Sunday, March 31, 2013

NCAA Regional Finals: Michigan, Louisville Romp into Final Four

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 31, 2013

South Regional: (4) Micchigan 79 (3) Florida 59 - Just more than three minutes into the game, this one was over.

Michigan hit six of there first eight shots, ran the score up to 13-0, and made a mockery of whatever defense the Gators thought they were going to play. Finally, Florida made a shot, putting their first two points on the board, but just as quickly, Trey Burke knocked down a three-pointer to put the Wolverines up 16-2 and on a glide path to Atlanta and the Final Four.

Michigan built the lead to as many as 24 points in the first half, though Florida whittled it down to 15 by the break, but an 11-point deficit was the closest they could get, as Michigan kept piling up the points.

Nik Stauskas was the dagger the wolverines used to gut the Gators, playing a nearly-flawless game, making seven of eight shots from the field, including all six of his three-point attempts for a game-high 23 points.

Michigan was excellent on defense, forcing 15 turnovers and holding Florida to 41% shooting.

The Wolverines will meet Syracuse on Saturday, April 6, in one of the regional semifinals.

Midwest Regional: (1) Louisville 85 (2) Duke 63 - Louisville, the only #1 seed remaining in the tournament, kept the Final Four from being a long-shot lover's dream by topping the Duke Blue Devils with a blowout second half after reserve guard Kevin Ware suffered a freakish broken leg that stunned the players, coaches, crowd and the national television audience.

Ware was contesting a Tyler Thornton three-pointer with 6:33 left in the first half when he came down on his right leg and the leg just seemed to buckle below the knee. The young man was carried off the court on a stretcher and is reportedly in good condition, though his return to action will take roughly a year.

The Cardinals took a three-point lead into the break, at 35-32, but came out on fire in the second, outscoring the Blue Devils 24-12 over the first 10:48 of the half, putting the game out of reach.

As usual, Russ Smith was spectacular as the game's high-scorer with 23 points. Smith and point guard Peyton Siva were as relentless on defense as they were on the offensive end. Siva scored 16 with four assists. The Cardinals made 11 steals and blocked nine Duke shots.

The Cardinals will face Wichita State in a national semifinal match-up on Saturday, April 6.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

NCAA Saturday Regional Finals Results: Syracuse, Wichita State Start the Party

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 30, 2013

East Regional: (4) Syracuse 55 (3) Marquette 39 - The Syracuse Orange became the first to punch a ticket to Atlanta and the Final Four, ten years since they were last there, manhandling the Marquette Golden Eagles.

Completely befuddled by the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense, Marquette scored just seven points in the first 14:55 of the game, before finding its way and cutting the Orange lead to just six by the break, 24-18. Marquette shot just 26% in the first half and was 1-for-9 from beyond the arc, staying in the game because the Orange were only clicking at a 36% clip.

The second half was worse for Marquette, shooting just 18% to finish the game with a shooting percentage of 23 (12-for-53). Marquette's 39 points was easily their lowest output of the season.

Vander Blue and Davante Gardner were the only Golden Eagles with more than six points, both scoring 14.

Even though the Orange shot just 36% themselves, they committed only six turnovers, their efficient offense building a lead that would reach as high as 19 points late in the second half.

James Southerland led all scorers with 16 points; teammate Michael Carter-Williams turned in the day's top performance, with 12 points and 8 rebounds, adding six assists and five steals, turning the ball over just once in 37 minutes of playing time.

The last time the Orange reached the national semifinals was in 2003, when they won the national championship behind the play of freshman Carmello Anthony.

West Regional(9) Wichita State 70 (2) Ohio State 66
Wichita State took it right to the Buckeyes in the first half, holding Ohio State to 24% shooting to take a 35-22 half time lead. The Shockers kept up the defensive pressure and expanded their lead to 20 points late in the game. Ohio State's furious rally in the final seven minutes fell short, even though the Buckeyes were able to cut the lead to four on three occasions.

OSU's Deshaun Thomas led all scorers with 23; his running mate, Quinton Ross added 19. Wichita State had four players in double figures, led by Malcolm Armstead's 14. The Shockers held Ohio State to 31% shooting.

In the Final Four at Atlanta, Syracuse will play the winner of Sunday's Michigan-Florida State meeting, while the Shockers await the winner from the Midwest region, Louisville or Duke.

Trey Burke, Mitch McGary Send Jayhawks Packing as Michigan Advances

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 29, 2013

Michigan advanced to the Elite Eight with an 87-85 overtime victory over Kansas that contained some of the most exciting moments of the 2013 tournament.

Kansas held a first half lead of just six points on 19-for-28 (68%) shooting, but the Wolverines would not go away, even when the Jayhawks led by ten points with three minutes to play.

Mitch McGary had kept Michigan close by making just about every shot that presented itself, but as time became an issue, Trey Burke, who had spent much of the game feeding McGary in the post, took matters into his own hands, helping to erase the Kansas lead, scoring eight of Michigan's final nine points, including the game-tying 30-foot bomb with under five seconds left that sent the contest into overtime.

In the OT, Burke scored five points and McGary four, to outlast the Jayhawks and advance to Sunday's reional final match-up with Florida.

Michigan had five players in double figures. Burke and McGary accounted for 48 points between them. Burke scored all of his 23 in the second half and overtime, making 9 of 21 overall and going 4-for-11 from three-point range. He also added 10 assists.

McGary outdueled Kansas big man, seven-footer Jeff Withey, making 12 of 17 for a game-high 25 points, with 14 rebounds.

The rare duo double-double was a testament to Michigan's perseverance and commitment to excellence even when the chips were down.

Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through games of 3/29
Conference (# of teams) W-L Winners (wins)
ACC (4) 6-3 Duke (3) Miami (2) North Carolina (1)
Atlantic 10 (5) 7-5 LaSalle (3) Butler (1) St. Louis (1) VCU (1) Temple (1)
Big 12 (6) 3-6 Iowa St. (1) Kansas (2)
Big East (8) 9-5 Marquette(3) Louisville (3) Syracuse (3)
Big Ten (7) 12-5 Mich. St. (2) Michigan (3) Indiana (2) Illinois (1) Ohio St. (3) Minnesota (1)
PAC-12 (5) 5-5 Oregon (2) Arizona (2) Cal (1)
SEC (4) 4-2 Mississippi (1) Florida (3)
Missouri Valley (2) 4-1 Wichita St. (3) Creighton (1)
Mountain West (5) 2-5 Colorado St. (1) San Diego St. (1)
WCC (2) 2-2 St. Mary's (1) Gonzaga (1)
Sun Belt (2) 0-2 --
All Others (19) 6-21 NC A&T (1) James Madison (1) Memphis (1) Harvard (1) Florida Gulf Coast (2)

NCAA Tournament Friday Sweet 16 Results

Midwest Region

(1) Louisville 77 (12) Oregon 69 - As has been their forte through their first two games of the tournament, Louisville leapt out to a big lead of 16 points early and ended the first half up by a 45-31 score on 59% shooting. Russ Smith had 16 points in the opening 20 minutes. and finished with a game-high 31.

Louisville expanded the lead to 18 in the second half and roared to their third straight convincing victory in the tourney.

Smith was 9-for-16, 12-for-14 at the foul line, with a three-pointer, two rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Oregon put forth a spirited effort, but the Cardinals were just a little better. The eight point margin of victory was the slightest ever in the Sweet 16 for Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.

(2) Duke 71 (3) Michigan State 61 - Two college basketball heaveyweights went mano a mano in a game dominated by half-court play.

Duke built a manageable lead and sustained it, as Sean Curry made six of nine threes en route to a game-high 29 points to get Duke into the Elite 8. Duke was also quite efficient at the foul line, canning 24 of 26 free throws.

Duke's win sets up a meeting with Louisville on Sunday for the right to advance to the Final Four. The two teams met back in November, Duke coming away with a 76-71 win in the Battle for Atlantis tournament.,

South Region

(4) Michigan 87 (1) Kansas 85 OT - Kansas shot the lights out in the first half - 19-for-28 (68%) - they led by only six points at the break, 40-34.

The Jayhawks maintained a comfortable lead through out the second half, until the Wolverines came to life late in the game, erasing a 10-point lead in the final three minutes, tying the game on Trey Burke's 30-foot bomb with five seconds left in regulation.

In the overtime, Burke scored five points and Mitch McGary four, to outlast the Jayhawks and advance to Sunday's next round.

Michigan had five players in double figures. Burke and McGary accounted for 48 points between them. Burke scored all of his 23 in the second half and overtime. McGary outdueled Kansas big man, Jeff Withey, making 12 of 17 for a game-high 25 points, with 14 rebounds.

The most thrilling game of the tournament, Burke, McGary and Michigan were scintillating.

(3) Florida 62 (15) Florida Gulf Coast 50 - The upstart Eagles took an early double-digit lead, but the Gators fought back to hold a 30-26 lead at the break. The magic dust wore off the Eagles in the second half as Florida kept them at bay. When the clock struck midnight - like in a fairy tale - the Eagles had landed a trip back to Fort Myers.

Despite out-shooting the Gators, 45.5-38.6%, FGCU was a victim of their own high-flying style, committing 20 turnovers which in turn gave Florida more scoring opportunities. The Gators also went to the foul line twice as often as the Eagles and made double the number of free throws.

Mike Rosario led all scorers with 15 points. The Gators will meet Michigan in the Regional final, Sunday afternoon.

Friday, March 29, 2013

NCAA Tournament Friday Sweet 16 Previews

Midwest Region

7:15 pm EDT (12) Oregon vs (1) Louisville - Here's a match-up that may not have happened, had Oregon been properly seeded (though they might have been a #4, setting up the same scenario). The Ducks have easily exceeded all expectations for a #12 seed, precisely because they should have been no worse than a five.

Oregon is on a nice roll after two straight losses in early March, including sweeping three games to win the PAC-12 tournament and easy wins over (5) Oklahoma State (68-55) and (4) St. Louis (74-57). That 15-point average margin of victory in the tourney compares favorably with Louisville which knocked over a #16 (NC A&T) by 31 and a #8 (Colorado State) by 24, for an average win margin of 27.5, the best in the tournament.

The Ducks may encounter issues with Louisville's press, because point guard Dominic Artis' assist-turnover ratio is 1.4, a number that does not inspire confidence. But, the Ducks score 71.7 points per game and grab 37.4 rebounds on average. Louisville checks in at 73.6 and 37.5 boards. Louisville knows better than to take the Ducks lightly, and this one should be closer than many imagine it will be.

9:45 pn EDT (3) Michigan State vs (2) Duke - The Blue Devils have not scored up to their seasonal average (78.3, sixth-best in the country) against either of their tournament opponents, despite beating Albany and Creighton by 12 and 16 points, respectively, and there's a good chance the Spartans will keep them in check as well.

Physically, Michigan State appears the more muscular of the two, and, under coach Tom Izzo, will have roughly the same level of discipline and motivation. The Spartans' game is predicated on defense and rebounding, and, if they can get out on the break and score or find a vulnerability in Duke's defense, they will be well-served here.

After dispatching Valparaiso in their opening game, 65-54, Michigan State dominated Memphis, 70-48. Both teams enter the game healthy and with soaring aspirations. Look for a close one, as neither Izzo nor coach K will allow his troops to fall far behind without adjustments, though Michigan Stat ehas the kind of team that could dominate.

South Region

7:37 pm EDT (4) Michigan vs (1) Kansas - Possibly the most talented team in the tournament, Michigan should get plenty of open looks as no player on the Kansas squad has the ability to contain point guard Trey Burke, a player of the year candidate who is well-deserving. On the other side, the Jayhawks really don't have a point guard, meaning the Wolverines may be able to turn them over repeatedly for easy baskets.

For Kansas to be successful, center Jeff Withey needs to stay out of foul trouble and dominate the interior because the Wolverines don't really have a match-up for him. Michigan could counter with a zone defense to minimized Withey's effectiveness.

Kansas represents the last chance for the Big 12, which sent six teams to the tourney, but has won only three games. Strictly from a conference perspective, Michigan stands a good chance to advance and join Ohio State (and possibly Michigan State) as Big Ten teams in the Elite 8.

9:57 pm EDT (15) Florida Gulf Coast vs (3) Florida - the FGCU Eagles, the darlings of the tournament after besting #2 Georgetown in their opener and San Diego State after that, will prove to be a solid opponent for the Gators, who cruised through a weak SEC schedule and arrive here with easy wins over Northwest State and Minnesota.

Florida Gulf Coast may actually be a more balanced team than the Gators, and they certainly are more entertaining. In terms of athleticism, the Eagles have it all over the Gators, but they are in uncharted territory, as the first #15 seed to ever reach the Sweet 16.

They'll have fan support, which will definitely be a plus, as their players seem to feed on it, A Florida win is a possibility, but by no means guaranteed, Despite the disparity in seedings, these two teams are a close statistical match.

Michael Carter-Williams Swamps Hoosiers with 24 Points

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 28, 2013

There were a lot of people who had Indiana inked in for a Final Four appearance. After all, the various sports news outlets and ratings systems had been telling everyone that the Big Ten was the best conference in the country, and Syracuse was far too erratic to foil Indiana's march to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Head coach Jim Boeheim never doubted his team's ability, even after they were trampled by Louisville in the Big East tournament final, and the Orange proved him prescient as Michael Carter-Williams led the Orange to a rather lopsided, 61-50, victory over the Hoosiers.

As a point guard, Carter-Williams is an oddity. A gangly, 6'6", he looks - on the surface - to be vulnerable to smaller, quicker guards, but despite dishing just one assist in the Syracuse win, he only turned the ball over once, while scoring a game-high, personal best 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting, including three from three point range.

Beyond leading all scorers, Carter-Williams spearheaded the SU defense which came up with 11 steals and 11 blocked shots with four swipes, five boards and a block.

The East regional will feature as pair of Big East squads, as Marquette dumped Miami, 71-61, in the other regional semi-final. The Orange and Golden Eagles square off at 4:30 pm EDT, Saturday afternoon.

Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through games of 3/28
Conference (# of teams) W-L Winners (wins)
ACC (4) 5-3 Duke (2) Miami (2) North Carolina (1)
Atlantic 10 (5) 7-5 LaSalle (3) Butler (1) St. Louis (1) VCU (1) Temple (1)
Big 12 (6) 3-4 Iowa St. (1) Kansas (2)
Big East (8) 8-5 Marquette (3) Louisville (2) Syracuse (3)
Big Ten (7) 11-4 Mich. St. (2) Michigan (2) Indiana (2) Illinois (1) Ohio St. (3) Minnesota (1)
PAC-12 (5) 5-4 Oregon (2) Arizona (2) Cal (1)
SEC (4) 3-2 Mississippi (1) Florida (2)
Missouri Valley (2) 4-1 Wichita St. (3) Creighton (1)
Mountain West (5) 2-5 Colorado St. (1) San Diego St. (1)
WCC (2) 2-2 St. Mary's (1) Gonzaga (1)
Sun Belt (2) 0-2 --
All Others (19) 6-20 NC A&T (1) James Madison (1) Memphis (1) Harvard (1) Florida Gulf Coast (2)

2013 NCAA Tourney Thursday Sweet 16 Results

East Region

(3) Marquette 71 (2) Miami 61 - After winning their opening round game by one point over Davidson and then beating Butler by a deuce to advance, Marquette left little doubt in their runaway victory over the second-seeded Hurricanes.

The Golden Eagles took control of the game early, establishing the lead within the first five minutes and quickly expanding it to a 13-point edge at the break. The final score was hardly indicative of how one-sided this contest won, Marquette leading by double digits the entire second half and by as many as 22, before the Hurricanes closed the gap with the outcome no longer in doubt.

Marquette sizzled from the field at 54%, while Miami was uncharacteristically ice cold, hitting just 35%. Four Marquette players scored in double figures, led by Jamil Wilson with 16. Vander Blue and Davante Gardner each had 14 points.

(4) Syracuse 61 (1) Indiana 50 - Top-ranked Indiana couldn't solve the Syracuse 2-3 zone, turning the ball over 17 times and shooting just 34% for the game. Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams scored a career-high 23 points, with six rebound and four steals to lead the Orange. Syracuse went on a 9-0 run early in the game to take an 11-3 lead and was never challenged thereafter, leading by as many as 16 points in the first half.

The Syracuse defense was phenomenal, coming up with 11 steals and blocking the same number of shots.

Marquette meets Syracuse Saturday afternoon in the East Regional final, assuring the Big East of representation in the Final Four. The Golden eagles and Orange met once during the regular season. Marquette defended their home court with a 74-71 win.

West Region

(2) Ohio State 73 (6) Arizona 70 - LaQuentin Ross scored 14 of Ohio State's final 17 points, including a clutch three-pointer with two seconds left to send Ohio State to the Elite Eight. Ross scored 17 points in all, his 14 coming in the final eight minutes of the game.

Ohio State fell behind by 11 points in the first half, but rode a 20-5 run to establish a second half lead and maintained it until Arizona tied the game at 70 with 21 seconds left in regulation.

The Wildcats' Mark Lyons led all scorers with 23. Deshaun Thomas led Buckeye scorers with 20. The game was close statistically, but four Buckeyes scored in double figures compared to just two - Lyons and Solomon Hill, who had 16.

(9) Wichita State 7 (13) LaSalle 58 - Malcolm Armstead and Carl Hall powered the Shockers into the Elite Eight, with 18 and 16 points, respectively. Armstead also had six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Wichita State had a huge, 44-23, advantage on the glass; Ehimen Orukpe came off the bench for nine boards. Hall snagged eight.

The Explorers scored just two points over the first six minutes of the game, fining themselves down a dozen in the early going and it didn't get much better after that, thanks in large part to the Shocker defense, which held them to 36% shooting for the game. Wichita State owned a 16-point edge at intermission.

The Shockers will represent the Missouri Valley in the West regional final against the Big Ten's Ohio State Buckeyes, Saturday evening.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NCAA Tourney: Sweet 16 Thursday Previews; East, West Regions

East Region

7:15 pm EDT: (2) Miami Hurricanes vs. (3) Marquette Golden Eagles - The total of the seeds here - 5 - is tied for the lowest with Kansas vs. Michigan in the South region, Duke vs. Michigan State in the Midwest and Inianda and Syraucse in the East, meaning this should be one of the more competitive games of the tournament.

Miami relies heavily upon its defense, holding its last two opponents (Pacific and Illinois) to 49 and 59 points, respectively, and on the duo of point guard Shane Larkin and the inside-outside play of Kenny Kadji.

Marquette will counter with their own pressure, relentless ball hawking and accuracy from the field (.467), due to taking mostly good shots after lots of passes in the offensive zone. The Golden Eagles have won their last two games by a combined three points, against high level competition - Davidson and Butler. Jamil Wilson and Vander Blue have been clutch down the stretch. This one may not be very pretty, as both teams contest everything, but it should be highly entertaining.

9:45 pm EDT, (1) Indiana Hoosiers vs. (4) Syracuse Orange - Syracuse has been sporadic, sometimes looking world-beating, but often sluggish and without any offensive direction. Of course, they have one of the best in the business, coach Jim Boeheim, on the bench, so they are able to change on the fly.

The Hoosiers showed plenty of heart in their last win, a 58-52 victory over Temple. Indiana boasts nice stats: 3rd nationally in scoring (80 ppg), 7th in FG% (.486) and 24th in rebounds (38.6). Cody Zeller will have plenty of company on the boards and in the paint, as the Orange are long and tall up front. Victor Oladipo is the real wild card here. If he can slice and dice Syracuse's 2-3 zone, the Hoosiers will advance. If not, Syracuse stands a chance at the upset.

West Region

7:47 pm EDT, (2) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (6) Arizona Wildcats - Arizona has shot 55% from the field through its first two games, the best mark in the remaining tournament field, but they did it against so-so competition (Belmont, Harvard), so they should not expect shots to be as easy to come by against the Buckeyes.

Deshaun Thomas will provide most of the offense, and Aaron Kraft is a pesky defender with quick hands and a special knack for the big play, be it a three-pointer like the one he delivered against Iowa State to win the game or a pass to an open teammate.

The buckeyes are riding a 10-game winning streak, currently the longest in the nation, which is a very big plus at this juncture.

10:17 pm EDT, (13) La Salle Explorers versus (9) Wichita State Shockers - This piece of the bracket was busted when LaSalle took out #4 seed Kansas State and in the next round, as the Shockers dumped #1 Gonzaga.

Both teams are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time and each represent the last stand for their conferences - LaSalle from the Atlantic 10; Wichita State from the Missouri Valley. Nice to see two teams from mid-majors advance this far. Besides them, the only other team remaining in the field not from a Big Six conference is Florida Gulf Coast.

Look for plenty of tempo as both teams can light it up. La Salle averages 72.4 ppg, Wichita State, 69.4. The Shockers' Cleanthony Early, if he gets it going early on, can really light it up and take over a game.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mike Rosario Pours in 25 to Lead Florida over Minnesota; Big Ten Puts Four Teams in Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 24, 2013

Florida's 78-64 win over Minnesota would not have been nearly so one-sided without Mike Rosario stepping up in the first half and banging in 17 - dropping in four of his six three-pointers - of his game-high 25 points.

The gator point guard was at his efficient best, making eight of 12 shots from the field, including six of nine from three-point range. He also had a couple of rebounds, an assist and two steals in 34 minutes.

The Gators often struggle and stagnate on offense, but Rosario provided a needed spark to advance Florida into the Sweet 16, where they will meet the surprise team of the tournament, Florida Gulf Coast, the #15 seed in the South region.

With Mississippi's loss to LaSalle, Florida stands as the only team remaining from the four the SEC sent to the tournament. Off his stellar effort, Rosario will have to rise to the occasion again in the next round against the dangerous Eagles.

Updating the tournament conference scoreboard, the Big Ten improved its overall tourney record to 10-3, placing four teams - Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State - into the round of sixteen. The Atlantic 10, which went into the weekend a perfect 6-0, stumbled badly in the round of 32, losing four of five games. Only the LaSalle Explorers remain from the conference, advancing to the Sweet 16 with their win over Ole Miss.

Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through games of 3/24
Conference (# of teams) W-L Winners (wins)
ACC (4) 5-2 Duke (2) Miami (2) North Carolina (1)
Atlantic 10 (5) 7-4 LaSalle (3) Butler (1) St. Louis (1) VCU (1) Temple (1)
Big 12 (6) 3-4 Iowa St. (1) Kansas (2)
Big East (8) 6-5 Marquette(2) Louisville (2) Syracuse (2)
Big Ten (7) 10-3 Mich. St. (2) Michigan (2) Indiana (2) Illinois (1) Ohio St. (2) Minnesota (1)
PAC-12 (5) 5-3 Oregon (2) Arizona (2) Cal (1)
SEC (4) 3-2 Mississippi (1) Florida (2)
Missouri Valley (2) 3-1 Wichita St. (2) Creighton (1)
Mountain West (5) 2-5 Colorado St. (1) San Diego St. (1)
WCC (2) 2-2 St. Mary's (1) Gonzaga (1)
Sun Belt (2) 0-2 --
All Others (19) 6-20 NC A&T (1) James Madison (1) Memphis (1) Harvard (1) Florida Gulf Coast (2)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

NCAA Tourney: Sunday Third Round Late Games; Florida Gulf Coast Does It Again!

South Region

(1) Kansas 70 (8) North Carolina 58 - The Jayhawks, who couldn't buy a bucket in the first half, couldn't miss in the second, turning a nine-point deficit at the break into a 12-point lead at the midpoint of the second half. As or the Tar Heels, they were just terrible throughout, shooting 30% for the game and often looking distracted disorganized or disinterested.

Kansas, after a slow start, scoring just 21 first-half points, really picked things up in the second, putting down 49 points and running away late. Travis Releford had 22 points to lead all scorers, while teammate Jeff Withey scored 16 and pulled down the same number of rebounds.

The Michigan Wolverines, #4 seed in the region, await the Jayhawks in the next round.

(3) Florida 78 (11) Minnesota 64 - Putting the game out of reach early, the Gators took a 21-point lead into the half, and, while the Gophers cut into the lead to some degree, could never close the final gap.

The Gators blistered the twines at 57%, led by point guard Mike Rosario, who dazzled at 8-for-12 from the field, hitting six of nine form beyond the arc for a game-high 25 points.

West Region

(15) Florida Gulf Coast 81 (7) San Diego State 71 - As the saying goes, if the shoe fits, wear it, and that's exactly what Florida Gulf Coast is doing with Cinderella's glass slipper. The #15 seed Eagles, up a deuce midway through the second half, broke the game open with an exhilarating 17-0 run that left San Diego State gasping for breath.

The Aztecs are the last of the highly-touted Mountain West conference to fall, beaten by the Eagles, the first 15-seed ever to reach the promised land of the Sweet 16.

Sherwood Brown, saddled with foul trouble that kept him on the bench for long stretches of the game, still managed to score 17 points and snag eight boards. Point guard Brett Comer scored 10, whizzing though the Aztec defense to deliver 14 assists. Game high-scorer Bernard Thompson had 23 on 9-for-15 shooting, with a couple of treys.

The stunning twist of fate has them playing the Gators of Florida in the next round. It ought to be exciting, to say the least.

(13) La Salle 76 (12) Ole Miss 74 - Talk about a broken bracket. This was a 13 seed beating a 12 seed, the winner going onto the Sweet 16 to face 9th seeded Wichita State next week. Tyrone Garland hit a runner with 2.5 seconds left, breaking a 74-all tie to send Marshall Henderson and the Mississippi Rebels packing and the Explorers prospecting into the next round.

LaSalle's Ramon Galloway led all scorers with 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting going six for 10 from three-point range.

The Explorers won their third game of the tournament, beating Boise State in a Wednesday First Four play-in game, then topping Kansas State on Friday.

East Region

(2) Miami (FL) 63 (7) Illinois 59 - Miami became the first ACC to reach the Sweet 16, winning a tight game over a determined, motivated Illinois squad that gave the Hurricanes more than they bargained for.

Shane Larkin hit a key three-pointer and nailed a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to secure the Miami win. Larkin had 17 points and five assists. His teammate, Rion Brown, outscored everyone with 21 points, going 7-for-14 with five three-pointers.

The Hurricanes play Marquette next in the Sweet 16.

Midwest Region

(2) Duke 66 (7) Creighton 50 - The Blue Devils became the second ACC team to reach the Sweet 16, along with conference champion, Miami. Duke shot just 39% in their meeting with Creighton, but it was more than enough, as they held the BlueJays to just 30%. Naismith Award finalist Doug McDermott had one of his worst games as a collegian, making just four of 16 shots from the field and just one three-pointer. He did record a perfect 12-for-12 mark from the foul line and was the only Creighton player in double figures with 21.

Duke dominated a rather lackluster game to close out the round of 32. Leading by six points at the half, they ground down the BlueJays and gradually pulled away in typical Blue Devils fashion, ready to face Michigan State in the next round.

NCAA Tourney: Saturday Third Round Early Games; Buckeyes, Hoosiers Advance

West Region

(2) Ohio State 78 (10) Iowa State 75 - The scored knotted at 75, Ohio State's Aaron Craft stepped up to the three-point line with time running down and swished it, leaving upset-minded Iowa State with only 0.5 seconds left. It was not enough for the Cyclones to get off a quality shot, sending the Buckeyes into the round of 16, where they will meet the 6th-seeded Arizona Wildcats.

Ohio State seemed to have the game in hand when LaQuinton Ross scored ten straight points over a 2:34 span to put the Buckeyes up by 11. A few moments later the lead was 13, but the resolute Cyclones went on a 21-5 run to take a 75-74 lead with 2:22 left. A Craft free throw tied the game and after a Sam Thompson steal and a missed shot by Craft that the Cyclones pushed out of bounds, the stage was set for Craft's heroic moment.

Deshaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 22 points and five rebounds.

East Region

(1) Indiana 58 (9) Temple 52 - Demonstrating incredible resolve and perseverance under pressure, Indiana scored the final ten points of the game to oust Temple from the tournament and advance to the next round.

Temple's Khalif Wyatt scored a game-high 31 points, but Victor Oladipo, who drew Wyatt as a defensive assignment for most of the game, came up with the decisive shot when it counted, nailing a straight-on three-pointer with 15 seconds left to put Indiana up by four. Christian Watford made a pair of free throws, after a missed attempt by Temple, to seal the deal.

Oladipo led Hoosier scorers with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go with eight rebounds. The Hoosiers meet Syracuse in the round of sixteen.

Vander Blue Leads Marquette into Sweet 16 with Win over Butler

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 23, 2013

After surviving a near-tournament-death experience in their opening game against Davidson with a down-to-the-wire victory, the Golden Eagles knew they couldn't make mistakes against their next opponent, the Butler Bulldogs, because Butler had defeated them back in November, when the Bulldogs' Rotnei Clarke beat them at the buzzer in a 72-71 win at the Maui Invitational.

When they met Butler in the third round with the chance to reach the Sweet 16, Marquette players rose to the occasion and delivered a 74-72 victory, determined not to lose another close contest.

Vander Blue, the junior guard who led the Eagles in scoring during the regular season, played one of his best games, pouring in 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting with four three-pointers and a perfect 8-for-8 mark at the foul line.

Blue made the big baskets at critical times, helping the Golden Eagles come back from an eight-point half time deficit, scoring 19 points in the second half, including a clutch trey that tied the game at 69.

With the win, Marquette advanced to the Sweet 16, along with fellow Big East squads Syracuse and Louisville, where they will meet the winner of Sunday's Miami-Illinois contest. Blue and his teammates figure to be well-prepared.

Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through games of 3/23
Conference (# of teams) W-L Winners (wins)
ACC (4) 3-1 Duke (1) Miami (1) North Carolina (1)
Atlantic 10 (5) 6-3 LaSalle (2) Butler (1) St. Louis (1) VCU (1) Temple (1)
Big 12 (6) 2-3 Iowa St. (1) Kansas
Big East (8) 6-5 Marquette(2) Louisville (2) Syracuse (2)
Big Ten (7) 8-1 Mich. St. (2) Michigan (2) Indiana (1) Illinois (1) Ohio St. (1) Minnesota (1)
PAC-12 (5) 5-3 Oregon (2) Arizona (2) Cal (1)
SEC (4) 2-1 Mississippi (1) Florida (1)
Missouri Valley (2) 3-0 Wichita St. (2) Creighton (1)
Mountain West (5) 2-4 Colorado St. (1) San Diego St. (1)
WCC (2) 2-2 St. Mary's (1) Gonzaga (1)
Sun Belt (2) 0-2 --
All Others (19) 5-20 NC A&T (1) James Madison (1) Memphis (1) Harvard (1) Florida Gulf Coast (1)

NCAA Tourney Saturday Third Round Late Games; #1 Gonzaga 'Shocked' by Wichita State

Midwest Region

(1) Louisville 82 (8) Colorado State 56 - Louisville, the #1 overall seed in the tournament, once again employed high-pressure defense and the hot shooting of Russ Smith to decimate another opponent. By the end of the first half, the Cardinals had already broken the game open with a 15-point bulge and continued to press their advantage in the second half.

Smith was on fire, scoring a game-high 27 points on 7-for-15 shooting including four of seven from three-point land and a 9-for-10 mark from the foul line. Louisville advances to the Sweet 16 to face 12-seed, Oregon.

(12) Oregon 74 (4) Saint Louis 57 - While this result may come as a surprise to some, other observers believe that Oregon was badly mis-seeded and should have been no worse than a four, having won the PAC-12 tournament.

The margin of victory was more than most expected, though all the scores on this sub-regional Saturday have been more or less of the blowout variety.Damyean Dotson led all scorers with 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting, with a 5-for-6 mark from beyond the arc.

West Region

(6) Arizona 74 (14) Harvard 51 - After winning the first NCAA tournament game in school history Thursday with their victory over New Mexico, Harvard seemed out of gas and up against a determined opponent as the Wildcats led the entire game, holding the Crimson to 28% shooting.

Mark Lyons had a game-high 27 on 12-for-17 shooting, including a trio of threes.

(9) Wichita State 76 (1) Gonzaga 70 - The Shockers of Wichita State stunned the #1-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs, eliminating the first of the #1 seeds in the tournament with a 16-7 run to close out the game. Wichita State took an early lead into the half, but Gonzaga rallied to lead, at one point, by eight points.

Not giving an inch, the Shockers' resolve and a spate of three-pointers by Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker late in the game provided the winning margin. Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk was the game's high scorer with 27 points. Both Early and Baker hit four threes and scored 16 points.

After Davidson - which had won 17 in a row - was defeated on Thursday night by Marquette, Gonzaga's 15-game winning streak became the longest in the nation, ended by #9 seed Wichita State from the Missouri Valley.

East Region

(3) Marquette 74 (6) Butler 72 - In one of the more hotly-contested and physically-demanding games of the tournament, Marquette avenged a buzzer-beater win by Butler way back in November, when the Bulldogs won, 72-71, on a last-second shot by Rotnei Clarke, in the Maui Invitational.

Marquette's Vander Blue was the difference here, as the 3rd-seeded Golden eagles advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Blue had a game-high 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting, including three of four from three-point range and a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.

Marquette will face the winner of tomorrow's Illinois-Miami match-up.

(4) Syracuse 66 (12) California 60 - CJ Fair and James Southerland led Syracuse to the Sweet 16 with 18 and 14 points, respectively.

The Orange joins fellow Big East teams, Louisville and Marquette in the round of 16.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

NCAA Tourney: Saturday Third Round Early Games: Wolverines, Spartans Advance

South Region

(4) Michigan 78 (5) VCU 53 - The Commodores wanted to press the Wolverines, but it didn't work, as Trey Burke found open teammates and Michigan built a 15-point half time lead that VCU was never able to overcome.

6'10" freshman Mitch McGary got a rare start and came through with a huge effort, leading all scorers with 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting and 14 rebounds. Burke dished seven assists and scored 18 points as the Wolverines cruised to an unexpectedly easy victory and became the first team in the tournament to reach the Sweet 16.

Midwest Region

(3) Michigan State 70 (6) Memphis 48 - The spartans took an early 15-point lead, but Memphis began employing an exotic triangle-and-two defense which slowed down Michigan State and allowed the Tigers to close to within three points (32-29) at the break.

That didn't faze the Spartans, however, as Michigan State opened the second half with a 13-3 run and put their own defensive pressure on Memphis, holding the Tigers to just 19 points in the half and 30% shooting for the game.

Gary Harris was the game's high scorer with 23 points on 6-for-9 shooting (4 of 7 on threes).

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard through Friday, March 22

Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through games of 3/22
Conference (# of teams) W-L Winners (wins)
ACC (4) 3-1 Duke (1) Miami (1) North Carolina (1)
Atlantic 10 (5) 6-0 LaSalle (2) Butler (1) St. Louis (1) VCU (1) Temple (1)
Big 12 (6) 2-3 Iowa St. (1) Kansas
Big East (8) 3-5 Marquette(1) Louisville (1) Syracuse (1)
Big Ten (7) 6-1 Mich. St. (1) Michigan (1) Indiana (1) Illinois (1) Ohio St. (1) Minnesota (1)
PAC-12 (5) 3-2 Oregon (1) Arizona (1) Cal (1)
SEC (4) 2-1 Mississippi (1) Florida (1)
Missouri Valley (2) 2-0 Wichita St. (1) Creighton (1)
Mountain West (5) 2-3 Colorado St. (1) San Diego St. (1)
WCC (2) 2-1 St. Mary's (1) Gonzaga (1)
Sun Belt (2) 0-2 --
All Others (19) 5-18 NC A&T (1) James Madison (1) Memphis (1) Harvard (1) Florida Gulf Coast (1)

Sherwood Brown, Brett Comer, Bernard Thompson Lead #15 Florida Gulf Coast over #2 Georgetown

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 22, 2013

In the end, basketball is a team game, and while it's popular and fashionable to single out individuals for exceptional performances, more often - almost always, in fact - winning comes down to the overall effort of five starters and various substitutes who know their roles, perform within a system and strive to achieve a communal goal.

When Florida Gulf Coast, a school that didn't even exist a little more than a decade ago, upset Georgetown, the #2 seed in the South region, Friday night, it wasn't just Sherwood Brown, or Brett Comer or Bernard Thompson playing at a high level - it was all of them, with their teammates and their coaches, through hours and days and weeks of practices and preparation that brought them to their shining moment in NCAA legacy.

It would be a mistake to single out one player from what may turn out to be the most exciting basketball game of the entire tournament, so we'll single out three.

Sherwood Brown, the acknowledged leader of the team, put up a game-high 24 points and also led the Eagles with nine rebounds.

Right behind Brown was Bernard Thompson, who poured in 23 points, with seven boards.

Feeding those two and scoring 12 points himself was Brett Comer, as gritty and heady a point guard as there is in the tournament, with 10 assists and six rebounds.

The Eagles put on a show of high-flying, high-level hoops that had the Hoyas first annoyed, then afraid, then amazed, as the kids from Florida Gulf Coast ignored the seedings and the hype, simply going about the business of playing hard, playing to win and having a good time.

And it wasn't just the players and coaches who enjoyed the show. All of America was treated to a performance of courage and determination that show remain in our basketball memories for a long, long time.

Congratulations to #15 seed Florida Gulf Coast. Winning one for the "little guy" is one of the greatest tributes anyone can make to the great, unnoticed, unrecognized people who are the fabric that keeps our communities and country together.

NCAA Tourney: Friday Second Round Late Games Results

South Region

(15) Florida Gulf Coast 78 (2) Georgetown 68 - A number of expert college hoops handicappers called this one, and the Eagles, in their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, were good to the word. Georgetown trailed by double digits most of the game, but made it close late, only to watch Florida Gulf Coast's Sherwood Brown knock don his free throws to ice the game.

Brown finished with a game-high 24 points, followed by teammates Bernard Thompson - who had 23 - and Brett Comer, with a 12-point, 10-assist double-double. The biggest upset of the tournament was also one of the most entertaining games of the opening weekend. If you missed it, find a replay on the web. You will not be disappointed.

(8) North Carolina 78 (9) Villanova 71 - After taking a 12-point lead into the break, North Carolina held on against the Wildcats. The ACC-Big East match-up was a turnover festival, the two teams combining for 34 mistakes.

PJ Hairston was sharp for the Tar Heels, making five threes within 7-for-11 shooting for a game-high 23 points.

(3) Florida 79 (14) Northwestern State 47 - Regular season champions of the SEC, the Gators easily dispatched Northwestern State, holding the Demons to 36% from the floor. Erik Murphy led four Gators in double figures with 18 points. The Gators held a 38-20 edge on the boards.

(7) San Diego State 70 (10) Oklahoma 55

(1) Kansas 64 (16) Western Kentucky 57 - Top-seed kansas pushed to the limit by 16 seed Hilltoppers.

(11) Minnesota 83 (6) UCLA 63 - Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers took the measure of the Bruins in a big way. UCLA, the highest-seeded of the PAC-12 teams, is the first to go down. Andre Hollins led Minnesota with 28 points and nine rebounds.

West Region

(2) Ohio State 95 (15) Iona 70 - The Gaels wanted to play an up-tempo game, and the Buckeyes were more than willing to comply, putting up the highest total by any team thus far in the tourney. Deshaun Thomas led the way with 24 points, followed by sophomore Sam Thompson, who dazzled with 20 points and 10 boards.

(10) Iowa State 76 (7) Notre Dame 58 - Niang: 19 points.

Friday, March 22, 2013

NCAA Tourney: Friday Second Round Early Games Results

Midwest Region

(2) Duke 73 (15) Albany 61 - The Great Danes gave it their best, but Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee were simply unstoppable as the Duke Blue Devils sent Albany packing. Curry scored a game-high 26 points on 11 of 14 shooting, and Plumlee went 9-for-11 from the field for 23 points and snagged nine rebounds. Albany kept it close by hitting 63% from three-point land, making nine of 15 to Duke's 4-for-11 from beyond the arc, but the Blue Devils hit at an overall rate of 59% for the game, making 27 of 46 shots.

(7) Creighton 67 (10) Cincinnati 63 - Cincinnati became the second Big East casualty in a match-up with the Missouri Valley, after Wichita State took down Pitt yesterday and Crieghton, behind 27 points from Doug McDermott, sent the Bearcats home.

McDermott, a candidate for player of the year, had his usual exceptional game, leading all scorers by going 7-for-13 from the field with a pair of threes, 11-for-11 from the foul line and 11 boards.

The game was statistically tight, except from the foul line, where Crieghton hit 22 of 25, but the Bearcats were limited to just 4-for-9.

West Region

(12) Ole Miss 57 (5) Wisconsin 46 - Marshall Henderson led a second half comeback to help Ole Miss grab the victory from the Badgers, making Wisconsin the third #5 team to lose their opening game to a #12 seed.

Trailing 36-30 with 11:25 to play, Henderson, coming out of time out, hit a three-pointer that ignited the Rebels on a 27-10 run to close out the game. Henderson, who scored 19 points for the Rebels, had 17 during the close-out stretch, including all three of his three pointers. He had gone 0-for-9 from outside the arc prior to the final run.

Though the Rebels shot just 39% for the game, Wisconsin finished at just 25.4%, unable to solve Mississippi's zone defense. The Badgers made just 15 field goals, seven of which came from outside the three-point stripe, on 30 attempts.

(13) La Salle 63 (4) Kansas State 61 - The Explorers won their second game in two days (beat Boise State in Tuesday's First Four contest) and completed a clean sweep for the Atlantic 10 conference, which has won six tournament games without a loss.

Kansas State, trailing by 18 at the half, made a game of it, eventually taking a one-point lead late in the proceedings, but LaSalle's Jerrell Wright was solid as a rock, making clutch free throws down the stretch to eek out the win. Wright, who led all scorers with 21 points, was nearly perfect, making six of six from the field and nine of ten from the free throw line. He missed his final attempt at the line, which gave the Wildcats a chance to tie or win with 9.8 seconds left, but the Explorer defense was stout and held on for the victory.

East Region

(9) Temple 76 (8) North Carolina State 72 - The Wolfpack nearly came all the way back from an 18-point deficit, but Temple scored their final 14 points at the foul line, sealing the fifth straight win for the powerful Atlantic 10 conference, while handing the ACC its first defeat of the tournament.

Khalif Wyatt, Temple's leading scorer during the regular season, playing with an injured left thumb suffered in the first half, scored a game-high 31 points for the Owls. Though Wyatt wasn't exactly making it rain from the field, where he was 9-for-22, he made up for it at the foul line, canning 12 of 14 attempts. Temple will face the Indiana Hoosiers in the next round on Sunday. Indiana is the top seed in the East region.

(2) Miami (FL) 78 (15) Pacific 49 - Pacific, champions of the Big West conference, proved no match for the Hurricanes, regular season and tournament champion from the ACC. Miami's defense was at its usual high level, holding the Tigers to 33% shooting for the duration. Pacific didn't help itself, making just four of 11 from the free throw line.

Durand Scott had five three-pointers from eight attempts for a game-high 21 points. Miami was 12-for-22 (54.5%) from three-point range.

(1) Indiana 83 (16) James Madison 62 - Victors of the Colonial Athletic Association and winners over LIU-Brooklyn in one of Wednesday's play-in games, the James Madison Dukes proved no match for the powerful Indiana Hoosiers. Andre Nation and Charles Cook scored 42 of James Madison's 62. Indiana's scoring was more balanced, with five players in double figures.

(7) Illinois 57 (10) Colorado 49 - In a see-saw battle that had Colorado erase an 16-point half time deficit with a 21-0 run and take a five-point lead only to see the Illini finish the game on an 11-3 run, Illinois advanced to the round of 32. Illinois took down the first team from the PAC-12, which had won its previous three tourney games.

Despite a 3-for-12 mark from the field, Brandon Paul scored 17 points to lead the Fighting Illini, who will face #2 seed Miami in the next round.

Derrick Nix Delivers Top Performance in Michigan St. Win; A-10 Tops Conference Scoreboard at 4-0

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 21, 2013

From the sixteen games played on Thursday, there were plenty of great candidates for Downtown Magazine's Player of the Day, but one only had to watch the first game of the Midwest session - the first game of the day - to find the best individual game performance.

In #3 Michigan State's rousing, 65-54, victory over Valparaiso, Derrick Nix was so dominant in the paint that he needed to be on the floor a mere 26 minutes to amass these incredible stats: game-high 23 points and 15 rebounds (9 offensive), an assist and two steals. Impressively, Nix, all the while battling two or more defenders, did not commit a single foul, and only turned the ball over twice.

The bulky center was 10-for-17 from the field and 3-for-5 from the foul line, his effort boosting the Spartans to a lead which maxed out at 27, less than six minutes into the second half.

The Spartans advanced to the round of 32. They meet 6th-seeded Memphis on Saturday.

Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through games of 3/21
Conference (#) W-L Winners (wins)
ACC (4) 0-0 --
Atlantic 10 (5) 4-0 LaSalle (1) Butler (1) St. Louis (1) VCU (1)
Big 12 (6) 0-1 --
Big East (8) 3-1 Marquette(1) Louisville (1) Syracuse (1)
Big Ten (7) 2-0 Mich. St. (1), Michigan (1)
PAC-12 (5) 3-0 Oregon (1) Arizona (1) Cal (1)
SEC (4) 0-1 --
Missouri Valley (2) 1-0 Wichita St. (1)
Mountain West (5) 1-3 Colorado St. (1)
WCC (2) 2-1 St. Mary's (1) Gonzaga (1)
Sun Belt (2) 0-1 --
All Others (19) 4-13 NC A&T (1) James Madison (1) Memphis (1) Harvard (1)

NCAA Tourney: Thursday Second Round Late Games Results; Harvard Ousts New Mexico

Midwest Region

(1) Louisville 79 (16) North Carolina A&T 48 - As expected, the tournament's top seed, Louisville, had few problems taking out the Midwest region's 16 seed, North Carolina A&T, which advanced from the first four with a one-point win over Liberty on Tuesday. The Cardinals hammered the Aggies to advance to the next round where they meet Colorado State. The combination of pressure defense and red-hot shooting by the Cardinals produced 25 turnovers, a 56% shooting percentage and s decisive victory.

Coach Rick Pitino emptied his bench, playing 12 players, nine of which scored, led by Russ Smith, who pumped in a game-high 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Aggies' starters scored just 16 points.

(8) Colorado St. 84 (9) Missouri 72 - Missouri scored the first basket of the game and it was the only time they led the entire game. Colorado State established an early lead and never let the Tigers get any closer than four points in the second half.

Dorian Green pushed in a game-high 26 points, making 11 of 12 from the charity stripe.

South Region

(3) Michigan 71 (14) South Dakota State 56 - The two Michigan players with NBA pedigrees, Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr., each scored 21 points to lead the Wolverines to a solid win over the Jackrabbits. Hardaway was 8-for-13 and 5-for-7 from three-point range, while Robinson soared at 8-for-9 from the field, making all three of his shots from outside the arc.

(5) VCU 88 (12) Akron 42 - Taking a cue from Louisville, VCU pummeled an out-manned Zips squad which lost two starters to the flu. Nine different players scored for the Commodores, led by Troy Daniels' 23 points.

West Region

(6) Arizona 81 (11) Belmont 64 - Belmonth put three players in double figures but they were no match for the Wildcats, who led from the first bucket until the final buzzer. Mark Lyons led the Wildcats with a game-high 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting including three bombs from three-point land. Arizona shot 57% for the game and will meet Harvard in the next round.

(14) Harvard 68 (3) New Mexico 62 - The Harvard Crimson pulled off the upset of the day, knocking off a highly-regarded Lobos team for the Crimson's first-ever win in the NCAA tournament. Harvard shot 52% for the game and held New Mexico to just 37.5%. The Crimson was 8-for-18 from the three-point line, five of those coming off the hand of Laurent Rivard, who finished with 17 points. Sophomore Wesley Saunders led the Crimson with 18 points.

East Region

(12) California 64 (5) UNLV 61 - Like a pair of heavyweights, the Golden Bears and Runnin' Rebels went toe-to-toe from start to finish,

Cal missed eight of 12 free throws in the final minute to allow UNLV to draw to within one, but Allen Crabbe, the PAC-12's leading scorer, made two crucial ones to put the Bears ahead by three and seal the win, avenging a one-point loss to the Rebels earlier in the season. Crabbe was the game's high scorer with 19.

Just as Oregon did earlier in the day, a #12 seed from the PAC-12 knocked off a #5, something the selection committee may want to take a closer look at next season.

(4) Syracuse 81 (13) Montana 34 - In what has to be considered the most complete mismatch of the tourney, Syracuse led all the way, going up 20-4 early and extending their lead over the smaller, slower Grizzlies. Brandon Triche led all scorers with 20 points. Montana shot a mere 20% (11-for-54) for the game; no Montana player scored more than five points.

The 47-point win was one better than VCU's win over Akron. Ouch!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

NCAA Tourney: Thursday Second Round Early Games Results

Midwest Region

(3) Michigan State 65 (14) Valparaiso 54 - Widebody Derrick Nix led the Spartans with game highs in scoring and rebounds, with 23 and 16, respectively.

Michigan State had a huge rebounding edge of 44-20, including 17 on the offensive end, nine of which were hauled in by Nix. After Michigan State took a 35-18 lead into the half, the contest was never in doubt.

(4) St. Louis 64 (13) New Mexico State 44 - Dwayne Evans scored a game-high 24 points as the Billikens easily outpaced the Aggies, advancing to play the Oregon Ducks on Saturday.

(6) Memphis 54(11) St. Mary's 52 - The Tigers dodged a bullet, beating the Gaels by a bucket. St. Mary's Matthew Dellavedova hoisted a three-point shot as time expired, but missed, advancing the only entrant from conference USA onto the next round. Memphis will face Michigan State on Saturday.

(12) Oregon 68 (5) Oklahoma State 55 - This is technically an upset (12 beating a 5), though it's difficult to comprehend how the Ducks, who won the PAC-12 tournament, were seeded so low, while the Cowboys, respectable at 13-5 (third) in the Big 12 got a 5-seed.

No matter, the Ducks dominated the proceedings, opening up an 11-point lead at the half and never being challenged, eventually leading by as many as 15. Arsalan Kazemi scored 11 points and was a monster on the glass with 17 rebounds. The Ducks had a massive rebounding edge of 45-29. Damyean Dotson led the scoring parade with 17.

East Region

(6) Butler 68 (11) Bucknell 56 - Bucknell actually out-shot Butler by a smidge - 37.1-36.4% - but the Bulldogs took better care of the rock, turning it over just four times, and had a slight rebounding edge, 36-30. Center Andrew Smith was a powerhouse, with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Butler will face Marquette in the third round on Saturday.

(4) Marquette 59 (13) Davidson 58 - Miraculously, Marquette ended the nation's longest winning streak at 17, coming from seven points down with 1:33 to play, to narrowly oust the Wildcats from the tournament. Down the stretch, Vander Blue made a pair of free throws, then made a three bracketed by a pair of three-pointers by Jamil Wilson to draw to within one.

Davidson threw away an inbounds pass with 6.7 seconds left, giving Marquette a final chance and Vander Blue made a running layup with one second on the clock to escape the possible 14-3 upset. Blue (16 points) was just 5-for-15 from the field, but he and Wilson (4-for-13, 14 points) made the shots when they counted.

West Region

(8) Wichita State 73 (9) Pittsburgh 55 - The first team from a major conference has fallen, and it didn't take long, happening on the first full day of the tournament, Wichita State, out of the Missouri Valley, topped Pitt from the Big East in a result that wasn't even close. The Shockers went on a 15-8 run to close out the first half and the Panthers were never able to cut the lead to less than four.

Malcolm Armstead and Cleanthony Early lead the Shockers in scoring with 22 and 21, respectively. Three-pointers came at a premium, with the Panthers hitting just one of 20 and Wichita State making two of 20. Pitt committed 27 fouls, sending the Shockers to the line 41 times, where they made 33. The Shockers face #1 seed Gonzaga in round three.

(1) Gonzaga 64 (16) Southern 58 - The Jaguars threw quite a scare into the top-seeded Bulldogs. Southern tied the game at 54 with just over four minutes left, but couldn't connect down the stretch and Gonzaga played cool under pressure. Derrick Beltran scored 21 for Southern, but was equalled by Kelly Olynyk, who scored 17 of his 21 in the second half to go with 10 rebounds.

Despite a huge, 36-20, edge in rebounding, Gonzaga shot only 42%, which kept the Jaguars in the game.

First Four: Tyrone Garland Leads LaSalle over Boise State; James Madison Advances

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Four Play-in Games

James Madison 68 LIU-Brooklyn 55 - Advancing to the second round to meet Indiana, the top seed in the East region, James Madison won a tournament game for the first time in 30 years, topping the MEAC tourney champion Blackbirds.

AJ Davis led the Dukes with 20 points. In a true team defensive effort, James Madison held LIU-Brooklyn to just 35% from the field and a woeful 3-for-16 (19%) from three-point range. The Blackbirds were out-rebounded, 35-30, and the Dukes blocked 10 shots, five by freshman Andre Nation.

LaSalle 80 Boise State 71 - Taking an 8-6 lead four-and-a-half minutes into the game, the LaSalle Explorers never looked back, shooting an incredible 63.3% for the game - making 11 of 21 from the three-point line - to send Boise State back to Idaho after a quick trip to Dayton, Ohio.

The Explorers, one of five teams in the tournament from a powerhouse Atlantic 10 conference, advanced from the First Four to face Kansas State, the #4 seed in the West, the most heavily-stocked region in the tournament.

Junior guard Tyrone Garland had an outstanding game from off the bench, scoring 22 points in 30 minutes to lead LaSalle on 9-for-11 shooting, with a pair of treys, two rebounds, three assists and a steal.

The Explorers meet Kansas State on Friday.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Matthew Dellavedova Leads St. Mary's over Middle Tennessee; NC A&T Advances

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 19, 2013

All of those analysts lobbying for the inclusion of Middle Tennessee to be admitted to the field of 68 got their wishes on Sunday, when the Blue Raiders were paired with St. Mary's for a Tuesday night "first four" game, but they had to be embarrassed by the effort as the Gaels punished Middle Tennessee in a 67-54 runaway.

The Gaels led most of the game, taking the lead for good after an 18-all tie when Stephen Holt made one of two free throws and Beau Levesque turned in a three-point play on a layup, foul and subsequent free throw.

After that, it was the Matthew Delladevoda show, the four-year point guard pumping in a game-high 22 points on 7-for-14 shooting, with a 5-for-7 mark from beyond the arc. When he wasn't scorching the Blue raiders with threes, Delladevoda was hitting the boards, playing tight defense and helping out teammates. He finished with six boards and four assists.

St. Mary's defense was so good that Middle Tennessee players only went to the line seven times, making six. And, while the shooting was nearly even - 45% for St. Mary's; 42% for the Blue Raiders - it was outside the three-point line that made the difference. St. Mary's was 8-for-14 (57%). Middle Tennessee managed only 4-for-12 (33%).

The Gaels advance to the second round, where they will face Memphis, the #6 seed in the Midwest region, on Thursday.

In the other first four meeting, North Carolina A&T held on for a 73-72 win over a gritty Liberty squad, advancing to play the tournament's #1 seed, Louisville, on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Play-in Tourney Games and a Final Four Prediction

The 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship gets underway tonight in Dayton, OH, when the North Carolina A&T Aggies tip off with the Liberty Flames, surprise winner of the automatic bid from the Big South after going 6-10 in conference and 15-20 overall. Opening tip is set for 6:40 pm EDT.

Liberty won three tournament games to reach this spot; their ascent into the NCAA tourney their second chance in nine years. In 2004, they lost an opening round game to St. Joe's.

The game figures to be close, though NC A&T has a distinct height advantage which could prove fatal to the Flames.

Like Liberty, the Aggies won their conference tourney, winning four straight to advance. The problem with A&T is that they rank 317th in shooting percentage, which is pretty poor, and Liberty plays sound defense.

Look for the Flames to advance, possibly via the foul line, to play Louisville on Saturday.

In the late game (9:10 pm EDT), St. Mary's, which, besides West region top-seed Gonzaga, is the only entrant from the West Coast Conference. The Gaels face a solid, yet unappreciated squad from the Sun Belt, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who posted a 19-1 record in conference and boast a 28-5 record overall.

Despite those gaudy numbers, the Blue Raiders lost to Florida International in their conference tournament, but received a gift vote from the selection committee. They'll have to prove they belong against St. Mary's, and they should advance to a second round game with Memphis. If so, they'll have a big opportunity to post an early upset.

Final Four Prediction

Picking the Final Four usually involves more luck than predictive skill, and this season is no different. In fact, this is one of the most competitive fields ever presented by the NCAA, with at least ten teams with a legitimate shot at capturing the championship.

Fearless Rick's best guess at who emerges from each region goes like this:
East: Miami (2)
West: Ohio State (2)
Midwest: St. Louis (4)
South: VCU (5)

OK, maybe that's a bit optimistic, with no #1 seeds reaching, but, this is tough field and upsets are nothing new at the Big Dance.

In the semi-final, Midwest plays West and East plays South, so look for the Buckeyes of Ohio State to advance over the Billikens, and Miami to to the Commodores.

The final goes to Ohio State, in a close, 67-63 win over the Hurricanes.

Good luck to everybody with their bracket picks.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March Madness: NCAA Tournament Observations

Just some off-the-cuff commentary on the field of 68 set on Sunday for the NCAA Men's National Basketball Championship:

Oregon, despite winning the PAC-12 tournament was seeded #12 in the Midwest, while UCLA (which the Ducks beat in the tourney final) and Arizona received 6-seeds.

CBS, on their tournament seeding show Sunday evening, flashed "Weakest Region" on the West, which includes top-seeded Gonzaga, #2 Ohio State, #3 New Mexico and #4 Kansas State along with #5 Wisconsin and Notre Dame, seeded 7th. The truth of the matter is that the West is far and away the most competitive of the regions, not even close to the weakest, which would likely be either the South (Kansas #1, Georgetown #2, Florida #3) or the Midwest, which has the woeful Duke squad implanted at #2 and Louisville, #1. The best team in the that region might be the aforementioned Oregon, or #4 St. Louis, champions of the Atlantic 10 (regular season and tournament), #3 Michigan State or #7 Creighton, out of the Missouri Valley.

Miami, which won both the regular season and conference tourney in the ACC, was posted as a #2, in the East region, on a collision course with #1 Indiana. Various bodies on the selection committee must have liked Kansas better than the Hurricanes, or preferred Duke, because, in reality, the Hurricanes got a raw deal, though they will likely waltz through their sub-region.

In the play-in games, there are actually two different flavors. The winner of the North Carolina A&T-Liberty meeting is nothing but cannon fodder for Louisville, as is the LIU-Brooklyn-James Madison match-up, the winner of which will certainly fall to Indiana.

The other two are more compelling, as Middle Tennessee plays St. Mary's (a solid game), the winner advancing to the second round against Memphis, the Conference USA champion which has proven, thus far, nothing. Look for an upset, with Memphis taking it on the chin. Boise State plays LaSalle in the other play-in, the victor moving on to a round two meeting with Kansas State, another vulnerable team. At least the tournament committee has created some excitement in expanding the field and getting teams from smaller conferences.

Key second round games include all of the 8-9 match-ups, which could actually be called toss-ups. Try picking between Missouri and Colorado State in the Midwest, NC State and Temple in the East, Pitt and Wichita State (take the Shockers) in the West, or North Carolina and Villanova (leaning toward the Tar Heels) in the South.

Bracket busters appear all across the landscape. While there's likely little chance that a #1 seed will fall in their opening game, it's bound to happen some time. The best shot at it this year would be Western Kentucky, a team with plenty of experience and tournament savvy (they won four straight games to get in, for the second year in a row, out of the Sun Belt) against the #1 seed in the South, Kansas.

A number of people have mentioned Florida Gulf Coast, the Atlantic Sun champion, as a possible winner over #2 Georgetown in the South, though only because they've been noticed, their chances are diminished.

Sorry, Duke haters, but Albany is not going to knock off Duke, though seven-seed Creighton might in the following round. If the Blue Devils advance to the regionals, look for either Michigan State or Valparaiso to end their 2013 tournament in a hurry. The third round game between Michigan State and Valpo could be a good one to watch as well, and a Spartan win is by no means guaranteed. A 3-seed has fallen to a 14 in each of the last four tournaments, a trend which fits the Valpo-Michigan state scenario.

In the East, #14 Davidson could easily top #3 Marquette. The Golden Eagles were knocked out of the Big East tourney early on and are over-seeded at #3.

Sorry, Ivy Leaguers, but #14 Harvard isn't going to get past #3 New Mexico in the West.

Syracuse, another overseed victim at #4 in the East, may have problems with #13 Montana. As it is, Syracuse is still searching for identity, especially after the 56-point explosion by Louisville in the second half of the Big East final. They, like Michigan and Michigan State, are enigmas which could be gone early or proceed possibly to an unlikely Final Four.

Streakers: The highest-quality streak coming in belongs to the Ohio State Buckeyes, who have won eight straight, including the Big Ten championship with a final win over Wisconsin (the team which last beat them, on February 17), a semi-final win over Michigan State, and regular season wins over Indiana and the Spartans. They are the #2 seed in the rough West region, but any slip up could derail their championship run.

In any case the Buckeyes are hailing from the region which just may produce the overall champion, be it themselves, New Mexico or Gonzaga, the top seed.

The longest streak coming in belongs to Davidson, regular season and tourney champs of the Southern League, at 17 straight, which spells real trouble for Marquette. Interestingly, their closest game during their winning run was a 93-87 overtime win against Montana, at home, no less. Look out, Syracuse.

More tomorrow...

Shane Larkin Leads Miami to ACC Title; Hurricanes Shunned by Tourney Committee

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 17, 2013

Of the four conference championships decided on Sunday, the ACC contest brought out the best shooters, and, for those who have been screaming about the lack off offense in the college game this season, the highest score.

The Hurricanes' 87-77 victory over North Carolina was the icing on the cake that saw Miami wqin its first regular season ACC title, followed up by confident victories in the tournament and a first outright title in the nine years in which its been a member of the ACC.

The game saw 25 of 51 three-point shots find their marks. Both PJ Hairston of the Tar Heels and Miami's Trey McKinney-Jones made six, but it was the small ball of Hurricane point guard Shane Larkin that carried the day. Larkin matched Hairston with 28 points, sealing the deal with six consecutive free throws without a miss in the final minute.

Larkin also made four three pointers on 8-for-15 shooting overall, was a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line, dished seven assists, collected five rebounds and made a pair of steals. He was also the only player from either team to play all forty minutes.

While the great accomplishments of the Hurricanes this season cannot be overstated, they still did not measure up to the NCAA tournament committee's standards which saw fit to put them in as a #2 seed, albeit in the East Region, which will provide them with some semblance of court familiarity.

With the brackets set for the Big Dance, later today, College Basketball Daily will post a breakdown of some of the key first and second round games, insights into the overall tournament and picks for the Final Four and National Championship.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ohio State Wins Big Ten; All 31 Automatic Bids Allotted

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2012
Ohio State held Wisconsin scoreless for the final seven minutes to capture the Big Ten championship, 50-43, the fourth under head coach Thad Motta.

The Buckeye victory completes the 31 automatic bids to the NCAA tournament for conference champions.

2013 NCAA Tournament Bids by Conference

Harvard Ivy League
Belmont Ohio Valley
Florida Gulf Coast Atlantic Sun
James Madison Colonial Athletic Association
Creighton Missouri Valley
LIU Brooklyn Northeast
Western Kentucky Sun Belt
Liberty Big South
Gonzaga West Coast
Davidson Southern
South Dakota State Summit League
Valparaiso Horizon League
Bucknell Patriot
New Mexico Mountain West
Memphis Conference USA
Albany America East
Northwestern State Southland
Pacific Big West
Chicago State Great West
Montana Big Sky
Southern SWAC
North Carolina A&T MEAC
New Mexico State WAC
Akron MAC
Louisville Big East
Oregon PAC-12
Kansas Big 12
Miami ACC
Mississippi SEC
St. Louis Atlantic 10
Wisconsin/Ohio St. Big Ten

30 of 31 Automatic Bids In: Mississippi, Miami, St. Louis Punch Tourney Tickets

With all the tournaments finished except the Big Ten, the field is nearly set for the 2013 NCAA Championship.

Today's results:

ACC Final: Miami 87 North Carolina 77 - In a championship game that more resembled a 3-point shooting competition, Miami's Trey McKinney Jones made six of nine from beyond the arc (7-for-11 overall) for 20 points to lead the Hurricanes to their first ACC championship, following up on their regular season title.

Game high scorers were Shane Larkin for Miami and PJ Hairston for North Carolina, each of whom tallied 28.

SEC Final: Mississippi 69 Florida 66 - Murphy Holloway scored 23 points and hauled down 11 rebounds, and Marshall Henderson scored 21 as the Rebels roared back from a 36-24 half time deficit to win their first SEC championship since 1981. With that result, Mississippi gets the automatic NCAA bid, while Florida, the regular season conference champ, will wait until later in the day to see where they are seeded.

Atlantic 10 Final: St. Louis 62 VCU 56 - The Billikens followed up their regular season championship with a win over VCU to capture the A-10 tourney. Kwamain Mitchell came off the Billiken bench to score 19 points. Treveon Graham scored a game high 20 for the Commodores, who are almost certain to receive an at-large bid.

That leaves only the Big Ten to complete the 31 automatic bids.

Below is a chart of the automatic bids so far, with Wisconsin-Ohio State in progress. The tournament selection process concludes with the reveal of the seedings and brackets beginning at 6:00 pm EDT, live on CBS.

2013 NCAA Tournament Automatic Bids by Conference

Harvard Ivy League
Belmont Ohio Valley
Florida Gulf Coast Atlantic Sun
James Madison Colonial Athletic Association
Creighton Missouri Valley
LIU Brooklyn Northeast
Western Kentucky Sun Belt
Liberty Big South
Gonzaga West Coast
Davidson Southern
South Dakota State Summit League
Valparaiso Horizon League
Bucknell Patriot
New Mexico Mountain West
Memphis Conference USA
Albany America East
Northwestern State Southland
Pacific Big West
Chicago State Great West
Montana Big Sky
Southern SWAC
North Carolina A&T MEAC
New Mexico State WAC
Akron MAC
Louisville Big East
Oregon PAC-12
Kansas Big 12
Miami ACC
Mississippi SEC
St. Louis Atlantic 10
Wisconsin/Ohio St. Big Ten

Miami's Durand Scott Player of the Day; 8 More Conferences Crown Champions

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 16, 2013

Miami's Durand Scott turned in the performance of the day, leading the Hurricanes into Sunday's ACC final, seeking the championship for the first time in the nine years Miami has been a member of the conference.

Scott dazzled NC State defenders with 12-for-18 shooting, making five of eight from outside the 3-point line, for a game-high 32 points. Scott was also active elsewhere, with three boards, four assists and a pair of steals. Miami's 81-71 victory was one in which they led almost the entire game.

In the final, the #9 Hurricanes will face North Carolina at 1:00 pm EDT Sunday. Miami won both meetings with the Tar Heels during the regular season and a win could result in a #1 seeding.

Recapping late action:

Louisville shredded Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone defense with 56 second half points, upending a 35-22 deficit to win the Big East championship going away, 78-61. The dominant win will likely land Louisville the #1 seed in the East region of the NCAA tourney.

Oregon grabbed the auomatic bid from the PAC-12, thumping UCLA, 78-69, in the conference final. The Ducks struggled though the latter half of their conference schedule, losing three of their last five, but regained their swagger in the tourney and hopefully will carry their confidence into the NCAAs.

Other conference winners (all receive automatic NCAA bids:

Chicago State 75 Houston Baptist 60 - 11-21 Cougars win Great West title.

Northwestern State 68 SF Austin 66 - Southland championship.

Montana 67 Weber State 64 - Big Sky

Pacific 64 UC Irvine 55 - Big West

New Mexico State 64 Texas-Arlington 55 - Western Athletic Conference (WAC) title.