Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Blue Devils Do It Again; Tyus Jones Leads Duke to National Championship

National Championship Recap
College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, April 6, 2015

(1) Duke 68 (1) Wisconsin 63 - Tyus Jones lit up the Wisconsin Badgers in the second half, willing his Duke Blue Devils to the National Championship. The game's leading scorer, Tyus Jones pumped in 19 of his 23 points in the second half, providing the Duke Blue Devils with the fifth championship in program history, all of them masterminded by coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Following a 31-all tie at the break, Wisconsin went on a run, but Duke surged back from a nine-point deficit to take the lead with 4:09 left on Jones' three pointer, putting Duke ahead 59-58. Two buckets by Jahlil Okafor preceded another three-pointer from Jones at 1:24. Jones' two free throws sealed the win for the Blue Devils.

Jones was 7-13 from the field with two three-pointers, a 7-7 mark from the foul line, and five rebounds. Fellow freshman, Grayson Allen, came off the bench to score 16 for the Blue Devils.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (# of Ws)
ACC 18-6 Notre Dame (3), NC State (2), North Carolina (2), Arkansas (1), Virginia (1). Louisville (3), Duke (6)
Big East 5-6 Butler (1), Xavier (2), Villanova (1), Georgetown (1)
Big Ten 12-7 Ohio State (1), Michigan St. (4), Maryland (1), Iowa (1), Wisconsin (5)
Big 12 5-7 Kansas (1), West Virginia (2), Oklahoma (2)
Pac-12 8-4 UCLA (2), Arizona (3), Utah (2), Oregon (1)
SEC 5-5 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky (4)
All Others 14-32 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1), N. Iowa (1), Wichita St. (2), San Diego State (1), Gonzaga (3), Dayton (1)

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Frank Kaminsky, Badgers Send Kentucky Home; Duke Hammers Spartans; Blue Devils Face Wisconsin in Monday Championship

National Semi-Finals
College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, April 4, 2015

(1) Duke 81 (7) Michigan State 61 - So much for hype. In terms of excitement, this one was definitely snooze button material. No wonder these semi-finals are televised on TBS. Once Duke established a lead - about midway through the first half - they never looked back and led by 11 at the break.

The Blue Devils expanded their lead to as many as 20 points. Michigan State never got closer than 13 after Duke made the opening three buckets of the second half. Justise Winslow led Duke with 19 points, followed by Jahlil Okafor's 18 and 17 from Quinn Cook. Statistically, the game was decided at the foul line. Duke went to the line 37 times and made 27. The Spartans had 16 free throw attempts and made 10.

The only remaining question is when do the "I Hate Coach K" tee-shirts go on sale?

(1) Wisconsin 71 (1) Kentucky 64 - Wisconsin engineered a 15-4 run to close out the game, ending Kentucky's unbeaten streak at 38 games. The Badgers seemed desperate with under five minutes remaining, but Sam Dekker's jumper at 4:28 got the Badgers rolling. Outstanding defense against the Wildcats throughout, but especially at crunch time keyed the Badger victory. Kentucky made just one of eight attempts from the field in the final 5:30.

The Badgers led most of the first half, but Kentucky managed to claw back into the fray leaving the two teams deadlocked at intermission.

Wisconsin shot 47% (13-28) in the first half; Kentucky, 60% (15-25), but The Badgers out-rebounded Kentucky, 15-10, seven of Wisconsin's boards coming on the offensive end. Kentucky was just 11-for-29 (19%) in the second half. Wisconsin finished at 48% (23-48).

Frank Kaminsky led all scorers with 20 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocked shots. Amazingly, Wisconsin ended the game with an enormous edge on the boards, out-rebounding the Wildcats, 34-22.

The Badgers will face the Duke Blue Devils for the National Championship, Monday night, April 6.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (# of Ws)
ACC 17-6 Notre Dame (3), NC State (2), North Carolina (2), Arkansas (1), Virginia (1). Louisville (3), Duke (5)
Big East 5-6 Butler (1), Xavier (2), Villanova (1), Georgetown (1)
Big Ten 12-6 Ohio State (1), Michigan St. (4), Maryland (1), Iowa (1), Wisconsin (5)
Big 12 5-7 Kansas (1), West Virginia (2), Oklahoma (2)
Pac-12 8-4 UCLA (2), Arizona (3), Utah (2), Oregon (1)
SEC 5-5 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky (4)
All Others 14-32 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1), N. Iowa (1), Wichita St. (2), San Diego State (1), Gonzaga (3), Dayton (1)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Final Four Semi-Finals: Michigan State vs. Duke; Kentucky vs. Wisconsin Game Analysis

Final Four National Semi-Finals
Game Breakdown and Analysis

March Madness has become Awesome April, with the Final Four ready to rumble on Saturday, April 4 at Lucas Stadium in Indianapolis.

Unsurprisingly, the four finalists are teams with exceptional coaches, three of which have won national championships, all of whom have been to the Final Four, especially Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has taken Duke teams to college hoops' promised land more often than any coach, except UCLA's legendary John Wooden, tying the Wizard of Westwood this season with his 12th Final Four appearance.

Coach K has also notched four NCAA Division I Tournament Championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010), thus, his prowess as a college basketball mastermind is beyond question. He still has a way to go to match Wooden's record of 10 national titles, however, a record that may never be broken, if only because Division I hoops has changed so much over the years. In Wooden's day, one only needed two wins to reach the Final Four and four wins to take it all. Nowadays, it takes four wins just to get into the Final Four and six to win it all. Plus, quality players are leaving college after a year or two, making building a long-lasting program improbable and exceedingly difficult.

But, along with Krzyzewski, the likes of Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and John Calipari (Kentucky) continue to get their teams into the tournament and prepare them for the single-elimination marathon.

For Tom Izzo, this marks the seventh Final Four for his Michigan State Spartans and his first Final Four since 2010. He is seeking a second national championship. He won his first in 2000. John Calipari has been to six Final Fours, four with Kentucky (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) and previously had led UMass in 1996 and Memphis in 2008 to the Final Four, but those appearances were later vacated by the NCAA. He has one national championship to his credit, that one earned in 2012. It was Kentucky's eighth national championship.

67-year-old Bo Ryan has the fewest number of Final Four appearances, making the grade last season and this year, both with the Badgers. He has never won a national championship in Division I, though he did win four Division III championships as head coach of University of Wisconsin-Platteville (1991, 1995, 1998 and 1999), so the competitive fires burn deep in the Badger head coach.

Following is a breakdown/analysis of the two semi-final games:

6:09 pm (7) Michigan State (27-11) vs (1) Duke (33-4) (TBS)

Line: Duke -5

Michigan State Spartans:Points per game: 71.9; Rank: 67
Rebounds per game: 37.7; Rank: 36
Assists per game: 17.1; Rank: 4
Field Goal Pct.: .471; Rank: 32

Duke Blue Devils:Points per game: 80.6; Rank: 4
Rebounds per game: 37.3; Rank: 44
Assists per game: 15.5; Rank: 21
Field Goal Pct.: .502; Rank: 3

Both teams seem cut from roughly the same cloth, that of hard-working, blue-collar determination and team principles, though Duke arguably has more overall talent. Duke and Michigan State both share the ball, as evidenced by their high rankings in the assist column. Other than Duke being the higher-scoring team and having a better shooting percentage, there's little separating these two, but the high level of shooting, especially considering how many three's the Blue Devils take (and make) should be of concern to the Spartans.

Michigan State will have to defend the thee-point line, where Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook predominate, plus be mindful of the inside presence of Jahlil Okafor, possibly the best inside presence in the college ranks this season. The Spartans really don't have the size nor the manpower to put the clamps down on Okafor, so expect them to double-team, even though that's going to free up some three-point shooters. Michigan State will play man-to-man defense, as will the Blue Devils. The premier match-up will be at point guard, where Duke's Jones will have to deal with lightning-quick Travis Trice and diminutive Lourawls Nairn Jr.

Darnell Valentine, Michigan State's leading scorer, will have to provide leadership and hit more than a few contested points. It would be in Michigan State's favor to turn this into a half-court contest, as Duke can and will run and gun. Fast break points may be hard to come by, however, as the well-prepared Spartans play excellent defense.

As for records, Michigan State's 27-11 mark is the worst of all the Final Four contestants, but they knocked off the #2, 3 and 4 seeds in the East region, topping Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville, respectively, after cruising by Georgia, 70-63, in their first game. Michigan State's average margin of victory in tournament games is a mere 5.75, and the 76-70 win over Louisville was in overtime.

Duke's mark of 33-4 is among the best in the nation, and, considering they came out of the rock-solid ACC, is quite an accomplishment. Their tourney wins have been sensational and by large margins. After whipping 16-seed Robert Morris, 85-56, in their opener, the defeated San Diego State, 68-49; Utah, 63-57; and Gonzaga, 66-52, for an average margin of victory of 17.0, an impressive stat.

Neither team is especially deep on the bench, but both coaches will substitute freely, giving their star players needed breaks, though Izzo will be shuffling in more players for the Spartans than does Duke. If the Spartans don't defend well or Duke has open looks from beyond the arc, this could turn into a rout. What will keep it close is solid defense by Michigan State, a bit of luck, and second chance points by the better-rebounding Spartans.

8:49 pm (1) Wisconsin (35-3) vs (1) Kentucky (38-0) (TBS)

Line: Kentucky -5

Wisconsin Badgers:
Points per game: 71.9; Rank: 67
Rebounds per game: 33.7; Rank: 204
Assists per game: 12.7; Rank: 165
Field Goal Pct.: .480; Rank: 21

Kentucky Wildcats:
Points per game: 74.9; Rank: 29
Rebounds per game: 38.2; Rank: 21
Assists per game: 14.7; Rank: 42
Field Goal Pct.: .469; Rank: 40

If there's been any mismatches in this tournament, they've likely featured the Wildcats, who have run their record to 38-0, after sweeping the SEC regular season and tournament, by winning four tournament games by a combined 77 points, for an average margin of 19.25 points per game. Take out the two-point win over Notre Dame (68-66) and their margin improves to 25 points per outing.

The Wildcats have nothing in mind other than to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, coached by Bobby Knight, to win a national championship with an undefeated record. Kentucky is two games from accomplishing the feat, which, somewhat surprisingly, hasn't been done in 39 years, nearly as long as another Kentucky-related record, that being horse racing's triple crown. The last time that happened was 1978, when Affirmed fended off Alydar in three straight close races.

While there may not be a triple crown horse on the racing horizon, these Wildcats are surely basketball thoroughbreds, and this team, despite being mostly freshmen and sophomores, is exceedingly deep, and very tall and long. Wisconsin will find out early on that Kentucky's size can be extremely incapacitating, especially if the Wildcat players are able to set their feet on defense. Since Wisconsin plays a half-court kind of game, the Kentucky players will almost certainly have an edge when the Badgers are trying to score.

A glance at the stats and rankings above reveals even more issues for the Badgers. They are almost certain to be out-rebounded and much of their offense depends on two big men, Frank Kominsky and Sam Dekker, whereas the Wildcats can counter with four or five players of size, starting with 6'11" Karl Anthony Towns, and seven-footers Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, with Trey Lyles (6'10") and Marcus Lee (6'9").

The back court match-ups don't hold much promise for Wisconsin either. Though the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, are the starters, their replacements, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker are probably better. Booker is especially deadly from outside. He can rain down threes like the sky is falling.

The Badgers do have Kaminsky, the choice for player of the year, but asking him to do it alone is a task too great. He is crafty and has extreme range, but, unless he gets help from others in the scoring and rebounding department, it's hard to see how Wisconsin can stay with the Wildcats for the entire 40 minutes. Notre Dame nearly pulled off a remarkable upset, and they were one of just a few teams that could possibly defeat Kentucky, as they had been red-hot, proven by winning the ACC tournament and played a nearly flawless game.

Wisconsin is certainly capable of playing with few turnovers - that is their trademark - but they'll really have to clamp down on defense, especially in the paint. What works for Wisconsin is their experience versus Kentucky's youthful talent. The Badgers are cool under pressure and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them with a chance to win late in the game, but, from well before March Madness began, this was always going to be Kentucky's tournament to lose, and if they do lose, it will be by a team with depth and determination, but it remains a long shot.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Michigan State, Duke Complete Final Four, Will Join Kentucky, Wisconsin in Indianapolis; Matt Jones Big for Blue Devils

Sunday Sweet 16 Results

College Hoops Player of the Day for DAY, Month, 2012

(7) Michigan State 76 (4) Louisville 70 OT - Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear each scored 12 points in the first half and the Louisville Cardinals led by eight, 40-32, at the break. The Cardinals were 17-for-32 in the first half (53%) and outscored the Spartans 8-2 over the final four-and-a-half minutes of the half.

Michigan State used an 8-2 run of their own to start the second half and finally took a lead at 8:53. Neither team could score in the closing seconds, sending the game into overtime, where the Spartans took a 7-1 edge on a Byrn Forbes three-pointer and a pair of free throws, followed by a layup from Darnell Valentine. Louisville got back to within two points with just over a minute remaining, but could not stop the Spartans late. Blackshear led all scorers with 28 points, but overall, Louisville couldn't hit many shots in the second half, finishing at 36% for the game, 23 of 64 overall, six for 32 in the second half (17%).

(1) Duke 66 (2) Gonzaga 52 - After building a solid early lead, the Blue Devils cooled off and Gonzaga rallied to cut into the lead, down five at the half, 31-26. Six turnovers and foul trouble were issues for the Bulldogs in the opening half.

Gonzaga surged to a four-point lead early in the second half, but Duke quickly regained control and began to pull away in the latter stages of the game. A force off the bench, Matt Jones had 16 points, as did Justise Winslow. Jones was 6-for-10 from the field, with four three-pointers. Tyus Jones scored 15 and dished six assists for the Blue Devils.

Duke will meet Michigan State on Saturday, April 4, in Indianapolis.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (# of Ws)
ACC 16-6 Notre Dame (3), NC State (2), North Carolina (2), Arkansas (1), Virginia (1). Louisville (3), Duke (4)
Big East 5-6 Butler (1), Xavier (2), Villanova (1), Georgetown (1)
Big Ten 11-5 Ohio State (1), Michigan St. (4), Maryland (1), Iowa (1), Wisconsin (4)
Big 12 5-7 Kansas (1), West Virginia (2), Oklahoma (2)
Pac-12 8-4 UCLA (2), Arizona (3), Utah (2), Oregon (1)
SEC 5-4 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky (4)
All Others 14-32 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1), N. Iowa (1), Wichita St. (2), San Diego State (1), Gonzaga (3), Dayton (1)

Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky Propel Wisconsin into Final Four; Kentucky's Karl Anthony Townes Leads Wildcats over Fighting Irish

Elite Eight Results, College Hoops
Players of the Day for Saturday, March 28, 2015

West Region
(1) Wisconsin 85 (2) Arizona 78 - After hitting just one of their first eight shots and falling behind by a 10-2 score, Arizona gained some composure and outscored the Badgers 31-20, finishing the first half with a 33-30 advantage.

Wisconsin countered with a 14-3 run to begin the second half and carried that momentum through to victory. Briefly, the Wildcats got to within two points early in the half, but never substantially threatened Wisconsin's lead. Frank Kaminsky was spectacular in the low post with 29 points and six rebounds, all the while putting virtually all Arizona front line players in foul trouble. Sam Dekker was enormous for the Badgers, with 27 points, making eight of 11 from the field, including 5-for-6 from three-point range, plus six of seven free throws and five boards.

Both teams shot 56% for the game, but the Badgers were 12-for-18 beyond the arc, a 67% clip.

Midwest Region
(1) Kentucky 68 (3) Notre Dame 66 - Games like this one are why the NCAA tournament has become one of the premier sporting events on the world stage. Both teams played with commitment and desire and the outcome was not sure until the final buzzer, in between the action punctuated by compelling play after play, from both sides.

Eventually, Andrew Harrison's two free throws with six seconds left to play provided the winning margin, though the game would not have been so close if not for the effort of Kentucky's Karl Anthony Townes, who rang up a game-high 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting from the field and five of six from the foul line. Townes also grabbed five rebounds, dished four assists, made two steals and blocked a shot.

If not one of the greatest college basketball games of all time, this certainly is one in which all participants can enjoy in proud memory. There were no goats, and no gaffes. Only winners. All of us.

The Wisconsin Badgers and Kentucky Wildcats meet in a Final Four match-up Saturday, April 4.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sweet 16: Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga Reach Elite Eight with Louisville as Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier Power Cardinals

Sweet 16 Recaps: Friday Games

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 27, 2015

South Region
(2) Gonzaga 74, (11) UCLA 62 - Unable to strike from outside nor contain Gonzaga's bigs in the paint, the UCLA Bruins were bitten by the Bulldogs and eliminated from the NCAA proceedings. The Bruins didn't hit a three-pointer until there were less than three minutes left in the game. Meanwhile, Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski scored a game-high 18 points and Domitras Sabonis added 12. Karnowski added nine boards, two assists and two blocks, helping the Zags establish a double-digit lead in the second half that they would not relinquish.

Gonzaga out-rebounded the Bruins, 50-39. Neither team was effective from beyond the arc. UCLA ended up the better of the two, hitting three of 13 (23%), while Gonzaga was 3-for-19 (16%).

(1)Duke 63, (5) Utah 57 - Led by Justise Winslow's 21 points and 10 rebounds, the Duke Blue Devils prevailed over the Utes, building a second-half gap that Utah tried in vain to close.

The Blue Devils did it with defense and foul shots, holding the Utes to 35% shooting, while making 20 of 26 free throws. Duke will meet Gonzaga on Sunday for the chance to advance to the Final Four.

East Region
(4) Louisville 75, (8) NC State 65 - In a game that resembled a rugby scrum at times, the two ACC entrants went toe-to-toe until Louisville opened up a late lead on a 9-0 run approaching the end of regulation. Terry Rozier did it all for the Cardinals with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists, as four Cardinal starters scored in double figures.

Montrezl Harrell was his usual impressive self, with 24 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Harrell was 9-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 at the foul line.

(7) Michigan State 62 (3) Oklahoma 58 - Tom Izzo's surprising Spartans knocked off the #2 and #3 seeds - Virginia and Oklahoma - in the region for the right to move onto the Elite Eight round. Once again, Travis Trice was sensational, leading both teams in scoring with 24 points, hitting four of nine from three-point range and going 6-for-6 from the foul line.

The game was as close as the final score indicates, with neither team shooting 40% from the field. The Spartans make a date with Louisville on Sunday, the winner heading to Indianapolis for the Final Four.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (# of Ws)
ACC 15-4 Notre Dame (3), NC State (2), North Carolina (2), Arkansas (1), Virginia (1). Louisville (3), Duke (3)
Big East 5-6 Butler (1), Xavier (2), Villanova (1), Georgetown (1)
Big Ten 9-5 Ohio State (1), Michigan St. (3), Maryland (1), Iowa (1), Wisconsin (3)
Big 12 5-7 Kansas (1), West Virginia (2), Oklahoma (2)
Pac-12 8-3 UCLA (2), Arizona (3), Utah (2), Oregon (1)
SEC 4-4 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky (3)
All Others 14-31 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1), N. Iowa (1), Wichita St. (2), San Diego State (1), Gonzaga (3), Dayton (1)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sweet 16 Thursday Results; Irish, Both Wildcats Advance; Sam Dekker Has Career-Best 23 to Move Wisconsin Forward

Sweet 16 Results
College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 26, 2012

Midwest Region
(3) Notre Dame 81, (7) Wichita St 70 - The Fighting Isish sustained a 38-18 second half run to completely blow away the Shockers, advancing to the Elite 8 and a meeting on Saturday with Kentucky.

Wichita State lead for only 36 seconds, at 38-37, before Notre Dame went on its game-winning tear. Four of the five Irish starters finished in double figures, led by Demetrius Jackson's 20. The only Irish starter not in double figures was Jerian Grant, who had nine points ad 11 assists. Pat Connaughton registered a double-double with 16 and 10 boards.

(1) Kentucky 78 (5) West Virginia 39 - Never close, the Wildcats blew away the Mountaineers by the largest margin of the tournament.

West Region
(1) Wisconsin 79, (4) North Carolina 72 - North Carolina held a four-point lead with just over six minutes to play, but, as has been the case most of the season, the Tar Heels could not close out, and the Badgers, expert at end-of-game tactics, prevailed.

Sam Dekker had a career-high 23 points and added 10 boards. Dekker's layup with 1:08 to play gave the Badgers a four-point cushion; eight straight free throws sealed the deal for Wisconsin.

(2) Arizona 68 (6) Xavier 60 - A late, 19-7, run to close out the game got Arizona past pesky Xavier and into the Elite Eight to face Wisconsin. T.J. McConnell paced the Wildcats with 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and a steal. Matt Stainbrook paced the Musketeers with 17. A rematch from the 2014 tournament, Wisconsin eliminated the Wildcats in last year's Elite Eight.

* * * *

Thursday, March 26, 2015

NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Previews, Friday Games feature Duke, Gonzaga, Cardinals, Spartans

Sweet 16 Previews: Friday Games

South Region
7:15 pm (11) UCLA (22-13) vs (2) Gonzaga (34-2) CBS - The highest seed remaining in the tournament, UCLA will defend the honor of the PAC-12, which has done surprisingly well during the first two rounds, compiling a 7-1 mark from four teams (UCLA, UTAH, Arizona, and Oregon). What the Bruins face, however, is one of the best teams left in the tourney. Gonzaga hasn't been a "Cinderella" team for quite some time; they're established as a powerhouse on a national scale and perennial champions of the West Coast conference. Additionally, Gonzaga already has a win at UCLA in the books this season, a December 19, 87-74 victory.

9:45 pm (5) Utah (26-8) vs (1) Duke (31-4) CBS - As usual, the Blue Devils have raised their game as the tournament has proceeded. Under the tutelage of Mike Krzyzewski, nothing short of 100% is expected from the players on the floor and that's generally what he always gets. Duke can produce from the outside, raining down threes on the opposition or inside, using Jahlil Okafor's wide body for scoring and defense. The Utes will test the interior of Duke's defense, as they have significant size on their front line. Not an easy task for the Blue Devils and possibly a significant upset, should Utah prove too tough in the lane.

East Region
7:37 pm (8) NC State (22-13) vs (4) Louisville (26-8) TBS - An all-ACC meeting here in the East, and the edge belongs to the Wolf Pack, by virtue of a 74-65 win at Louisville during the regular season. Both teams are notable for athleticism and defense, and this will be as hard-nosed a game as one will see in the entire tournament. While Louisville was awarded a lower seed, there really isn't much differentiating these teams and the game could come down to fouls (who's left on the court) and free throws. If there's a "must see" game for potential upsetters of the status quo, this one is it.

10:07 pm (7) Michigan State (25-11) vs (3) Oklahoma (24-10) TBS - The Sooners and Spartans are both well-coached and highly regarded by the remaining competition. This game could turn into a brawl, with physicality in excess on both sides, but the duel between Michigan State's Travis Trice and Oklahoma's premier scoring threat, Buddy Hield, will be prominent. Oklahoma hasn't seen much in the way of serious competition, beating Albany, then Dayton, to advance, while the Spartans have made their way with a win over Georgia before upsetting the #2 seed in the region, Virginia, and doing so with apparent ease. Ought to be a good one leading up to Sunday's epic games.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Regional Semi-Final Thursday Night Previews, Looks Like Wildcat Night

Sweet 16 Regional Semi-Final Previews

Midwest Region
7:15 pm (7) Wichita State (30-4) vs (3) Notre Dame (31-5) CBS - This is likely to be the most entertaining game of the evening, as both teams like to get up and down the floor and can really light it up from beyond the arc.

The Irish are quite a dangerous commodity, presently, having beaten Duke and North Carolina to win the ACC tournament, and gutting out close wins over Northeastern (69-65) and Butler, beating the Bulldogs in overtime, 67-64.
Wichita State downed Indiana in their tourney opener and then stunned the region's #2 seed, Kansas, with a 78-65 whipping. The Shockers were fortunate to receive a seeding that kept them on the underside of the Kentucky bracket and there is little doubt that they can match up quite well with Notre Dame.

9:45 pm (5) West Virginia (25-9) vs (1) Kentucky (36-0) CBS - Knocked out of the Big 12 tournament in the first round by Baylor, Bob Huggins' Mountaineers may be the tournament's poster boys for overachievement, knocking off Buffalo, 68-62, and then Maryland, 69-59, to get to this game against the Wildcats.

The chances of West Virginia pulling off the upset over the nation's #1 team? Slim. Kentucky has too much size on the front line and too much skill in the back court, which can involve as many as four guards, including the twins, Andrew and Aaron Harrison. Since LSU nearly ended Kentucky's undefeated run on February 10 in a 71-69 loss, the closest any team has come to beating the Wildcats is Georgia, which lost, at home, 72-64. In the SEC tournament, won by 13, 24 and 15 points, and their average magin of victory in the NCAA tourney has been 18 points.

West Region
7:47 pm (4) North Carolina (26-11) vs (1) Wisconsin (33-3) TBS - A real heavyweight battle here between two teams that are perennial tournament participants. Wisconsin has been to the tourney 17 straight seasons and are likely to be moving forward here. Frank Kaminsky leads a veteran group that is notorious for closing out opponents. The Tar Heels have had a successful season up to this point, but they've often wilted in late stages of games. It will be noteworthy to watch what happens at about the seven-minute mark of the second half. That should be about the time the teams will either show up or give in to pressure.

10:17 pm (6) Xavier (23-13) vs (2) Arizona (33-3) TBS - Viewers on the East coast haven't likely seen much of the Wildcats, but they're about to get an eyeful from this well-balanced and very dangerous team. Arizona has won 13 straight, their last loss an 81-78 defeat at in-state rival Arizona State on February 7. That's history, and the Wildcats steamrolled through the PAC-12 tourney with wins of 22, 14, and 28 points, slaughtering Oregon, 80-52 in the final. A 93-72 win over Texas Southern in their first toruney game and a ho-hum, 73-58 rout of Ohio State has them here.

Xavier hasn't met much competition in the tourney, beating Ole Miss in their opener and handling upstart Georgia State (a 14 seed) in the next round. Teams from the Big East have a 5-5 record in the tournament through the last round, while the PAC-12 boasts a 7-1 mark.

Tomorrow: Friday games previewed.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two's Blues: Virginia, Kansas Out; Blue Devils Blast San Diego St., Advance to Sweet 16 on Jahlil Okafor's Big Effort

Round of 32 Sunday Games

and Player of the Day for Sunday, March 22, 2015

(7) Michigan St 60, (2) Virginia 54 - The ACC had won 10 games without a loss, and the streak had to end somewhere. No surprise, it was Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans that rose to the occasion. A near-fixture in the Sweet 16, Elite 8 and Final Four under Izzo's tutelage, Spartan players turned on the defensive jets and smother Virginia, holding them to 18 first half points and a woeful 29% shooting for the game.

On the other end of the floor, Travis Trice was irrepressible, scoring a game-high 23 points on 7-15 shooting, including 4-8 from three-point range and 5-6 from the foul line in 39 minutes of court time.

(1) Duke 68, (8) San Diego State 49 - As is often the case in the tournament, while other teams are floundering and falling by the wayside, the Duke Blue Devils simply play on and continue mowing down the opposition. Such was the case against San Diego State, who could not deal with Jahlil Okafor inside. Duke's freshman superstar was 12-16 from the field for a game-high 26 points, adding six rebounds, two assists, a steal and three blocked shots.

(7) Wichita State 78, (2) Kansas 65 - Kansas had appeared vulnerable due to losing the Big 12 final to Iowa State (eliminated by UAB Thursday night) and, indeed, they were. The Shockers didn't exactly shock anyone; they are a quality team and they know it, and now, so does everyone else. The Jayhawks got into trouble late in the first half, when they scored just four points - all from the foul line - in the last six minutes leading up to the break and left the court down, 29-26. They never got any closer.

Wichita State opened up their offense and basically outran Kansas, quicker to the ball in every aspect and scoring repeatedly on breakaways, steals and sloppy defense. All five starters scored for the Shockers, led by Tekele Cotton's 19 points. The Jayhawks became the second #2 seed to lose in the tourney; earlier in the day, Michigan State (also a #7 seed) knocked off Virginia in the East region.

(3) Oklahoma 72, (11) Dayton 66 - The Sooners got all they could handle from Dayton, but managed to make key plays in the closing minutes to edge away from the fiesty Flyers and advance to the round of 16, where they will meet up with the Michigan State Spartans.

(2) Gonzaga 87, (7) Iowa 68 - A complete mismatch and a blowout for the Zags, who were never threatened once they established a lead. Led by Kevin Wiltjer's 24 points and seven rebounds, the Bulldogs were a model of consistency, hitting 61.5% from the field, 62.5% on threes and 61.9% from the foul line. Dazzling.

(1) Wisconsin 72, (8) Oregon 65 - The Ducks' Joseph Young led all scorers with 30 points, but the Badgers kept to task and eliminated the only PAC-12 representative to take to the hardwoods on the day. Though the score was close, Wisconsin actually led almost all the way. The only times they didn't was at 0-0 to start the game and 52-all with 5:56 left to play. The Badgers will meet North Carolina in the Sweet 16.

(5) West Virginia 69, (4) Maryland 59 - Nearing the midpoint of the second half, Maryland's sensational point guard, Melo Trimble, suffered a concussion-like injury and left the game, not to return. The Terrapins, without one of their leading scorers and main play-maker, suffered from the loss and the Mountaineers gradually pulled away for the victory. Tremble finished with a team-high 15 points. Devin Williams led the Mountaineers with 16.

(4) Louisville 66, (5) Northern Iowa 53 - The Panthers made a game of it, but the final game of the weekend ended with a whimper instead of a thunderous dunk. Louisville's starting five was simply too good, scoring all but five of the Cardinal points. Sophomore, Terry Rozier, was stunning, scoring a game-high 25 points to go with five boards and seven assists.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (# of Ws)
ACC 12-1 Notre Dame (2), NC State (2), North Carolina (2), Arkansas (1), Virginia (1). Louisville (2), Duke (2)
Big East 5-5 Butler (1), Xavier (2), Villanova (1), Georgetown (1)
Big Ten 7-5 Ohio State (1), Michigan St. (2), Maryland (1), Iowa (1), Wisconsin (2)
Big 12 5-5 Kansas (1), West Virginia (2), Oklahoma (2)
Pac-12 7-1 UCLA (2), Arizona (2), Utah (2), Oregon (1)
SEC 3-4 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky (2)
All Others 13-30 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1), N. Iowa (1), Wichita St. (2), San Diego State (1), Gonzaga (2), Dayton (1)

NCAA Tournament Round of 32: ACC 10-0, PAC-12 7-0; Tony Parker Leads Bruins into Sweet 16; Kentucky, Notre Dame, Tar Heels Advance

Round of 32 Saturday Games

and College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 21, 2015

(11) UCLA 92, (14) UAB 75 - There were those who said that UCLA didn't belong in the tournament, but the Bruins are having them eat their words, blowing out the Blazers to become the first team in the tourney to reach the level of Sweet 16 and posting the third-highest point total of the tourney, behind Arizona and Villanova, both of which had 93 in their openers. Tony Parker led everyone with 28 points and 12 rebounds, turning away three shots in UCLA's win to garner today's Player of the Day honors.

(1) Kentucky 64, (8) Cincinnati 51 - The Bearcats wanted to dance with the Wildcats, but it was Kentucky showing off the fancy footwork, smothering Cincy with defense. The Bearcats shot just 32%.

The Wildcats ended the first half on a 10-0 run and went into the break with a seven-point cushion, holding Cincinnati scoreless the final 3:43 of the first half. Leading the entire second half, the Wildcats expanded their lead to as many as 19 points, cruising to their 36th straight win.

(2) Arizona 73, (10) Ohio State 58 - The Buckeyes led most of the first half, but didn't score the final 3:13, and trailed 26-25 at intermission. Arizona used a 16-6 run early in the second half to open a ten-point lead and were never threatened after that. Gabe York and T.J. McConnell each had 19 for Arizona.

(6) Xavier 75, (14) Georgia State 67 - Representing the Sun Belt as well as they could, the Panthers finally fell too far behind the Musketeers in the late stages of the game and were eliminated after sending #3 seed Baylor home early in the previous round. Even though Georgia State shot 53.5% from the field, Xavier was fr better, clicking at 67.6% (23-34) and also made 22 of 25 from the line (88%).

(8) NC State 71, (1) Villanova 68 - Stunning the top seed in the East, the Wolfpack was relentless and held the lead throughout the second half after leading 32-28 at the break. Trevor Lacey was brilliant, with 17 points, six boards and four assists, and both Lennard Freeman and Abdul-Malik Abu each registered double-doubles for NC State. The closest Villanova came was with just 1.9 seconds left, when they closed to within a point, but Ralston Turner's two free throws sealed the win.

(5) Utah 75, (4) Georgetown 64 - The Hoyas opened up a 21-10 lead, making five threes in the first 6:28 of the game, but the Utes clawed back to tie the game at 32 into half time. Utah never fell behind after that and gradually pulled away in the latter stages of the game, shooting 58% from the field.

(4) North Carolina 87, (5) Arkansas 78 - Arkansas made this a tight one, but the athleticism, size and talent of the Tar Heels prevailed. Marcus Paige had 22 points, six rebounds and five steals for North Carolina.

(3) Notre Dame 67, (6) Butler 64 - For the bleary-eyed who managed to stay up late for this one, the loss of a little sleep was well worth it, as the Irish and Bulldogs played a back-and-forth classic that could only be decided in overtime. Steve Vasturia had a career high 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting, including the clinching three-pointer in overtime. He added 6-for-6 from the line and six rebounds.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (# of Ws)
ACC 10-0 Notre Dame (2), NC State (2), North Carolina (2), Arkansas (1), Virginia (1). Louisville (1)
Big East 5-5 Butler (1), Xavier (2), Villanova (1), Georgetown (1)
Big Ten 5-3 Ohio State (1), Michigan St. (1), Maryland (1), Iowa (1), Wisconsin (1)
Big 12 3-4 Kansas (1), West Virginia (1), Oklahoma (1)
Pac-12 7-0 UCLA (2), Arizona (2), Utah (2), Oregon (1)
SEC 3-4 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky (2)
All Others 11-27 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1), N. Iowa (1), Wichita St. (1), San Diego State (1), Gonzaga (1), Dayton (1)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Round of 64 Late Friday Games; Joseph Young and Ducks Soar in Win over Ok. St.; Frank Kaminsky, Badgers Advance

Round of 64 Late Friday Scores and Highlights
College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 20, 2015

(8) Oregon 79, (9) Oklahoma State 73 - A statistically close game, as the score indicates, the real difference was that Oregon simply shot the lights out, especially late in the contest, hitting a cool 55% from the field, and from the foul line, where they went 14-for-18 (78%). Of all the Ducks, the loudest quacks came from Joseph Young, who led all scorers with 27 points.

Young played all 40 minutes, hit eight of 15 from the field, including 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, and was 8-for-8 from the charity stripe. Young also had four rebounds, four assists, a steal and did not commit a single foul. Exceptional.

Of the seven teams that came to the tourney from the Big 12, Oklahoma State was the fourth to lose in the opening round, joining Iowa State, Baylor and Texas on the bus back home. Kansas, West Virginia and Oklahoma remain alive.

(1) Duke 85, (16) Robert Morris 56 - As expected, the Blue Devils simply blew out their opponents from the Northeast Conference, blistering the nets at a 63% rate for the game. Quinn Cook had 22, Jahlil Okafor, 21.

(7) Iowa 83, (10) Davidson 52 - Iowa shot 51% for the game and turned this 7-10 match-up into a complete rout, registering the biggest blowout of the day. The win was the first in the tournament for the Hawkeyes since 2001.

(3) Oklahoma 69, (14) Albany 60 - The Sooners took a nine-point lead into half time and maintained it to move forward.

(1) Wisconsin 86, (16) Coastal Carolina 72 - The more resembled a scrimmage or shoot-around from Wisconsin's perspective, as they were never threatened. Frank Kaminsky was tops in scoring, rebounding and assists, with 27, 12 and 4.

(8) San Diego St 76, (9) St. John's 64 - With 6:25 left in the first half, Dwayne Polee II connected on a three-pointer to give the Aztecs a two-point advantage and they were never tied nor gave up the lead after that, holding the Red Storm at a comfortable distance throughout the remainder of the game.

(2) Gonzaga 86, (15) North Dakota St. 76 - The Bison hung in for the first seven minutes of the game, at which point the Zags took the lead for good. Gonzaga established and maintained a double-digit lead for the remainder of the festivities.

(11) Dayton 66, (6) Providence 53 - Representing well for the Atlantic 10, Dayton kept the Friars at bay throughout the second half and were not threatened late.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (# of Ws)
ACC 7-0 Notre Dame (1), NC State (1), North Carolina (1), Arkansas (1), Virginia (1), Duke (1), Louisville (1)
Big East 4-2 Butler (1), Xavier (1), Villanova (1), Georgetown (1)
Big Ten 5-2 Ohio State (1), Michigan St. (1), Maryland (1), Iowa (1), Wisconsin (1)
Big 12 3-4 Kansas (1), West Virginia (1), Oklahoma (1)
Pac-12 4-0 UCLA (1), Arizona (1), Utah (1), Oregon (1)
SEC 2-3 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky (1)
All Others 11-24 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1), N. Iowa (1), Wichita St. (1), San Diego State (1), Gonzaga (1), Dayton (1)

Friday, March 20, 2015

NCAA Tournament: Round of 64 Early Friday Results and Highlights; Fred Van Vleet's 27 Points Paces Wichita State

NCAA Tournament: Round of 64 (Friday early games) Results and 
Player of the Day for Friday, March 20, 2015

(2) Kansas 75, (15) New Mexico St 56 - Frank Mason III paced the Jayhawks to a cakewalk win over New Mexico State, scoring 17 points with nine boards. Mason played 31 minutes, which was the most of any Kansas starter, as the Jayhawks established an early lead and cruised, leading by 23 points on multiple occasions in the second half. Starters got plenty of rest for Sunday's third round game.

(7) Michigan St. 70, (10) Georgia 63 - The Spartans got off to a slow start, but took the lead near the midpoint of the first half and never looked back. Georgia closed to within two points in the second half but could never tie or overtake Michigan State. Spartan defense was key, holding the Bulldogs to 33.3% shooting (19-57).

(5) Northern Iowa 71, (12) Wyoming 54 - Champions of the Missouri Valley conference, Northern Iowa put a whipping on Wyoming, hitting half of their three-point attempts (9-18) and going 16-18 from the foul line.

(5) West Virginia 68, (12) Buffalo 62 - This one was predicted to be close, and though the score shows a six-point win for the Mountaineers, it was only tied once, at 62-all with just over two minutes left to play. West Virginia raced off to a 7-0 lead and cruised ahead for almost the entire game, then scored the final six points of the game for the win.

(7) Wichita State 81, (10) Indiana 76 - This game was tight throughout, but the Shockers took the advantage just past the middle of the second half and held off Indiana the rest of the way. Fred VanVleet scored a game-high 27 points and contributed two boards, four assists and two steals.

(2) Virginia 79, (15) Belmont 67 - Belmont's Craig Bradshaw kept the Bruins in the game with 25 points, but the Cavaliers clamped down on defense and pulled away late for the win. Belmont shot 47% from the field - quite an accomplishment against Virginia - but the Cavaliers forced 12 turnovers and out-rebounded Belmont, 35-29.

(4) Louisville 57, (13) UC Irvine 55 - The Anteaters put a serious scare into the Cardinals, actually taking a two-point lead with 1:08 to play, but Wayne Blackshear's layup and two free throws by Quentin Snyder got Louisville out of danger and into the round of 32.

(4) Maryland 65, (13) Valparaiso 62 - Tight throughout, Maryland took control late and held the Crusaders without a shot in the waning seconds to capture the win, joining Michigan State and Ohio State as winners out of the Big Ten.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (# of Ws)
ACC 6-0 Notre Dame (1), NC State (1), North Carolina (1), Arkansas (1), Virginia (1). Louisville (1)
Big East 4-0 Butler (1), Xavier (1), Villanova (1), Georgetown
Big Ten 3-2 Ohio State (1), Michigan St. (1), Maryland (1)
Big 12 2-3 Kansas (1), West Virginia (1)
Pac-12 3-0 UCLA (1), Arizona (1), Utah (1)
SEC 2-3 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky (1)
All Others 8-19 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1), N. Iowa (1), Wichita St. (1)

NCAA Round of 64 Late Thursday Game Results; ACC, Big East, PAC-12 Unbeaten After Day One

Round of 64 Late Thursday Game Results

East Region

(1) Villanova 93 (16) Lafayette 52

(8) NC State 66 (9) LSU 65

Midwest Region

(8) Cincinnati 66 (9) Purdue 65 - Cincinnati lived very dangerously here, tying the game on a layup at the buzzer in regulation and winning it in overtime by the narrowest of margin.

(1) Kentucky 79 (16) Hampton 50 - The Wildcats certainly didn't let down their fans, running away from the Pirates after building a 41-22 score at the half.

West Region

(4) North Carolina 67 (13) Harvard 65 - This was much closer than the Tar Heels would have liked. In fact, Harvard hoisted a three-pointer as time ran out that could have reversed the outcome, but, fortune fell on North Carolina, surviving barly their first tournament challenge.

(5) Arkansas 56 (12) Wofford 53

South Region

(5) Utah 57 (12) Stephen F. Austin 50 - many a TV pundit picked this as the upset for the first day, but they were proven wrong.

(4) Georgetown 74 (13) Eastern Washington 64

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (#of Ws)
ACC 4-0 Notre Dame (1), NC State (1), North Carolina (1), Arkansas (1)
Big East 4-0 Butler (1), Xavier (1), Villanova (1), Georgetown
Big Ten 1-1 Ohio State (1)
Big 12 0-3 0000
Pac-12 3-0 UCLA (1), Arizona (1), Utah (1)
SEC 2-2 Ole Miss (1), Kentucky
All Others 6-13 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1), Cincinnati (1)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

NCAA Round of 64 (Early Thursday): Baylor, Iowa State, Texas Bounced in Big 12 Massacre; Buckeyes' D'Angelo Russell POTD

Round of 64 early Thursday Results and College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 19, 2015

Midwest Region

(3) Notre Dame 69 (14) Northeastern 65 - Notre Dame survived a close one on a day that would turn out to be quite rough on #3 seeds.

(6) Butler 56 (11) Texas 48 - Texas became the third team from the Big 12 to lose in just the first six games of the second round.

South Region

(14) UAB 60 (3) Iowa State 59 - undeniably the shocker of the day had the UAB Blazers knocking off the #3 seed in the South region. The Blazers, winners of the Conference-USA tournament, took out the Cyclones with a daring display of defense, holding Iowa State (Big 12 tourney champs) to 37% shooting and out-rebounding them, 52-37.

William Lee's jumper at 0:26 in the second half, put the Blazers up by a point and his two free throws gave the Blazers a three-point advantage, at 60-57, with 12 seconds left. Iowa State's Naz Long missed a three-pointer, but Monte Morris got the tip-in for a one-point game with three seconds left. The Shockers could not foul any UAB players as time expired.

Lee finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

(11) UCLA 60 (6) SMU 59 - Conference-USA is one-and-done as Larry Brown's Mustangs are corralled by the PAC-12's UCLA Bruins.

West Region

(14) Georgia State 57 (3) Baylor 56 - Sport reporters were still writing up the UAB upset of Iowa State when Baylor made it the second team from the Big 12 to get dumped within an hour's time. Notably, Baylor was also a #3 seed. George State, champions of the Sun Belt, turned the tables on the Bear off R.J. Hunter's three-pointer with three seconds left.

(2) Arizona 93 (15) Texas Southern 72 - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 23 points and grabbed 10 boards as the Wildcats dominated.

(6) Xavier 76 (11) Mississippi 57 - Xavier was never challenged by the Rebels, who shot just XX%

(10) Ohio State 75 (7) VCU 72 - The Buckeyes fought back from a 12-point, first half deficit and prevailed in overtime. Buckeye freshman D'Angelo Russell scored 28 points, with six rebounds, an assist, two steals and two blocks to nab player of the day honors.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (#of Ws)
ACC 1-0 Notre Dame (1)
Big East 2-0 Butler (1), Xavier (1)
Big Ten 1-0 Ohio State (1)
Big 12 0-3 0000
Pac-12 2-0 UCLA (1), Arizona (1)
SEC 1-1 Ole Miss (1)
All Others 5-7 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1), UAB (1), Georgia St. (1)

NCAA Tournament First Four: Dayton, Robert Morris Victors; Lucky Jones Scores 21 with 7 Rebounds to Lead Colonials

First Four Results and College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Robert Morris 81 North Florida 77 - The Colonials of Robert Morris erased a six-point half time deficit and took down the North Florida Ospreys as Lucky Jones came off the bench to score 21 points to go with his seven rebounds, five steals an assist and one blocked shot.

Robert Morris looks ahead to playing Duke, the top seed in the South region, Friday.

Dayton 56 Boise State 55 - Dayton erased Boise State's nine point half time lead, took over late and held on for the win. The Flyers return to face Providence (6) in the East region on Friday.

Conference Power Scoreboard
Conference W-L Winners (#of Ws)
ACC 0000 0000
Big East 0000 0000
Big Ten 0000 0000
Big 12 0000 0000
Pac-12 0000 0000
SEC 1-0 Ole Miss (1)
All Others 3-4 Hampton(1), Robert Morris (1), Dayton (1)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

NCAA Tournament First Four: Quinton Chievous Carries Hampton over Manhattan; Ole Miss Outlasts BYU

First Four Results and College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Hampton 74 Manhattan 64 - the opening win of the 2015 NCAA National Championship tournament went to the only team to enter the field with a losing record, as the Hampton Pirates, champions of the Mid-Eastern conference, took down the Manhattan Jaspers. The Pirates shed their losing distinction with the victory, evening their seasonal mark at 17-17.

Hampton got he bulk of their scoring from a trio of guards. Brian Darden scored 13, while Reginald Johnson and Quinton Chievous each had 15 points. Chievous also led both teams in rebounding, taking down 13 boards, earning Player of the Day honors.

The Pirates' reward for their effort is the right to play #1 Kentucky in a second round game of the Midwest region on Thursday, March 19.

Ole Miss 94 BYU 90 - Two years ago, BYU staged the greatest comeback in the history of the NCAA tournament, coming back from a 25-point deficit to defeat Iona in a play-in game, just like tonight's meeting with Mississippi.

Unlike that game, the tables were turned on the Cougars, as they raced to a 49-32 half time lead only to see the Rebels score 62 second half points for a 94-90 victory. BYU's Tyler Hawes scored a game-high 33 points, but Stefan Moody's 26 points for Ole Miss carried the day.

Ole Miss won not because they shot the ball better - BYU had a better percentage from the field, 48.3% to Ole Miss' 45% - but because they got more shots. Ole Miss hoisted up 80 shots to BYU's 58, due to making eight steals, forcing 15 Cougar turnovers and hitting the boards for 16 offensive rebounds.

Ole Miss advances to play Xavier, the #6 seed in the West region.

Conference Power Scoreboard

Conference W-L Winners (#of Ws)
ACC 0000 0000
Big East 0000 0000
Big Ten 0000 0000
Big 12 0000 0000
Pac-12 0000 0000
SEC 1-0 Ole Miss (1)
All Others 1-2 Hampton

Monday, March 16, 2015

2015 Non-essential, Indeterminate Guide to Surviving NCAA Bracket Pools

Quite possibly, more time is wasted and more work hours spent in an unproductive manner on filling out brackets for the NCAA tournament every year than by any other outside influence.

No event captures the imagination and gaming instincts of the American public (an easy group to engage) like the annual rite of March Madness, but, in the end, almost everybody goes home a loser, while some overfed, testosterone-overdosed moron in the office or workspace lauds his or her game-picking prowess over the unfortunate few who suffer the fool.

Remember, Kentucky wins.
Not that there may or may not be a science to correctly picking four (the First Four), 32, then 16, then 8, 4, 2 and finally one game correctly. Some people actually make a living at it, like ESPN's Joe Lunardi, often referred to as the bracket guru or tournament maestro, though it would be interesting to tally up how many of Joe's predictions actually pan out. At the very least, Joe Lunardi has emerged far enough into the American psyche that he now has his very own drinking game, played during ESPN's Championship Week.

It's an easy game. Watch games on ESPN. Any time Joe Lunardi is mentioned by name (often), drink. Guaranteed to please.

Beyond the obvious need to engage in picking winners, without further ado, College Basketball Daily presents its first - and maybe last - guide to picking your brackets without losing your mind, a lot of money or your personal dignity.

The 2015 edition of the NCAA tournament is pretty easy to break down. Kentucky will win it all. Simple enough, right? Just take Kentucky all the way through and you're guaranteed to end up in the winner's circle of your office pool or Calcutta... along with about a zillion other players. So, our advice is neither prescient nor the stuff of genius, though it is an indefatigable prescription for being right on six games, all of which will be won by the Wildcats.

After those six nearly-guaranteed winners, there are only 61 games remaining to pick. Nothing to it. We'll give you some tips and pointers along the way which will make some sense and maybe produce a plurality of winners.

Tip #1: Take conference champions over at-large teams. Simply put, teams who captured automatic bids by winning their conference tournaments (except for Harvard in the Ivy League, where they have no post-season tournament, though the Crimson did win a one-game playoff over Yale) are battle tested in single-elimination competition. That said, the selection committee was a little hard to read when they made Iowa State and Notre Dame - winners of the Big 12 and ACC tournaments, respectively - #3 seeds, while making Duke, which didn't even win the ACC regular season (Virginia did) and was eliminated in the semi-final by Notre Dame, a #1 seed. The other three #1 seeds - Kentucky, Villanova and Wisconsin - all won their conference tourneys, so what gives? Yet another reason to hate Duke.

Tip #2: Low-number seeds over high-number seeds, 1 through 4. The parlance used in terms of seeds can become confusing. Somebody might say Louisville is seeded higher than Iowa, for instance, but what that actually means is that Louisville is a #4, while Iowa is a #7. Confusing? No. Reverse logic. Simply put, take the #1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds in each region over their opponents in the opening round, unless advised otherwise. We'll get to that in the region-by-region breakdown.

Tip #3: Upsets are common in 7-10 and 5-12 match-ups. #11 seeds don't often beat #6's, and 8's vs. 9's are toss-ups, though sometimes mismatches.

Tip #4: After the opening round games on Thursday and Friday of the first week, it's wide open. - Anybody can win once they've gotten through the first game, but, odds are the lower-number (higher) seeds will survive. Some teams will surely surprise, but those are often teams which won their conference tournaments or teams from big conferences that lost in the final.

Tip #5: Don't listen to experts. Whether it's some guy on a talk-radio show, ESPN or the reigning champion of your office pool, who has done nithing but drink beer and watch basketball for the past two months, they will almost always give bad advice. All. The. Time. A good example was whether or not UCLA would be in this year's tournament. All the experts said, "no way." we said, "absolutely," our reasoning being that we figured the PAC-12 would send four teams to the tourney. We're not experts, and, lo and behold, we were right.

Tip #6: If you don't do well, don't worry about it. A lot of what goes into picking winners in the NCAA tournament has to do with dumb luck, voodoo, i-Ching, tarot cards, tea leaves, astrology and alchemy. Most of it is bunk. You're a good person, and you might even be a smart person. Just because Kansas loses to Northern Iowa or some other malady of fate occurs, doesn't change who you are. Unless you're a complete loser whose entire existence revolves around being right or this particular tournament, of course, then losing might cause some disturbing personal reactions, like not bathing for a couple of weeks, or throwing your TV out a window (this has happened), or not showing up for work, which might actually be a silver lining to both your boss and your co-workers.

Tip #7: After the second weekend, it can get really boring, really fast. The first two weekends are exciting, with games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and lots of teams involved. By Saturday and Sunday of the second weekend, however, it's down to the Elite Eight - and, while those games are usually some of the most exciting of the tournament, being regional finals, the winner going to the Final Four, after that, there are only three games left, and they're a week away, the semi-finals on Saturday and the National Championship, Monday night.

That week can get tiresome, especially if you've already been eliminated in your pool, and even moreso if a couple of guys are making everyone else crazy arguing over who's going to get that $136 final prize. Whether you're still alive or not, get some fresh air, do some yard work, take a bike ride. Ferchistsake! It's a basketball tournament. Get a life, or, get yours back.

Now that we have the tips out of the way, on to the breakdown.

Let's start with those pesky First Four games on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Tuesday's games are:
6:40 PM (16) Hampton vs (16) Manhattan - Hampton is the only team in the tournament with a losing record (16-17), despite winning the Mid-Eastern tournament. Did you know that they beat Delaware St. to get the automatic bid? No? Nobody else does either and nobody cares. Manhattan beat Sienna to win the Metro-Atlantic. And they won by 10 points. And they're called the Jaspers, defined as an opaque reddish-brown variety of chalcedony. Cool. They are the pick.

9:10 PM (11) BYU vs (11) Ole Miss - BYU can really light up the scoreboard. Good enough. Both of these teams were at-large selections. Cougars maul Rebels. Excellent.

6:40 PM (16) Robert Morris vs (16) North Florida - Both are tournament winners with automatic bids, North Florida from the Atlantic Sun, Robert Morris from the Northeast. North Florida's team name is the Ospreys. Good enough. You'll look like a genius.

9:10 PM (11) Dayton vs (11) Boise State - Dayton lost to VCU in the Atlantic 10 final. Take a flyer on the Flyers. But, shouldn't it be spelled fliers? Never mind. They'll probably lose in the next round.

OK, since everybody figures the Wildcats will be crowned national champions come April 6, the Midwest region where Kentucky is the #1 seed and the #1 overall seed in the tournament starts the region-by-region breakdown.

Midwest Region

You've already penciled in Kentucky, right? For the remainder, follow our tips, which means #12 Buffalo (MAC champs) over #5 West Virginia (at-large) is the main upset. After Kentucky, the 2, 3, and 4 seeds should all win. In the 6-11 match-up, Butler (6) should handle Texas (11). Wichita State and Indiana, that's a toss-up. Flip a coin. And, #9 Purdue should handle #8 Cincinnati.

After the opening round, keep to our tips and keep this in mind. Kansas lost in their conference tournament. They are not that good and could conceivably lose either of their first two games. Notre Dame won their's. If they meet, the Irish will move forward ad probably lose to Kentucky in the regional final.

West Region

OK, now it gets interesting, because the #1 seed, Wisconsin, may not get through to the Final Four. They might, but #2 Arizona, #3 Baylor and #4 North Carolina all look pretty darn good.

In the opening round, #7 VCU should oust #10 Ohio State. The winner of the BYU-Ole Miss game gets #6 Xavier on Thursday night and could easily upset. Oregon (8) over Oklahoma State (9) and #12 Woffard will give #5 Arkansas a heck of a time. That's a key game, but Arkansas is likely to pull through.

After the opening round, this region looks pretty chalky and could easily end up with the top four seeds. In that case, Wisconsin will likely get past North Carolina and Arizona should beat Baylor. Arizona is a very good choice to win this region. They won the PAC-12 tournament and the PAC-12 isn't getting much respect.

East Region

Winners of the Big East, Villanova, the #1 seed, looks vulnerable, but the competition in this region is weak. This could be the one that blows up. The 8-9 game, NC State vs. LSU is a pure toss-up, as is the 5-12 game, Northern Iowa and Wyoming. Both won their conference tournaments, but Wyoming might be the ultimate sleeper pick. Might not, but, if they win, you'll look awesome... for about a day.

Providence, the 6 seed, could be awesome, but they may fall to the winner of the play-in game, Boise St. or Dayton. Michigan State got in as a 7, and they look good for at least a win, but they'll probably lose to Virginia in the next round. Also, #4 Louisville has trouble scoring at times and UC-Irvine won the Big West. Could be the upset of the weekend. Any combination could end up in the regionals, but stick with #2 Virginia. One could take Villanova, Virginia, UC-Irvine, Oklahoma, Providence or Michigan State to make the Final Four. This is wide open.

South Region

Duke got the #1 seed in this region and should make it through the first weekend without a problem. After that, Utah could beat them, or, either (2) Gonzaga or (3) Iowa State in the regional final, should knock them out. But, they're good, and they're Duke, but, you don't really want to pick Duke, do you?

As usual, the 8-9 (San Diego St. vs. St. John's) game is unpickable. #5 Utah is a good sleeper in this region, as is #10 Davidson. #11 UCLA should slip by SMU, but they'll lose to a very strong Iowa State team, winners of the Big 12 tournament.

Georgetown is the weakest #4 team in the tournament. #13 Eastern Washington (Big Sky champions) could get them. If not, Utah surely will in the following round.

#2 Gonzaga is one of just three teams that could beat Kentucky, though that's a questionable call. The other two are Notre Dame and Arizona.

Final Four: Midwest plays West, East plays South. Whichever team comes out of the South region will beat the East region representative, which means, either Gonzaga, Iowa State, or, heaven forbid, Duke, could meet the Wildcats in the Final. Arizona could upset Kentucky, but not likely.

Kentucky wins. Didn't we say that already?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Treveon Graham Leads VCU to Atlantic 10 Title; All Conference Champions Crowned, It's Time to Choose At-Large Teams

Conference Champions and College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 15, 2015

Kentucky 78 Arkansas 63 - Kentucky completed its mission, as promised, to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated, their 34-0 record a gauntlet thrown down to 67 other teams. The Wildcats led right from the opening tip, starting with an 8-0 run to put the Razorbacks on their heels, and were never threatened. A 41-25 lead at the half as cut to nine by the Razorbacks but the Wildcats expanded it to as many as 21 points as Kentucky simply outplayed the hopelessly-overmatched Arkansas squad.

Atlantic 10
VCU 71 Dayton 65 - VCU got hot nearing the end of the first half and finished with a 9-2 run for a 33-26 lead at the break. Dayton battled back to tie the game at numerous points in the second half but could never wrest the lead away from the Rams, who engineered a four-point lead with under a minute to play and then proceeded to make eight straight free throws to secure the championship, their first, after reaching the final in each of the past two seasons.

Treveon Graham led all scorers with 20 points and ripped down a game-high 13 boards. Graham, who was 3-for-8 on three-pointers, also contributed four assists and a steal.

Sun Belt
Georgia State 38 Georgia Southern 36 - In the lowest-scoring championship game this season, the Panthers outlasted the Eagles thanks to 18 points from Kevin Ware. Georgia State shot just 33% from the field, but it was enough to win, as Georgia Southern hit at merely a 23% rate (11-47).

Big Ten
Wisconsin 80 Michigan State 69 OT - With an automatic bid on the line and a possible #1 seed for Wisconsin at stake, the Spartans took the Badgers into overtime, but eventually came up short as Wisconsin fulfilled their season-long destiny of being the best team to come out of the Big Ten and shut out the Spartans in overtime, 11-0. Nigel Hayes had a huge game, leading all scorers with 25 points, including a perfect, 12-for-12 from the foul line.

SMU 62 Connecticut 54 - Rodney Purvis kept the Huskies alive with a game-high 29 points, but eventually, basketball is a team game and the balanced scoring of the Mustangs brought home the American Athletic conference title. Coach Larry Brown has yet another team in the NCAA tournament.

That's a wrap for now. On to the selection process, seedings and bracket madness. Full report later tonight and/or early Monday AM.

Conference Championship Scoreboard

Date/Conf. Champ. Champion (record, defeated, final score)
March 7
Ohio Valley Belmont (22-10, Murray State, 88-87)

March 8
Big South Coastal Carolina (24-9, Winthop, 81-70)
Missouri Valley Northern Iowa (29-3, Illinois, St., 69-60)
Atlantic Sun North Florida (23-11, USC Upstate, 63-57)

March 9
Colonial Northeastern (23-11, William & Mary, 73-61)
Metro Atlantic Manhattan (19-13, Iona, 79-69)
Southern Wofford (28-6, Furman, 67-64)

March 10
Horizon Valparaiso (28-5, Green Bay, 54-44)
Northeast Robert Morris (19-14, St. Francis BRK, 66-63)
Summit League N. Dakota St. (23-9, S. Dakota St., 57-56)
West Coast Gonzaga (33-2, BYU, 91-75)

March 11
Patriot League Lafayette (20-9, American, 65-63)

March 14
America East Albany (24-8, Stony Brook, 51-50)
Conference USA UAB (19-15, Middle Tenn., 73-60)
Ivy* Harvard (22-7, Yale, 53-51)
Mid-Eastern Hampton (16-17, Delaware St., 82-61)
Big 12 Iowa State (25-8, Kansas, 70-66)
Mountain West Wyoming (25-9, San Diego St., 45-43)
Mid-American Buffalo (23-9, Cent. Michigan, 89-84)
Southwest Athletic Texas Southern (22-12, Southern U., 62-58)
Big East Villanova (31-2, Xavier, 61-43)
ACC Notre Dame (29-5, N. Carolina, 90-82)
Big Sky E. Washington (26-8, Montana, 69-65)
Big West UC Irvine (21-12, Hawaii, 67-58)
Southland Stephen F. Austin (25-8, Sam Houston, 83-70)
PAC-12 Arizona (31-3, Oregon, 80-52)
Western Athletic New Mexico St. (23-10, Seattle U., 80-61)

March 15
SEC Kentucky (34-0, Arkansas, 78-63)
Atlantic 10 VCU (26-9, Dayton, 71-65)
Sun Belt Georgia State (24-9, Georgia Southern, 38-36)
Big Ten Wisconsin (31-3, Michigan State, 80-69)
American SMU (27-6, Connecticut, 62-54)