition at which they do not excel.

Monday, March 19, 2012

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard: Big Ten Send Four to Sweet 16

With Indiana, Wisconsin, Oho State and Michigan State winning their weekend games, the Big Ten has four teams heading into the round of 16. Three of the upcoming match-ups involve teams from the Big East, as Wisconsin faces Syracuse and Ohio State meets Cincinnati in the East, while Michigan State matches up with Louisville in the West. The other meeting will be a rematch of the Kentucky-Indiana rivalry. Indiana handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season back in December. The 73-72 setback was one of just two losses suffered by the Wildcats this season.

Through games of Sunday, March 18

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 4 3
ACC 5 3
Big East 11 5
Big Ten 9 2
Big 12 6 5
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 2
Mountain West 1 4
Ohio Valley 1 1
PAC-12 1 2
SEC 5 2
West Coast 2 3
All others 7 19

Walter Offett and DJ Cooper Lead Upstart Ohio Bobcats into Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 18, 2012

In the search for the tournament's most broken bracket, the Midwest region comes up a winner and it could have been worse had Purdue been able to hang on against 2nd-seeded Kansas Sunday night.

While the Jayhawks moved onto the Sweet 16, as did #1 seed North Carolina, the middle of the bracket became a mess as #11 NC State stopped #3 Georgetown and #13 Ohio prevailed over the 12 seed from South Florida. While the Bobcats may be accused of bottom-feeding, they still managed a to make the round of 16, no mean feat for a school from the Mid-America conference, whose teams are supposed to genuflect and gently give way to teams from the power conferences.

Ohio may be a small school without much of a basketball pedigree, in sharp contrast to their upcoming opponent, North Carolina, a programs whose legendary players and coaches - like Michael Jordan and Dean Smith - fill the record books and are woven into the fabric of March Madness.

What the Bobcats do have is a sound back court, a small detail that may come in handy against the Tar Heels, who may be without point guard Kendall Marshall in their upcoming meeting (Friday, March 23, 7:47 pm, TBS) after Marshall suffered a fractured bone in his right wrist in the Tar Heels' win over Creighton.

In Ohio's 62-56 triumph over South Florida, the champions of the Mid-America conference were led by their back court duo of Walter Offett and DJ Cooper, who scored 21 and 19 points, respectively. Offett was 7-for-9 from the field, 4-for-4 on three-pointers and had three rebounds and four steals. Cooper was 7-for-9 from the foul line, with seven assists, six rebounds and a pair of steals.

With a pair of guards with that kind of capability, Ohio is a threat whenever and wherever they play. North Carolina had better not be looking past the surprising Bobcats.

NCAA Round of 32 Late Sunday Game Results and Recaps

Midwest region

North Carolina 87 Creighton 73 - Hailing from the Missouri Valley conference, the Bluejays of Creighton were no match for #1 seed North Carolina, who grabbed an early lead and expanded it to as many as 19 points in the second half. Doug McDermott had 20 points for Creighton, but little help from his teammates. Kendall Marshall led the Tar Heels with 18 points, 11 assists and four rebounds. Harrison Barnes scored 17 as North Carolina had five players in double figures and got 18 points from their bench. John Henson returned from a two-game absence and scored 13 points with 11 rebounds and four blocks.

It was reported after the game that point guard Kendall Marshall had suffered a fractured right wrist. No further details were immediately available.

Ohio 62 South Florida 56 - The Bobcats, champions of the Mid-America conference, advanced to the Sweet 16 with a victory over #12 seed South Florida. The Bobcats, seeded 13, were led by their back court of Walter Offett and GJ Cooper, who scored 21 and 19 points, respectively. Offett was 7-for-9 from the field, 4-for-4 on three-pointers and had three rebounds and four steals. Cooper was 7-for-9 from the foul line, with seven assists, six rebounds and a pair of steals.

Awaiting the Bobcats in the next round is top seed North Carolina.

Kansas 63 Purdue 60 - #2 seed Kansas pulled out a victory of 10th-seeded Purdue, in a game the Jayhawks trailed until Elijah Johnson hit a three pointer with 5:01 left to give Kansas a 57-56 lead. The Boilermakers jumped out to an eight-point lead and maintained it nearly for the duration. After Johnson's bucket, Purdue scored, but Kansas came up with a late steal and dunk by Tyshaun Taylor which left Purdue with just 2.5 ticks. Purdue's Ryne Smith had a chance at the buzzer, but the ball glanced off the backboard and caromed off the rim.

Kansas meets 11-seed North Carolina State in the next round.

West region

Florida 84 Norfolk State 50 - As it turned out, Norfolk State's "one shining moment" was just that, as they could not rekindle the fire that led them to their upset of #2 seed Missouri, Friday night. Florida registered the largest margin of victory in the tournament to date. None of the Spartans scored in double figures, while the Gators had five, led by Kenny Boynton's 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Florida, the region's 7 seed, gets #3 Marquette in the next round.

East region

Cincinnati 62 Florida State 56 - In a game that was close throughout, Cincinnati, down, 50-49, scored seven straight points late, keyed by a steal and dunk by Dion Dixon and a short jumper from Cashmere Wright that put the Bearcats ahead for good. Sean Kilpatrick was the top scorer in the game with 18 points and six rebounds. A tenacious defensive struggle, both teams shot at just a 38% rate. Cincinnati, the region's #6 seed, became the fourth team from the state of Ohio to reach the Sweet 16, where they will face the 2nd-seeded Buckeyes of Ohio State for the right to advance.

South region

Xavier 70 Lehigh 58 - Lehigh raced out to an early 15-point lead, but Xavier chipped away, trailed 37-33 at the break and quickly evened the score in the second half. Lehigh didn't score a point from 8:08 to 1:03 left in the game as Xavier widened their unassailable lead. Xavier center Kenny Frease scored 25 points and tore down 13 rebounds. Tu Holloway chucked in 21, including four threes. Lehigh became the sixth 15 seed to defeat a #2 seed when they toppled Duke Friday night, but like the five before them, failed to win their following game. The 10th-seeded Musketeers move on to face #3 Baylor.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

NCAA Round of 32 Sunday Early Game Results & Recaps

Midwest region

North Carolina State 66 Georgetown 63 - The 11th seeded Wolfpack pulled off the upset of 3-seed Georgetown. The game was closely contested throughout, and came down to a final chance to tie on a three-point attempt by Georgetown's Jason Clark, but the late heave at the buzzer came up short, sealing the win for NC State, who will play the winner of Sunday night's Purdue-Kansas tilt. Kansas, the 32 seed in the region, is heavily favored over the 10th-seeded Boilermakers.

West region

Michigan State 65 St. Louis 61 - #1 seed michigan State led nearly throughout, but a resolute St. Louis team did not make their advancement to the next round an easy one, tightening the game and making the Spartan hit key free throws late.

Draymond Green has his usual big game with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, but point guard, Keith Appling, was the game's high scorer with 19 points. Michigan Stat moves on to a round of 16 meeting with Louisville.

NCAA Round of 32 Sunday Game Previews

12:15 pm ET, Midwest region: (3) Georgetown vs. (11) NC State - A pretty even match-up overall as both teams are playing their best basketball at the right time, though especially NC state, which will be seeking their second straight upset win (topped #6 San Diego State in their opener). The battle will be likely won or lost by Wolfpack big men, who have a bit of a size advantage over the Hoyas, but either team could benefit from hot shooting by the guards. Looks like a wide-open, fun affair.

5:15 pm ET Midwest region: (1) North Carolina vs. (8) Creighton - Two questions immediately arise upon looking at this game: 1) Will John Henson suit up and play?, and 2) Will Harrison Barnes of the Tar Heels or Creighton's Doug McDermitt have the bigger game. Barnes and McDermott were teammates in high school when the two won state championships together in Iowa. Henson, the lanky, shot-blocking forward, sat out North Carolina's opening win over Vermont and is still nursing a sore wrist, suffered in the SEC final against Vanderbilt.

Whatever the outcome of those questions, North Carolina has been a dominant team all season and are the pick to prevail over the last survivor from the Missouri Valley conference, though Creighton has a solid attack and is one of the better defensive teams in the tourney. How well McDermott performs will be key.

6:10 pm ET West region: (7) Florida vs. (15) Norfolk State - The Gators had an easy time getting past Virginia, while Norfolk State upset Missouri in their opener. Florida may not have an answer (does anybody?) for the spartan big man, Kyle O'Quinn, though they'll surely do better than Missouri did handling him. The other question is whether Norfolk St. can maintain their poise, hot shooting and emotion after the biggest win of their program. No 15-seed winner over a 2 seed has ever won their following game. The spartans have a chance to make some more history.

7:45 pm ET, South region: (10) Xavier vs. (15) Lehigh - Like Norfolk State, the Mountain Hawks can make NCAA history if they take out Xavier, who upset 7-seed Notre Dame in their opener. After beating back #2 seed Duke, Norfolk State will need to stay focused on defense, lest Tu Holloway goes off for 30+ points and the Musketeers ride his hot hand. The Mountain Hawks are probably still hungry following the Duke win and Xavier looks like they could be another victim in a weak draw.

9:40 pm ET, east region: (3) Florida State vs. (6) Cincinnati - The opening weekend of the tournament concludes with a real hard-knocking contest. Both teams are primarily defensive-oriented, but have managed to find enough offense to reach this point. The battle in the paint and on the boards may be ferocious, but the feeling is that the Seminoles are battle-tested after beating North Carolina in the ACC final and then rallying to beat a very similar-looking St. Bonaventure team in their opening game. A hot hand for either team could decide this. Keep a close eye on Cincy guard Cashmere Wright, who, as the name implies, has a smooth game.

Brady Heslip's Nine 3-Pointers Lift Baylor into Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 17, 2012

On a good night, a sharp-shooting, three-point specialist will make four or five shots from beyond the arc. Any more than that generally deserves special mention by the basketball press. Six is great, seven is rare, but when a player goes off for nine from deep - especially under the pressure of the NCAA tournament - it is extraordinary.

That's what Brady Heslip did in Baylor's 80-63 ejection of Colorado and the PAC-12 from the tourney. Heslip took just 13 shots - 12 from outside the three-point line - and made nine of them, helping the Bears forge a round of 32 rout.

A native of Burlington, in Ontario province, Canada, Heslip fell two short of the tournament record 11, hoisted by Loyola Marymount's Jeff Fryer back in 1990. Heslip became the ninth player in NCAA tournament history to make nine or more threes. The win was Baylor's second straight in the tournament and their 29th overall against six losses. To reach 30 wins, the Bears will have to wait until Friday night, when they face the winner of the Xavier-Lehigh contest in the South region round of 16.

That should allow Heslip plenty of time to practice those long-range jumpers.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard; Big Ten Rocking, PAC-12 Out

With all but eight games left to be played over the opening weekend of the tournament, the Big Ten has clearly outclassed all other conference competing, having lost just one game (Michigan), while what may be the conference's best team, Michigan State, is up against St. Louis on Sunday.

The PAC-10, which only sent two teams to the tourney, is now completely out, after Baylor downed Colorado on Saturday night. Additionally, the three Westernmost conferences - PAC-12, WCC and Mountain West - have all been dismissed, after Louisville polished off the last of the four Mountain West teams, New Mexico, in Saturday's last game.

Those three conferences sent a total of nine teams, and none have survived the first two rounds. The results speak for themselves. The best basketball is being played almost overwhelmingly East of the Rockies and the majority of that, East of the Mississippi River.

Here's the breakout of conference records through Saturday, March 17:

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 3 2
ACC 3 2
Big East 10 3
Big Ten 8 1
Big 12 5 5
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 1
Mountain West 1 4
Ohio Valley 1 1
PAC-12 1 2
SEC 4 2
West Coast 2 3
All others 6 17

NCAA Round of 32 Results and Recaps, Late Saturday Games; Big Ten Huge, West, Out

East Region

Wisconsin 60 Vanderbilt 57 - The Big Ten notched another victory as the Badgers knocked off another SEC squad. Sharing the ball well, Wisconsin put five players in double figures and won the turnover battle, 8-12. The Badgers, who only went to the foul line eight times and made four, hit 10 three-pointers on 33 tries. The four seed in the region, Wisconsin will face top seeded Syracuse in the next round. It's the fifth time that Wisconsin has reached the Sweet 16 round under head coach Bo Ryan.

West Region

Marquette 62 Murray State 53 - Marquette, the 3 seed, put away #6 Murray State in a hotly-contested, defensive struggle to advance to the next round where they will meet the winner of the Norfolk State-Florida game.

The Golden Eagles out-shot Murray State, 38% to 31% and made 16 of 21 free throws. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom each scored 17 points to pace the victors. Isaiah Canaan scored 16 for the Races, but his scoring came off a 4-for-17 effort.

Louisville 59 New Mexico 56 - The Cardinals led by a point at the half, 26-25, opened up a big lead and nearly let it slip away, but held on for the win. Russ Smith, who was 5-12 overall, but 4-5 from the field, paced Louisville.

New Mexico's loss marked the elimination of the last of the three Westernmost conferences, the PAC-12, WCC and Mountain West, a total of nine teams, none of which lasted two rounds.

South Region

Indiana 63 VCU 61 - Indiana added another win to the Big Ten's impressive total with a gutsy victory over a game VCU unit. The Hooisers took their only lead since very early in the second half on Will Sheehey's short jumper that left the Rams with just 12.8 seconds to play. Bradford Burgess, who led 12-seeded VCU with 15 points, had a good look at a three with time running out, but the ball bounced off the rim as time expired. Cody Zeller and Christian Watford, Indiana's powerful front court duo, led the scoring with 17 apiece. Indiana will face Kentucky in the round of 16.

The Big Ten has a 7-1 record in the tournament through Saturday, with Michigan State, the #1 seed in the Midwest, facing 9-seed St. Louis on Sunday.

Kentucky 87 Iowa State 71 - Kentucky took a 38-27 lead into intermission, but a determined Cyclone squad brought the game to a 42-all tie early in the second half. The Wildcats countered with a 20-2 run for a 62-44 lead and eventually led by as many as 24.

The game's leading scorer was Marquis Teague, who scored 24 points on 10-14 shooting, to go with six assists and three rebounds. Three other Kentucky players finished in the teens. Freshman sensation Anthony Davis scored 15 points with 12 boards, five assists and two blocks. Kentucky will face 4th seeded Indiana in the next round. The Hoosiers were one of just two teams to defeat the Wildcats this season.

Baylor 80 Colorado 63 - Behind Brady Heslip's 27 points on nine three-pointers, Baylor advanced to the Sweet 16 for just the second time in school history. The Bears broke open a close game late as Colorado went into a scoring funk in the closing minutes.

Heslip was 9-for-12 from beyond the arc and missed the only shot he took inside the three-point line. The 3rd seeded Bears will face the winner of Sunday's Xavier-Lehigh tilt in the next round. With the Buffaloes' defeat, the PAC-10 has no more teams in the tourney, as the only other representative from the conference, Cal, was taken out in a play-in game.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

NCAA Round of 32 Saturday Results & Recaps, Early Games

East Region

Syracuse 75 Kansas State 59 - The region's top seed, Syracuse went down by seven early, but stormed past the 8th-seeded Wildcats, who shot just 31% against the active Orange zone and made only four of 17 three-point attempts.

While Kansas State struggled offensively, Syracuse turned up their game a few notches, shooting 51% for the game, including a sizzling 6-for-9 from three-point land. Dion Waiters led the Orange with 18 points and Scoop Jardine was especially effective in the second half, scoring 15 points with a 3-for-3 stroke on threes.

Even without their shot-swatting center, Fab Melo, the long Orange tallied eight blocks in the contest. Syracuse advanced onto the Sweet Sixteen round, to face the winner of the Vanderbilt-Wisconsin game, to be played later on Saturday.

Ohio State 73 Gonzaga 66 - For the third straight year, Ohio State advanced to the Sweet 16 with a helter-skelter win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gerald Sullinger, who spent much of the game on the bench with foul issues, still finished with 18 points, tying him with Deshaun Thomas as the game's high scorers. Point guard Aaron Craft provided key buckets with 17, making seven of nine from the field with 10 assists.

Gonzaga, the region's 7-seed, stormed back from a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 61 on an Elias Harris 3-pointer, but #2 seed Ohio State was too much in the final minutes, keeping the Zags at bay the rest of the way. The Buckeyes will face the winner of the Florida State-Cincinnati game, a 3 vs. 6 contest.

NCAA Round of 32 Saturday Previews

A few quick notes on a few of Saturday's featured match-ups:

12:15 pm ET, East Region - (1) Syracuse vs. (8) Kansas State - Plenty of people looking for the upset here, after Syracuse struggled against UNC-Asheville in their opener, but the Orange don't play well against smaller, quicker teams normally. Kansas State offers plenty of size, and their big man inside (Henriquez) will benefit from Fab Melo's absense. A god one to start off a full day of hoops.

2:45 pm ET, East Region - (2) Ohio State vs. (7) Gonzaga - Both teams cruised through the opening round, but Gonzaga completely tore up the 10 seed, West Virginia, playing a boatload of subs, so the Zags will be poised for the upset. Could be the game of the day, but Gonzaga will keep this one close and could easily be seen winning it.

5:15 pm ET, West Region - (3) Marquette vs. (6) Murray State - A barn-burner from start to finish in a game featuring two teams with absolutely no quit in them. After the Racers took out Colorado State handily, the selection committee was probably wondering why they seeded the Racers as a 6 and not a 3 or 4. At 31-1, Murray State has the best record in the country. Marquette is playing at a very high level right now and will put forth a good showing, but nobody should be surprised with a Murray State win here.

7:10 pm ET, South Region - (4) Indiana vs. (12) VCU - How did VCU ever get seeded a 12. The best defensive team in the tournament by many standards, the Rams took out a very good Wichita State team in the opening round in yet another selection committee blunder: putting two of the best mid-major teams up against each other in a first round game. Indiana is a very good representative of the Big Ten, but this is what hoops fans want to see, the smaller schools up against the big conferences. VCU has a great deal more experience over the youthful Hoosiers, and should win this one going away.

7:45 pm ET, South Region - (1 Kentucky vs. (8) Iowa State - The Cyclones are possibly the sleeper of the tournament, coming out of the very tough Big 12, where they went 12-6 and split games with Kansas and Baylor and beat Kansas State twice. Their win over UConn was a sleep-walk, so it will be interesting to see what the Cyclones do against some real competition. Ditto for Kentucky, which waltzed through the SEC, but were beaten in the conference tourney final by Vanderbilt. Their slaughter of Western Kentucky in the opener was a snooze-fest, but the Wildcats have a not-so-secret weapon named Terrence Jones, who's had three double-doubles in his last four games and just missed in the other, scoring 14 points with 9 boards against Florida in the SEC Tourney.

NCAA Conference Scoreboard: Despite Upsets, Big Ten 5-1, Big East 7-3

With Friday's huge upsets - Lehigh (15) over Duke (2) and Norfolk State (15) over Missouri (2), damage was done to the ACC and Big 12, but despite Michigan (a 4 seed) losing to Ohio (13), the loss was just the first for the Big Ten, against five wins, including 12th-seeded Purdue's win over #7 St. Marys in the Midwest Region.

The Big East also took a loss as #10 Xavier downed #7 Notre Dame in the South, though South Florida picked up the conference with a win over the A-10 Temple squad (a 12 over a 5 seed) in the Midwest region.

Also, with the #9 seed in the West, St. Louis, taking out #8 Memphis, Conference-USA no longer has any representation in the tourney. Southern Miss, the other C-USA representative, a 9 seed, was taken out by Kansas State, the 8 seed in the East.

Through games of Friday, March 16

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 3 2
ACC 3 2
Big East 7 3
Big Ten 5 1
Big 12 4 3
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 1
Mountain West 2 2
Ohio Valley 1 0
PAC-12 1 1
SEC 3 1
West Coast 2 2
All others 6 16

How many cake shows ARE there?

Thanks to Erasmo Cortez

Has anyone other than me noticed how many shows there are out there about cake? There are at least a baker’s dozen (see what I did there?). No really. Go look at your Direct tv guide and start counting them all. I think the original cake bakery that made it on TV was Charm City Cakes also known as Ace of Cakes. That show had it all. It had quirky characters like Chef Duff who always wore a hockey jersey no matter the weather. It had amazing looking cakes with such fine details and extras from lights on a police patrol car down to tiny buttonholes on the shirt of a modeling chocolate little kid. All of the cake shows that have come after Ace of Cakes have not quite lived up to Duff and his team for me. The cupcake store with the sisters is just kind of meh. Cupcake Wars is just plain awful and don’t get me started on the crew at Cake Boss, although, I can appreciate the story behind Carlos Bakery and all of its history. I think at least they have a little history and baking has been passed down from generation to generation in that family. Some of these other shows seem like they just woke up one day and decided to open a cupcake shop.

Kyle O'Quinn, CJ McCollum Lead Norfolk State, Lehigh Past #2 Seeds, Missouri, Duke

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 16, Month, 2012

Norfolk State's enormous, 86-84, upset over Missouri, the number two seed in the West region, was a monumental achievement that hasn't occurred since 2001, when Hampton defeated Iowa State, 58-57, in 2001.

Prior to Friday, a 15 seed beating a number two had only happened four times in the history of the NCAA tournament since expanding to 64 teams (now 68) in 1985. To get some perspective, that's four times in 28 years, out of a total of 112 2-15 match-ups.

Through Friday's games, mark that number up to six times in 116 2-15 meetings, because the Lehigh Mountain Hawks turned the trick on the Duke Blue Devils, knocking the #2 seed in the South region - along with coach Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest college basketball coach of all time, and all of Duke's storied history - out of the 2012 tournament with a smashing, 75-70, victory.

Never mind that sportswriters and sport bloggers won't have to scramble to rediscover how to spell coach K's name for the duration of the tourney; Lehigh's win was monstrous, and to think that two 15 seeds would beat two number two's in the same tournament, on the same day, well, that's one for the history books, an eventful day that may never happen again.

The tin-foil hat brigade will point to the unusual feat as a precursor to the Mayan calendar's prediction that the world will end on December 21, 2012, an omen of sorts, along with the record-setting warm winter and other assorted oddities and anomalies.

Whether or not the wins by the Spartans and Mountain Hawks (formerly the Engineers) have predictive or astronomical or numerological value can be debated another time. For now, the dual triumphs for the "little guy" remind us that anything is possible when men or women act together and execute on a plan.

The stars of the two games, Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn (St. Patrick's Irish eyes must surely be smiling today) and Lehigh's CJ McCollum, the co-players of the day, may have to share the spotlight for now, and the pair will be forever linked within the lore of collage basketball.

The two share some similarities and some differences. Both are big time scorers for little colleges, but McCollum is a 6'3" guard from small town Canton, Ohio while O'Quinn is a 6'10" center from big city Jamaica, New York, part of the New York City metropolis.

McCollum is more the run-and-gun type, as evidenced in his 30 point, 9-for-24 shooting spree against the Blue Devils, which included two three-pointers in seven attempts. But he also played the complete game, dishing six assists and grabbing six rebounds. McCollum also was 10-for-16 from the foul line.

O'Quinn did his work mostly around the rim, scoring 26 points for the Spartans against the undersized Tigers, powering inside for 10 buckets on 16 attempts, with a three-pointer (only his sixth of the season) in two attempts from outside the arc. O'Quinn had 14 rebounds for his 20th double-double of this season, was 5-for-9 from the stripe, blocked two shots and had a pair of assists.

When the celebration and laudatory remarks begin to fade sometime on Saturday, McCollum and O'Quinn will get back together with their teammates and coaches and start planning to see if they can write a little more history into this tournament. No #15 which had defeated a #2 has ever won their following game. On Sunday, the Mountain Hawks will face Xavier, the #10 seed, and the Spartans will go after Florida, a mere 7-seed.

Win or lose, Mayan predictions or otherwise, Friday, March 16 was a day for the record books.

Here are the previous 15-over-2 wins in NCAA history:

#15 Richmond beat #2 Syracuse 73-69 in 1991
#15 Santa Clara beat #2 Arizona 64-61 in 1993
#15 Coppin State beat #2 USC 78-65 in 1997
#15 Hampton beat #2 Iowa State 58-57 in 2001

NCAA Tournament Opening Round Late Games Results and Recaps

West Region

Michigan State 89 LIU-Brooklyn 67 - Michigan State led by five at the break and expanded their advantage into double digits in the second half, Draymond Green, Derrick Nix and Adrelan Payne plundered the interior for 24, 18 and 16 points, respectively. Green recorded the first triple double of the tourney with 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The top seeded Spartans easily advanced to face 9th seed St. Louis on Sunday.

South Region

Xavier 67 Notre Dame 63 - Tu Holloway scored 25 points to lead the 10 seed Musketeers to a win over 7 seed Notre Dame, advancing to the round of 32 to play Lehigh, the #15 seed that upset Duke earlier in the day, on Sunday. Holloway was 10-for-15 from the field with two three-pointers.

Midwest Region

South Florida 58 Temple 44 - South Florida trailed 19-8 during the first half and missed 22 straight fild goal attempts at one point, but rallied back to take a commanding lead as the game wore on.

Victor Rudd and Anthony Collins each scored 17 points for the Bulls in the 12 over 5 seed victory. The Bulls will face another upset winner, Ohio, the 13 seed in the region.

Kansas 65 Detroit 50 - The Kansas Jayhawks broke open a close game late in the first half and rolled to victory behind a game high 16 points from Thomas Robinson and 15 by Elijah Johnson, who was 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from three-point range. Kansas advances to face #10 seed Purdue in the next round.

Friday, March 16, 2012

NCAA Round of 64 Results & Recaps; Duke, Michigan Ousted

West Region

St. Louis 61 Memphis 54 - Kwamain Mitchell scored 22 points off the bench for the Billikens as St. Louis downed Memphis in a mild 9-8 upset. St. Louis held Memphis to 39% shooting and had a five rebound edge on the boards. Mitchell was 9-for-14, making 4 of 7 three-pointers.

South Region

Lehigh 75 Duke 70 - Lehigh's CJ McCollum threw up 22 shots, made nine of them, including two three pointers and was 10-for-16 from the foul line for a game high 30 points as the Mountain Hawks upset #2 seed Duke. It was the third major upset of the day, after #2 Missouri was knocked out of the West region by Norfolk State and Michigan, the #4 seed in the Midwest went down to Ohio.

Midwest Region

Ohio 65 Michigan 60 - Ohio took it to the Wolverines early and late, taking an early lead and maintaining it throughout. The Bobcats shot 51% from the field, while Michigan registered just 41% shooting. Ohio's DJ Cooper had the whole game on, leading all scorers with 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting (3-6 on threes) and four of five from the line with five assists and a couple of rebounds.

Purdue 72 St. Mary's 69 - The Boilermakers led the entire game, except for a few brief seconds late in the game when St. Mary's took a 69-68 lead with 44 seconds left. But Purdue scored the final four points of the contest to seal the win and move to the next round. Purdue guard Terone Johnson had a game high 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting with four rebounds and five assists.

NCAA Tournament, Round of 64 Early Games Results & Recaps; #2 Missouri Dumped by Norfolk State

East Region

Cincinnati 65 Texas 59 - The Longhorns dug themselves a very deep hole, scoring just two points in the opening 12:30 of the first half, but they clawed back to tie the game at 52-all on a put-back by Johnathan Holmes at 3:45 in the second half. Cincinnati squandered a 19-point lead, but regained their composure and the lead on three consecutive baskets - one by Cashmere Wright, sandwiched between a pair of Yancy gates buckets. Texas could get no closer than four as time wore down. Gates recorded another double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Florida State 66 St. Bonaventure 63 - The Bonnies, a 14 seed which got into the big dance by winning the Atlantic-10 tournament, proved their value by taking it to the Seminoles for most of the game and even had a chance to tie the contest when they had the ball with 8 seconds left. To avoid the major upset, 3-seed Florida State needed a 16-2 run to take its first lead with 5:15 left on a 3-pointer by Ian Miller.

The battle in the paint was ferocious. St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson scored 19 points with seven reounds and two blocks, matched by the Seminoles' Bernard James, who scored 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting, with nine boards and three blocked shots. Florida State moves on to a match-up with 6-seed Cincinnati.

Midwest Region

North Carolina St. 79 San Diego St. 65 - 11th-seeded NC State put a whipping on the #6 seed San Diego State, out of the Mountain West conference, dominating inside and shooting a blistering 58.5% from the field. The Aztecs' Jamaal Franlin led all scorers with 23 points, but Wolfpack forward Richard Howell made 10 of 12 shots for 22 points to lead his winning squad.

Creighton 59 Alabama 58 - Led by Doug McDermott's 16 points and 10 rebounds, Creighton, the number 8 seed in the Midwest, held on for the win against #9 seed Alabama. The Bluejays took the lead for good with just over five minutes left to play, but were inefficient at the line, allowing the Crimson Tide a chance for the win, down just one point with 2.4 seconds to play, but Trevor Relaford's three-point heave was partially blocked by Josh Jones.

Georgetown 74 Belmont 59 - Jason Clark had his jumper working as he poured in 23 points for the 3-seed Hoyas, making none of 12 overall and three of five 3-pointers. The Hoyas easily handled the 14-seed Bruins, as they shot 61% and had a 30-22 rebounding edge.

North Carolina 77 Vermont 58 - Even without John Henson - who sat out again with a bruised wrist - the Vermont Catamounts were no match for the mighty Tar Heels, the region's #1 seed. Henson's replacement, James Michael MacAdoo, and Tyler Zeller each scored 17 points to pace the Heels. Zeller also had a game high 15 rebounds.

West Region

Florida 71 Virginia 45 - Billy Donovan's Gators dominated the game from start to finish, taking an eight-point lead into half time and expanding it through the remainder of the game. Florida shot 53% for the game and out-rebounded Virginia, 36-21. The Gators will face Missouri on Sunday, the winner going to the Sweet Sixteen.

Norfolk State 86 Missouri 84 - It's official. March Madness has arrived, as the 15 seed Norfolk State Spartans upset the #2 seed and #3 ranked Missouri Tigers. Missouri, which shot 52%, could never shake free in a game that saw numerous lead changes and ties. The Spartans led by two at the end, but Phil Pressey's desperation three-pointer at the buzzer clanged off the rim and Norfolk State became just the fifth #15 seed to defeat a #2 seed in tournament history. The Spartans got a huge effort from center Kyle O'Quinn, who led all scorers with 26 points and hauled in 14 rebounds.

NCAA Tourney: Big Ten Unbeaten in Opening Round

Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana each won their opening games of the 2012 NCAA Men's College Basketball Championship Tournament for a perfect 3-0 record in the round of 64.

Includes games through Thursday, March 15.

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 - -
ACC - -
Big East 4 2
Big Ten 3 -
Big 12 3 1
Conf-USA - 1
Missouri Valley - 1
Mountain West 2 1
Ohio Valley 1 -
PAC-12 1 1
SEC 2 -
West Coast 2 1
All others 3 12

Rodney MaGruder's 30 Points Key to Kansas State Victory over Southern Miss

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kansas State surged past Southern Miss late in the second half, advancing to the round of 32 against East region #1 seed, Syracuse with a 70-64 victory over the Golden Eagles.

Point guard Angel Rodriguez scored seven of his 13 points in the final 2:10 of regulation, but it was Rodney McGruder, who scored 18 of his game high 30 points in the first half that kept the Wildcats in the game.

McGruder was 11 of 16 from the field with two 3-pointers and 6-for-8 from the charity stripe. McGruder's pair of treys were the only shots the Wildcats made from beyond the arc, going just 2-12 as a team. The team's high scorer throughout the season, McGruder added four rebounds and four steals for the Wildcats, who won the game at the free throw line, canning 26 of 34 freebies to Southern Miss' 12 of 17.

NCAA Round of 64 Results & Recaps: Late Games

South Region

Kentucky 81 Western Kentucky 66 - Anthony Davis scored 16 points with nine rebounds three assists, a steal and seven blocked shots. Terrence Jones led all scorers with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Jones added ten rebounds.

VCU 62 Wichita State 59 - Bradford Burgess, who played on last year's Final Four VCU squad, hit a key 3-pointer late in the game, propelling the Rams to the 12-over-5-seed victory. VCU held a sizable advantage most of the game, but the Shockers cut into the lead late and took a two point lead late in the game. The resolute Rams were not to be denied, however, moving onto the next round with a solid victory over a worthy opponent. Burgess finished with a game-high 16 points.

Baylor 64 South Dakota State 60 - Baylor did just enough to topple the 14 seed Jackrabbits. Perry Jones III had just two points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Iowa State 77 Connecticut 64 -Defending champions taken out to little fanfare by a rugged Iowa State squad. Iowa State faces Kentucky, Saturday.

Indiana 79 New Mexico State 66 - JOrdan Hulls was 4-for-6 from 3-point distance and 8-for-12 overall for a game high 22 points, leading Indiana over the Aggies and onto a match-up with VCU on Saturday. Three other Hoosiers scored 14 points each in the runaway victory.

Colorado 68 UNLV 64 The region's 11-seed, Colorado, kept PAC-12 hopes alive with an upset win over 6-seed UNLV. Reserve guard Askia Booker paced the game's scoring with 16 points. The Buffaloes are the only remaining PAV-12 team after Val was bounced by South Florida Wednesday night in a First Four meeting. Colorado committed 23 turnovers but outscored the Rebels 17-9 at the foul line.

East Region

Gonzaga 77 West Virginia 54 - Seventh-seeded Gonzaga throttled West Virginia, shooting 56% as 11 different players scored for the Bulldogs. Gonzaga's bench was responsible for 49 of the team's total. The Zags were 9-for-17 from three-point range as compared to 3-for-17 for the Mountaineers.

Ohio State XX Loyola (MD) XX - Deshaun Thomas was the game's high scorer with 31 points, adding 12 rebounds, as the Buckeyes made quick work of the Greyhounds. Ohio State had a huge, 45-23 rebounding edge and move on to the next round, where they will meet 7th seeded Gonzaga.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

NCAA Round of 64 Results & Recaps: Early Games; Syracuse Escapes; Murray State, 31-1

West Region

Murray State 58 Colorado State 41 - Murray State employed an 18-2 run to open the second half, erasing a 1-point deficit from the break. The 31-1 Racers were out-rebounded 38-32 and shot just 36% but got 15 and 13 points, respectively, from guards Isaiah Caanan and Donte Poole. They advance to meet Marquette.

Louisville 69 Davidson 62 - Louisville led almost the entire game and got 14 points and 11 rebounds from freshman Chane Behanen to punch their ticket to the next round.

Marquette 88 BYU 68 - Marquette, the #3 seed in the East region, had few problems getting past the Cougars, winners of a Tuesday play-in game over Iona. The Golden Eagles were led by Jae Crowder's 25 points and 20 from Darius Johnson-Odom.

New Mexico 75 Long Beach State 68 - Behind 18 points and 15 rebounds from Drew Gordon, the Lobos advanced to the round of 32 with a win in which they handled a slim lead throughout most of the contest. New Mexico shot 51% from the field and had a 10-point edge at the foul line, where they made 18 of 24. As the 5 seed, their win sets up a 5-4 matchup with Louisville in the next round on Saturday.

East Region

Kansas State 70 Southern Miss 64 - Rodney McGruder scored a game-high 30 points as the Wildcats prevailed in a closely-played contest. Even though Kansas State hit 50% from the field to Southern Miss' 36% the Golden Eagles made eight three-pointers to just two by the Wildcats, keeping them in the game. Kansas State advances to the round of 32 for a likely meeting with #1 seed in the region, Syracuse.

Syracuse 72 UNC-Asheville 65 Asheville led by as many as seven points and took a 34-30 lead into the half as Syracuse made just one of 13 three-point attempts in the first half. The Orange escaped thanks to some sharp-shooting from James Southerland, who led the Orange with 15 points and three of five 3-pointers.

Syracuse was aided by two of the most horrible calls ever seen on national television, a missed goaltending call and an inbounds pass that clearly was off Syracuse point guard Brandon Triche but ruled out against Asheville.

Whatever can be said of the Syracuse program, it is becoming a national nightmare for major college athletic programs - as in the case of Penn State - that have entrenched coaches and institutions. Under such structures, much is taken for granted as business as usual and serious transgressions are swept under the rug in order to protect what has been built and accomplished.

The off-court issues facing Syracuse will certainly have repercussions going forward, but for now, this looks like a team without much cohesion at exactly the wrong time.

Wisconsin 73 Montana 49 - The Big Ten Badgers easily dispatched with Montana, taking a 10-point lead into the half and cruising to one of the easier wins of the day.

Vanderbilt 79 Harvard 70 - John Jenkins scored 26 points with six rebounds as the Commodores held off the gritty Crimson. Vanderbilt shot 54% for the game and maintained a double-digit lead throughout most of the contest. Next up for #5 Vanderbilt is #4 seed, Wisconsin.

Quick Takes on Opening Games, Potential Bracket Busters

From the Better-Late-Than-Never Department

Those of you scrambling to fill out your brackets might want to take note of these regional openers and a few picks for bracket busters.


Top seed Syracuse, without Fab Melo, will be an even worse rebounding team than they already were. They'll likely get past NC-Asheville in their first game, but Kansas State - which should devour Southern Miss - will be a problem for the Orange because they are big and rebound the ball well. Syracuse probably won't reach the Final Four, so that bracket is already partially busted.

If K-State doesn't dump Syracuse, Vanderbilt (24-10) very well might. The Commodores knocked off Kentucky in the SEC final and are primed for a solid run.

On the other side, Ohio State should have its hands full with either West Virginia or Gonzaga, a team that always comes to play. Florida State, the #3 seed gets an easy win over St. Bonaventure, and then will cruise past either Cincinnati or Texas (probably Cincy).

All of this sets up a regional final of Vanderbilt or Kansas State vs. Florida State, after the Seminoles drop one on Ohio State, if the Buckeyes get that far. Look for the 'Noles to reach the Final Four.


There's a real problem for every team in this bracket and its called Missouri. There are a lot of folks projecting Marquette to reach the regional final, but the Golden Eagles will struggle, if not lose, against the resolute BYU Cougars, who came from 25 down against Iona to capture their play-in game.

Vastly underrated, BYU could be the ultimate sleeper for a bracket buster, though 6-seed Murray State might also pose problems on that side of the draw. Still, Missouri looks like a lock to reach the regional final no matter who they face.

Opposite them, Michigan State probably has one of the easier paths to the regional final than any team in the tourney. LIU-Brooklyn won't last long, and the next game against probably Memphis, should also go to the Spartans.

The potential dark horse in this draw is either New Mexico or Long Beach State, who face each other in the toss-up opener and could easily be seen to advance past the winner of the Louisville-Davidson tilt, another opener that could go either way.

Michigan State's third game could be their undoing, but even if they make it through, look for Missouri to overcome in the regional final. The Mizzou are a match-up nightmare and have statistical advantages nearly across the board on every team in the entire field, except for rebounding. See our previous post for ten ten statistical leaders in the tourney.


Kentucky sure looks good, and it's a good chance that they'll make the regional final if not the Final Four. Other games which are contestable in the opening round are all on the Wildcats' side of the draw. UConn will probably be favored over Iowa State, but the Cyclones had a good season and are formidable inside. They might actually upset Kentucky in their second game.

If not them, then the winner of VCU-Wichita State - a very tough 5-12 match-up for two quality teams could be a bracket killer, beating the winner of #4 Indiana and #13 New Mexico State, another who knows? kind of game.

The other side of the draw is a little easier. UNLV should beat Colorado, making the PAC-12 a miserable 0-2 and out of the tournament, Baylor over South Dakota St. looks easy, Notre Dame should finish off Xavier in their opener and Duke is a near-certainty to glide past Lehigh.

After that, though, Duke, the likely choice to get through to the regional final, could easily lose to any of the forementioned teams, though only Baylor seems capable of beating Kentucky to reach the Final Four.


No surprise who represents this region. It will be North Carolina, which has the easiest path of all the #1 seeds. See our breakdown of this region in our Road Map to the Final Four.

So, there you have it. The Final Four will feature two #1 seeds (North Carolina and Kentucky, though maybe Baylor), a #2 (Missouri) and either a 3 (Florida State) a 5 (Vanderbilt) or an outside 8 (Kansas State). Sorry, Buckeye fans, but Jared Sullinger takes too many plays off for our liking.

In the Final Four, Missouri shocks Kentucky, which really shouldn't be a shock, as the Wildcats are young and undisciplined compared to the experienced Tigers. North Carolina should handle whomever they face, but they too will be no match for the lightning-quick, accurate-shooting Missouri Tigers, your 2012 National Champions.

Good luck to all college hoops fans and even casual observers with your brackets. May your picks be pure and your upsets thrilling.