Showing posts with label Sweet 16. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sweet 16. Show all posts

Saturday, March 25, 2017

De'Aaron Fox Pummels UCLA With 39 Points As Kentucky Advances

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 24, 2017

Prior to the Sweet 16 meeting between the #2 and #3 seeds in the NCAA Tournament South Region, Kentucky and UCLA, all the chatter surrounded the Bruins' fab freshman, Lonzo Ball. It was Ball, the pundits said, who would dominate the back court and Ball who would be the top pick in the NBA draft. Barely a word was spoken about Kentucky's freshman guards, Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox.

Once the game was underway, however, there was no mistaking who was handling the ball the pressure better. Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox seemed to be in complete control, the ball in his hands nearly every possession, and, more often than not, he was taking it to Ball and the Bruins, scoring at every opportunity.

By the time the final buzzer sounded and the Wildcats had secured their spot in the Elite Eight with an 86-75 tour de Fox, the baby-face, 6'3" freshman from Houston, Texas, had rung up a career-high 39 points, the most ever scored by a freshman in the NCAA tournament.

Fox completely outplayed and out-shined Ball, who may have been disserviced by the comments from his father, LeVar, who unabashedly lavished praise upon his son to anyone within earshot prior to the game. Ball was pretty much an afterthought, finishing with just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting to go with eight assists. After the game, Ball confirmed that he would go pro, conceding that he had just played his final game for the Bruins.

Fox's evening was nothing short of sensational, thus far the finest individual performance of the entire tournament. In 36 minutes, he was 13-for-20 from the field, missing his only three-point attempt, and 13-for-15 from the foul line. When he wasn't dancing through the UCLA defense and whirling to the goal, he managed to dish four assists, grasp three rebounds and contribute a pair of pilfers on defense.

Fox's running mate, Monk, also played well, scoring 21 points on 8-for-17 shooting with four solid three-pointers. The first half was a see-saw battle, with Kentucky eventually taking a 36-33 lead into the ocker rooms. In the second 20 minutes, Fox and Monk took charge, but UCLA would not relent. When Bryce Alford hit a three at 14:43, The Wildcats led by one point, 50-49, but a 10-2 spurt by Kentucky over the next three minutes gave them a 60-51 lead that they would eventually expand to as many as 14 points when Fox made a layup with 1:58 remaining for a 79-65 advantage.

The Wildcats are set for a rematch with the region's #1 seed, North Carolina, on Sunday at approximated 5:05 pm ET. The two teams matched up back on December 17 in the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas, with Kentucky coming away with a 47-point effort from Malik Monk and a 103-100 victory. Their game Sunday will be the only #1 vs. #2 seeds of the tournament.

North Carolina advanced with a workmanlike, 92-80 win over #4 Butler.

In the East Regional semi-finals, #7 South Carolina dominated #3 Baylor, 70-50, and #4 Florida eventually dismissed a resolute Wisconsin squad, 84-83 in overtime.

On Saturday, #11 Xavier hooks up with #1 Gonzaga in the West Regional final at 6:09 pm ET prior to the Midwest Regional final between #1 Kansas and #3 Oregon at 8:49 pm ET. Both games will be televised by TBS.

Sunday's Kentucky-North Carolina match-up (5:05 pm ET) will be preceded by the East Regional final of #4 Florida vs. #7 South Carolina in an all-SEC clash. Sunday's games are to be broadcast by CBS, which also has exclusive rights to this year's Final Four games next weekend.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through Friday (3/24) Games
Conference (# of teams) Record Winners (# of Wins)
ACC (9) 8-8 Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (3)
Big East (7) 6-6 Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (3)
Big Ten (7) 8-7 Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)
Big 12 (6) 9-5 Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (3), Baylor (2)
SEC (5) 10-2 Florida (3), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (3), South Carolina (3)
PAC 12 (4) 9-3 USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (3), UCLA (2)
Atlantic 10 (3) 1-3 Rhode Island (1)
American (2) 1-2 Cincinnati (1)
West Coast (2) 4-1 Gonzaga (3), St. Mary's (1)
All Others (23) (4-23) Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trevon Bluiett, #11 Xavier Knocks Off #2 Arizona, Advancing To West Regional Final

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 23, 2017

Off a nice high-low feed from Malcolm Bernard, Sean O'Mara scored a layup with 40 seconds left, giving #11 seed Xavier a two point advantage, enough to upset No. 2 Arizona 73-71 in the West Region Thursday night. Arizona had a number of opportunities to score, but could not, their last chance a desperation heave from three-point land by Allonzo Trier that nicked off the front of the rim.

Leading all scorers was 6'6" junior, Trevon Buuiett, who has been nothing short of brilliant leading the Musketeers into the Elite Eight. Bluiett netted 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting with three three-pointers. He was 4-for-4 from the line and added two rebounds and a pair of assists.

Bluiett scored 21 in Xavier's 76-65 first round win over #8 seed Maryland, then had 29 when the Musketeers dumped #3 Florida State, 91-66.

Now having bested the #2 and #3 seeds in the region, Xavier next faces #1 Gonzaga on Saturday (6:09 pm tip), themselves narrow winners over #4 West Virginia, 61-58, in the other half of the regional semi-final.

At #11, Bluiett and his Musketeer mates are the highest seed remaining in the national championship tournament.

In the Midwest Region, #1 Kansas blew out #4 Purdue, 98-66; #3 Oregon barely escaped #7 Michigan, 69-68.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through Thursday (3/23) Games
Conference (# of teams) Record Winners (# of Wins)
ACC (9) 7-8 Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (2)
Big East (7) 6-5 Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (3)
Big Ten (7) 8-6 Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)
Big 12 (6) 9-4 Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (3), Baylor (2)
SEC (5) 7-2 Florida (2), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (2), South Carolina (2)
PAC 12 (4) 9-2 USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (3), UCLA (2)
Atlantic 10 (3) 1-3 Rhode Island (1)
American (2) 1-2 Cincinnati (1)
West Coast (2) 4-1 Gonzaga (3), St. Mary's (1)
All Others (23) 4-23 Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kentucky-UCLA Among Awesome Friday Sweet 16 Match-Ups

NCAA Sweet 16 South and East Regions Previews

South Region

(1) North Carolina Tar Heels vs. (4) Butler Bulldogs
7:09 pm ET, CBS

North Carolina (29-7) is the last remnant of the ACC, the conference that was touted by many "in the know" analysts as the best in the nation. What we know now is that the "best" conference has a record of 7 wins and 8 losses, leaving the Tar Heels (who won the regular season but lost in the conference tournament final to Duke) as the lone representative. Thus, it's not a stretch to believe that North Carolina is not long for this tournament. The logic is that since every other team has from the ACC has been eliminated, how soon will the Tar Heels fall?

So far, they've had it relatively easy, dropping #16 Texas Southern in the opening round, 103-64, then disposing of a very game #8 Arkansas squad in the second round, 72-65. The Razorbacks had the Heels on their toes, leading 65-60 with under three minutes to play, but North Carolina closed out the game on a 12-0 run to survive and move forward. The Heels shot just 38.1%, the worst for a Carolina squad in the tournament since 1968.

If Carolina plays as poorly offensively as they did against the Razorbacks, Butler may make them pay dearly and send them home early. The bulldogs come out of the Big East, which sent seven teams and has only two remaining (the other, Xavier), so this could be rated as a meeting between survivors of the two most overrated conferences. If that's the case, 25-8 Butler (2nd in the Big East, 12-6), a 7 1/2-point underdog, has a very good chance of upending the Tar Heels.

Butler got through round one by defeating #13 Winthrop 76-64, and then took down a highly-touted #12 in Middle Tennessee State, 74-65. As far as tenacious is concerned, the Bulldogs are as fierce as they come. North Carolina should not expect an easy time, but this group may not be as talented as some previous NC tournament teams, and they are very young and inexperienced. Thus, anything can happen, and Butler could come out ahead.

(2) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (3) UCLA Bruins
9:39 pm ET, CBS

In what could be the best Elite Eight game of all, the Bruins and Wildcats take back seats to almost no teams in the tournament. Kentucky cruised through the SEC regular season, posting a 16-2 mark (31-5 overall), two games better than runner-up Florida, and they won the conference tournament handily as well.

What's a little disturbing about the Wildcats - other than their relative youth, though that's become a feature of most tourney teams of late - is the closeness of their two wins: 79-70 over #15 seed Norther Kentucky, a team the Wildcats should have beaten by 30; and, their 65-62 victory in the second round over #10 Wichita State, which almost pulled off a monumental upset. The Shockers, however, may have been vastly underrated, so Kentucky can get a pass on that one.

At 31-4 UCLA has the look of a team nobody really wants to be playing at this juncture, largely because of the presence of the presumptive #1 draft pick, freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, who led the nation in assists, at 7.6 per game. Scoring an average of 14.7 per outing, Ball leads a team with six double figure scorers, a rarity in the college ranks. Ball will match up against Kentucky's freshman sensation, De'Aaron Fox, who's no slouch at 4.6 assists and 14.1 points per game, but he'll have his hands full on defense against the crafty Ball. The line favors the Bruins by one, but they could win by more if Ball is all he's supposed to be.

Both conferences are well-represented. The SEC sent five teams and three are remaining (Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida). The PAC-12 holds the best record of any conference at 8-1, having sent just four teams. Only USC has bowed out, but they won two games (First Four and First Round). UCLA, Arizona and Oregon remain.

East Region

(3) Baylor Bears vs. (7) South Carolina Gamecocks
7:29 pm ET, TBS

Baylor had a very solid season, but fell short in the strong Big 12, finishing tied with West Virginia and Iowa State for second place at 12-6, behind champion Kansas. The Bears are 27-7 overall, after dusting #14 New Mexico State in the opening round, 91-73, and slipping by a better-than-advertised #11 USC, 82-78. Baylor is probably the tallest team by position in the tourney, with seven-footer, Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., and 6'10" Johnathan Motley anchoring the front line. While they may be long and lanky, the Baylor forwards are not exceptionally strong, and South Carolina brings plenty of muscle, which they used to upend undersized and heavily-favored #2 seed Duke, 88-82, after disposing of #10 Marquette, 93-73.

The Gamecocks went through the regular season in and out of the Top 25, slipping up as the regular season ended with five losses in their final eight games and then losing to Alabama in the opening round of the SEC tournament, 64-53.

But, South Carolina has rebounded well and they will hit the boards hard against Baylor. If this turns into a front court scrum, look for South Carolina to at least cover the 3 1/2-point spread and possibly win outright. Sindarius Thornwell and Chris Silva will lead the charge, but the Gamecocks are not particularly deep.

(8) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (4) Florida Gators
9:59 pm ET, TBS

The elite Eight ends with a couple of rank outsiders matching up in what should be an exciting contest. Wisconsin's main claim to fame is beating #1 seed in the East, Villanova, 65-62, in the second round, marking them as giant-killers and raising all kinds of rancor from pundits who thought the Badgers were under-seeded as a #8. While that may be true - because they did go 26-9 and were runners-up in the Big Ten to Purdue, at 12-6 - they did tie with Maryland in second, and the Terps were shuffled off in the first round by Xavier. So, there are arguments either way, but the reality is that the Badgers are big and bad and disciplined, probably moreso than the Gators, who lost consistently to Kentucky this season, but were otherwise well-regarded, also ranked in the Top 25 throughout the season.

The Gators grabbed a #4 seed and it appears to be well-deserved. In the first round, they took care of #13 East Tennessee State handily, 80-64. In the second round, the Gators chomped down on #5 Virginia, holding the Cavaliers to 29.6% shooting (16-54) in a 65-39 rout. While Virginia was not regarded by anyone as a team of sharpshooters, the Florida defense was strangulating and the same kind of effort might turn this meeting against Wisconsin into a game of first-to-50.

That kind of grinding atmosphere might be right up Badger alley, but all indication are that the two-point favorite Gators are going to advance here.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through Sunday (3/19) Games
Conference (# of teams) Record Winners (# of Wins)
ACC (9) 7-8 Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (2)
Big East (7) 5-5 Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (2)
Big Ten (7) 8-4 Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)
Big 12 (6) 8-3 Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (2), Baylor (2)
SEC (5) 7-2 Florida (2), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (2), South Carolina (2)
PAC 12 (4) 8-1 USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (2), UCLA (2)
Atlantic 10 (3) 1-3 Rhode Island (1)
American (2) 1-2 Cincinnati (1)
West Coast (2) 3-1 Gonzaga (2), St. Mary's (1)
All Others (23) (4-23) Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)

ESPN updated NCAA tournament bracket

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trevon Bluiett, Sindarious Thornwell, Moritz Wagner Lead Xavier, South Carolina, Michigan to Sweet 16

Editor's Note: Due to car issues and internet unavailability (when we say "off the grid" we mean it) College Basketball Daily fell flat on the most critical of weekends, but, happily, we're almost back in business. The vehicle is under repair, and the internet is well, available. We did manage to keep track of events as they unfolded over the past three days and are presenting the last three players of the day for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, plus the updated Conference Tournament Scoreboard, in this bonus posting. More as the week unfolds... we hope!

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 17, 2017

South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell was not only the high scorer in the Gamecock's 93-73 rout of Marquette, he was the high scorer of any of the 16 winning teams in the NCAA tourney on Friday. Only one player scored more. Norbertas Giga of Jacksonville State had 30 in a losing effort to Louisville.

Beyond his 29 points, Thornwell was also busy on the boards, collecting 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. The 6'5" senior from Lancaster, SC, was on target, making 10 of 19 shots from the floor, including a 3-for-6 effort from beyond the arc, adding 6-for-7 from the foul line.

Thornwell and his South Carolina teammates matched up with Duke on Sunday in a classic in which Thornwell had 24 points as the #7 seed Gamecocks ousted the #2 Blue Devils from the East Region. The result left the low seed in the region as #3 Baylor, who faces South Carolina Friday night in one of the two regional semi-final games.

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 18, 2017

Junior swingman Trevon Bluiett helped Xavier defeat Maryland, 76-65, in Thursday night's "First Four" play-in game with 21 points, but he and his teammates made sure nobody underestimated them as the Musketeers slaughtered Florida State, 91-66. Bluiett led all scorers with 29 points, pitching in three assists and six boards in 36 minutes of floor time.

Bluiett was 8-for-14 from the field with three 3-pointers and canned 10 of 14 from the charity stripe. As a team, the Musketeers shot 55.6% from the field (30-54) and an amazing 64.7% from three-point land (11-17). The Seminoles were completely outplayed and outclassed, outscored by 10 at the end of the first half, and going down 47-32 in the second half.

Xavier, the #11 seed in the West region is the highest seed remaining in the tournament's Sweet 16. They face #2 seed Arizona Thursday night in San Jose, California.

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 19, 2017

In a day replete with upsets, one of the biggest (and the earliest) was Michigan's stunning 73-69 defeat of #2 seed Louisville in the Midwest region. The seventh-seeded Wolverines hung with their ACC rivals throughout, and forged to a late lead to hang on for the victory.

Playing his best string music, 6'11" sophomore from Berlin, Germany, Moritz Wagner, scored a career-high 26 points in the effort, knocking down 11-for-14 from the field, including his lone three-point attempt, and hitting three of six from the foul line.

As winners of the Big Ten tournament, the 26-11 Wolverines received the automatic bid to the NCAA and are making the most of it, advancing to the Sweet 16 where they will face the region's #3 seed, the Oregon Ducks.

As the Wolverines set the stage for a memorable day of upsets, including South Carolina's 88-81 win over Duke in the East Region, as mentioned above.

The losses by Duke and Louisville, along with previous losses by Notre Dame, Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, and Wake Forest, left the North Carolina Tar Heels as the only team remaining from the ACC, now bearing the moniker of "overrated", the tournament selection committee with egg on all of their faces.

Of the major conferences, the team with the smallest representation (four teams) has the best record, that being the PAC-10 at 8-1, with only USC out of the mix. UCLA, Arizona and Oregon all advanced to the Sweet 16 round. The Big 12, which sent six teams to the tourney has an 8-3 record and three teams (Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia) advancing, along with the 7-2 SEC (Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina) and the 8-4 Big Ten (Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue).

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard
Through Sunday (3/19) Games
Conference (# of teams) Record Winners (# of Wins)
ACC (9) 7-8 Notre Dame (1), Florida St. (1), Virginia (1), Louisville (1), Duke (1), North Carolina (2)
Big East (7) 5-5 Villanova (1), Butler (2), Xavier (2)
Big Ten (7) 8-4 Purdue (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (1), Michigan (2), Michigan State (1)
Big 12 (6) 8-3 Kansas State (1), West Virginia (2), Iowa St. (1), Kansas (2), Baylor (2)
SEC (5) 7-2 Florida (2), Arkansas (1), Kentucky (2), South Carolina (2)
PAC 12 (4) 8-1 USC (2), Arizona (2), Oregon (2), UCLA (2)
Atlantic 10 (3) 1-3 Rhode Island (1)
American (2) 1-2 Cincinnati (1)
West Coast (2) 3-1 Gonzaga (2), St. Mary's (1)
All Others (23) (4-23) Mt. St. Mary's (1), UC Davis (1), Middle Tennessee (1), Wichita State (1)

ESPN Tournament Bracket (updated)

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.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

DeAndre Daniels' 27 Points Leads Connecticut past Iowa State, 81-76; Michigan, Kentucky, Michigan State Advance

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 28, 2014

Coming into the tournament, everyone knew that the Connecticut Huskies were a talented group, but they we're very deep, and few thought they'd advance far, but, with an 81-76 victory over Iowa State in the East region semi-final, they're one step away from the Final Four.

The Huskies, having won any number of games and Big East championships at Madison Square Garden, might have felt right at home in the Big Apple, but junior DeAndre Daniels, who hails from Los Angeles and led all scorers with 27 points, it was a special night.

Daniels blew away the Cyclones by hitting 10 of 15 shots from the field, including a pair of three pointers and snatched 10 rebounds to lead the Huskies into the next round.

The Huskies (29-8), the seven seed in the region, meet up with Michigan State (29-8) in the East regional final on Sunday, after the Spartans took out Virginia, 61-59.

Over in the Midwest region, 8th-seeded Kentucky took out defending national champion Louisville, 74-69, the #4 seed, and #2 Michigan scraped by #11 Tennessee, 73-71.

The Wildcats and Wolverines will go at it Sunday, the winner advancing to the Final Four.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Michael Frazier II Leads Florida to 29th Straight Victory, Elite Eight; Dayton, Arizona, Wisconsin Advance

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 27, 2014

Awarded the top seeding in the tournament, the Florda Gators proved their value, disassembling UCLA, 79-68, to advance to the South regional final where they will face the upstart, 11th-seeded Dayton Flyers on Saturday.

Florida established an early lead against the Bruins, led 36-30 at the half and were never headed, cruising to their 29th straight victory, the longest winning streak in the country.

Down 11-8 just six minutes into the game, Florida hit four straight three-pointers - three of them by Michael Frazier II - led 20-16 just 2 1/2 minutes later and held that lead for the remainder of the contest.

Florida's lead would eventually swell to as many as 11 on a few occasions and the Bruins cut it to one point midway through the second half, but the Gators pulled away once again. UCLA could only draw within seven points in the final six minutes as Florida players executed their offense and made free throws down the stretch.

Frazier finished the scoring on a breakaway dunk and was 5-for-8 from beyond the arc, finishing with a game-high 19 points, along with six rebounds and three assists.

On the opposite side of the South bracket, Dayton continued its successful run through the post-season with an 82-72 win over Stanford, the #10 seed in the region.

The West regional final was set for Saturday as #2 Wisconsin hammered Baylor, 69-52, and top seed Arizona handled San Diego State, 70-64.

Friday night's match-ups include Iowa State vs. Connecticut and Virginia vs. Michigan State in the East. The Midwest games are Tennessee vs. Michigan, followed by the blockbuster Louisville vs. Kentucky meeting.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Iowa State Outlasts North Carolina, 85-83, Advances to Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 23, 2014

Even with the loss of a key player - Georges Niang - DeAndre Kane wasn't going to let his teammates and Iowa State fans down.

Kane drove to the bucket and powered in the last two of his game-high 24 points with 1.6 seconds left to play, giving Iowa State an 85-83 victory over North Carolina and a trip to the Sweet 16, where they will meet Connecticut in an East regional semi-final on Friday, March 28.

The Cyclones lost Niang for the remainder of the season in their 93-75 win over NC Central as he suffered a fractured foot, but got big efforts from Naz Long, Monte Morris and Dustin Hogue against the Tar Heels.

Kane's 24 points came off 9-for-18 shooting and a 5-for-7 effort from the foul line. He also had 10 rebounds and seven assists, though his bucket near the end of the game was all that really mattered as the Cyclones overcame an eight-point deficit and outscored the Tar Heels 17-7 down the stretch.

Most of Sunday's slate of eight games went according to plan, with lower-numbered seeds knocking off the higher ones, except in the South region, where #10 Stanford knocked off #2 Kansas, 60-57, and in the Midwest, where #8 Kentucky upset #1 seed and previously unbeaten Wichita State, 78-76.

Tennessee's 83-63 win over Mercer made it a trio for the SEC in the Sweet 16, joining Kentucky and Florida, matching the number in the round by the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin) and the PAC-12, which has advanced Stanford, UCLA and Arizona.

Baylor and Iowa State are the remaining teams from the Big 12 to advance, and two come out of the American Athletic - Louisville and UConn. Virginia is the only remaining ACC team left in the tournament. The Cavaliers smashed Memphis, 78-60, to advance.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Xavier Thames Nets 30 for San Diego State: Syracuse Out; Wisconsin, Michigan, Michagan St. Lead Big Ten to Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Aztecs of San Diego State advanced to the Sweet 16 with a thundering victory over North Dakota State, 63-44.

Xavier Thames led the scoring parade with 30 points on 9-for-19 shooting with four threes.

The Aztecs, #4 seed in the West region will match up with the winner of the Sunday's Gonzaga-Arizona meeting.

Elsewhere, Syracuse, the #3 seed in the South, was upended by #11 Dayton, 55-53; in the Midwest region, #2 Michigan downed #7 Texas, 79-65, making them the third Big Ten team in the Sweet 16, joining Michigan State and Wisconsin.

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.

Monday, March 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 23, 2007

NCAA Game Picks for Friday, March 23

7:10 pm EDT Florida (-10.5) Butler - It would be difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Gators did not win this game, but the Butler Bulldogs surely have other ideas. Butler will have to find a way to negate the inside game of Joakim Noah and Al Horford, which isn't going to be easy. Along with that, they'll have to find a solution for slashing forward Corey Brewer, who always seems to be the X-factor in big games.

After yesterday's close calls, I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone who thinks that Butler can keep the Gators within single digits. Players are very emotional at this point in the tournament and none of the remaining teams are going to be easy outs.

However, the Gators are likely to be at the very pinnacle of their game here and will look to blow this one open early. whether they'll be able to do that depends more on their guards - Green and Humphrey - who don't actually match up well against Butler's, than the inside game. Florida's guards have to get the ball inside. Look for the Butler to deny, zone and use back doors and slip screens on offense to hang in.

Florida will advance, but the Bulldogs will not fold and should keep this one under the line.

7:30 pm EDT Georgetown (-7.5) Vanderbilt - There's an important key in this game which a lot of people may not notice, and it's not how many rebounds Roy Hibbert is going to get (should be many). The key here is Vanderbilt's Shan Foster, who sometimes disappears offensively. When he doesn't score in double digits, the Commodores almost always lose.

Foster, a 6'6" junior will be paired against either Jeff Green or Jonathan Wallace, both of whom are good defenders and longer than the Vandy forward and that spells trouble.

Georgetown and Vanderbilt squared off way back on November 15, with the Hoyas grabbing an 86-70 road win. In that game, Foster scored just 2 points, while Hibbert and Green had huge games for the Hoyas. In Vandy's 11 losses, Foster scored 15 or less 10 times. His season average is 15.6, so this game becomes very simple for the Hoyas. Hold Foster under his average and get the win.

Besides the Foster angle, the Hoyas will have to handle the ball with care. Vandy is quicker, but Georgetown holds a huge size advantage and that should get them easily into the next round. The Hoyas should win this one handily.

9:40 pm EDT Oregon (-3) UNLV - The Ducks have incredible quickness and that's going to cause problems for the Runnin' Rebels on both offense and defense. As anyone who watches the Ducks knows, if they hit their 3-pointers, they are nearly unbeatable and they're likely to throw up at least 25 attempts from beyond the arc here.

If the Ducks hit at 40% from 3-point land, it's lights out for the Rebels unless they hit at better percentages than their season average. UNLV may opt to play a 2-3 zone, with pressure on the ball, to keep the score down, but Oregon can either shoot over it, drive through it or pass into it. No matter which way you slice this game up, it looks like the Ducks are going on to face Florida in the next round.

If you look at the tournament teams UNLV has beaten in the course of the season, you'll notice that none of them are still around. The Ducks, on the other hand, show regular season wins over three teams still in the hunt - Georgetown, UCLA and USC. Oregon should win this game by at least 8 points.

10:00 pm EDT North Carolina (-8.5) USC - The Tar Heels are one of the deepest teams in the tournament and coach Roy Williams will likely use a 10-man rotation here. The one constant will be Tyler Hansbrough, Carolina's top-scoring center/forward, who will probably see at least 32-35 minutes of action, especially if it's close, which this one should be.Sports Training Products

Judging by the odds, Tar Heel nation is alive and well, with the Vegas line looking very generous in what is likely to be a close game, matching contrasting styles. While Carolina will want to get out and run, speed up the game and slash to the hoop, the USC defense is among the best in the nation. Stopping the penetration of Ty Lawson will be key for the Trojans, as he is very quick and a solid ball handler. Keeping him on the perimeter means keeping the ball out of the hands of finishers Hansbrough and Brandan Wright.

The Trojans should have success in stopping the Tar Heels and they should be capable of scoring on the other end. North Carolina is not among the best defensive teams, so if USC gets a lead or stays close, defensive close-outs late in the game should lead to a major upset and a #1 seed heading home.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

NCAA Game Picks for Thursday, March 22

West Region

7:10 pm EDT Kansas (-9) Southern Illinois - The outcome of this game will likely be decided by the pace of play. If Kansas gets off early and scores easy baskets on run-outs, the Salukis will be up against it. Additionally, Southern Illinois' forward Randal Falker is going to find the going inside very tough. Between Sasha Kaun and Julian Wright, he's not going to have much room to operate.

The solid Saluki defense will have some effect, though Kansas is not a team that goes long between baskets. If there are point-scoring runs in this game, expect them to come from Kansas, as Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers can light it up from outside in a hurry.

As for the generous point spread, Southern Illinois has only lost 6 games and only once, at Indiana, did they lose by more than 9. They lost that game by 10, and also lost at home to Arkansas by 8. Kansas is heads and shoulders better than either of those teams, they've won their two tournament games by 40 and 12. The Jayhawks should establish a double-digit lead about halfway through the 2nd half and hold off the Salukis from there.

9:40 pm EDT UCLA (-3) Pittsburgh - This is likely the weakest matchup of the week, though UCLA actually looks less likely to advance than the Panthers. Sure, Pitt blew a big lead against VCU, but they rallied to win that game. UCLA nearly coughed it up against Indiana, an inferior opponent, so they're not exactly world-beaters either.

There are two big difference makers in this game and they both belong to Pittsburgh. The first is Aaron Gray, Pitts' All-American center, who should benefit from being matched up with Lorenzo Mata and/or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. He can dominate either player. The other Pitt advantage is in perimeter shooting, where the Panthers hold a distinct edge in accuracy. UCLA's Shipp and Afflalo are sub-par from beyond the arc; besides, they will be guarded closely by the Panthers quick guards.

One other potential problem for the Bruins is their dependence on Arron Afflalo for the bulk of their scoring. Last year in the Final Four, Afflalo was nearly invisible, especially in the championship game vs. Florida. The pressure of this game may get to him and cause another poor shooting game from the Bruins' all-star guard. If Pitt plays to their potential they should win this one going away.

Sports Training ProductsSouth Region

7:27 pm EDT Texas A&M (-3) Memphis - This one is going to look more like a war than a basketball game. If the refs allow physical play, Joey Dorsey will be banging hard inside and tough to stop. The other wild card in this game is the health of Memphis' leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts, who worked out in a private practice yesterday, wants to play, but the best coach John Calipari could offer was that if he's ready, he'll play. So, his status is uncertain.

The Tigers have looked awesome in their wins over North Texas and Nevada, but the Aggies have a lot more going for them than those teams. Acie Law is a prime time player who will step up here, but the Tigers aren't going to be blown out. In a close call, look for the Aggies to survive a bump and grind kind of game and move on to the Elite 8.

9:57 pm EDT Ohio State (-5) Tennessee - The Vols have done well to get this far in the tournament and they are up against the top seed in the region, though it has to be noted that Ohio State nearly didn't make it here either. Only a missed free throw and a perfect 3-pointer by Ron Lewis got them to overtime against Xavier.

That said, nearly every championship team has a close call, and Tennessee just barely scraped by Virginia. After missing a slew of free throws earlier in the game, the Vols were fortunate to have Chris Lofton at the line for the final six attempts, all of which he converted.

The Buckeyes have proven to be less than invulnerable, but Tennessee just doesn't have the horses to stay with them here. Ohio State should move on, winning this one by a comfortable margin of 8-12.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sweet 16 Regional Analysis: Midwest and East

Midwest Region

7:10 pm EDT #1 Florida (31-5) v. #5 Butler (29-6) -

The Florida Gators are probably the best-known starting five in college basketball. Since winning the tournament in 2006, all five returned to defend their championship. Emotional leader Joakim Noah teams with Al Horford in the frontcourt, while swingman Corey Brewer's slashing style complements the outside shooting of Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey. Their scoring is extremely balanced. While Horford leads the team in both scoring (13.3 ppg) and rebounding (9.3), Brewer averages 13.1, Green, 13.0, Noah, 12.1 and Humphrey, 9.9.

Humphrey is the top gun from outside, hitting 45% from beyond the arc. Sub Walter Hodge can provide instant offense with his 51% 3-point shooting. Green clicks at 39%. Besides Hodge, the Gators can also bring in a pair of talented and tall substitutes, Chris Richard and Marreese Speights, both of whom have solid interior games. While the Florida rotation is only 7 or at best, 8 deep, it's all it has to be as the Gators play excellent individual and team defense and all of the starters can score.

The Gators' opening round, 112-69 win over Jackson State resembled a Florida shoot-around, though the Purdue Boilermakers made them sweat a little in a 74-67 win. If Florida has an enemy it may be their own complacency. In their two games, they're rarely displayed the kind of passion and enthusiasm that sent them to the national championship last year.

Florida has a 9-3 record against tourney teams, with wins coming against Jackson State, Purdue, Kentucky (2), Arkansas (2), Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Ohio State. Their losses were to Kansas, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.

The Butler Bulldogs play the ultimate underdog in their matchup with the Gators. Butler tied for the regular season title with Wright State in the Horizon League and lost to that same team in the conference tourney championship game. In their two NCAA tourney games, Butler ousted Old Dominion, 57-46, before dispatching Maryland in the second round, 62-59.

The Bulldogs rely on defense (allowing only 57 ppg) and deft 3-point shooting from guard A.J. Graves (36%) and forward Pete Campbell (51%), who usually comes in off the bench. Graves is the team's top scorer at 17.1 ppg, followed by point guard Mike Green (13.9) and forward Brandon Cole (11.4). Rebounding is a team affair, with Green getting the most, at 6 per game.

Butler has to play a tight, low-turnover game in order to win. Since they are height-challenged, they also need to take good shots and hit a high percentage. That has been the formula for their success.

Against tournament teams, the Bulldogs are an impressive 8-3. Wins came against Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee, Gonzaga, Old Dominion, Maryland, Wright State and Purdue. The losses were to Wright St. (2) and Southern Illinois.

9:40 pm EDT #7 UNLV (30-6) v. #3 Oregon (28-7) - This is one of the more intriguing matchups of this round. Oregon escaped a slow down game with Miami (OH), 58-56, and then romped past Winthrop, 75-61. The Ducks finished third in the PAC-10, but then stomped to the conference tourney title in three lopsided games decided by an average margin of 20 points. Sports Training Products

Oregon relies on quickness and high-percentage shooting. They are one of the smaller teams in remaining in the tournament, but they are likely the best ball-handling squad in the Sweet 16. Four of their five starters have positive assist-turnover ratios and three average more than a steal per game. All five starters score in double figures, led by Aaron Brooks at 17.8 ppg. Bryce Taylor and Tajuan Porter, both guards, average 14.6 and 14.2, respectively. Maarty Leunen and Malik Hairston, also the two leading rebounders, check in at 10.9.

The Ducks are deadly from beyond the arc. All five starters average 40% or better from 3-point range. If the Ducks are hitting their threes, they are almost impossible to beat. They've won their last 8 games.

Oregon was 10-5 against tournament teams, defeating Georgetown, UCLA, Arizona (2), USC, Stanford, Washington St. (2), Miami (OH) and Winthrop. Their losses were to UCLA, USC, (2) Arizona and Stanford.

UNLV flew under the radar most of the season, but came on late to grab second place in the Mountain West and then win the conference tourney for the automatic bid. They're on a 9-game win streak, including their two wins in the tournament, besting Georgia Tech, 67-63 in the opening round, and then pulling off the upset of #2-seed Wisconsin, 74-68.

The Runnin' Rebels are peaking at the right time and should prove to be a tough out. The bulk of their offense comes from their three starting guards, Wendell White (14.6), Wink Adams (14.1) and point guard Kevin Kruger (13.4). White is more of a swingman, doing almost all of his scoring inside. He rarely attempts 3-pointers. Michael Umeh averages just 7.7 per game, but he's been more effective in the tournament. The rebounding falls mostly to White and forward Gaston Essengue, at 6.2 and 5.0 per game, respectively.

The Rebels don't shoot well from beyond the arc. Kruger, Adams and Umeh all hit just about 36%. They are deep, however, with a 9-man rotation.

Against tournament teams, UNLV was 6-2. They recorded wins over Nevada, Texas Tech, BYU (2), Georgia Tech and Wisconsin, with losses to BYU and Arizona.

East Region

7:27 pm EDT #2 Georgetown (28-6) v. #6 Vanderbilt (22-11) - The Hoyas are on an impressive roll, having won 17 of their last 18 games, capturing both the Big East regular season and tournament titles in the process, not to mention a pair of big time wins, 80-55 over Belmont and 62-55 over Boston College in the first two rounds of the Big Dance.

Georgetown's success revolves around their two big men, 7'2" Roy Hibbert and 6'9" Jeff Green. They are 1-2 in scoring and rebounding on the team. Green 14.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Hibbert (12.7, 6.7) are possibly the best inside tandem in the country. The other three starters, Jonathon Wallace, Jesse Sapp and Dajuan Summers put up 11, 9 and 9 points per game, respectively and are backed up by the deepest bench in the tournament. The Hoyas can go 10 deep with players averaging at least 8 minutes.

If Hibbert and Green don't do enough damage inside, Georgetown can also bomb away from 3-point range. Wallace shoots it at 48% and 6'8" super sub Patrick Ewing, Jr. nails 3's at 47%. The Hoyas are easily the tallest team remaining and when they control the paint, they are virtually unbeatable.

The Hoyas are 12-5 against tourney teams, with wins over Belmont, Boston College, Oral Roberts, Pitt (2), Marquette, Notre Dame (2), Villanova (2), Louisville and Vanderbilt. Their losses were to Oregon, Old Dominion, Duke, Villanova and Pitt.

Vanderbilt is one of the lower-seeded teams, at #6, to get this far. Only UNLV (7) exceeds them. The Commodores were the surprise of the SEC, mostly due to the play of Derrick Byars and Shan Foster, their two leading scorers at 17.0 and 15.6. Complementing them is guard Dan Cage, who shoots 3's at 44%. Inside, forward Ross Neltner leads the team in rebounding at 5.7/game, but hitting the boards is more of a team effort. 7 different players average at least 2.5 boards per game.

Vanderbilt handily won their first round game against George Washington, 77-44. By contrast, their 78-74 second round win over Washington State took two overtimes.

Vandy is a good ball-handling team. Each of their starters has a positive assist-turnover ratio, with point guard Alex Gordon the best at better than 2-1. The Commodores rely on quickness, crisp passing, solid defense, a high free throw percentage and team rebounding. Of all the teams remaining in the tourney, the Commodores best exemplify the team play concept.

The Commodores went 7-5 against tourney teams. The wins came against George Washington, Washington State, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Kentucky (2) and Florida. Their losses were to Arkansas (2), Tennessee, Florida and Georgetown.

9:57 pm EDT #1 North Carolina (30-6) v. #5 USC (25-11) - Despite USC being a #5 vs. #1 North Carolina, this shapes up as a doozy of a matchup.

North Carolina is one of the deeper teams in the tourney. Coach Roy Williams wastes no time sending in subs, using 10 players and sometimes more in his rotation. the top 10 players for North Carolina average at least 10 minutes or more, and of the starters, only Tyler Hansbrough averages 30.

The Tar Heels cruised though the first two rounds of the tourney, whipping Eastern Kentucky, 86-65, before blasting Michigan State, 81-67 in the second round.

Hansbrough is a madman inside, with deft moves and a great shooting touch. He leads the team in scoring at 18.6 ppg, followed closely by fellow forward Brandan Wright (14.6). Point guard Ty Lawson averaged nearly a 3-1 assist-turnover ratio throughout the season. The rest of the team is full of role players who can all score and defend well in Williams' versatile motion offense.

North Carolina tied with Virginia in the ACC regular season, and won the ACC tourney. They weren't perfect down the stretch, but after consecutive road losses to Maryland and Georgia Tech, they've won 6 straight.

The Tar Heels are 14-5 against tournament teams. Their wins came over Eastern Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke (2), Boston College (2), Arizona, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Penn, Kentucky, Ohio State, Tennessee and Winthrop. They lost games to Gonzaga, Maryland, Virginia Tech (2) and Georgia Tech.

USC finished 2nd in the PAC-10 and lost in the championship game of the conference tourney to Oregon. In the NCAA, they've cruised past two quality opponents, whipping Arkansas, 77-60, and then dominating Texas, 87-68 in a game that was ostensibly decided by halftime.

The Trojans rely on timely shooting, ball movement and stellar defense. If they can shut down an opponent early, they have enough offense to keep just about any team at bay. Swingman Nick Young is their leading scorer at 17.8 ppg, and the next three scoring leaders, guards Lodrick Stewart, Gabe Pruitt and forward Taj Gibson, each average between 12 and 14 points per game.

Gibson is also a ferocious rebounder, leading the team with nearly nine a game, while Young and Stewart are capable from behind the arc, averaging 45 and 44%, respectively.

Against tournament teams, the Trojans were 11-7, with wins over Long Beach St., George Washington, Arkansas, Texas, Oregon (2), Arizona (2), Stanford (2) and Washington State. The losses were to UCLA (2), Oregon, Stanford, Washington State (2) and Kansas.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sweet 16 Regional Breakdown: West and South

West Region:

7:10 pm EDT #1 Kansas (32-4) v. #4 Southern Illinois (29-6) - The Salukis didn't get any help as Kansas cruised through the first two rounds of the tournament, sailing past Niagara, 107-67 in the opening round before booting Kentucky on Sunday 88-76.Sports Training Products

Southern Illinois has had arguably their best season ever, setting a school record for victories, and one more win would give them 30, a high-water mark for any program. But that one extra win will come against the high-flying Jayhawks, who have looked unstoppable in the first two game. The Salukis have won 15 of their last 16 games. This is their 6th straight NCAA tournament appearance and a win would put them in the elite 8 for the first time.

The Salukis, which entered the NCAA tournament as the third-best scoring defense in the nation with 56.5 points per game allowed, held both 1st and 2nd round opponents below that mark. In the opening round, they stymied Holy Cross in a 61-51 win, but their 2nd round win over Virginia Tech, 63-48, was even better, as they held the Hokies 8 points below their previous season-low.

The two wins were all the more remarkable in that they were achieved without starting forward Matt Shaw, the Salukis' 3rd leading scorer at 11.4 ppg and 2nd best rebounder (5.7/game). Shaw injured an ankle nearing the end of the first half of the Holy Cross game and hasn't played since. He scored 11 points and had 5 rebounds against the Crusaders.

Tony Boyle took Shaw's place in the lineup and responded with 14 points and 5 rebounds in the second half of the Holy Cross game. In the Virginia Tech game, Boyle only played 20 minutes, had 3 rebounds and did not score. It's not certain whether Shaw will be available for the Kansas game.
Southern Illinois' offense revolves around junior forward Randal Falker. A tough inside defender and rebounder, he's also the 2nd-leading scorer on the team. Senior guard Jamaal Tatum is the team's leader at 15.1 ppg. His, and backcourt mate Tony Young's ability to hit 3's are key. Young hits 3-pointers at a 38% clip; Tatum fires them up at 42%.

The Salukis will have to play great defense to slow down Kansas, which comes in scoring at nearly 80 points per game. Led offensively by Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers, both can wreak havoc from beyond the arc. Chalmers hits 41% of his 3's, Rush, nearly 43%. Right behind them in the scoring stats is forward Julian Wright, averaging 12.2 ppg, mostly inside.

The Jayhawks may be the best balanced team in the nation except possibly for North Carolina. Kansas' top 5 scorers are separated by only 4 points on average. Sub Sherron Collins scores 9.8 ppg, right behind Darrell Arthur's 10.0. Point guard Russell Robinson scores just 7.1/game, but dishes an average of 4.5 assists. Center Sasha Kaun and forward Darnell Jackson round out the 8-man rotation, all of them averaging at least 15 minutes per contest.

Kansas won the Big 12 regular season and conference tournament and are riding a 13-game win streak.

Kansas has a 7-3 record against tournament teams with wins over Florida, Texas (2), USC, Boston College, Kentucky and Niagara and losses to Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Oral Roberts.

Southern Illinois is 6-3 against tourney teams. Their wins were over Virginia Tech (2), Creighton (2), Holy Cross and Butler, with losses to Arkansas, Indiana and Creighton.

9:40 pm EDT #3 Pittsburgh (29-7) v. #2 UCLA (28-5) - Both Pitt and the Bruins seem to be stumbling through the tournament. Pittsburgh easily handled Wright State, 79-58, in the opening round but blew a 19-point lead in their 2nd-round, 84-79 overtime win against VCU.

UCLA lost in the first round of the PAC-10 tournament and probably lost a #1 seed by doing so. The Bruins shook off any doubt and rust by pounding Weber State, 70-42 in their first tournament game, but allowed Indiana to come back from 13 points down to tie their 2nd round game with under a minute to play. The Bruins had to step up the defense and didn't allow another Indiana score after that, winning 54-49 on free throws. Still, UCLA didn't score from the field in the final 5:25 of that game, raising eyebrows.

The Panthers are led by All-American center Aaron Gray, who tops the team in both scoring and rebounding at 14.0 and 9.6 per game. He is the offense and the defense for this team which only runs 7-deep. Besides Gray in the middle, Pitt starts essentially four guards, each of whom can light it up from 3-point land. Second-leading scorer Mike Cook shoots 3's at 48% though he does most of his scoring inside. The most persistent outside threat is Ronald Ramon, a 43% shooter from outside the arc. Antonio Graves hits 40% and point guard Levance Fields, 35% on 3's.

The Panthers were second in the Big East behind Georgetown and also lost in the conference tournament finals to the Hoyas. Their late-season struggles were primary considerations in their sub-par #3 seeding. Pitt's offense can struggle at times, especially if Gray is being defended and the others aren't hitting their shots. The Panthers have had long stretches in games in which they didn't score and their defense is also suspect, allowing 63 points per game. They are likely one of the most vulnerable teams remaining.

UCLA won the PAC-10 regular season, winning all of their home games. Their offense flows from point guard Darren Collison to shooting guard Arron Afflalo and forward Josh Shipp, who are 1-2 on the team at 16.7 and 13.2 ppg. Neither can hit 3-pointers consistently. Afflalo is a 38% shooter outside the arc, while Shipp is a dreadful 31%.

After Collison, who is third at 12.8 and hits 48% of his 3's, are five players who contribute an average of 3.5 to 8.5 points per game. Most of these starters and reserves are inside-type players and that is the strength of the Bruins, both offensively, but more importantly, on defense. Lorenzo Mata is an anchor inside and Alfred Aboya and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (leading rebounder) are long and lean. The Bruins have one of the best defenses in the country, holding opponents to just a shade under 60 points per outing.

Against tournament teams the Bruins are 12-2. Their wins came against Indiana, Weber St., Washington St. (2), Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Oregon, USC (2), Stanford and Arizona (2). The losses were to Stanford and Oregon.

Pittsburgh holds a 6-6 record against tournament teams. Wins came over Wright State, VCU, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette and Louisville. Their losses were to Georgetown (2), Marquette (2), Louisville and Wisconsin.

South Region

7:27 pm EDT #2 Memphis (32-3) v. #3 Texas A&M (27-6) - If there's any team that looked like an unstoppable force over the first weekend of play, it was the Memphis Tigers. Both the 73-58 win over North Texas and the 78-62 drilling of Nevada turned into one-sided affairs late in the second halves. The interior play of Joey Dorsey (a true widebody monster at 6'9", 260 lbs.) and Robert Dozier was the perfect complement to the slick perimeter play of Chris Douglas-Roberts, Andre Anderson, and Jeremy Hunt.

The Tigers toiled through the regular season in the relative obscurity of Conference USA, which they totally overwhelmed, winning all 16 conference games plus 3 more to capture the conference tournament. Their two wins in the Big Dance stretched their winning streak to a nation's best 24 games. Coach John Calipari has put together a team that is capable of beating anyone, at any time, in any venue.

The only drawback for the Tigers might be the loss of leading scorer Douglas-Roberts, who suffered an ankle injury in the latter stages of the Nevada game and didn't practice Tuesday. His loss would be a major blow to Memphis, though he says he's going to play.

As the only entrant from Conference-USA, the Tigers didn't play too many tourney teams, but their record stands at 4-3, with wins over Gonzaga, Nevada, North Texas and Kentucky and losses to Tennessee, Arizona and Georgia Tech.

The Texas A&M Aggies had a spectacular season, even though they finished 2nd to Kansas in the Big 12. Led by prototype shooting guard Acie Law, who can create off the dribble or score from the outside, the Aggies have a nice blend of inside-outside game. Coach Billy Gilispie has a high-quality product that was as close to perfection as any team this season. Of their six losses, only one - a 64-52 loss at LSU - was by a wide margin. The other five were by a total of 10 points.

The offense revolves around Law, who leads the team with 18.2 ppg. Three other players average double figures. Joseph Jones, 13.4; Josh Carter, 12.1; Antanas Kavaliauskas, 11.8. Kavaliauskas and Jones handle most of the rebounding duties, while point guard Dominique Kirk has a nearly 3-1 assist to turnover ratio, though it is Law who leads the team in assists.

The one knock on the Aggies is that they aren't very deep. After the five starters they only have two players who average more than 15 minutes per game.

The Aggies are 4-5 against tournament teams. Their wins came over Texas, Kansas, Louisville and Penn. They lost to Texas Tech (2), Texas, LSU and UCLA.

9:57 pm EDT #1 Ohio St. (32-3) v. #5 Tennessee (24-10)

Ohio State has looked solid in their two tournament games, but had a scare against Xavier in the second round when they forced overtime on a Ron Lewis 3-pointer and won, 78-71, without center Greg Oden in the extra period. In their opening round 78-57 win over Central Connecticut State, Oden dominated with 19 points and 10 boards in 30 minutes.

While freshman sensation Oden gets most of the press, the Buckeyes have a solid supporting cast of four guards, though Dequan Cook (10.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg) usually plays a forward position. Point guard Mike Conley, Jr. averages 6.2 assists per game and has a nearly 3-1 assist to turnover ratio. Ron Lewis and Jamar Butler can rain down 3's, though their percentages are not outstanding. Lewis clicks at 36%, Butler at 39%.

The key to Ohio State success is the play of Oden in the middle. He's a dominating force and often plays a one-man zone in the defensive middle. Any shot taken in the lane is likely to be challenged by Oden, who is one of the nation's top shot blockers, averaging 3.4 per game.

Ohio State isn't a particularly explosive team, though once they get a lead they're prone to going on one-sided scoring runs and putting games away early in 3nd halves. Their strength is also their Achilles heel. If Oden gets into early foul trouble, they may struggle, though the big man has improved at keeping out of foul trouble as the season has progressed.

The Buckeyes have a gaudy 13-3 record against tournament teams with wins over Central Conn. St., Xavier, Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan St. (2), Purdue (3), Wisconsin (2). Their losses were to North Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin.

The Tennessee Volunteers were sometimes shaky during the regular season, but whenever Chris Lofton is on the floor, the Vols have a good chance of winning. Their tournament opener - a 121-86 romp over Long Beach State - tied a first round scoring record. In the second round, they outlasted a gritty Virginia team, 77-74, with Lofton hitting 6 straight free throws to seal the win.

Tennessee is one of the smaller teams still in the tourney. They generally start three guards and two forwards, with no true center. Lofton leads the team in scoring at 20.7 ppg, followed by JaJuan Smith at 15.3 and reserve guard Ramar Smith at 10.6. Lofton, JaJuan Smith and forward Wayne Chism are the main outside threats. Lofton hits at 41% from 3-point range; Smith and Chism click at respectable 36 and 35%.

The main area of concern for the Vols is first and foremost ball control. they have a very poor team assist-turnover ratio, though point guard Dane Bradshaw is the one deft ball handler, at 4.7-1.7. On the other hand, the Vols are one of the better ball-hawking teams. Four different players average more than 1 steal per game, with the two primary defenders being Bradshaw and Lofton. If the Vols win the turnover battle, they generally are close enough to win games, as they are routinely outrebounded.

Tennessee has a 8-6 record vs. tournament teams. They had wins over Memphis, Texas, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida, Arkansas, Long Beach St. and Virginia. Losses came against Vanderbilt, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio State, Butler and North Carolina.

Tomorrow: East and Midwest Region analysis.