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

Monday, March 19, 2007

Oh-so-Sweet Sixteen

After a weekend of basketball bliss and bracket binges, we approach the epitome of college hoops - the Sweet 16 - likely to be the best 12 games in any 4 days of the season. The survivors will, of course, end up in the Final Four, but the Sweet 16 poses an equally difficult task. All of the teams in this year's regionals are top-shelf. A quick look at last week's AP Top 25 reveals that only Vanderbilt (the #6 seed in the East region) didn't make that list.

There were ostensibly no big upsets in the opening weekend of play. The lowest seeds remaining are #7 UNLV and #6 Vanderbilt Three #5s made the grade: Butler, Tennessee and USC. Southern Illinois is the lone #4 in the regionals; after that all of the 1-3 seeds made it to the third round except Washington State (#3 East) and Wisconsin (#2 Midwest).

The big losers in the conference breakdown were the Big Ten and Big East. Big 10 basketball didn't make the grade over the first weekend when Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin were all summarily booted. Add to that Ohio State needing a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to get into overtime and eventually defeat Xavier, and the #1 ranked team in the country all of a sudden doesn't look very imposing. They alone now carry the Big 10 banner.

The Big East lost 4 of the 6 they sent to the tourney. Notre Dame, Villanova and Marquette didn't even make it past the first round. Louisville lost a tough one to Texas A&M. Only Pitt (another team that needed overtime in the 2nd round) and Georgetown remain from the nation's largest (16 teams) conference. Maybe West Virginia or Syracuse might have fared better. Maybe not. It was a crowded, competitive field beyond the #1-3 seedings.

The Thursday and Friday matchups, which I'll break down on Tuesday and Wednesday, are intriguing, but none moreso than the Florida - Butler tilt in the Midwest. The Gators were tested briefly by Purdue, but they'll face one of the best defensive teams in the country in the Bulldogs, and one which has a 7-1 record against tournament teams with wins over Notre Dame, Tennessee, Indiana and Gonzaga back in November, Purdue in December, plus tourney wins over Old Dominion and Maryland. Their only loss was a 68-64 road loss to Southern Illinois in February. Butler is, right now, the ultimate Cinderella team with aims at the defending champion.

Before getting ahead of myself and doing game analysis, here's some of the prime time performers still remaining in the field of 16.

Scoring (1st game, 2nd game, total, average):
Tyler Hansbrough, NC: 21, 33, 54, 27.0
Acie Law, Texas A&M: 20, 26, 46, 23.0
Chris Lofton, Tenn.: 25, 20, 45, 22.5
Nick Young, USC: 20, 22, 42, 21.0
Derrick Byars, Vanderbilt: 12, 27, 39, 19.5
Shan Foster, Vanderbilt: 18, 20, 38, 19.0
Aaron Brooks, Oregon: 18, 22, 40, 20.0
JaJuan Smith, Tenn.: 24, 16, 40, 20.0
Ron Lewis, Ohio St.: 13, 27, 40, 20.0
Wendell White, UNLV: 19, 22, 41, 20.5
Corey Brewer, Florida: 21, 17, 38, 19.0
A. J. Graves, Butler: 18, 19, 37, 17.5
Mario Chalmers, Kansas: 19, 16, 35, 17.0

Rebounds (1st game, 2nd game, total, average):
Roy Hibbert, Georgetown: 13, 12, 25, 12.5
Al Horford, Florida: 16, 9, 25, 12.5
Joey Dorsey, Memphis: 15, 9, 24, 12.0
Greg Oden, Ohio St.: 10, 12, 22, 11.0
Taj Gibson, USC: 8, 14, 22, 11.0
Randal Falker, 8, 12, 20, 10.0
Joseph Jones, Texas A&M: 11, 8, 19, 9.5
Mike Green, Butler: 10, 8, 18, 9.0
Julian Wright, Kansas: 10, 8, 18, 9.0

Assists (1st game, 2nd game, total, average):Sports Training Products
Kevin Kruger, UNLV: 8, 7, 15, 7.5
Taurean Green, Florida: 12, 2, 14, 7.0
Levance Fields, Pitt.: 9, 4, 13, 6.5
Gabe Pruitt, USC: 4, 8, 12, 6.0

Here's the Thursday-Friday lineup (all times Eastern):

Thursday, March 22:

West Region (San Jose, CA)
7:10 pm #4 Southern Ill. (29-6) v. #1 Kansas (32-4)
9:40 pm #3 Pittsburgh (29-7) v. #2 UCLA (28-5)

South Region (San Antonio, TX)
7:27 pm #3 Texas A&M (27-6) v. #2 Memphis (32-3)
9:57 pm #5 Tennessee (24-10) v. #1 Ohio St. (32-3)

Friday, March 23:

Midwest Region (St. Louis, MO)
7:10 pm #5 Butler (29-6) v. #1 Florida (31-5)
9:40 pm #7 UNLV (30-6) v. #3 Oregon (28-7)

East Region (East Rutherford, NJ)
7:27 pm #6 Vanderbilt (22-11) v. #2 Georgetown (28-6)
9:57 pm #5 USC (25-11) v. #1 North Carolina (30-6)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Making the Grade: Saturday Produces Half of Sweet 16

Ohio State 78 Xavier 71 (OT) - The Musketeers nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament, but Justin Cage, who was a perfect 8-8 from the field, missed the second of two free throws, allowing Ohio State to tie the game at the buzzer on Ron Lewis' dramatic 3-pointer. The Buckeyes played the overtime without center Greg Oden, who had fouled out in regulation, but freshman Mike Conley Jr. took over, scoring 11 of his 21 points in the extra session. Lewis was the game's high scorer with 27 points and 4-5 shooting from 3-point range. Oden finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Butler 62 Maryland 59 - Butler managed to control the pace of the game, forced Maryland into 17 turnovers and hit 12 of 26 3-pointers to advance in the Widwest region. The Bulldogs will likely face Florida in the next round, as the Gators play Purdue on Sunday.

Sports Training ProductsTexas A&M 72 Louisville 69 - These two heavyweights slugged it out until the final buzzer. Louisville's Edgar Sosa briefly became the highest single-game scorer in the tournament with 31 points, but it was not quite enough, as Acie Law's 26 points got the Aggies into the Sweet 16 in the South region, where they will play the winner of Sunday's Memphis-Nevada tilt.

Vanderbilt 78 Washington State 74 (2OT) - It took two overtimes, but the Commodores became the highest seed (6) to advance thus far. Led by Derrick Byars' game-high 27 points, Vandy rallied from an 8-point halftime deficit to take out the #3 seed in the East.

Pittsburgh 84 Virginia Commonwealth 79 - After knocking off Duke in the opening round, VCU nearly upset the #3 seed in the West, Pitt. The Panthers led by as many as 19 points in the game, but the Rams would not let their dreams die, as they continued to pressure Pitt into mistakes which they turned into baskets. Pitt just barely escaped in overtime, despite shooting 54%. Pitt committed 15 turnovers and were only 16-27 from the foul line (59%). Sam Young led 5 Pittsburgh players in double figures with 15 points.

Georgetown 62 Boston College 55 - BC's Tyrese Rice played great again, leading all scorers with 22 points, but Georgetown's interior domination eventually wore down the Eagles. Jeff Green had 11 points and 12 rebounds to go with center Roy Hibbert's 17 and 12. The Hoyas also showed proficiency at the foul line, hitting 14 of 19 free throws. The Hoyas move on to play Vanderbilt in the East regionals.

UCLA 54 Indiana 49 - In a game that could only be described as ugly, UCLA escaped a late run of three-pointers by Indiana that tied the game with under 2 minutes remaining. The Bruins shot 36% to the Hoosiers' 33%, but his 18-24 free throws to more than provide the margin of victory. This game featured plenty of defense, but mostly just plain bad shooting. The Bruins hit just 2-9 from 3-point range and Darren Collison led all scorers with 15 points. The good news for UCLA is that they next face another suspect squad, Pittsburgh, in the West regional.

North Carolina 81 Michigan State 67 - Drew Neitzel did all he could to keep the Spartans in the game, scoring 26 points while directing the Michigan State offense. North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, though, was too much to handle inside, as he became the tournament's single-game high scorer with 33 points, hitting 10-17 shots from the field and 13-17 free throws. Hansbrough also reeled in 9 rebounds in 38 minutes of play, the most by any Tar Heel. Point guard Ty Lawson was also a standout performer, dropping in 20 of his own while dishing out 8 assists. Lawson was credited with only one turnover for the entire game.