Saturday, March 14, 2009

Conference Tourney Semis, Championships Matchups

Big East: Syracuse, Louisville Advance

After going 6 OTs on Thursday night, Syracuse needed just one extra period to knock off West Virginia, 74-69, to advance to the Big East Tournament Finals. Eric Devendorf led the Orange attack with 23 points, hitting 8 of 17 shots overall, including 4 of 8 three-pointers. The Orange shot only 42%, but hit the offensive boards hard, swiping 18 away from the Mountaineers.

Earlier in the day, Louisville lived up to the promise of their #1 seeding, kicking undersized Villanova into the ranks of the defeated, 69-55.

The Wildcats built an 8-point lead by the half, but Louisville used a 17-2 run at the start of the second period to grab a 43-36 lead. Villanova eventually tied the game at 50 on a Dwayne Anderson tip-in at 8:14, though they could not sustain their run as the Cardinals ran off 10 straight points to take control of the game for good, holding Villanova to just a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws over the final 8 minutes.

Earl Clark led the scoring parade with 17. Jerry Smith added 16 for the Cardinals.

ACC: Duke, N. Carolina Survive Scares

North Carolina and Duke appear headed toward a third showdown as they slipped past determined foes in the ACC quarterfinals on Friday. Carolina rode their big hoss, Tyler Hansbrough, to a 79-76 win in an afternoon tilt with West Virginia. Hansbrough scored a game-high 28 points, going 10-10 from the free throw line and hauling down 8 rebounds. Despite the game effort, the 18-14 Hokies will have to sweat it out until Sunday afternoon when the NCAA field is announced. With the ACC likely to send 7 teams to the tournament, W.Va. is probably headed to the NIT.

Later in the evening, Gerald Henderson's layup with 35 seconds left held up as Duke overcame Boston College, 66-65 to advance to the semifinals. duke scored on 22 first half points, and got just 3 points from their usually-productive bench, but Kyle Singler shouldered the load with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocked shots for the Blue Devils. Both Duke and Boston College seem assured of getting NCAA invitations.

In the other two quarterfinal games, Maryland kept its hopes alive by downing Wake Forest, 75-64. Greivis Vasquez scored 22 points for the 20-12 Terps. Florida State took care of business, getting past gritty Georgia Tech, 64-62, to reach the semis.

On Saturday, the Seminoles play the Tar Heels at 1:30. Duke and Maryland go at it at 4:00.

Baylor to Meet Mizzou in in 12 Finals

In the Big 12, the Baylor Bears appear to have played themselves into the NCAA picture by winning three straight and reaching the finals of the conference tournament against Missouri. The Bears finished the regular season at 5-11 in the conference, but has knocked off Nebraska, Kansas and Texas along the way. Missouri advanced to the finals with a relatively easy win over Oklahoma State, 67-59. The Big 12 finals are at 6:00 pm Saturday. Baylor would appear to have to win the game, securing the automatic invite, in order to get into the main event.

SEC: Kentucky Down and Out

The Kentucky Wildcats continued their downward spiral, losing to LSU, 67-58, for their sixth loss in their last seven games. The Wildcats probably won't be a feature of the NCAA tourney, as they have floundered badly down the stretch. LSU appears to be on track to take the tournament championship after breezing to the SEC West title.

In other SEC quarterfinal games, Mississippi St. upset South Carolina, 82-68, winning their 4th straight, and possibly having donw enough to impress the tournament committee. The Bulldogs are 12-12 and went 9-7 in the SEC. They face LSU in one semifinal game on Saturday.

On the other side of the draw, Tennessee thumped Alabama, 86-62 and Auburn slipped past Florida, 61-58. The Tigers and Vols have a semifinal date Saturday, with the winner advancing to Sunday's final.

PAC-10: USC Surprises UCLA

USC played its way into the NCAA field by ousting UCLA from the PAC-10 tourney with a 65-55 win Friday night. The Trojans blasted the Bruins, sending them to an early exit along with PAC-10 champ Washington, which fell to Arizona St., 75-65. The Sun Devils pressured the Huskies into one of their worst shooting performances of the season, holding them to 37.5% from the field.

The Sun Devils play USC on Saturday for the automatic bid and PAC-10 tourney title. Tip time is 3:00 pm Pacific.

Big Ten: Buckeyes Only Surprise

The heavyweights in the Big Ten held sway in quarterfinal games, as Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois all advanced. Ohio State provided a mild upset, sending Wisconsin home with a 61-57 defeat.

The Buckeyes have the misfortune of meeting Michigan State in the semis on Saturday, but at 21-9, and 10-8 in Big Ten play, Ohio State has probably proven themselves worthy of inclusion in the NCAA field. Purdue and Illinois play in the other semifinal game Saturday. The Fighting Illini have won both meetings with the Boilermakers this season.

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