Saturday, April 02, 2011

2011 Final Four Semi-Final Recaps: Butler and Connecticut Prevail

The Butler Bulldogs and Connecticut Huskies advanced to the NCAA men's basketball national championship game with wins in semi-final matches on Saturday.

Butler 70 VCU 62 - Shelvin Mack scored 24 points and Butler's defense clamped down on the VCU Rams late in the contest, sending the Butler Bulldogs to their second consecutive national championship game appearance.

Mack was 8-for-11 from the field and canned 5 of 6 three-point attempts. Matt Howard, who was saddled with four fouls for the last nine minutes of the game, added 17 points, getting 11 of them from the charity stripe.

VCU battled gamely and stayed close until the final few minutes, when Butler exerted their dominance, thwarting VCU on their offensive trips while tacking on points as time wore down.

Jamie Skeen led all scorers with 27 points, but did not have enough support from his teammates. Bradford Burgess, who contributed 15, was the only other Ram to score more than 4 points.

Butler lost to Duke, 61-59 in last season's national championship game. 28-9 Butler has won 14 straight, the longest current streak in the nation.

Connecticut 56 Kentucky 55 - Shabazz Napier was only 1-for-7 from the field, but his two free throws with 2 seconds left gave UConn a 4-point lead and a trip to the national championship game against Butler, Monday night.

Brandon Knight hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was material only to the margin of victory.

The Huskies established a 10-point lead at the half, but the Wildcats came out of intermission on a mission and quickly tied the game and battled through long stretches with the Huskies, neither team able to gain an upper hand.

Player of the year runner-up, Kemba Walker, scored just 18 points, but still was the game's high scorer. Walker added six rebounds and seven assists. Jeremy Lamb added 12 points and eight rebounds.

The 31-9 Huskies, the #3 seed from the West region, will play the 28-9 Butler Bulldogs, the #8 seed from the Southeast region for the national championship on Monday night at 9:21 pm ET. The game will be televised live from Houston's Reliant Stadium, exclusively by CBS.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Bracket Breakdown: 2011 Final Four Semi-finals

The Final Four has gathered in Houston for a pair of Saturday semi-final games at Relaint Stadium that will determine the participants in Monday's National Championship game.

Here's a brief breakdown of the contestants and analysis of both games.

(11) VCU (28-11) vs. (8) Butler (27-9), 6:09 pm ET - Judging by the prevailing wisdom of both the bracket analyzers and the tournament committee itself, neither of these teams was supposed to make it this far. It's rare to get any team in with a higher seed than 6, much less get two in the same year.

The basketball gods have bestowed an additional gift by having them play each other, though both have proven their mettle against some of the best teams in the tournament.

VCU is by far the more athletic and energetic of the two teams. They will look to speed up the pace of the game and take advantage of any and all Butler mistakes, though the Bulldogs are a fairly disciplined bunch. VCU will probably opt to contest more than a few inbounds passes, a weakness of Butler's exposed against Wisconsin.

Additionally, VCU's inside presence may be more than Butler's Matt Howard and Andrew Smith can handle. VCU's Jamie Skeen, Juvonte Reddic and Toby Veal go 6'9", 6'9" and 6'8", respectively. While Howard will handle his end of the deal, Smith, though 6'11", is only a sophomore and doesn't possess the experience of the VCU forwards though freshman Khyle Marshall has given valuable minutes inside.

Both teams play solid man-to-man and zone defenses. VCU has been making a living at the 3-point line, with Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell doing most of the damage. Butler's Shelvin Mack will have to be in top form to counter the VCU attack, especially speedy Joey Rodriguez.

Take nothing away from Butler. They are well-coached and know how to win close games. They currently possess the nation's longest active winning streak, at 13 games. VCU is a 2 1/2-point favorite and has more depth than the Bulldogs.

(4) Kentucky (29-8) vs. (3) Connecticut (30-9), 8:49 pm ET - Kentucky head coach John Calipari has - for the second year in a row - taken a group of talented freshmen and molded them into a cohesive unit capable of taking on any team in the country. Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb are all freshman and also are the team's three leading scorers. Juniors Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins compose the remainder of the starting five, all of whom score in double figures besides Liggins, who checks in at 8.8 ppg.

The interior is the domain of Josh Harrleson, who has been magnificent on defense in the post and has contributed well to Kentucky's flow offense. Of all the teams in America, Kentucky probably has the most number of players who can make individual plays, a fact not lost on the Connecticut Huskies.

For UConn, the ball started rolling in Maui, when the Huskies unveiled Kemba Walker and won the Maui Classic, with wins over Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky, the final of the tourney going in an 84-67 rout, to Connecticut. The team the Huskies beat in Maui bears resemblance only in the most superficial way. Kentucky's players have matured considerably since that December date and are much more of a team than a bunch of individual future stars, as was the case back then.

UConn's game comes down to Walker, almost unavoidably and the Huskies seem to thrive on the tournament environment, having run through the Big East with five straight wins and four more in the NCCAs. Kentucky, however, also won the SEC tournament and is riding a 10-game streak.

Everybody on Kentucky will have a chance to guard Kemba Walker, as slick and elusive as he is. Walker has proven to be unguardable by a single player and his presence and quickness puts extra pressure on opposing defenses. He's been aided by the emergence of freshman Jeremy Lamb, the team's second leading scorer, who has come of age through the rigors of the tournament. He's a future star in his own right and will match up well against the Wildcats.

The Huskies will also have plenty to say on drives to the hoop and in the rebounding department with solid Alex Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu responsible for clogging the lane. The inside game will be very physical and not much of an advantage for either team.

The oddsmakers have Kentucky a 2 1/2-point favorite, hinged upon the Wildcats' ability to hold Walker in check and UConn's defense, which must contend every shot. Team depth favors the Huskies who will go nine deep into their bench, while Kentucky prefers to go with a six or seven man rotation.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Skeen's 26 in Win over Kansas Worth the Wait

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 27, 2011

Virginia Commonwealth University? Not supposed to be in the Final Four, right?

Tell that to Jamie Skeen, VCU's 6'9" senior forward who took on the monstrous Morris twins of Kansas and sent them back to farm.

Skeen sat out a year (2008-09) when he transferred out of Wake Forest to VCU for an opportunity to play under the tutelage of head coach Shaka Smart. After scoring 26 points in the Rams' 71-61 victory over Kansas, his patience has been richly rewarded with a trip to the Final Four.

Skeen's 26 led all scorers and even though the Jayhawks outrebounded VCU, 45-35, Skeen battled in the lane all afternoon, hauling in 10 boards while helping get both Marcus and Markeif Morris in second half foul trouble.

Next up for the Rams is a trip to Houston, where they will take on the Butler Bulldogs, another small conference team with its sights set on winning the national championship. Tip time for the Saturday tilt is 6:09 pm EDT, followed by the other semi-final game, pitting Connecticut against Kentucky at 8:49 pm EDT.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Final Four Field Set: Rams and Wildcats Advance

The final two pieces of the Final Four puzzle fell into place Sunday as the VCU Rams pulled off a stunning upset of Kansas, eliminating the last of the #1 seeds and Kentucky vanquished North Carolina, sending the Wildcats to their first Final Four since 1998.

VCU 71 Kansas 61 - Criticized by many as being unworthy of inclusion into the NCAA field, the VCU Rams pounded the Kansas Jayhawks from the opening tip to the final buzzer, sending the last of the #1 seeds packing.

Seeded #11 after defeating USC in a play-in game, the Rams, representing the Colonial Athletic Conference, won their 5th straight tournament game, completing a sweep of five of the six "power" conferences. Virginia Commonwealth has beaten a team from the PAC-10 (USC), Big East (Georgetown), Big Ten (Purdue), SEC (Florida) and now, the Big 12 (Kansas). The only conference unscathed by the horn of the Rams is the ACC, and they were eliminated in the West regional when Kentucky knocked out North Carolina.

Led by Jamie Skeen's game high 26 points and 10 rebounds, the Rams opened up a double-digit lead early on the Jayhawks and never looked back. Kansas drew to within four points in the second half, but were turned away repeatedly by VCU's deadeye shooting and tenacious defense. VCU hit 12 of 25 3-pointers, holding Kansas to just 2-for-21 beyond the arc and 36% (22 of 62) overall.

It is VCU's first-ever Final Four appearance, and fittingly, they get to play another small conference team, the Butler Bulldogs, who emerged as the #8 seed from the Southwest region.

Kentucky 76 North Carolina 69 - The Wildcats led nearly the entire game and at one point in the second half were up by 11 points, but a resolute North Carolina squad brought the game to a tie in the closing minutes.

Brandon Knight made a three-pointer and hit three clutch free throws to ice the game. Sandwiched in between Knight's scores was another trey by DeAndre Liggins. North Carolina could not get the ball in the bucket in the final minute, sending the Wildcats on to face the Connecticut Huskies on Saturday, April 2nd in a semi-final match-up.

Knight was the game's high scorer with 22 points, one better than Carolina's Tyler Zeller. Knight also handled six rebounds and four assists, and was 5-for-11 from 3-point range. The Wildcats hit 12 of 22 three-point jacks, while the Tar Heels were only able to can 3 of 18 from beyond the arc. All five Kentucky starters finished in double figures.

Shelvin Mack Shines as Bulldogs Advance

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 26, 2011

Over the past two seasons, the Butler Bulldogs have gone 9-1 in NCAA tournament games, the only loss coming by two points to Duke, in last year's finals.

Last season, the Bulldogs were led by Gordon Hayward, since gone to the NBA, so this year players - particularly seniors Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack - have had to step up their games. Butler plays extremely solid defense, but scoring usually falls to their leaders, but it is Mack who has the pure stroke to know down threes and open jumpers.

In Saturday's 74-71 overtime win against Florida, Mack provided a hefty share of offense, scoring a game-high 27 points, making four three-pointers, including a couple of key ones when Butler was making it's comeback late in the contest.

Mack has been money in Butler's four tourney wins. He scored 15 against Old Dominion, 30 against Pittsburgh and 13 in the Bulldogs' win over Wisconsin.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Elite Eight: Butler Serves Notice; Huskies Mush Toward Houston

Half of the Final Four was determined on Saturday as Butler and Connecticut advanced through to the gathering in Houston.

Butler 74 Florida 71, OT - Rallying from a nine-point deficit late in the game, the Bulldogs tied the Gators in regulation and completed their upset win in overtime, advancing to the Final Four out of the Southeast region.
Butler, the Cinderella of the 2010 tournament, lost in the final to Duke, and is repeating the historic run a year later. The Bulldogs, seeded eighth in their region, has won three games in nail-biting fashion, beating Old Dominion, 60-58 in the opening round, then knocking off #1 seed Pitt, 71-70, before topping Wisconsin, 61-54. The win on Saturday was their 13th straight, currently the longest winning streak in the country.

Shelvin Mack came p big for Butler, scoring 27 points to lead all scorers. The Bulldogs will face the winner of Sunday's VCU-Kansas match-up on Saturday in Houston.

Connecticut 65 Arizona 63 - Once again, the superlative Kemba Walker nailed a jumper that proved to be the winning score, lifting the Huskies in a hard-fought battle over Arizona.

Walker knocked down a 12-foot jump shot to give Connecticut a two point lead with 20 seconds left. The Wildcats had two chances at the win, opting for three-point shots, but missed both and ran out of time.

Walker finished with 20 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Freshman Jeremy Lamb contributed with a productive game, scoring 19 points, with four rebounds. Lamb also had a key steal late in the game that put UConn up by five points momentarily, late in the action.

This marks the third time Connecticut has reached the Final Four as a representative of the West region. The two previous times, they won the national championship.

Tyler Zeller Is North Carolina's Front Man

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 25, 2011

In North Carolina's 81-63 elimination of Marquette from the remaining tournament field, Tyler Zeller was just plain scary, dominating the paint on both ends of the floor, glowering and scowling his way to a game high 27 points.

Zeller, a junior on a team full of underclassmen, may be the elder statesman on the team, but his playing time at North Carolina isn't much more than that of many of his younger teammates, since he spent much of his freshman and sophomore years on the bench with injuries.

Now fully healthy, the lanky 7-footer has brought the Tar Heels to the brink of history. He had 32 points in North Carolina's tourney opener over LIU, then scored 23 in the nail-biter over Washington in the second round. In Friday's outing, Zeller tied teammate John Henson for top rebounding honors, with 12, grabbing 7 on the offensive end.

With his front court running mate Henson checking in 6'10", but with the reach of a man 7'3", the Tar Heels are as imposing and threatening up front as any team in the tournament.

Sweet 16 Results and Recaps - Friday Games


North Carolina 81 Marquette 63 - The Tar Heels used a swarming, oppressive defense to disrupt Marquette early and score frequently inside, racing to a 40-15 half time lead. Marquette held their own in the second half, but it was much to late to keep North Carolina from advancing. Tyler Zeller had another enormous game, notching 27 points to go with 17 rebounds, none of them on the offensive end.

Kentucky 62 Ohio State 60 - Brandon Knight's 15-foot jumper with 5.4 left broke a 60-all tie and Will Buford's 3-point heave at the buzzer fell short as the Wildcats pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament. A hotly contested game throughout, neither team led by more than seven, and there was no margin of more than four points in the entire second half.

Ohio State's Jared Sullinger had his usual monster game with 21 points and 17 rebounds, but Kentucky's Josh Harrellson battled well inside, scoring 17 points and ripping down 10 boards on his own. DeAndre Liggins was lightning in a bottle in the latter stages of the second half, finishing with 15 points and 6 rebounds. He and Harrellson were the only Wildcats in double figures.

Kentucky's win left Kansas as the sole remaining #1 seed in the tournament.

North Carolina will play Kentucky on Sunday, for the right to play in the Final Four.


Kansas 77 Richmond 57 - Simply too big, too fast and too talented for the Richmond Spiders to handle, Kansas quickly established a lead and expanded it over the first 20 minutes, leading 41-22 by half time. This was pretty much a team effort blowout, led by Brady Morningstar's 18 points. Nine different Jayhawks showed up on the scorer's sheet, evidence they are probably the deepest team remaining in the tournament.

VCU 72 Florida State 71 - In what had to be the most physical game of the tournament, the Seminoles and Rams found themselves stalemated at 65 through the first 40 minutes and forced into overtime to settle their differences.

The game boiled down to the inability of Florida State, the best defense in the nation, to defend an inbound pass under their own basket. With 7 seconds left, Joey Rodriguez triggered the ball into Bradford Burgess, who laid it in to give the Rams a one-point lead. Florida State players raced down court, but could not get off another shot.

Bradford, who had five of VCU's seven points in overtime, finished with a game-high 26 points on 9-for-16 shooting, including six of seven from 3-point range.

Kansas and VCU square off Sunday, the winner advancing to the Final Four in Houston.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Derrick Williams Leads Wildcats Past Duke, Into Elite 8

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 24, 2011

On a night in which the three leading candidates for NCAA player of the year were all in action, Arizona's Derrick Williams outdid Kemba Walker, Nolan Smith and Jimmer Fredette.

Williams, only a sophomore, but possessive of enormous talent, led his youthful Wildcats to a stunning 93-77 rout of reigning national champion, Duke.

Hitting on 11 of 17 shots from the field, Williams showed both his inside and outside game, making 5 of 6 three-pointers en route to a game-high 32 points, also his career high. Duke had no answers for him on the boards, either, as Williams hauled in 13 rebounds, six of them on the offensive end.

The Wildcats, winners of the PAC-10 regular season and carrying a 30-7 record overall, advanced to the West region final on Saturday against the Connecticut Huskies.

Sweet 16 Results and Recaps - Thursday Games

Four teams moved on in the tournament on Thursday, setting up match-ups for Saturday's games, the winners advancing to the Final Four in Houston, Texas.


Florida 83 BYU 74, OT - Jimmer Fredette had one of the worst shooting performances of his life and it cost the Cougars dearly. Fredette scored 32 points, but he hit just 11 of 29 shots, including 3-for-15 from beyond the arc. Florida's Alex Tyus, however, had the game of his life, scoring 19 points on 8 of 9 shooting and ripping down 17 rebounds, both tops for Florida. Florida had a chance to win it in regulation, but Chandler Parsons' short jumper at the buzzer never really had a chance.

Butler 61 Wisconsin 54 - The Badgers shot just 30% from the field and had just 17 field goals overall, allowing the Bulldogs to build on their lead in the second half. Late-game sloppiness by Butler allowed Wisconsin to close to within four points, but they could not complete the comeback. Matt Howard was at his usual best, leading Butler with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Florida faces Butler on Saturday at 4:20 pm ET, the winner advancing from the Southeast region to the Final Four.


Connecticut 74 San Diego State 67 - The Kemba Walker road show rolled on, and now includes his sidekick, Jeremy Lamb. Walker was sensational, and may have locked up player of the year with his 36-point performance as his two main adversaries - Jimmer Fredette and Nolan Smith - both were bounced from the tourney. Lamb, a freshman out of Norcross, Georgia, tied his career high with 24 points, on 9-for-11 shooting, including 3-for-3 on treys. Lamb has notched double figures in each of UConn's last nine games, all wins. His emergence as a second scoring threat and the overall exceptional play of Walker have propelled the Huskies to the brink of greatness.

Arizona 93 Duke 77 - Coach K will have to wait until next season to shatter Bob Knight's all-time NCAA wins record of 902. The Blue Devils were stopped in their tracks by the surprise team of the tournament, Arizona, who now have blasted through Memphis, Texas and Duke thanks to their sensational sophomores, led by Derrick Williams, who led the way with 32 points and 13 boards.

Arizona and Connecticut hook up on Saturday at 6:55 pm ET to determine the Final Four entrant from the West region.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess Deliver VCU to the Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 20, 2011

For a team which many analysts said didn't belong, the VCU Rams certainly look pretty good. Not only did they absolutely hammer USC in the opening round, 59-46, but then expanded their margin of victory to 18 points in their next two games, whipping Georgetown, 74-56, and Purdue, 94-76, on Sunday.

The win over the Boilermakers put them into the Sweet 16, along with a host of other high seeds, like Richmond (12) and Marquette (11). VCU came in as an 11.

Fueling the offense is one of the smallest players on the court, Joey Rodriguez, the jitterbug who weaves through defenders to deliver pinpoint passes to his teammates. On Sunday, Rodriguez was at his best, distributing the ball for 11 of his team's 24 assists and scoring 12 points to add to the onslaught.

A good number of those passes found their way into the capable hands of Bradford Burgess, who hit on 8 of 12 shots, including 3 three-pointers for 23 points. Burgess also snatched 8 boards.

VCU Florida State, a 10 seed, in the next round of the Southwest region, one that has seen more than its fair share of upsets.

Round of 32 Results and Recaps - Sunday Games


North Carolina 86 Washington 83 - Proving once again that size matters, Washington cold not contain the Tar Heel big men - Tyler Zeller (23 points) and John Henson (10 points, 10 boards) - but little Isaiah Thomas and the Huskies took them to the limit.

Ohio State 98 George Mason 66 - the Buckeyes continued to decimate anything in their way, as they smothered the Patriots. David Lighty was 9-for-10 from the field for a game-high 25 points.

Marquette 66 Syracuse 62 - the Golden Eagles soared once again, doing to Syracuse what they did to them during the Big East regular season. The lead changed hands frequently, but Marquette made the plays down the stretch. An 11 seed, Marquette is a surprise from the Big East, which has now seen more than half of their 11 teams gone in the first weekend.


VCU 94 Purdue 76 - VCU took a ten-point lead into half time and extended it through the second half, dominating all aspects of the game and distributing 24 assists as a team. Bradford Burgess had 23 points and 8 rebounds for the Rams and 5'10" Joey Rodriguez distributed 11 assists to go with his 10 points.

Kansas 73 Illinois 59 - The Jayhawks had little trouble beating coach Bill Self's former school, getting 24 points and 12 rebounds from Markieff Morris and 17 and 12 from twin brother Marcus.


Duke 73 Michigan 71 - Duke survived a serious scare from the Wolverines when Darius Morris missed a runner in the lane with two seconds left after erasing most of a 15-point Duke second half lead. Nolan Smith led all scorers with 24 points, and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski notched his 900th career win.

Arizona 70 Texas 69 - Texas trailed nearly the entire game, but had two close-in chances to win the game as time ran down. Arizona continued the Longhorns' frustrations in the NCAA tournament by ousting them in an early round again.

Florida State 71 Notre Dame 57 - The Seminoles stunned Notre Dame, smothering them with the nation's best defense and advancing to face VCU in the Sweet 16. Florida State held the usually high-scoring Fighting Irish to just 32% shooting. Bernard James had 14 points and 10 boards for the Seminoles.

Notre Dame was the 9th of 11 teams from the Big East to lose on the opening weekend, leaving just Marquette and UConn from the conference, widely considered to be the best in the nation. Not any more.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cougars Blow Away Zags, Fredette Scores 34

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 19, 2011

Plenty of fine individual performances were on display Saturday as eight teams made their way into the Sweet 16, but what Jimmer Fredette did for his BYU Cougars was pretty special.

Fredette poured in 34 points and dished out 6 assists to lead the Cougars over Gonzaga, 89-67. The blowout win was mighty impressive considering how well Gonzaga played in their opening-round win over St. John's.

Fredette directed the BYU offense for the most part, but stepped up and shot the lights out when needed or drove the ball to the hoop. The senior guard was 11-for-23 from the field and hit 7 of 12 three-pointers. He also was 5-for-5 from the line.

BYU took a seven-point lead into intermission and ballooned that advantage in the second half to produce the blowout result. The 22-point margin of victory was easily the largest of the 8 games played on Saturday. BYU topped Wofford, 74-66, in their first game of the tourney and are now 34-4 on the season. They face the Florida Gators in the Sweet 16 game next week.

Round of 32 Results and Recaps - Saturday Games


Kentucky 71 West Virginia 63 - Brandon Knight scored a game-high 30 points to lead the Wildcats into the Sweet 16. Kentucky's next task will likely be against the Ohio State Buckeyes, who face George Mason on Sunday for the right to advance.

San Diego St. 71 Temple 64, 2OT - Temple pushed the Aztecs to the limit, but came up short in the second overtime. Billy White and Kawhi Leonard each had 16 points to pace San Diego State.


Florida 73 UCLA 65 - The Bruins made a game of it but they could not check Erving Walker late, who finished with a game-high 21 points.

Butler 71 Pittsburgh 70 - In a bizarre finish which saw two personal fouls in the final 1.4 seconds - one each against a player from each team - Matt Howard hit a free throw with 0.8 seconds left for the win. Shelvin Mack scored 30 points to pace the Bulldogs, who knocked off the #1 seed in the region.

BYU 89 Gonzaga 67 - Jimmer Fredette scored 34 points as the Cougars shot 52% from the field and made a shambles of Gonzaga's upset plans.

Wisconsin xx Kansas St. XX - The Badgers survived a poor shooting night (2-for-17) by Jordan Taylor, by slowing the pace of the game and hitting key three-pointers and free throws down the stretch. Jacob Pullen scored 38 points in a losing effort. Jon Leuer paced the Badgers with 19 points and seven boards.


Richmond 65 Morehead St. 48 - In a battler between a 12 and 13 seed, the lower seed prevailed with a workmanlike effort. Justin Harper had 19 points to lead all scorers. The Spiders rung up 18 assists.

Connecticut 69 Cincinnati 58 - Kemba Walker fought through the pain of a sore left wrist to lead the Huskies over Big East rival Cincinnati. Despite the injury, Walker tallied a game-high 33 points and was perfect from the foul line, going 14-for-14.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

North Carolina Trio Unstoppable in Win

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 18, 2011

While there were many exceptional performances on Friday, the second full day of the Round of 64, it's hard to compare with effort of this trio of Tar Heels: Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, who accounted for 84 points in North Carolina's 102-84 win over Long Island.

Barnes scored 24 points and was only the third highest scorer for the Tar Heels, though he did chip in with 16 boards. Zeller led the way with 32 mostly-uncontested points and John Henson had 28, 20 in the first half.

The numbers were career highs in scoring for both Zeller and Henson, and Barnes set a personal mark for rebounds.

North Carolina moves on to face Washington in the Round of 32.

Round of 64 Results and Recaps - Friday Late Games


Marquette 66 Xavier 55 - Lightning quick, Marquette's Golden Eagles stymied the Musketeers and scored in transition regularly to knock off the #6 seed. Darius Johnson-Odom led all scorers with 19 points. Marquette shot 53% for the game.

North Carolina 102 LIU 87 - thhe Tar Heels rolled up the biggest score of the tournament thus far, as LIU could not handle their size and speed. Tyler Zeller: 32 points; John Henson: 28; Harrison Barnes: 24.

Washington 68 Georgia 65 - Surviving a furious last-minute rally by Georgia, the Washington Huskies moved on to face North Carolina in the next round. Isaiah Thomas was brilliant, scoring 19 points and dishing seven assists.

Syracuse 77 Indiana St. 60 - the Orange got more game than they expected from Indiana State, but tightened up their 2-3 zone and kept the Sycamores at bay for most of the game. Rick Jackson was superior inside. His23 points led the way for the Syracuse advance to the next round against Marquette.

Kansas 72 Boston U. 53 - The Jayhawks overcame some early jitters to advance easily past Boston U., outscoring the Terriers, 39-24 in the second half for the easy win. Marcus and Markief Morris combined for 31 points and 17 rebounds.

Purdue 65 St. Peter's 43 - Never a contest as the Boilermakers ushered St. Peters out of the tournament. JaJuan Johnson had 16 points and 16 boards.

Illinois 73 UNLV 62 - The Runnin' Rebels were ice cold early and Illinois built an insurmountable lead. Mike Davis topped the scoring list with 22 points.

VCU 74 Georgetown 56 - Virginia Commonwealth used superior size and tight defense to dismantle Georgetown into a quick exit. Brandon Roselle hit six threes and scored 26 points in the win. The Rams face Purdue next.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Round of 64 Results and Recaps - Friday Early Games


George Mason 61 Villanova 57 - George Mason kept chipping away at Villanova's 10--point lead and finally caught the Wildcats in the closing minutes, holding on for the win, snapping a five-game tournament losing streak for the Patriots.

Ohio State 75 UTSA 46 - The tournament's top overall seed, Ohio State, easily rolled past UTSA, hitting at a 56% clip while holding the Roadrunners to a paltry 34% shooting. The Buckeyes taken on George Mason on Sunday for a trip to the Sweet 16.


Duke 87 Hampton 45 - West region top seed, Duke, produced the largest margin of victory in the tourney thus far, eclipsing Michigan's 30-point win over Tennessee earlier in he day. All ten Blue Devils who saw action scored, including Kyrie Irving, back for his first game since December. Irving not only put up points, but led all scorers with 14 points. Not a single Hampton player reached double figures in scoring.

Texas 85 Oakland 81 - Second win for the Big 12 so far, as the Longhorns couldn't quite shake free from upset-minded Oakland, but kept a safe lead late in the game. Reggie Hamilton went 10-for-19 for 25 points with 4 rebounds and 5 assists.

Michigan 75 Tennessee 45 - The Wolverines produced the largest margin of victory in the tournament thus far, a 30-point beat-down on a team that has suffered through a rough season. Many of the Vols' players and fans are probably happy the pain is finally over, but it ended very badly. A team effort, Michigan had five players in double figures.

Arizona 77 Memphis 75 - In one of the most contentious games of the round of 64, the Wildcats knocked out the lone representative of Conference USA. Derrick Williams swatted away a potential game-tying shot just seconds after hitting a huge three-pointer. Williams finished with a game-high 22 points.


Notre Dame 69 Akron 56 - The fighting Irish used seven players and they all contributed points, but Carleton Scott was a monster inside with 8 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. The Fighting Irish didn't seem at all hung over from St. Patrick's Day, taking an early lead and cruising to the win.

Florida State 57 Texas A&M 50 - The Seminoles trailed by three at the half, but outscored the Aggies, 34-24, in the second period. Once Florida State assumed the lead, A&M could only stay close and did not challenge in crunch time. Florida State held their opponents to 31% shooting.

Kemba Walker is Tourney's Top Choice on Round of 64 Day One

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 17, 2011

Determining a Player of the Day on the first full day of action in the Round of 64 was no easy task, as Butler's Matt Howard, BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Florida's Chandler Parsons all were worthy participants, but the nod goes to UConn's suprelative Kemba Walker, who willed his team to a wide-open, 81-52, win over Bucknell, the largest margin of victory of the tournament thus far.

Walker didn't do a lot of shooting, hitting 5 of 11 shots from the field, but he nailed a pair of three-pointers, was 6-for-6 at the foul line, dished 12 assists and hauled in 8 rebounds for a true all-around fine performance.

The win was Connecticut's 6th straight, a run that includes a record five wins to capture the Big East tourney. The Huskies move into the next round against some familiar faces, the Cincinnati Bearcats, a team they've already handled, 67-59, on the Bearcats' home court.

Round of 64 Results and Recaps - Late Games


Florida 79 UC-Santa Barbara 51 - Chandler Parsons scored 10 points, had 10 assists and seven rebounds as the Gators rolled to an easy win. Ten different players Gators scored as coach Billy Donovan emptied his bench late.

BYU 74 Wofford 66 - The Cougars proved a bit too fierce for the Terriers. Jimmer Fredette scored 32 points for BYU, the highest point total of the first day.
Wisconsin 72 Belmont 58 - Jon Leuer scored 22 points and Jordan Taylor had 21 to push the Badgers to the next round.

UCLA 78 Michigan State 76 - The Bruins built a 24-point lead only to give most of it away as Michigan State fought back in the second half. UCLA will face #2 seed Florida on Saturday.

Gonzaga 86 St. John's 71 - Gonzaga broke open a close game early on and kept the Red Stom at bay, cruising to a surprisingly easy first round win. Marquise Carter poured in 24 points for the Zags. Seeded surprisingly low at #11, Gonzaga faces #13 BYU in the next round.

Kansas State 73 Utah State 68 - Utah State's Tai Wesley got into early foul trouble and the Wildcats took advantage, building a working lead and staying safely ahead of the the Aggies. Jacob Pullen fought through flu-like symptoms to top the scorer's sheet with 22 points.


Connecticut 81 Bucknell 52 - Connecticut opened a big lead early, coasting to an easy opening round win. Kemba Walker led all scorers with 18 points, to go with 12 assists and 8 rebounds.

Cincinnati 78 Missouri 63 - Yancey Gates led all scorers with 18 points and ripped down 11 rebounds to lead the Bearcats over the Tigers. Gates was 7-for-8 from the floor, including 2-for-2 on three-pointers.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Buzzer Beaters and Bracket Busters: Round of 64 Results, Early Games


West Virginia 84 Clemson 76 - the Mountaineers trailed early but rallied and led most of the second half, cruising to the win. They will face Kentucky in the next round.

Kentucky 59 Princeton 57 - John Calipari's youthful Wildcats survived an opening game scare from a very game Princeton squad. Josh Harrelson scored 15 points with 10 rebounds and 4 steals.


Temple 66 Penn State 64 - The Owls snapped a losing streak at the NCAA winning a nip-and-tuck battle with Vandy. Next up, San Diego State.

San Diego St. 68 Northern Colorado 50 - As expected, the powerful Aztecs cruised in their opening game. Kawhi Leonard led the way with 21 points.


Butler 60 Old Dominion 58 - senior Matt Howard tipped in a loose ball as time expired to escape a close call with a very capable senior-led Old Dominion team. Howard played the majority of the second half with three fouls and, as usual, was in the right place at the right time.

Pittsburgh 74 NC-Asheville 51 - No match here, as the Panthers dominated. Ashton Gibbs led all scorers with 26 points, including 6 0f 9 from three-point range.


Morehead State 62 Louisville 61 - In the upset of the day, Morehead State, the #13 seed from the Ohio Valley conference, knocked off #4 Louisville on a daring three-pointer by Demonte Harper with time running down and the Eagles behind by three. Louisville was left with lees than 3 seconds and could not get off a shot.

Richmond 69 Vanderbilt 66 - The Spiders, the region's #12 seed, hung with the Commodores throughout the second half, took a late lead and held on for the win over a badly over-seeded (#5) Vanderbilt team. Point guard Kevin Anderson was a thorn in Vandy's side all day and had the go-ahead bucket on a short runner from the left of the hoop and finished with a game-high 25 points.

Rams Defy Critics, Dump USC; UTSA wins, to Face Ohio State

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Widely criticized for entry into the NCAA field, considered not worthy of playing with the nation's best teams, the VCU Rams left no doubt that they belonged, smashing the USC Trojans with a stifling defense and a dominating second half.

After the first half ended with the score tied at 22-all, Jamie Skeen and his band of upperclassmen went to work, limiting the Trojans to 24 points, while scoring 37 of their own, mostly on the inside and at the free throw line for the 59-46 victory.

Skeen led all scorers with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting with a pair of three-pointers. He also had nine rebounds and was the only Ram in double figures.

VCU, seeded 11th in the Southwest region, faces the Georgetown Hoyas on Friday with the opportunity to advance further into the field.

In the earlier "First Four" contest, UTSA dropped Alabama State, 70-61. The Roadrunners face the daunting task of taking on the tournament's top seed, Ohio State, in the next round on Friday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Primm, Dickey Lead NC-Asheville Bulldogs in NCAA Opener; Clemson Cruises

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nothing like kicking off the NCAA tournament on the "Ides of March" with the warning for favorites to beware.

The first victor and victim was, respectively, the University of North Carolina-Asheville Bulldogs over the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans, in overtime, 81-77, with the Bulldogs advancing to face #1 seed Pitt in the Southeast region.

Led by J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey, the Bulldogs forced overtime on Dickey's three-pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation. Primm nailed a series of free throws in regulation and five in the overtime period to seal the deal.

Both players scored 22 points to share the game-high-scoring honors and each played exceptional all-around games. Dickey hit 7 of 10 from the field, including 2 of 3 three-pointers and added 6 of 7 free throws to go with five boards and three assists. Primm went 4-for-11 from the field with a pair of treys, added 12 of 14 from the foul line and had four rebounds, five assists and three steals.

NOTABLE: Clemson cruised past UAB, 70-52 in the nightcap of the first day of the "First Four" play-in games. The Tigers led all the way and were never threatened by the Blazers, who were completely out of their depth. With the breezy win, Clemson, a 12 seed, will face East region #5 seed, West Virginia in a Thursday game.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bracket Madness: Tuesday and Wednesday Play-in Games Preview

OK, so nobody has to actually pick these Tuesday and Wednesday play-in games. That's the good news. The bad news is that no matter what, the NCAA tournament committee will believe that college hoops fans actually like the idea of having an extra four teams added for no other reason than to make the field larger or more competitive, when all along the idea was just to fill empty space in some network's otherwise dull content.

These games offer nothing to the brocketologists out there except to make their lives a little more difficult. All of the bracket challenges, in either online form or though your work or office are set up to just include the winner of these games, no matter which team wins. The problem is that one or the other may win, and set up a completely different match-up in (what now is) the second round. It's just confusing and the NCAA should go back to the straight 64-team format that has worked so well for so long.

Actually, adding these extra teams and games somewhat backfired on the NCAA selection committee only because they chose the wrong teams! Colorado should be in the tournament, along with Harvard and probably Virginia Tech and St. Mary's.

Whatever the outcome of these games, they're unnecessary and will likely have almost no impact on the overall tournament, so, be that as it may, let's analyze what we've been given.

Tuesday, March 15:

Play-in Game 1: North Carolina-Asheville vs. Arkansas Little Rock (Southeast Region) 6:30 pm ET - this gets a really, really big WHO CARES? because the winner will be up against the tp seed in the region, the Pittsburgh Panthers and they will lose, badly. If it's any consolation, the NC-Asheville Bulldogs got the automatic bid by winning the Big South tournament over Coastal Carolina in the final. They are however one of the dreaded 13-loss teams in the tournament and show pretty substantial losses to North Carolina, Georgetown and Ohio State. The Buckeyes nearly doubled them over, winning 96-49 back in December. The Bulldogs beat Auburn the first game of the season. Big whoop! They are, however, on a six-game winning streak.

Their opponent, Arkansas-Little Rock snuck into the tournament by beating North Texas in the Sun Belt tourney final, 64-63. The Trojans won four straight in the tournament and shocked even themselves and their coaches. Making these guys even more improbable, is their 19-16 record, not even a game against a ranked opponent and they finished with the 8th best record in their conference, at 7-9.

ADVICE: Take the kids from Asheville. At least they lost fewer games. Pitt will murder either of these teams.

Play-in Game 2: Clemson vs. UAB (East Region) 9:00 pm ET - This one is even worse. The Blazers blazed their way through the most overrated conference in America, Conference USA, winning the regular season with a 12-4 record. They lost to East Carolina, 75-70 in OT in the first round of their conference tournament (eventually won by Memphis). The Blazers did finish the season with a 22-8 record, though the bulk of those wins were over weak C-USA competition.

Clemson (21-11, 9-7) had a pretty solid season and sports a fine back-court, led by point guard Demontez Stitt, who led the Tigers in scoring, assists and steals. Clemson should be able to dominate the Blazers inside as well and it's a wonder the line is only -4 1/2. Clemson has an idea about winning tournament games and could easily advance in the next round, against a leaderless West Virginia squad. We'll have to wait and see.

ADVICE: Take the Tigers here and over WVA in the next round if you are playing some wide open brackets.

Wednesday, March 16:

Play-in Game #3: UTSA vs. Alabama State (East Region) 6:30 pm ET - Seriously, Alabama State was 17-17. There should be a rule that you can't get in if your team is .500 or worse, but the Hornets won the SWAC Tournament, so they get to play another game. The UTSA Roadrunners (let's hope there are no Wile E. Coyotes in the field) won the Southland tournament and here they are, complete with 19-13 record.

ADVICE: Hope the game is cancelled and Ohio State is given a bye, because neither of these teams stands a change against the Buckeyes.

Play-in Game 4: VCU vs. USC (Southwest Region) 9:00 pm ET - This game is at least interesting in that either team can win and have a chance against Georgetown, the #6 seed in the East, because Georgetown faded in the stretch and while they will have the services of point guard Chris Wright, but he has been out of action since mid-February and the Hoyas lost five of their last six, beating only South Florida.

VCU finished 4th in the Colonial Athletic and lost in the tourney final to Old Dominion. They sport some senior leadership and and compiled a 23-11 record over mostly nobody. They did beat UCLA and Wofford, though, and merit some respect. USC finished 4th in the PAC-10 with a 10-8 record and managed to beat both Texas and Tennessee and lost by just two points at Kansas. The Trojans have been up and down, but they're far more athletic than VCU and should win this one going away. Oddsmakers have them as a 4 1/2 point favorite, but they probably did that to encourage more people to take VCU.

ADVICE: USC played spirited ball down the stretch, winning six of their last seven and lost to Arizona in the conference tourney. They are surely well-rested and should also give Georgetown fits n the next round.

Check back tomorrow and every day for frequent updates on the Road to Houston and the Final Four.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nolan Smith Leads Duke Past Tar Heels for ACC Crown

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 13, 2011

Like his co-player of the year candidates, Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette, did the previous two days, Duke's exceptional Nolan Smith rose to occasion and willed his team to a win on Sunday, avenging a regular season finale loss to North Carolina, to capture the ACC tournament title, 75-58.

Smith, who was far from perfect from the floor, hit just 6 of 18 shots, but he did score a game high 20 points and distribute 10 assists to his teammates. As far as Smith and the Duke program are concerned, it was a beautiful team effort, with Seth Curry and Kyle Singler scoring 11 points each and three other players finishing with nine apiece.

Following the game, the NCAA tournament committee made Duke the number one seed in the West region, a fitting reward for their season-long exploits.

Three other games decided tournament titles, and thus, automatic bids. Ohio State beat Penn State, 71-60, for the Big Ten crown, Kentucky subdued Florida, 70-54, in the SEC and the Richmond Spiders took home the Atlantic Ten hardware with a 67-54 win.

Ohio State was awarded the #1 seed overall, in the East region. Pitt was the top seed in the Southeast and Kansas took #1 in the Southwest.

Beginning Monday, check this space for frequent updates with game recaps, previews and top performances for the duration of March Madness.

Freshman Barnes Lifts Tar Heels Over Clemson; Will Face Duke in ACC Final

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday saw loads of teams admitted to the Big Dance - too many to mention, in fact - but the most impressive performance of the day came from freshman Harrison Barnes, whose 40 points was the most by a freshman since Tyler Hansbrough did it in 2006 and led the North Carolina Tar Heels back from a huge deficit to force overtime and eventually beat Clemson, setting up a Sunday ACC Tournament final between Duke and North Carolina.

Barnes was simply unconscious, hitting 12 of 17 shots from the floor, including 6 of 8 three-pointers. He also went 10-for-11 from the foul line and snatched away 8 rebounds as the Tar Heels turned away the Tigers, 92-87, outscoring Clemson in OT, 19-14. Barnes' 40 was also a record for scoring by a freshman in the ACC tournament.

The North Carolina rise from the ashes has been extraordinary, to say the least. After losing to Texas and dropping to 7-4 in December, the Tar Heels have gone 19-2 since, including 12-2 in the ACC, winning the conference regular season by beating Duke in their final game, and are currently on a 9-game winning streak at just the right time. A win over the Blue Devils could actually land them a #1 seed in the NCAAs, though a #2 seems the most likely scenario, with the four #1 seeds going to Notre Dame, Pitt, Ohio State and Kansas, though, with Notre Dame losing to Louisville in the Big East semi-final, nothing's for certain.

Later today, the NCAA will release the full field of 68, after the finals of the remaining tournaments - SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Atlantic 10. CBD will be up late putting together our exclusive tourney cheat sheet to make your bracket busting fun and maybe even profitable.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

BYU Reaches Finals as Jimmer Fredette Drops 52 on Lobos

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 11, 2011

UConn's Kemba Walker was magnificent, leading the Huskies to a 76-71 overtime win over Syracuse in the Big East semi-finals, but what Jimmer Fredette did for BYU was record-setting.

Walker scored 33 points to go with 12 boards, five assists and six steals setting up a date in the finals with Louisville on Saturday; likewise Fredette led the Cougars to the finals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. They will face San Diego State on Saturday.

A leading candidate for NCAA player of the year, Fredette scored a career-high 52 points, on 22-of-37 shooting, with seven three-pointers, leading the Cougars to an 87-76 win which snapped a four-game losing streak to the Lobos.

Fredette went to the foul line just once in the game and made his only free throw. His 52 points propelled him past Danny Ainge to become BYU's all-time leading scorer, set a conference tournament record and tied Marshon Brooks of Providence for the most points in a single game this season. BYU takes on the Aztecs at 7:00 pm ET, while the Huskies play Louisville - 83-77 OT winners over Notre Dame - for the Big East tourney championship at 9:00 pm ET in Madison Square Garden.

NOTABLE: A number of conference championships will be decided on Saturday with the rest - including the Big 10 and SEC - on Sunday. Two of the biggest are Kansas vs. Texas in the Big 12 at 6:00 pm ET and Washington vs. Arizona for the PAC title, also at 6:00 pm ET.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kemba Walker Hits Buzzer-Beater to Oust Pitt from Big East Tourney

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 10, 2011

Having just about done everything that could be expected from a player this season, including leading the NCAA in scoring for the first few weeks of the season and bringing a suspect Connecticut squad into national prominence, Kemba Walker put an exclamation point on his season as he calmly tossed in an 18-foot jumper as time expired to catapult the Huskies to a 76-74 quarterfinal win over Pitt in the Big East tournament.

With Panther defenders focused on limiting his penetration and scoring, Walker had a tough night shooting, going 8-for-22 from the field, but he nailed down 8 of 9 from the foul line and led the Huskies in scoring with 24 points. Walker also grabbed 5 boards and tossed five assists. Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs led all scorers with 27 points, hitting 6 of 7 from three-point range.

Connecticut advances to the semi-finals to face Syracuse, 79-73 winners over St. John's, at 7:00 pm Friday night. The Orange and Huskies met two years ago in the Big East tournament and produced a classic, 6-overtime game won by the Orange. Syracuse was the only Big East team to beat St. John's at Madison Square Garden, also having done so during the regular season.

In the other quarterfinal games, Notre Dame dispatched Cincinnati with ease, winning, 89-51, and Louisville took a seven point lead into half time and outscored Marquette by 20 in the second half for an 81-56 victory.

The Cardinals and Fighting Irish face off in the other semi-final match-up, following the SU-UConn tilt.

NOTABLE: Colorado seems to have secured their NCAA berth, dumping Kansas State for the third time this season while advancing to the semi-finals in the Big 12 with an 87-75 win. The Buffaloes face #2 Kansas in one semi-final at 7:00 pm ET. Texas and Texas A&M square off in the other semi-final game.

In the PAC-10 conference tourney, USC plays Arizona and Washington takes on Oregon in semi-final action Friday night.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Colorado Likely in Field of 68 after Big Game by Burks; Blackbirds and Bears Get Bids

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 9, 2011

With tournaments underway in all the major conferences - and most of the minor ones - college hoops has entered the elimination phase of March Madness.

On Tuesday, it was Villanova deposited atop the NCAA bubble, and Wednesday saw St. John's narrowly defeat Rutgers with a controversial 65-63 win in a game that ended at least 1.7 seconds too soon. The refs who blew the call must have had a prior engagement as they rushed off the court without seeing that St. John's player, Justin Brownlee had stepped out of bounds.

Nonetheless, the result stood and Rutges can go home wondering what might have been.

In the Big 12 tourney, Nebraska saw its hopes dashed in a 53-52 loss to Oklahoma State, while the surging Colorado Buffaloes live to fight another day thanks to an outstanding effort from Alec Burks and his 29 points. The Buffs downed stubborn Iowa State, a team which had knocked off the Buffaloes just a week ago, by a 77-75 score to advance to the next round of the tourney.

Even if the Buffaloes lose to Kansas State - they beat the Wildcats twice during the regular season - Colorado looks comfortably off the bubble as the sixth team in from the Big 12.

Burks, who leads the Buffalos in scoring and assists, produced a double-double with 29 points and 15 boards. A 6'6" sophomore guard that is a match-up nightmare, hit 9 of 16 shots and canned 11 of 14 free throws, adding in six assists and three steals for good measure.

The Buffalos finished the regular season with an 8-8 record, but won four of their last six games and now have a cumulative record of 20-12, seemingly a good enough fit for a pair of dancing shoes.

NOTABLE: A few more teams punched their dance card tickets by winning their conference tournaments on Wednesday. Long Island had to go to overtime to down Robert Morris, 85-82 and grab the bid from the Northeast Conference. The Blackbirds took the regular season crown in a breeze with a 16-2 record and are 25-7 overall.

Coming out of the Big Sky, Northern Colorado will make its first ever NCAA appearance, after winning the regular season (13-3) and slipping by Montana, 65-60, in the tourney final. The 21-10 Bears head to the NCAAs with a seven-game winning streak.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Solomon Bozeman Sends Trojans Dancing; Villanova Bubble-icious

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Solomon Bozeman kept his team in hotly-contested Sun Belt final with North Texas and stepped up with a crucial three-pointer (his only trey of the game) with 1.5 seconds left to put the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans ahead by a point to win the conference tourney, 64-63.

A senior guard, Bozeman was the Sun Belt Player of the Year, and showed why with his clutch, game-winning shot that sends the Trojans to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990. The North Texas players were stunned and deflated after the winning shot, especially after leading by seven points with under a minute to play.

Bozeman led all scorers with 20 points, hitting 6 of 12 shots from the field (1-for-2 from beyond the arc) and 7 of 8 free throws. He's averaged 16.5 points per game this season and now has the opportunity to add to his, and the Trojans' resume.

NOTABLE: The Villanova Wildcats seem to have dug themselves a hole from which they may not emerge again this season, losing their fifth straight game, in the opening round of the Big East tournament, dropping a 70-69 to South Florida.

Villanova's slide has been pronounced as the Big East season wore on. The Wildcats lost six of their last eight games in the regular season, falling to 9-9 in conference play and now must watch and wait through the Big East tournament to see if the NCAA tournament selection committee still feels they are worthy of an invitation. At 21-11 and sitting out the fun and games at Madison Square Garden, they're looking mighty shaky.

Butler will be dancing once again, after beating Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Horizon League championship game, 59-44. The Bulldogs, who lost to Duke in last season's NCAA final, took control early and led by 15 points just minutes into the game. Senior Matt Howard was the game's high scorer with 18 points.

Oakland took the Summit League championship with a 90-76 victory over Oral Roberts. The Golden Grizzlies went 17-1 in conference play, easily winning the regular season title and now will represent their conference at the NCAAs.

In the Ivy League, Princeton tied Harvard for first place, winning, 70-58, at Penn, setting up a one-game playoff for the league title and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The game will be played at a neutral site, Saturday, at Yale’s John J. Lee Amphitheater in New Haven, Connecticut. Both Princeton and Harvard finished the regular IvY League season with 12-2 records.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Old Dominion, Wofford, St. Peter's, Gonzaga Go Dancing

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, March 7, 2011

Big Frank Hassell dominated in the lane and the Monarchs of Old Dominion ruled over the VCU Rams, 70-65, in the Colonial Athletic Conference tournament final.

Hassell, a 6'9", 255 behemoth, scored 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting, many of his baskets dunks or easy layups on feeds from his hawk-eyed teammates. when he was harassed and fouled, Hassell was efficient at the free throw line, hitting 6 of 7 attempts. He also fell one rebound short of a double-double, grabbing nine boards.

ODU gets the automatic bid for their conference, after finishing tied for second place during the regular season with Hofstra, at 14-4. George Mason, which took the regular season with a 16-2 record, is also expected to receive an invitation to the Big Dance, via the at-large route.

NOTABLE: Two other teams punched their ticket to the NCCA tourney Monday night. Gonzaga outlasted a determined St. Mary's squad to capture the West Coast Conference tournament final, 75-63, and surprising St. Peter's upset Iona, 62-57, to grab the automatic bid from the Metro Atlantic Athletic conference. The Peacocks beat both Fairfield and Iona in the tourney after having lost all four of their regular season games against the two which finished 1-2 in the conference.

Wofford downed Charleston, 77-67, in the Southern Conference tournament final. The Terriers will represent their conference in the NCAAs for the second straight season. Last year, they were taken down in the opening round by Wisconsin, 53-49.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Diebler Leads Buckeye Rout of Wisconsin

College Hoops Player of the Day for Sunday, March 6, 2011

In their final regular season game, capping off their Big Ten title, the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes took a victory lap at home, avenging one of their two losses this season, whipping the #10 Wisconsin Badgers, 93-64.

Amid the scoring onslaught, senior guard Jon Diebler had himself a nearly perfect afternoon, leading all scorers with 27 points on 8-for-10 shooting, going 7-of-8 from beyond the arc and hitting 4 out of 5 free throws. Ironically, Diebler's first three-point attempt - which he missed - was the only errant 3-pointer of the day for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes set an NCAA mark for a team attempting 10 or more 3-pointers by going 13-for-14 on threes, an incredible 93%.

Jared Sullinger added 22 for the Buckeyes, who head to the post-season with the best record in the country along with Kansas, at 29-2.

NOTABLE: Winning the regular season isn't everything, as the Fairfield Stags are learning after being dumped by St. Peter's in the semi-finals of the Metro Atlantic tournament, 62-48. The Stags had dropped the Peacocks twice during the regular season - once by 27 points - but shot just 33% for the game as St. Peter's clamped down on defense and move to the finals to face Iona Monday night.

A similar fate was dealt to George Mason, which had won the Colonial Athletic conference going away with a 16-2 record. They were knocked off by VCU in the tournament semi-final, 79-63, though there are indications that the Patriots will still receive an at-large invitation to the NCAAs. VCU, 12-6 during the regular season, will face Old Dominion, winner of eight straight, in the final, Monday night.

One more team secured an automatic bid on Sunday. Indiana State defeated Missouri State, 60-56, to take the Missouri Valley conference tournament title.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tar Heels Rout Duke Behind Kendall Marshall's Double-Double

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 5, 2011

Point guard Kendall Marshall scored 15 points and distributed 11 assists as the #13 North Carolina Tar Heels captured the ACC regular season title with an 81-67 victory over their chief rival, the #4 Duke Blue Devils.

Even though ACC leading scorer Nolan Smith had 30 points, only he and Seth Curry (20 points) were in double figures for Duke. While the Blue Devils were struggling, shooting just 36% from the field, thanks to the deft ball-handling of Marshall, North Carolina players got layups and close-in shots to go 33-for-63 (52%) overall.

It's been an amazing turnaround for North Carolina, a team that suffered early-season losses to Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Illinois and Texas, but made changes and came away with a 14-2 record in the ACC. Coach Roy Williams should be given credit for sticking with his young troops, but when Marshall took over as the full time point guard is when things really started clicking. The Tar Heels head into the ACC tourney with loads of momentum.

NOTABLE: Beware the Aggies! No, not Texas A&M, Utah State and their clamp-down defense, which held Louisiana Tech to 18% shooting (10-56) in the regular season finale for both teams. Tai Wesley had 11 points and 8 boards in the 72-30 shellacking. The #25 Aggies are 28-3, clinched the WAC weeks ago and finished with a 15-1 record, their only loss coming at Idaho. Wesley is difficult to handle inside, and, even though Louisiana Tech was the worst team in the conference (2-14), holding any team to 30 points for a full game is pretty impressive.

In the Big East, seeding was completed for the upcoming tournament at Madison Square Garden. Pitt captured the regular season crown with a 15-3 record and a 60-50 win over Villanova, losers of their last four and in danger of being passed over by the selection committee. Also precariously on the NCAA bubble are Connecticut and Marquette, which, along with the Wildcats, finished up 9-9 and will play on Tuesday.

Along with Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville and Syracuse will get double byes for the tourney, and next hit the hardwood on Thursday. Single byes went to St. John's, Georgetown, Cincinnati and West Virginia.

IN-SKI: Three teams have already clinched automatic bids to the NCAA tournament with more coming today and as the week progresses through conference tournaments. Of 31 automatic bids, 30 are gained by winning said conference tournaments and one, the Ivy League, going to the regular season champion. Already in are Belmont, winners of the Atlantic Sun; Morehead State, from the Ohio Valley; and UNC Asheville from the Big South.

Harvard topped Princeton, 79-67, to, at worst, tie the Tigers for a share of the Ivy League title. Princeton plays at Penn Tuesday night and a win would put both Harvard and Princeton at 12-2, setting up a one-game playoff at a site as yet to be determined, probably played on Friday or Saturday, to determine both the league champion and the NCAA automatic bid.

Harvard has never won an Ivy League title since the league was formed in 1956-57. Princeton has won it 25 times. There's a chance that both teams could make the tournament, though a slim one, as each school has compiled strong records. Harvard is 23-5; Princeton, 23-6.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Conference Tourneys Underway; Wood Hoists Valpo with 30

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 4, 2011

Close calls, overtime and exultation typified the opening rounds of conference tournaments from the Metro Atlantic to the West Coast.

While no ranked teams took to the hardwoods on Friday, the action was no less exciting, as teams vie for one final chance to impress the NCAA tournament committee or perhaps pull off enough upsets to win their conference tournament and thus receive an automatic bid.

One such team on a mission is Valparaiso, which finished the regular season in the Horizon League at 12-6, a game behind the trio of Butler, Cleveland State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Crusaders outlasted a gritty Detroit squad, 88-78, getting 30 points from the team's leading scorer, junior guard Brandon Wood. Wood hit on 11 of 22 shots from the field, but was dead on from beyond the arc, nailing 7 of 10 three-pointers.

Advancing to the semi-finals against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, Valparaiso is keeping hope alive that they can get to the final against the winner of the Cleveland State - Butler match-up and grab the whole prize with a win. The Crusaders split their two games with each of the three teams above them in the standings, with each team winning at home.

For more scores and recaps of a slew of opening round tournament games from the Colonial, Missouri Valley, Horizon, Ohio Valley, West Coast, Metro Atlantic, Southern and Atlantic Sun conferences, click here.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Jordan Taylor Pumps in 39 for Badgers in 77-67 Win Over Hoosiers

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 3, 2011

Looking extremely strong and confident heading into the post-season, the Wisconsin Badgers won their 4th straight and 8th of their last nine, winning at Indiana, 77-67, behind a career high 39 points from their star point guard, Jordan Taylor.

Hitting seven of eight three-pointers on shooting of 11-for-19, Taylor took on the scoring load, accounting for just more than half of the Badgers' total. He also went 10-for-10 from the charity stripe and scored in double figures for the 28th time in 29 outings.

Wisconsin is all set for the Big Ten tournament which commences next week and could be the #1 seed in the Midwest should they manage to win the tourney or defeat Ohio State, or both. At 13-4, they've secured at lest third place in the conference, behind 15-2 Ohio State and 14-3 Purdue.

Taylor, a junior, will get strong consideration for Big Ten player of the year, along with Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger and Purdue's JaJuan Johnson.

NOTABLE: Jeremy Hazell scored 31 points and the Seton Hall Pirates - the worst three-point shooting team in the Big East - nailed 12 of 18 from beyond the arc in an 84-70 upset of St. John's, snapping the Red Storm's 6-game win streak. It's not a huge deal for St. John's, though a win might have wrapped up a double bye in the upcoming Big East tournament, which begins Tuesday on St. John's home court at Madison Square Garden.

The PAC-10 is still evolving into what looks like four NCAA tournament bids. Washington stopped UVLA in its tracks with a 70-63 home win, but the major development of the evening was Washington State's 85-77 victory over USC. The Cougars have won two straight to get to 9-8 in conference play, host UCLA on Saturday in their final regular season game before heading into the conference tourney. A couple of wins in the PAC-10 tournament could land the Cougars the 4th bid for the PAC-10, along with Arizona, Washington and UCLA.

Some key games to watch on Saturday are #8 Notre Dame at #16 UConn; #19 Villanova at #4 Pittsburgh; #21 Vanderbilt at #14 Florida; and the late night spectacle (9:00 pm ET) of #4 Duke at #13 North Carolina. Ivy League fans will be thrilled with Princeton at Harvard, a game that could determine the conference champion.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Lobos Stun BYU Again as Mountain West is Mashed

College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sometimes, a team just has another team's number.

In the case of the New Mexico Lobos, that number is two, the times they've beaten BYU this season, or maybe it's 32, the number of Jimmer Fredette's jersey (he had 33 in the most recent loss), but probably it's 18, the number of points by which they beat the Cougars, in an 82-64 thrashing at BYU Wednesday night.

18 is also double the number by which the Lobos topped the Cougars last time they met, when New Mexico stopped them, 86-77, back on January 29.

Junior guard Phillip McDonald, who had a mere 11 points in their first meeting, set the tone with 26 on Wednesday, hitting 9 of 14 shots from the field, including 5 of 8 from three-point range, making many in the crowd wonder, "Jimmer who?"

The Lobos also took advantage of the absence of BYU's Brandon Davies, as forward Drew Gordon dominated inside, with 15 points and 15 boards. Davies was booted from the team for allegedly engaging in pre-marital sex, a violation of team and school codes which maintain that students remain virtuous and chaste. Like it or not, rules are rules, and Davies broke one.

Missing his presence in the middle, as the Cougars' third-leading scorer and top rebounder, sets up a potentially game-changing scenario in the upcoming Moutain West conference tournament, the winner of which receives and automatic bid to the NCAAs.

With #3 BYU supposedly already in, the door is now open for UNLV (10-5 in conference play) and New Mexico (7-8, but hosting 6-9 Air Force in their final regular season game). Of course, with BYU missing one of their key starters, somebody still has to beat San Diego State, and the only team to have done that this season is BYU, twice.

That team could be the Runnin' Rebels, upon whose home court the tournament will be played. San Deigo State topped them twice this season, but only by six points each time. Maybe the Lobos will rise to the occasion, though they've lost to the Aztecs by 6 and 10 points.

Whatever the case, expect the Mountain West to send three teams - BYU, San Diego State, and somebody else - and maybe even four, onward to March Madness.

NOTABLE: BIG EAST not so easy... Connecticut, after surprising many early in the season, is clearly on the tournament bubble now, having lost convincingly at West Virginia Wednesday night, 65-56. The Huskies have dropped three of their last four and finish up their regular season at home against Notre Dame on Saturday.

Tied at 9-8 with Marquette and Villanova, the Huskies, if they lose to the red-hot Fighting Irish will need a couple of wins in the Big East tournament to garner enough consideration by the selection committee to advance to the NCAAs. All three of the 9-8 teams are ensured to finish at least at .500, though Villanova is also on the ropes, having to play on Saturday to close out their regular season at Pitt. The Wildcats have lost three straight and five of their last seven.

Marquette appears to be the lucky dog of the bunch, finishing up at Seton Hall, also on Saturday. The Golden Eagles had won three straight before falling to Cincinnati on wednesday, 67-60.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Jon Diebler Hits 10 3s as Ohio State Rolls Over Nittany Lions

College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ohio State's Jon Diebler didn't take any shots from inside the three-point line in the Buckeyes' lopsided, 82-61, win at Penn State.

Diebler's touch from downtown was deft, hitting 10 of 12 three-pointers en route to scoring a game-high 30 points. That was it. He didn't even get to the foul line, not even once, as he set a personal career high and set the record for 3-pointers in a game for an Ohio State player.

The top-ranked Buckeyes took a 15-point lead into half time and expanded it from there. Will Buford added 21 points, as he and Diebler accounted for nearly two-thirds of Ohio State's total.

The Buckeyes close out their regular season on Sunday, hosting Wisconsin. Only the Badgers and Purdue have beaten Ohio State this season, both losses occurring on the road. Ohio State is 28-2 and 15-2 in the Big Ten. They look like a certain #1 seed for the Midwest region.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Fighting Irish Shock and Awe Assault

College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 28, 2011

The US military coined the term "shock and awe" to describe what opposing inhabitants would think of our bombing attack, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish may have successfully transferred the terminology into basketball parlance by bombing Villanova Monday night.

The Irish, undefeated at home this season, bombed the Wildcats, 93-72 in a game that was decidedly one-sided from just about the opening tip. The Irish opened the game with a trio of three-pointers and went on from there, hitting 20 of the 32 shots they took from beyond the painted arc.

Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough both scored 30 points, Abromaitis registering a season high with 9 of his 13 three-point shots falling pure. Hansbrough, being mentioned widely for Big East Player of the Year honors, was 8-for-12 overall, with 7 of 10 threes. He was also a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line.

The 20 three-pointers was a Notre Dame record, and the 8th-ranked Irish are also the only team in the Big East to go undefeated at home this season, a perfect 17-0. The win put them 1/2 game behind Pittsburgh (13-3) for the Big East lead, with a 13-4 record and one game left to play, that a Saturday tip at UConn. Pitt plays at South Florida on Wednesday and closes out at home vs. Villanova.

The Wildcats have been skidding, losing five of their last seven games, and a loss at Pitt would put them at 8-8 in the conference, though they are 21-9 overall, their only non-conference loss coming at Tennessee in November.

NOTABLE: Just about the time everybody assumed the Kansas State Wildcats were dead, they came roaring back to life. Over the past two weeks the Wildcats have beaten Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas, knocking off the Longhorns, 75-70, Monday night in Austin. The five game win streak, following a loss to Colorado which many were scratching their heads over, was like a Midwest tour de force, and Kansas State once again looks the part of a contender.

As it turns out, the loss to Colorado was no fluke. The Buffs are 7-7, beat Texas on Saturday and are battling for respectability with Nebraska and Baylor. Kansas Stat etook over 4th place in the conference at 9-6 and appear to be a lock for the NCAA tourney.