Friday, March 23, 2012

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard: SEC Rising

With Florida's 68-58 win over Marquette in the West region semi-final, the SEC - which sent just four teams to the tournament - suddenly is looking pretty good, especially since, beside the Gators, the only other remaining team from the conference is Kentucky, the #1 seed in the South and the tournament's overall #1 seed.

The Wildcats face Indiana (one of just two teams to beat Kentucky this season) on Friday, while the Gators have a Saturday date with Louisville for the right to advance to the Final Four.

Elsewhere on Thursday night, the Big Ten and Big East took turns beating up each other. Syracuse took out Wisconsin, and Louisville beat #1 West seed, Michigan State. Ohio kept the Big Ten looking good with a win over Cincinnati. The Big East won two and lost two, while the Big Ten won just one, and lost two.

The SEC's .750 winning percentage is better than either of those two conferences.

Through games of Thursday, March 22

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 4 3
ACC 5 3
Big East 13 7
Big Ten 10 4
Big 12 6 5
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 2
Mountain West 1 4
Ohio Valley 1 1
PAC-12 1 2
SEC 6 2
West Coast 2 3
All others 7 19

Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas Lead Buckeyes Past Bearcats

College Hoops Player of the Day for Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ohio State's 81-66 win over Cincinnati in the East region semi-final was the largest margin of victory of the four games played Thursday night.

The primary reason that the #2 seeded Buckeyes were able to put away the Bearcats so handily was their dominance in the paint, on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

Jared Sullinger recorded yet another double-double, his second - in three games - of the tournament and his 16th of the season, with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Sullinger was 7-for-13 from the field and made nine of 10 free throws. Five of his rebounds were offensive.

His front court running mate, Deshaun Thomas, poured in a game high 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including three of five three-pointers. Four of Thomas' seven rebounds were of the offensive variety.

If Ohio State reaches the Final Four (they face East region #1 seed Syracuse on Saturday for the right to advance), Thomas could be looking at tournament Most Outstanding Player. He scored 31 points with 12 rebounds against Loyola (MD) and dropped in 18, with seven boards, in Ohio State's win over Gonzaga.

NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Results & Recaps, Thursday Late Games

East Region

(2) Ohio St. 81, (6) Cincinnati 66 - The Sweet 16 battle of Ohio became Cincinnati's Waterloo as the Ohio State Buckeyes cruised past the Bearcats and onto the regional final against Syracuse.

Buckeye forwards Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger led the charge with 26 and 23 points, respectively. Point guard Aaron Craft's heady defense and 11 points, six steals, five assists and four rebounds were a huge contribution to the success of Ohio State.

The East region will conclude with a chalky complexion, as the #1 and #2 seeds battle for the right to advance to the Final Four in New Orleans.

West Region

(7) Florida 68,(3) Marquette 58 The Florida Gators will face the region's #4 seed, Louisville, in Saturday's regional final after taking out Marquette Thursday night.

Florida freshman Bradley Beal led all scorers with 21 points on 8-for-19 shooting, along with six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

Billy Donovan's efficient Gators held the edge in rebounding and assists and made 13 of 15 free throws.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

NCAA Tournament: Results & Recaps of Thursday Sweet 16 Early Games

East Region

(1) Syracuse 64, (4) Wisconsin 63 - 32-2 Syracuse survived their second one-point victory of the season, advancing to the regional final as the #1 seed. Wisconsin, forced to foul with 18 seconds to play and down by a point, put Kris Joseph on the line for a one-and-one. When Joseph missed the front end, Wisconsin had their opportunity for the upset, but Jordan Taylor's heave from well beyond the three-point line did not catch iron and the clock expired on the Badgers.

The only other one-point win for the Orange this season was a 52-51 nail-biter at Louisville, on February 13. Wisconsin stayed in the game by hitting an amazing 14 of 27 three-point shots (52%). The two teams combined for just 12 turnovers, six by each team. Jared Berggren and Jordan Taylor each had 17 points for the Badgers. Syracuse had four players in double figures, led by CJ Fair's 15 points. The Orange shot 55% from the field, including five of nine from three-point range and the same (5-9) from the foul line.

West Region

(4) Louisville 57, (1) Michigan St. 44 - Louisville's defensive effort produced an easy win over Michigan State, the first #1 seed in the tournament to taste defeat. The Cardinals held the Spartans to a mere 29% from the field and 24% (5-for-21) from three-point range. Louisville was superior in the paint. Chane Behanen was the game's leading scorer with 15 points, along with eight boards. Center Gorgui Dieng scored just five points but blocked seven shots and ripped down nine rebounds.

Louisville has run off seven straight wins, including four in a row to capture the Big East championship.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Previews, Thursday Games

East Region

(1) Syracuse (33-2) vs. (4) Wisconsin (26-9), 7:15 pm ET - A serious contrast in styles awaits fans at the TD Garden in Boston. The Syracuse attack is predicated on turnovers and fast break points out of their 2-3 zone defense that most teams have trouble penetrating successfully. Wisconsin, however, does have advantages in three-point shooting and their own steady, heady defense on the opposite end.

While the Orange haven't seemed to have missed their center, Fab Melo, they also haven't played a team as disciplined as the Badgers, who don't turn the ball over very often. In their 60-57 win over Vanderbilt, Wisconsin suffered only eight turnovers and despite coming up on the short end in rebounds, shooting percentage and free throws, still managed to prevail. It gets tougher in the round of 16, and even though Syracuse has played well enough to win their previous two games, they'd better not get down early, because the Badgers have a way of milking leads and making others pay for their mistakes.

(2) Ohio St. (29-7) vs. (6) Cincinnati (26-10), 9:45 pm ET - The all-Ohio regional semi-final will be a gut-check for both teams, though if the Buckeyes get hot, they may be able to romp home with a win here because the Bearcats are not a great shooting team, relying more on defense to survive low scoring games. Cincinnati's wins in the tournament were both in the 60s, and, during the Big East regular season, they topped 80 points only twice.

By contrast, the Buckeyes have the players and system that can put up points in a hurry. Through their Big Ten season, they scored 80 or more four times and had a slew of wins in the 70s. Their two tournament wins were both in the 70s as well, and they won them by comfortable margins - 19 points over Loyola (MD) and seven better than a solid Gonzaga team.

West Region

(1) Michigan St. (29-7) vs. (4) Louisville (28-9), 7:47 pm ET - Both West regional semi-final games will be played at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ, so there won't be any perceived home advantage for any of the contestants. Both Michigan State and Louisville have been impressive through the first two games of the tournament and play very similar styles, though the Cardinals depend more on penetration by point guard Peyton Siva, whereas the Spartans have a go-to guy in Draymond Green, who registered a triple double in Michigan's opening win and a double-double taking down St. Louis to get to this point.

This is likely to be the defensive struggle of the night, as neither team is blessed with an abundance of offensive talent. A score with both teams in the 60s would not be surprising. Louisville, which ended their regular season with four losses in six games, has turned things around nicely, winning six straight, including the Big East tournament.

(3) Marquette (27-7) vs. (7) Florida (25-10), 10:17 pm ET - The Gators are arguably the faster team in this Big East-SEC match-up, but the Golden Eagles are a determined, consistent bunch who are difficult to label. They are surely among the best defensive teams remaining in the tourney, but they can go cold for long stretches on offense, which will hurt them badly if they don't score well against Florida.

Marquette made a shambles of their first two opponents in the tourney - BYU and Murray State - but Florida has big school credentials and demolished Virginia, 71-45 and Norfolk State, 84-50, making the Gators the tournament's biggest margin-of-victory team remaining. They have big time scorers in Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Eric Murphy. Either team will be a tough out, but Florida has coaching expertise in Billy Donovan and the scoring punch that could turn this into a catch-up game for the Golden Eagles, a condition at which they do not excel.

Monday, March 19, 2012

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard: Big Ten Send Four to Sweet 16

With Indiana, Wisconsin, Oho State and Michigan State winning their weekend games, the Big Ten has four teams heading into the round of 16. Three of the upcoming match-ups involve teams from the Big East, as Wisconsin faces Syracuse and Ohio State meets Cincinnati in the East, while Michigan State matches up with Louisville in the West. The other meeting will be a rematch of the Kentucky-Indiana rivalry. Indiana handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season back in December. The 73-72 setback was one of just two losses suffered by the Wildcats this season.

Through games of Sunday, March 18

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 4 3
ACC 5 3
Big East 11 5
Big Ten 9 2
Big 12 6 5
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 2
Mountain West 1 4
Ohio Valley 1 1
PAC-12 1 2
SEC 5 2
West Coast 2 3
All others 7 19

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.

NCAA Round of 32 Late Sunday Game Results and Recaps

Midwest region

North Carolina 87 Creighton 73 - Hailing from the Missouri Valley conference, the Bluejays of Creighton were no match for #1 seed North Carolina, who grabbed an early lead and expanded it to as many as 19 points in the second half. Doug McDermott had 20 points for Creighton, but little help from his teammates. Kendall Marshall led the Tar Heels with 18 points, 11 assists and four rebounds. Harrison Barnes scored 17 as North Carolina had five players in double figures and got 18 points from their bench. John Henson returned from a two-game absence and scored 13 points with 11 rebounds and four blocks.

It was reported after the game that point guard Kendall Marshall had suffered a fractured right wrist. No further details were immediately available.

Ohio 62 South Florida 56 - The Bobcats, champions of the Mid-America conference, advanced to the Sweet 16 with a victory over #12 seed South Florida. The Bobcats, seeded 13, were led by their back court of Walter Offett and GJ 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.

Awaiting the Bobcats in the next round is top seed North Carolina.

Kansas 63 Purdue 60 - #2 seed Kansas pulled out a victory of 10th-seeded Purdue, in a game the Jayhawks trailed until Elijah Johnson hit a three pointer with 5:01 left to give Kansas a 57-56 lead. The Boilermakers jumped out to an eight-point lead and maintained it nearly for the duration. After Johnson's bucket, Purdue scored, but Kansas came up with a late steal and dunk by Tyshaun Taylor which left Purdue with just 2.5 ticks. Purdue's Ryne Smith had a chance at the buzzer, but the ball glanced off the backboard and caromed off the rim.

Kansas meets 11-seed North Carolina State in the next round.

West region

Florida 84 Norfolk State 50 - As it turned out, Norfolk State's "one shining moment" was just that, as they could not rekindle the fire that led them to their upset of #2 seed Missouri, Friday night. Florida registered the largest margin of victory in the tournament to date. None of the Spartans scored in double figures, while the Gators had five, led by Kenny Boynton's 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Florida, the region's 7 seed, gets #3 Marquette in the next round.

East region

Cincinnati 62 Florida State 56 - In a game that was close throughout, Cincinnati, down, 50-49, scored seven straight points late, keyed by a steal and dunk by Dion Dixon and a short jumper from Cashmere Wright that put the Bearcats ahead for good. Sean Kilpatrick was the top scorer in the game with 18 points and six rebounds. A tenacious defensive struggle, both teams shot at just a 38% rate. Cincinnati, the region's #6 seed, became the fourth team from the state of Ohio to reach the Sweet 16, where they will face the 2nd-seeded Buckeyes of Ohio State for the right to advance.

South region

Xavier 70 Lehigh 58 - Lehigh raced out to an early 15-point lead, but Xavier chipped away, trailed 37-33 at the break and quickly evened the score in the second half. Lehigh didn't score a point from 8:08 to 1:03 left in the game as Xavier widened their unassailable lead. Xavier center Kenny Frease scored 25 points and tore down 13 rebounds. Tu Holloway chucked in 21, including four threes. Lehigh became the sixth 15 seed to defeat a #2 seed when they toppled Duke Friday night, but like the five before them, failed to win their following game. The 10th-seeded Musketeers move on to face #3 Baylor.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

NCAA Round of 32 Sunday Early Game Results & Recaps

Midwest region

North Carolina State 66 Georgetown 63 - The 11th seeded Wolfpack pulled off the upset of 3-seed Georgetown. The game was closely contested throughout, and came down to a final chance to tie on a three-point attempt by Georgetown's Jason Clark, but the late heave at the buzzer came up short, sealing the win for NC State, who will play the winner of Sunday night's Purdue-Kansas tilt. Kansas, the 32 seed in the region, is heavily favored over the 10th-seeded Boilermakers.

West region

Michigan State 65 St. Louis 61 - #1 seed michigan State led nearly throughout, but a resolute St. Louis team did not make their advancement to the next round an easy one, tightening the game and making the Spartan hit key free throws late.

Draymond Green has his usual big game with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, but point guard, Keith Appling, was the game's high scorer with 19 points. Michigan Stat moves on to a round of 16 meeting with Louisville.

NCAA Round of 32 Sunday Game Previews

12:15 pm ET, Midwest region: (3) Georgetown vs. (11) NC State - A pretty even match-up overall as both teams are playing their best basketball at the right time, though especially NC state, which will be seeking their second straight upset win (topped #6 San Diego State in their opener). The battle will be likely won or lost by Wolfpack big men, who have a bit of a size advantage over the Hoyas, but either team could benefit from hot shooting by the guards. Looks like a wide-open, fun affair.

5:15 pm ET Midwest region: (1) North Carolina vs. (8) Creighton - Two questions immediately arise upon looking at this game: 1) Will John Henson suit up and play?, and 2) Will Harrison Barnes of the Tar Heels or Creighton's Doug McDermitt have the bigger game. Barnes and McDermott were teammates in high school when the two won state championships together in Iowa. Henson, the lanky, shot-blocking forward, sat out North Carolina's opening win over Vermont and is still nursing a sore wrist, suffered in the SEC final against Vanderbilt.

Whatever the outcome of those questions, North Carolina has been a dominant team all season and are the pick to prevail over the last survivor from the Missouri Valley conference, though Creighton has a solid attack and is one of the better defensive teams in the tourney. How well McDermott performs will be key.

6:10 pm ET West region: (7) Florida vs. (15) Norfolk State - The Gators had an easy time getting past Virginia, while Norfolk State upset Missouri in their opener. Florida may not have an answer (does anybody?) for the spartan big man, Kyle O'Quinn, though they'll surely do better than Missouri did handling him. The other question is whether Norfolk St. can maintain their poise, hot shooting and emotion after the biggest win of their program. No 15-seed winner over a 2 seed has ever won their following game. The spartans have a chance to make some more history.

7:45 pm ET, South region: (10) Xavier vs. (15) Lehigh - Like Norfolk State, the Mountain Hawks can make NCAA history if they take out Xavier, who upset 7-seed Notre Dame in their opener. After beating back #2 seed Duke, Norfolk State will need to stay focused on defense, lest Tu Holloway goes off for 30+ points and the Musketeers ride his hot hand. The Mountain Hawks are probably still hungry following the Duke win and Xavier looks like they could be another victim in a weak draw.

9:40 pm ET, east region: (3) Florida State vs. (6) Cincinnati - The opening weekend of the tournament concludes with a real hard-knocking contest. Both teams are primarily defensive-oriented, but have managed to find enough offense to reach this point. The battle in the paint and on the boards may be ferocious, but the feeling is that the Seminoles are battle-tested after beating North Carolina in the ACC final and then rallying to beat a very similar-looking St. Bonaventure team in their opening game. A hot hand for either team could decide this. Keep a close eye on Cincy guard Cashmere Wright, who, as the name implies, has a smooth game.

Brady Heslip's Nine 3-Pointers Lift Baylor into Sweet 16

College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 17, 2012

On a good night, a sharp-shooting, three-point specialist will make four or five shots from beyond the arc. Any more than that generally deserves special mention by the basketball press. Six is great, seven is rare, but when a player goes off for nine from deep - especially under the pressure of the NCAA tournament - it is extraordinary.

That's what Brady Heslip did in Baylor's 80-63 ejection of Colorado and the PAC-12 from the tourney. Heslip took just 13 shots - 12 from outside the three-point line - and made nine of them, helping the Bears forge a round of 32 rout.

A native of Burlington, in Ontario province, Canada, Heslip fell two short of the tournament record 11, hoisted by Loyola Marymount's Jeff Fryer back in 1990. Heslip became the ninth player in NCAA tournament history to make nine or more threes. The win was Baylor's second straight in the tournament and their 29th overall against six losses. To reach 30 wins, the Bears will have to wait until Friday night, when they face the winner of the Xavier-Lehigh contest in the South region round of 16.

That should allow Heslip plenty of time to practice those long-range jumpers.

NCAA Tournament Conference Scoreboard; Big Ten Rocking, PAC-12 Out

With all but eight games left to be played over the opening weekend of the tournament, the Big Ten has clearly outclassed all other conference competing, having lost just one game (Michigan), while what may be the conference's best team, Michigan State, is up against St. Louis on Sunday.

The PAC-10, which only sent two teams to the tourney, is now completely out, after Baylor downed Colorado on Saturday night. Additionally, the three Westernmost conferences - PAC-12, WCC and Mountain West - have all been dismissed, after Louisville polished off the last of the four Mountain West teams, New Mexico, in Saturday's last game.

Those three conferences sent a total of nine teams, and none have survived the first two rounds. The results speak for themselves. The best basketball is being played almost overwhelmingly East of the Rockies and the majority of that, East of the Mississippi River.

Here's the breakout of conference records through Saturday, March 17:

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 3 2
ACC 3 2
Big East 10 3
Big Ten 8 1
Big 12 5 5
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 1
Mountain West 1 4
Ohio Valley 1 1
PAC-12 1 2
SEC 4 2
West Coast 2 3
All others 6 17

NCAA Round of 32 Results and Recaps, Late Saturday Games; Big Ten Huge, West, Out

East Region

Wisconsin 60 Vanderbilt 57 - The Big Ten notched another victory as the Badgers knocked off another SEC squad. Sharing the ball well, Wisconsin put five players in double figures and won the turnover battle, 8-12. The Badgers, who only went to the foul line eight times and made four, hit 10 three-pointers on 33 tries. The four seed in the region, Wisconsin will face top seeded Syracuse in the next round. It's the fifth time that Wisconsin has reached the Sweet 16 round under head coach Bo Ryan.

West Region

Marquette 62 Murray State 53 - Marquette, the 3 seed, put away #6 Murray State in a hotly-contested, defensive struggle to advance to the next round where they will meet the winner of the Norfolk State-Florida game.

The Golden Eagles out-shot Murray State, 38% to 31% and made 16 of 21 free throws. Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom each scored 17 points to pace the victors. Isaiah Canaan scored 16 for the Races, but his scoring came off a 4-for-17 effort.

Louisville 59 New Mexico 56 - The Cardinals led by a point at the half, 26-25, opened up a big lead and nearly let it slip away, but held on for the win. Russ Smith, who was 5-12 overall, but 4-5 from the field, paced Louisville.

New Mexico's loss marked the elimination of the last of the three Westernmost conferences, the PAC-12, WCC and Mountain West, a total of nine teams, none of which lasted two rounds.

South Region

Indiana 63 VCU 61 - Indiana added another win to the Big Ten's impressive total with a gutsy victory over a game VCU unit. The Hooisers took their only lead since very early in the second half on Will Sheehey's short jumper that left the Rams with just 12.8 seconds to play. Bradford Burgess, who led 12-seeded VCU with 15 points, had a good look at a three with time running out, but the ball bounced off the rim as time expired. Cody Zeller and Christian Watford, Indiana's powerful front court duo, led the scoring with 17 apiece. Indiana will face Kentucky in the round of 16.

The Big Ten has a 7-1 record in the tournament through Saturday, with Michigan State, the #1 seed in the Midwest, facing 9-seed St. Louis on Sunday.

Kentucky 87 Iowa State 71 - Kentucky took a 38-27 lead into intermission, but a determined Cyclone squad brought the game to a 42-all tie early in the second half. The Wildcats countered with a 20-2 run for a 62-44 lead and eventually led by as many as 24.

The game's leading scorer was Marquis Teague, who scored 24 points on 10-14 shooting, to go with six assists and three rebounds. Three other Kentucky players finished in the teens. Freshman sensation Anthony Davis scored 15 points with 12 boards, five assists and two blocks. Kentucky will face 4th seeded Indiana in the next round. The Hoosiers were one of just two teams to defeat the Wildcats this season.

Baylor 80 Colorado 63 - Behind Brady Heslip's 27 points on nine three-pointers, Baylor advanced to the Sweet 16 for just the second time in school history. The Bears broke open a close game late as Colorado went into a scoring funk in the closing minutes.

Heslip was 9-for-12 from beyond the arc and missed the only shot he took inside the three-point line. The 3rd seeded Bears will face the winner of Sunday's Xavier-Lehigh tilt in the next round. With the Buffaloes' defeat, the PAC-10 has no more teams in the tourney, as the only other representative from the conference, Cal, was taken out in a play-in game.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

NCAA Round of 32 Saturday Results & Recaps, Early Games

East Region

Syracuse 75 Kansas State 59 - The region's top seed, Syracuse went down by seven early, but stormed past the 8th-seeded Wildcats, who shot just 31% against the active Orange zone and made only four of 17 three-point attempts.

While Kansas State struggled offensively, Syracuse turned up their game a few notches, shooting 51% for the game, including a sizzling 6-for-9 from three-point land. Dion Waiters led the Orange with 18 points and Scoop Jardine was especially effective in the second half, scoring 15 points with a 3-for-3 stroke on threes.

Even without their shot-swatting center, Fab Melo, the long Orange tallied eight blocks in the contest. Syracuse advanced onto the Sweet Sixteen round, to face the winner of the Vanderbilt-Wisconsin game, to be played later on Saturday.

Ohio State 73 Gonzaga 66 - For the third straight year, Ohio State advanced to the Sweet 16 with a helter-skelter win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gerald Sullinger, who spent much of the game on the bench with foul issues, still finished with 18 points, tying him with Deshaun Thomas as the game's high scorers. Point guard Aaron Craft provided key buckets with 17, making seven of nine from the field with 10 assists.

Gonzaga, the region's 7-seed, stormed back from a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 61 on an Elias Harris 3-pointer, but #2 seed Ohio State was too much in the final minutes, keeping the Zags at bay the rest of the way. The Buckeyes will face the winner of the Florida State-Cincinnati game, a 3 vs. 6 contest.

NCAA Round of 32 Saturday Previews

A few quick notes on a few of Saturday's featured match-ups:

12:15 pm ET, East Region - (1) Syracuse vs. (8) Kansas State - Plenty of people looking for the upset here, after Syracuse struggled against UNC-Asheville in their opener, but the Orange don't play well against smaller, quicker teams normally. Kansas State offers plenty of size, and their big man inside (Henriquez) will benefit from Fab Melo's absense. A god one to start off a full day of hoops.

2:45 pm ET, East Region - (2) Ohio State vs. (7) Gonzaga - Both teams cruised through the opening round, but Gonzaga completely tore up the 10 seed, West Virginia, playing a boatload of subs, so the Zags will be poised for the upset. Could be the game of the day, but Gonzaga will keep this one close and could easily be seen winning it.

5:15 pm ET, West Region - (3) Marquette vs. (6) Murray State - A barn-burner from start to finish in a game featuring two teams with absolutely no quit in them. After the Racers took out Colorado State handily, the selection committee was probably wondering why they seeded the Racers as a 6 and not a 3 or 4. At 31-1, Murray State has the best record in the country. Marquette is playing at a very high level right now and will put forth a good showing, but nobody should be surprised with a Murray State win here.

7:10 pm ET, South Region - (4) Indiana vs. (12) VCU - How did VCU ever get seeded a 12. The best defensive team in the tournament by many standards, the Rams took out a very good Wichita State team in the opening round in yet another selection committee blunder: putting two of the best mid-major teams up against each other in a first round game. Indiana is a very good representative of the Big Ten, but this is what hoops fans want to see, the smaller schools up against the big conferences. VCU has a great deal more experience over the youthful Hoosiers, and should win this one going away.

7:45 pm ET, South Region - (1 Kentucky vs. (8) Iowa State - The Cyclones are possibly the sleeper of the tournament, coming out of the very tough Big 12, where they went 12-6 and split games with Kansas and Baylor and beat Kansas State twice. Their win over UConn was a sleep-walk, so it will be interesting to see what the Cyclones do against some real competition. Ditto for Kentucky, which waltzed through the SEC, but were beaten in the conference tourney final by Vanderbilt. Their slaughter of Western Kentucky in the opener was a snooze-fest, but the Wildcats have a not-so-secret weapon named Terrence Jones, who's had three double-doubles in his last four games and just missed in the other, scoring 14 points with 9 boards against Florida in the SEC Tourney.

NCAA Conference Scoreboard: Despite Upsets, Big Ten 5-1, Big East 7-3

With Friday's huge upsets - Lehigh (15) over Duke (2) and Norfolk State (15) over Missouri (2), damage was done to the ACC and Big 12, but despite Michigan (a 4 seed) losing to Ohio (13), the loss was just the first for the Big Ten, against five wins, including 12th-seeded Purdue's win over #7 St. Marys in the Midwest Region.

The Big East also took a loss as #10 Xavier downed #7 Notre Dame in the South, though South Florida picked up the conference with a win over the A-10 Temple squad (a 12 over a 5 seed) in the Midwest region.

Also, with the #9 seed in the West, St. Louis, taking out #8 Memphis, Conference-USA no longer has any representation in the tourney. Southern Miss, the other C-USA representative, a 9 seed, was taken out by Kansas State, the 8 seed in the East.

Through games of Friday, March 16

Conference W L
Atlantic-10 3 2
ACC 3 2
Big East 7 3
Big Ten 5 1
Big 12 4 3
Conf-USA 0 2
Missouri Valley 1 1
Mountain West 2 2
Ohio Valley 1 0
PAC-12 1 1
SEC 3 1
West Coast 2 2
All others 6 16

How many cake shows ARE there?

Thanks to Erasmo Cortez

Has anyone other than me noticed how many shows there are out there about cake? There are at least a baker’s dozen (see what I did there?). No really. Go look at your Direct tv guide and start counting them all. I think the original cake bakery that made it on TV was Charm City Cakes also known as Ace of Cakes. That show had it all. It had quirky characters like Chef Duff who always wore a hockey jersey no matter the weather. It had amazing looking cakes with such fine details and extras from lights on a police patrol car down to tiny buttonholes on the shirt of a modeling chocolate little kid. All of the cake shows that have come after Ace of Cakes have not quite lived up to Duff and his team for me. The cupcake store with the sisters is just kind of meh. Cupcake Wars is just plain awful and don’t get me started on the crew at Cake Boss, although, I can appreciate the story behind Carlos Bakery and all of its history. I think at least they have a little history and baking has been passed down from generation to generation in that family. Some of these other shows seem like they just woke up one day and decided to open a cupcake shop.

Kyle O'Quinn, CJ McCollum Lead Norfolk State, Lehigh Past #2 Seeds, Missouri, Duke

College Hoops Player of the Day for Friday, March 16, Month, 2012

Norfolk State's enormous, 86-84, upset over Missouri, the number two seed in the West region, was a monumental achievement that hasn't occurred since 2001, when Hampton defeated Iowa State, 58-57, in 2001.

Prior to Friday, a 15 seed beating a number two had only happened four times in the history of the NCAA tournament since expanding to 64 teams (now 68) in 1985. To get some perspective, that's four times in 28 years, out of a total of 112 2-15 match-ups.

Through Friday's games, mark that number up to six times in 116 2-15 meetings, because the Lehigh Mountain Hawks turned the trick on the Duke Blue Devils, knocking the #2 seed in the South region - along with coach Mike Krzyzewski, the winningest college basketball coach of all time, and all of Duke's storied history - out of the 2012 tournament with a smashing, 75-70, victory.

Never mind that sportswriters and sport bloggers won't have to scramble to rediscover how to spell coach K's name for the duration of the tourney; Lehigh's win was monstrous, and to think that two 15 seeds would beat two number two's in the same tournament, on the same day, well, that's one for the history books, an eventful day that may never happen again.

The tin-foil hat brigade will point to the unusual feat as a precursor to the Mayan calendar's prediction that the world will end on December 21, 2012, an omen of sorts, along with the record-setting warm winter and other assorted oddities and anomalies.

Whether or not the wins by the Spartans and Mountain Hawks (formerly the Engineers) have predictive or astronomical or numerological value can be debated another time. For now, the dual triumphs for the "little guy" remind us that anything is possible when men or women act together and execute on a plan.

The stars of the two games, Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn (St. Patrick's Irish eyes must surely be smiling today) and Lehigh's CJ McCollum, the co-players of the day, may have to share the spotlight for now, and the pair will be forever linked within the lore of collage basketball.

The two share some similarities and some differences. Both are big time scorers for little colleges, but McCollum is a 6'3" guard from small town Canton, Ohio while O'Quinn is a 6'10" center from big city Jamaica, New York, part of the New York City metropolis.

McCollum is more the run-and-gun type, as evidenced in his 30 point, 9-for-24 shooting spree against the Blue Devils, which included two three-pointers in seven attempts. But he also played the complete game, dishing six assists and grabbing six rebounds. McCollum also was 10-for-16 from the foul line.

O'Quinn did his work mostly around the rim, scoring 26 points for the Spartans against the undersized Tigers, powering inside for 10 buckets on 16 attempts, with a three-pointer (only his sixth of the season) in two attempts from outside the arc. O'Quinn had 14 rebounds for his 20th double-double of this season, was 5-for-9 from the stripe, blocked two shots and had a pair of assists.

When the celebration and laudatory remarks begin to fade sometime on Saturday, McCollum and O'Quinn will get back together with their teammates and coaches and start planning to see if they can write a little more history into this tournament. No #15 which had defeated a #2 has ever won their following game. On Sunday, the Mountain Hawks will face Xavier, the #10 seed, and the Spartans will go after Florida, a mere 7-seed.

Win or lose, Mayan predictions or otherwise, Friday, March 16 was a day for the record books.

Here are the previous 15-over-2 wins in NCAA history:

#15 Richmond beat #2 Syracuse 73-69 in 1991
#15 Santa Clara beat #2 Arizona 64-61 in 1993
#15 Coppin State beat #2 USC 78-65 in 1997
#15 Hampton beat #2 Iowa State 58-57 in 2001

NCAA Tournament Opening Round Late Games Results and Recaps

West Region

Michigan State 89 LIU-Brooklyn 67 - Michigan State led by five at the break and expanded their advantage into double digits in the second half, Draymond Green, Derrick Nix and Adrelan Payne plundered the interior for 24, 18 and 16 points, respectively. Green recorded the first triple double of the tourney with 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The top seeded Spartans easily advanced to face 9th seed St. Louis on Sunday.

South Region

Xavier 67 Notre Dame 63 - Tu Holloway scored 25 points to lead the 10 seed Musketeers to a win over 7 seed Notre Dame, advancing to the round of 32 to play Lehigh, the #15 seed that upset Duke earlier in the day, on Sunday. Holloway was 10-for-15 from the field with two three-pointers.

Midwest Region

South Florida 58 Temple 44 - South Florida trailed 19-8 during the first half and missed 22 straight fild goal attempts at one point, but rallied back to take a commanding lead as the game wore on.

Victor Rudd and Anthony Collins each scored 17 points for the Bulls in the 12 over 5 seed victory. The Bulls will face another upset winner, Ohio, the 13 seed in the region.

Kansas 65 Detroit 50 - The Kansas Jayhawks broke open a close game late in the first half and rolled to victory behind a game high 16 points from Thomas Robinson and 15 by Elijah Johnson, who was 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from three-point range. Kansas advances to face #10 seed Purdue in the next round.

Friday, March 16, 2012

NCAA Round of 64 Results & Recaps; Duke, Michigan Ousted

West Region

St. Louis 61 Memphis 54 - Kwamain Mitchell scored 22 points off the bench for the Billikens as St. Louis downed Memphis in a mild 9-8 upset. St. Louis held Memphis to 39% shooting and had a five rebound edge on the boards. Mitchell was 9-for-14, making 4 of 7 three-pointers.

South Region

Lehigh 75 Duke 70 - Lehigh's CJ McCollum threw up 22 shots, made nine of them, including two three pointers and was 10-for-16 from the foul line for a game high 30 points as the Mountain Hawks upset #2 seed Duke. It was the third major upset of the day, after #2 Missouri was knocked out of the West region by Norfolk State and Michigan, the #4 seed in the Midwest went down to Ohio.

Midwest Region

Ohio 65 Michigan 60 - Ohio took it to the Wolverines early and late, taking an early lead and maintaining it throughout. The Bobcats shot 51% from the field, while Michigan registered just 41% shooting. Ohio's DJ Cooper had the whole game on, leading all scorers with 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting (3-6 on threes) and four of five from the line with five assists and a couple of rebounds.

Purdue 72 St. Mary's 69 - The Boilermakers led the entire game, except for a few brief seconds late in the game when St. Mary's took a 69-68 lead with 44 seconds left. But Purdue scored the final four points of the contest to seal the win and move to the next round. Purdue guard Terone Johnson had a game high 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting with four rebounds and five assists.