Tag Archives: 2016 March Madness

NCAA Tournament Notebook: The Greatest National Championship Ever

What. A. Game!  The #1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels and #2 seed Villanova Wildcats were the rightful owners of the final two spots in the tournament, and didn’t disappoint.  In what may be the greatest National Championship game in history, Kris Jenkins ripped the hearts out of the Tar Heels at the buzzer, to bring the trophy back to Villanova.  Here’s how they did it.

Cats Camouflaged the Defense:

From the outset of the game, Villanova continuously ran varying defensive looks at North Carolina.  The Wildcats deployed a light three-quarter court press periodically, just to keep the transition in check.  By mixing up man-to-man and hybrid zone looks, the Tar Heels could never really get into a great rhythm.  Even when North Carolina would get a guard defending Brice Johnson, or Kennedy Meeks, they struggled to get the ball inside.  The Villanova guards pulled the old trick of not making body contact.  Post players hate that move.

Lettin’ Them Play:

In a season in which several rule changes were implemented, and there was heavy concern about the competency of referees across college hoops, these officials did a solid job of letting the game play out.  They were inconspicuous for much of the first half and allowed a lot of bumping, and physical play, while at the same time, not rushing to call the travels which resulted from the bumping.  Credit the refs for not taking center stage.

Flip the Script:

Early on, Villanova inverted its guards on a number of opportunities.  They focused on posting up Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart, taking the Carolina bigs away from the paint, and allowing paint touches.  This took pressure off of the perimeter, and freed up some clean looks.  Late in the game the Tar Heels did a solid job of taking that away, and blocked a number of shots on Villanova drives, which put them in position to tie the game late.

Uber Efficiency:

Joel Berry and Justin Jackson displayed extreme efficiency at the start, going 6-6 from three-point range in the first half.  Nova did a solid job of limiting the offensive boards that UNC got, almost eliminating the threat of the put-back, but it did provide opportunities for open threes.  Although Carolina dropped off slightly in the second half, it still came up with enough big shots, including Marcus Paige’s ridiculous double-clutch to tie the game with less than five seconds to play.

Crisp Offensive Sets:

The Wildcats were extraordinarily patient all game.  They never went away from what got them to this point.  Drive and kick action, dribble penetration leading to backdoor cuts, and avoiding challenge shots allowed them to shoot at a high percentage once again.

On the flip side, you could see the frustration on the faces of the Tar Heels in the second half when they got behind.  North Carolina played into the Nova game plan on offense, forcing challenged shots and attempting to create faux transition chances in order to jump-start a run.  It’s a credit to how talented the Tar Heels are that they were within seconds of winning, despite the execution of Villanova.

Man Up on the Glass:

The glaring weakness heading into the game was Villanova’s lack of size and depth compared to North Carolina.  I pictured a load of offensive put-backs by the Tar Heels as I analyzed this match-up.  The Wildcats completely nullified that.  Aside from the constant changing of defensive looks, Villanova’s energy and physicality outmatched Carolina.  Surprisingly, Josh Hart was one of the most important guys on the glass, snaring seven defensive rebounds.  The inability of North Carolina to be effective on the offensive glass was a deciding factor.

The Closing Sequence:

After going up by three with a couple of free throws from Hart, the Wildcats simply had to defend for one possession to claim the title.  It appeared that they would foul UNC to avoid a game-tying three-point shot, but chose not to, which I absolutely agree with.  Despite the result, Nova played some solid defense.  There’s no way you can account for what Marcus Paige was able to do with that insane double-clutch three.  And, if they had fouled, the College Basketball world would have been denied a legendary finish.

With barely more than four seconds left, it appeared Arcidiacono would simply pull up for a long triple.  Instead he showed tremendous patience, teeing up Kris Jenkins for as clean a look as you can ask for, and he absolutely laced it.  Thank you Kris for making me look like a genius.

What may have been the greatest National Championship game in College Basketball history ended in the best possible fashion.   I don’t care what anyone says, this was an unbelievable season, and it culminated with an outstanding NCAA Tournament.  Next season can’t come soon enough.

E-mail Damon at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DamoKnowsSports.

Photo: NCAA

2016 NCAA Tournament Notebook: Elite Eight Recap

West Regional Final: No 1. Oregon 68  – No 2. Oklahoma 80

If you bought a ticket for this game expecting to see a show, you got one. It was called the “Buddy Hield Show”. Hield was nothing short of dominant in this one, taking control of the game from start to finish.  He finished with a astounding 37 points on 13-20 from the field and 8-13 from three.  Hield was just too good, and nobody on the Ducks could stop him.  Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard chipped in nicely, finishing with 11 and 13 points, respectively.

Oklahoma jumped out to an early lead, and lead by 18 points at halftime.  Oregon tried to get back into it, but the Ducks could not get within anymore than 10.  Elgin Cook had a nice game for Oregon, scoring 24 points on 6-13 from the field, and Chris Boucher posted a double-double.  But it was too much Buddy for the Ducks to handle.  The stat of the game was three-point shooting: Oklahoma as a team shot 50 percent while Oregon shot 19 percent. That is not going to win you most ball games. Oklahoma looked like every bit of the team that America saw play early on this season. This team has its eyes on the prize.  Boomer Sooner is headed to the Final Four.

South Regional Final: No 1. Kansas 59  –  No 2. Villanova 64

Do you believe what we just watched? Believe it now, because Kansas is gone. Kansas did not look like the most dominant team in the country in this one.  Give all the credit in the world to Villanova. It played with so much tenacity and so much heart that Kansas really had no plan to overcome it. The first half was primarily controlled by Villanova, with the Wildcats leading at half by seven. The team’s exchanged blows throughout the second half and traded 8-0 and 9-0 runs.  The last five minutes would show both squads trading leads over each other, before Villanova would come up with a huge offensive foul on Devonte Graham that gave him five fouls, taking him out of the game. Kris Jenkins would hit two free throws, Kansas would miss on their following possession, and Jalen Brunson would put the icing on the cake with two more free throws with 3 seconds left.

Bill Self is undoubtedly one of the best coaches in the country, but tonight is a night he would like to forget. Anything that Self tried to do, Jay Wright had an answer to it.  This game was not a chance to see whose star player could outperform the opponent’s star player. It was about which team wanted it more. Sure, we can talk all day about stats, where the Wildcats had four starters score in double figures and the Jayhawks had three starters in double figures.  Really, it was the leadership of Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart that kept their team calm and poised every time Kansas looked like it was about to make a run.  And with that, the Villanova Wildcats have a date in the Final Four with Oklahoma.  Plus, it is only fitting that it was Ryan Arcidiacono’s birthday.

Midwest Regional Final: No 1. Virginia 62  –  No 10. Syracuse 68

In what appears to be the biggest upset in the Elite Eight so far, the Syracuse Orange made an epic 15 point comeback to take down yet another number one seed.  The game appeared to be all Virginia, with the Cavaliers flexing their muscles defensively and from the three-point line en route to a 14 point lead at halftime. The rout appeared to be on early in the second half with the Cavaliers up by at least 15 at one point. The magical run by No 10. Syracuse appeared to be over. Then, insert Malachi Richardson.  The freshman shooting guard put the team on his back, helping Syracuse go on a 20-4 run and a couple key three pointers late in the contest. Richardson would finish with 23 points on 3-7 shooting form behind the arch. Syracuse would knock down last second free throws to cement the upset victory. As a result, Virginia lets another Final Four opportunity walk away, and this one will haunt Tony Bennett and the Wahoos for a long time. And for Jim Boeheim, this will be his best coached team yet and his best run in his tenure at Syracuse. From sitting on the bubble to a Final Four birth, the Syracuse Orange can beat anyone and can be considered a legitimate threat to take down two more giants to win a national championship.

East Regional Final: No 1. North Carolina 88  –  No 6. Notre Dame 74

Finally, we have a number one seed that lives up to expectations. North Carolina wore down Notre Dame throughout the second half to a 14 point victory.  Early on, it looked like another giant could possibly be taken down, with the Irish and Tar Heels exchanging leads and runs.  It would be North Carolina, though, to take a five point lead into halftime.  North Carolina would start off with a run in the second half with Notre Dame coming back down 10 to take a lead. The Tar Heels would later lead again by 10, but then a key technical foul called on Brice Johnson would give the Irish some momentum, but clearly not enough, as North Carolina would go on a large run  and never look back. During that run, North Carolina would rack up offensive rebound after offensive rebound to wear down Notre Dame on the glass. In fact, this was the largest detail of the game with North Carolina destroying Notre Dame on the boards 32-15. Offensive rebounds were a big story with the Tar Heels tallying a 13-5 advantage over the Irish.  Demetrius Jackson did all that he could for Notre Dame with 26 points. But it was Brice Johnson that would rack up his 23rd double-double this season, with 25 points and 12 rebounds.

Notre Dame played well, but not well enough to beat mighty North Carolina for a second time this season. Roy Williams had his team ready to go, and they looked all the part of a number one seed Sunday night. With the Tar Heels playing like this, there is no doubt that they will be the favorites to play next Monday night for a national championship. Make no mistake, Roy Williams will make sure his guys do not look past the hot and surging Syracuse Orange; they are too experienced for that. As for Mike Brey, the Irish apparently can lose on Easter Sunday. What a good run for the Irish nonetheless.

 

Stats provided by ESPN.com

Image provided by creativecommons.org

NCAA Tournament: Sweet Sixteen Friday Games Notebook

Syracuse vs. Gonzaga

The battle of these two high seeded teams was the best played game of the night. When it came down the stretch Gonzaga did not make a basket in the last six minutes. While Syracuse was the opposite they were clutch towards the end of the game and Michael Gbinije had the go ahead basket for the game with 22 seconds left in the game . Gbinije was the leading scorer for the Orange tonight scoring 20 points on 8-23 FGs.

This game was full of ebbs and flows all night. Gonzaga started the night hot and playing well but the Syracuse zone finally got to work and slowing down the Zags offense and turned a game that looked like it was going a the way of a blow out for a Bulldog win into a dogfight that Syracuse was able to gut out and hold on in the final seconds to advance to the Elite 8 with a 63-60 win. Syracuse plays No. 1 seed Virginia Sunday March 27th at 3:09 pm pt on TBS.

Iowa State vs. Virginia

Georges Niang of Iowa State had one of the best games on Friday night of any player playing tonight in any game. But his 30 points 8 rebounds 4 assists were not enough to curb the Tony Bennett coached Virginia while they flexed their ACC muscle and showed why they deserved to be a No. 1 seed in this years edition of March Madness.

Virginia did a great job all night sharing the basketball and making sure to the spread the wealth with four guys scoring in double digits. The main difference in tonight’s game was that the Cyclones of Iowa State turned the ball over more and got out rebounded. Virginia was victorious winning by 13 points 84 to 71. The Orange move on in the dance and matchup with Syracuse who is the No. 10 seed game tips off at 3:09 pm pt on March 27th on TBS.

Indiana vs. North Carolina

This was a matching going into Friday that those who are all about tradition had circled on their calendars. The Tar Heels put on a clinic tonight should the nation as to why they are one of the favorites to with this tournament. They made Indiana work for a lot of their points while showcasing what UNC has done all year to some of the best teams in the nation.

Everyone in North Carolina’s starting five have at least 14 points. Both teams came to play tonight but Indiana just could not answer what the Tar Heels kept dialing up all night. North Carolina wins 101 to 86. MVP of this game was was Bryce Johnson  who had a double double for North Carolina with 20 points and 10 rebounds. North Carolina will move on to play Notre Dame on March 27th on TBS at 5:49 pm pt.

Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame

A game that had most on the edge of their seats more of the game had an ending that made Notre Dame fans celebrate and make those who are die hard Wisconsin fans sink to their feet in defeat. Demetrius Johnson of Notre Dame made the play of the game that ended Wisconsin’s season when he stole the ball with 14.7 seconds left in the game for the go-ahead layup. Giving the Fighting Irish a 61- 56 win and a spot in the Elite Eight. Demetrius Johnson was the man of the night all game making plays when he needed dropping 16 points while leading the team with 6 assists.

This matchup of Wisconsin and Notre Dame was so evenly matched going into the game and it showed throughout the night on the court. This along with the Gonzaga-Syracuse game was one of the best games tonight. Notre Dame moves one to play the North Carolina Tar Heels at 5:49 pm pt on TBS March 27th. Another great night of college basketball. Not sure how tonight will be topped this weekend but I’m sure it will happen being that this year’s basketball season has been one of surprises twist and turns.

Email Josh at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaLovern87.

Image via Wikipedia

NCAA Tournament: Sweet Sixteen Thursday Games Notebook

The NCAA Tournament got back into the swing of things Thursday night with four games in the South and West Regions.  Despite all of the craziness which took place over the first four days of the tournament, these two regions made it through essentially true to form, with Maryland as a No. 5 seed being the only “outlier.”  Although there was late-game drama, each of the winners displayed an impressive imposition of their will power.

Wildcat Supernova

Villanova exploded out of the gates, and despite some first half resistance from the Hurricanes, the Wildcats ended Miami’s season in dramatic and catastrophic fashion.  This is the Villanova team that can be devastating to just about any opponent when they hit shots, and disrupt defensively.  Miami was rattled early by the three-quarter-court press applied by Nova.  While they did get back in the game temporarily, they couldn’t withstand the pure fire produced by Kris Jenkins and Ryan Arcidiacono.  Those two combined for 9-13 from beyond the arc; and when the Wildcats shoot like that, there’s simply no defense for it.

The Cats set up that shooting perfectly, by making a concerted effort early to get paint touches, which is typically outside of their character.  I’ll admit I didn’t trust this Villanova team coming in to the tournament based on recent history, along with their style of play.  It appears that Jay Wright’s team is hell-bent on torching their path to the Final Four.  If their play continues without a cold shooting night, they will be terrifying.

Sooners Lay the Boom on A&M

Unfortunately, both of the early games on Thursday turned out to be blowouts, but Oklahoma’s demolition of Texas A&M was nearly as impressive as what Nova did to Miami.  The Aggies were able to jump out to a decent lead in the opening minutes, with Alex Caruso bothering Buddy Hield defensively.  Once the Sooners worked the kinks out, they showed America why they’re so good, and why Texas A&M spent 39 minutes on Sunday being outclassed by Northern Iowa.  A&M spent much of the first half settling for perimeter jumpers, and trying to match the pace of Oklahoma.  That was a horrible idea.

Even though Buddy Hield didn’t light them on fire, his running mate Jordan Woodard picked up the slack.  The Sooners got bonus points from Khadeem Lattin, and little used Christian James who combined to contribute 22 points.  Although an emotional comeback can sometimes serve as a catapult, it certainly did not tonight for Texas A&M.  Once Oklahoma got rolling, they couldn’t provide any serious response.  The Sooners are going to be a tough out.

Experience and Fundamentals Matter

After a very entertaining, hard-fought first half, which ended with Kansas leading by just two points; the Jayhawks utilized fundamentals and defense to put the clamps on Maryland.  Perry Ellis displayed his usual array of solid if unspectacular offensive skills, cruising to 27 points to lead the way for Kansas.  Ellis, along with Wayne Selden, led the methodical breakdown of Maryland in the second half.  Time after time, the Jayhawks worked the ball until they found the cleanest looks at the basket.

On the defensive end, they forced the Terps into long drawn out offensive sets, which led to a lot of perimeter shots, which just weren’t dropping.  Unlike the game on Sunday in which Maryland was able to get Diamond Stone involved, he was simply unable to get going this evening.  Early on it looked as though Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon would control the offensive tempo, but in the second half they were forced into a lot of panicked over-dribbling, leading to poor shots.  The Jayhawks put on a clinic tonight, and have a crisp look to their execution.  Their balance and surgical precision versus the hot-shooting Wildcats of Villanova should produce some fireworks on Saturday.

Oregon’s Athleticism Runs Duke out of the Gym

This half of the bracket had an interesting dynamic to it, in that several of the teams were considered untrustworthy tournament contenders.  Oregon’s lack of basketball pedigree, and questionable No. 1 seed put the Ducks in that category.  Well, they showed on Thursday evening that they’re for real and can make it out of the West Region.  Oregon leveraged their superior depth and athleticism, to simply push Duke to its limit.  The Ducks spread out the Blue Devil’s zone defense, and were able to slice into the gaps, creating easy buckets.

While Dillon Brooks did the most offensive damage, they also got huge contributions from Jordan Bell off the bench.  Not only did he chip in 13 points, but he sent Duke shots back at them on several occasions, causing a ton of havoc defensively.  As the game wore on, the Ducks simply wore out the Blue Devils.  By the end Duke looked like they were exhausted and just chasing the game.  Oregon put the rest of the bracket on notice.  They are a legitimate threat to make it to Houston.

Once again, even after all the high-drama of the first weekend, it’s all chalk in the South and the West.  Saturday will bring us No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 2 Villanova, and No. 1 Oregon vs. No. 2 Oklahoma.  That’s some serious firepower and up-temp action for sure, and two primo matchups for two spots in the Final Four.

Email Damon at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @DamoKnowsSports.

Photo via Flickr/Phil Roeder

Alford Takes Blame for Bruins’ Lackluster Season

It’s not very often that the head coach of a college basketball program returns contract money to the university, but that is exactly what UCLA men’s basketball coach Steve Alford did after a disappointing 15-17 season. In an open letter written by Alford dedicated to fans of the UCLA program, he announced his intentions by stating, “At the end of the day, year three was clearly not up to UCLA standards. My coaching staff and I fell short not only of our own expectations, but the expectations of athletic director Dan Guerrero, the Chancellor and you, our fans…As a coaching staff, we intend to earn that extension back.” Alford’s announcement was made shortly after multiple banners were seen flying through campus calling for Alford’s removal from the program.

It was not all bad for the a Bruins team that defeated then first ranked Kentucky on December 3rd, and earned an impressive road victory at Gonzaga December 12th. Despite gaining momentum during the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Bruins were a disappointing 6-12 in Pac-12 play. Junior and Los Angeles native Isaac Hamilton led the Bruins in scoring on the year, contributing nearly 17 points per game. UCLA also received key contributions from Sophomore big man Thomas Welsh, and the son of head coach Steve Alford, Bryce Alford who will also be returning for his final go-around as a Bruin next season.

Conference play proved to be too daunting of a task for this years’ UCLA team, as the Bruins were only able to pick up one win against a ranked Pac-12 team. The lone victory came against then-seventh ranked Arizona 87-84 on January 7th. However, inconsistency was a major theme for UCLA this season, as bad losses against Washington State and Stanford combined with a much improved Pac-12 spelled doom for the year’s version of the UCLA Bruins.

Despite the lackluster regular season, the Bruins, like all Division I programs, had the chance to make a run in their conference tournament and steal and a bid to the NCAA tournament. This dream came to a crashing halt, as the Bruins received a thrashing at the hands of bitter crosstown rival USC 95-71 in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. With their final loss of the season, the Bruins finished a disappointing 0-3 against their hated rival for the first time since 1954.

Alford and his coaching staff originally received a contract extension through the 2020-2021 season after taking the school to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago for the first time since 2008. However, help should be on the way for the Bruins as five star recruits Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf are both committed to UCLA as well as four of the top five scorers on the team have at least one year of eligibility left.

Despite this year’s struggles, the Bruins still remain one of the most appealing destinations for a potential recruit. Not only are the Bruins able to sell the beautiful city of Los Angeles, but they are also able to harp on their rich history which includes eleven national championships. While it is extremely refreshing to see a coach take direct responsibility for the lack of his team’s success, the Bruins should be back in the NCAA Tournament field in no time.

Email Alec at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @alec_kwait.

Photo: SD Dirk/Flickr.

Campus Pressbox 50: Making Sense of Madness

Damon Del Rosario (@DamoKnowsSports) and Ben Belden (@BBelden330) attempt to make sense of the madness that is the college basketball postseason. They discuss the events of last weekend’s NCAA tournament games and preview every match-up of the Sweet 16. Lastly, Damon gives his opinions on Louisville basketball and where they go post-scandal.

Topics:

  • First two rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament
  • Sweet 16 Matchup Previews and Picks
  • Louisville Basketball: Where they’re headed

First and Second Round Tournament Notebooks [Campus Pressbox]:

Send us your feedback!

E-mail: [email protected]
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/campuspressbox
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/campuspressbox
Subscribe: http://fourlights.fm/shows/

2016 College Basketball Invitational Advances to Semifinals

The 2016 College Basketball Invitational quarterfinals wrapped up late Monday night. With four games on the docket, the bracket keeps getting smaller and smaller, as the CBI moves on to the semifinals. We have a recap of all of Monday night’s action below.

Duquesne vs. Morehead State

Morehead State led for most of their match against Duquesne as the Eagles defeated the Dukes, 82-72. Brent Arrington had 17 points for Morehead State, including a midcourt shot at the buzzer to put them up, 43-36, at the half. Morehead State never trailed in the second half and never saw their lead get below nine points as they soundly defeated Duquesne. Morehead State moves on to face Ohio on Wednesday.

UNCG vs. Ohio

Ohio rallied back from a 15 point deficit with 7:45 left to play to defeat UNCG, 72-67, on Monday night. Ohio closed the game off with a 25-5 run as UNCG had no answer for Jordan Dartis and Jaaron Simmons in the second half. Dartis and Simmons ended the game with 14 points and 19 points and eight assists respectively. Ohio advances to face Morehead State on Wednesday.

Eastern Washington vs. Nevada

Tyron Criswell and Cameron Oliver scored more than half of Nevada’s 85 points as they lead the Wolfpack to an 85-70 win over Eastern Washington. The Eagles was without star player Venky Jois, who injured his knee in their previous game. Nevada will host Vermont on Wednesday night.

Vermont vs. Seattle

For the second year in a row, the Catamounts will play in the CBI semifinals. In a 73-54 win over Seattle that saw Kurt Steidl lead all scorers with 17 points, Vermont had no problems handling Seattle in this match. The Catamounts never trailed at all in the game and closed it out with a second half scoring surge that included a 12-0 run. Vermont will play Nevada on Wednesday.

The semifinals for the College Basketball Invitational begin on March 23rd at 7:00pm. The rest of the bracket is listed below.

cbi schedule

Bracket courtesy of Gazelle Group

Email Kevin at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @kmcgheee.

Pac-12 Embarrassment at the NCAA Tournament

Being a fan and writer of the Pac-12 Conference I want the conference to do well when the chips are on the line for its teams, but after viewing the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament I had to come to conclusion that the Pac-12 just was not very good in 2016. Was the Pac-12 overrated by the tournament committee? I think so. Were they over seeded? Most definitely.

Watching plenty of Pac-12 basketball this year I saw that the conference was very average, but not horrible in any respect. I thought we would get about five or six teams into the Big Dance, but I thought any more than that would be over stretching the talent level in the conference. Now, I am not saying that the talent level was absolutely lacking, but lets face facts here, the college game has become diluted due to the “one and done” player.

Watching the Pac-12 perform over the weekend I thought,  “Am I being punked here?” It didn’t appear to be the same conference I had seen during the regular season and they paid a heavy price in this year’s Tournament.

The NCAA Tournament has not been kind to Pac-12 in the past and once again it wasn’t in 2016. The last team standing are the Oregon Ducks, the number one seed in the West region, and almost the first number one seed to bow out. The Ducks got all they wanted from a determined Saint Joseph team on Sunday night and now have a date with the Duke Blue Devils.

Just about every time March Madness rolls around the Pac-12 sends a couple of legit prospects to the dance and just about every time thereafter the conference is let down by those prospects. The expectations are not even met, forget about the teams even coming close to exceeding them.

What really cemented the Pac-12 as being largely overrated for this tournament was on Saturday night when three seed Utah, was crushed by 11 seed Gonzaga. Saying the Utes were crushed is putting it politely. It also may have proved the point about how some of these Pac-12 teams may have been overvalued by the committee. The final score of the Utah/Gonzaga game 82-59. Really? The seeding for that game should have been flip flopped. The Utes played like they were the 11 seed and Gonzaga played like they were the tougher three seed.

Say what you want about Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few, but he gets his teams ready to play regardless of their seeding and it showed against Utah.

The conference got seven teams into the Tournament and most of those teams were bounced in the first round. Oregon State, Arizona, California, USC and Colorado were all put to rest on Thursday and Friday. Only Oregon and Utah were left standing at that point.

Oregon is left holding up the conference flag at this point and to say that they are a difficult number one seed to bounce out may be a bit of a lie at this point. After their performance against Saint Joseph, picking Duke to win against Oregon is not a big stretch to take. I do think that match-ups matter for teams as well, so for the teams that were bounced early let’s take a look at their individual games.

Oregon State: The Beavers were a pretty good story for the conference. It was the first time they had been invited to the Tournament in 26 years and had played some decent basketball, but a seven seed? Really? They were matched up against a Virginia Commonwealth team that had been to the tournament before, had some success, but were regulated to a 10 seed. Oregon State was certainly over seeded, no doubt about it.

Arizona: Being a six seed for the Wildcats was something that wasn’t really looked at as a bad thing by their fans. I did not hear many complaints coming from Tucson about it, but their downfall was playing a Wichita State team that wasn’t playing like an 11 seed. They were playing more like a five or six seed. The Cats were not even favored in that game.

Utah: For a team that I thought had the potential of getting to the Final Four, they really screwed the pooch against Gonzaga and this was only a couple of games removed from getting waxed by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game.

California: The Golden Bears were dealt a major blow by having their point guard, Ty Wallace, suffer a broken hand a day before their first round game. He was their Senior leader, he filled up the stat sheet for them, and then in a blink of an eye he was gone. That’s the reason, not an excuse for them because they still had enough talent to win that game.

USC: They were in a tough match up with Providence and then lose at the buzzer. It was the 8 seed versus the 9 seed and those games are a toss-up as it is, but in this game Providence was the better team. USC underperformed in my opinion all year with the good talent that they have on that squad.

Colorado: Sometimes the better team just underperforms. It was a pick’em type of game with Connecticut and the Buffs just didn’t play to their capabilities. When you don’t come to play, negative things happen and they did for Colorado.

In the end, the Pac-12 needs to have better showings in the Tournament than they have been giving us. The committee will remember this next year and may not give the Pac-12 the benefit of the doubt. Even though they are supposed to evaluate a team on their merits for that year I am almost certain that they will remember putting seven teams into the Tournament and remembering that six were out by the end of the first weekend of play. That will play a part in their thinking next year.

Imagine if Oregon had lost to Saint Joesph. What would people be thinking of the Pac-12 then? Let that thought swish around in your head for a bit.

Email Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: google

NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Notebook

Recap of the First & Second Rounds

I just knew the Midwest Region would be the craziest one when I picked to write about it. Technically in the opening round of play, there were five upsets according to seeding. No upset was more bizarre than Michigan State losing to Middle Tennessee. What we thought was going to be the region of revenge on the committee by Sparty, they go out and lay an egg against MTSU.  I have never seen a Tom Izzo team so unprepared for an inferior opponent before. Without a doubt, Michigan State is the most disappointing team in the tournament so far, and probably will end up being so no matter what. Virginia fans laugh and sigh in relief.

More upsets were abound, with Little Rock taking down Purdue, a very hot Gonzaga team taking out a very hot Seton Hall team, Syracuse making Dayton look pedestrian, and, if you want to count it as an upset, Butler having a nice win against Texas Tech.

In the second round, Gonzaga completely routed Utah. Syracuse took down the almost-Cinderella of the tournament in Middle Tennessee, making Dayton fans wonder “what if.” Iowa State exposed Little Rock as just a one-hit wonder, and Virginia showed it was superior to Butler down the stretch by outlasting the bulldogs in the final minutes.

In total there were six upsets with lower seeds defeating higher seeds. The big boy contenders to make it to Houston are set, so lets look at the matchups:

No. 1 Virginia versus No. 4 Iowa State

I said it before, this one has a chance to knock out the No. 1 seed. Iowa State looks like the most focused team in the region so far. They started out silencing all the doubters by beating Iona by 13. Then they stayed hot by beating Little Rock by 17. These aren’t teams to completely brag about, but the Cyclones routed both of them with ease. That’s what you want good teams to do. Virginia obviously dismantled 16 seed Hampton with ease, but they has some trouble with Butler most of the game before taking control in the final minutes and winning by eight.

This is an interesting matchup. Iowa State has been scoring at will, and Virginia has a very good defense that can shut down any offense in the country. One thing that intrigues me about this game is its location: Chicago. This game is a lot closer for Iowa State fans than Virginia fans. Both teams will travel well, but I can see more Cyclone fans being there than Virginia fans. And trust me folks, the United Center can get loud. This seems like a home game for Iowa State, which we all know about Hilton Magic.

My prediction: The magic will follow them to Chicago, and Iowa State will take out the 1-seeded Cavaliers in a close game.

No. 10 Syracuse versus No. 11 Gonzaga

If you predicted this for the Sweet 16, kudos to you. Syracuse was arguably a team that most bracketologists left out of the tournament. Now, they sit in the Sweet 16 after a hot shooting performance against Dayton and taking out a tournament darling in Middle Tennessee. Then you have a team like Gonzaga who, if not for winning their conference tournament, would probably not be in the field either. Gonzaga started off taking out what many thought was a sleeper team in Seton Hall after they won their conference tournament. They won that game by 16, totally dominating from start to finish

Then the 11-seeded Zags took on another hot team in Utah, destroying what many thought was another hot team coming into the tournament. Gonzaga won this game by 23, setting up a date with Syracuse in the Sweet 16. Coming into this game, both of these teams have been shooting lights out from the field. The same can be said about each team’s defense. Syracuse has stifled teams so far with that zone, but Gonzaga has made teams frustrated on offense as well.

What is intriguing to me is the rebound department. Tyler Roberson has made a name for himself on the boards so far for the Orange, plus he averages eight rebounds a game. Domantas Sabonis from Gonzaga averages 11.6 rebounds per game. These guys will go head to head and will be my determining factor in this one. Syracuse averaged 35.5 boards during the season while Gonzaga averaged 39.6 boards, 210th vs 33rd in the country.

My prediction: Kyle Wiltjer continues his hot shooting and outshoots both Malachi Richardson and Michael Gbinije, and the Zags dominate the Orange on the boards. Gonzaga wins this one by 3 and sends the 11-seeded bulldogs to the Elite 8.

Email Chris at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @chrislvsketchup.

Stats provided by ESPN

Photo from creativecommons.org

NCAA Tournament: East Region Round Two Notebook

As the East region moves to Philadephia this week, let’s quickly re-visit Sunday’s second round action.

The obvious. North Carolina showed us they’re really good.

They took it to Florida Gulf Coast (83-67) and No. 9 Providence (85-66) while allowing fewer than their season average of 69.9 points per game. The Tar Heels will need to maintain that superb below average performance when they face No. 5 Indiana who rolled No. 12 Chattanooga (99-74) and survived an unmotivated No. 4 Kentucky (73-67). The Hoosiers average 82.3 points per making Friday evening’s match-up potentially one for the ages. The biggest question: Does Tom Crean have another great coaching performance in him?

I love you Xavier, but #OnWisconsin.

Look, I’m not a Wisconsin guy; I don’t really appreciate how Bo Ryan inserted Greg Gard as the head coach this year, because frankly I think it’s bush league for someone to think they control their job and their former program after they leave. That said, Gard has done a phenomenal job with this team that many didn’t expect to have a repeat of last season. Sunday’s game versus Xavier was, well, extraordinary. Despite the fact that Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes had another sub-par game, the Badgers were able to erase Xavier’s nine-point lead in six minutes. Then the Badgers won on a buzzer-beating corner three-pointer from Bronson Koenig. All this after Wisconsin was up by 11 in the first half. This is why you love March.

Side note: comedian Bill Murray’s son, Xavier assistant Luke, has reportedly never seen “Caddyshack.” Luke, it’s cool man, “What About Bob?” is about 50 times better.

Mike Brey and the Irish have a drive for excitement.

Was the Notre Dame-Steven F. Austin game the best of the tournament so far? Probably. Despite the three-quarter court buzzer-beaters, the upset of Michigan State, and Wisconsin’s Brandon Koenig’s channeling his ‘inner Steph Curry’, no other game had the back-and-forth of this game, right? No. 6 Notre Dame faces No. 7 Wisconsin on Thursday at 7:27 Eastern. You can bet Thursday’s game will have all the dramatics both teams brought to the table in first two rounds of the tournament.

Who wins the East?

If you don’t think this is the most interesting of the four regions, then you better hope and pray your boss doesn’t send you for a drug test anytime soon. It would be very difficult put the teams in any other order than the rankings in which they already stand, No. 1 North Carolina, No. 5 Indiana, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 7 Wisconsin, BUT if you use recent history (last year’s tournament) as a guide, it would be tough to discount either Notre Dame or Wisconsin winning the region. To give either of those teams the region win would ignore what North Carolina has done this season, their seed and the respect that Roy Williams commands. As much as I love the drama and funny faces of Tom Crean, I cannot see the Hoosiers advancing to Saturday’s games. So, and I’m sure I’ll be wrong, but give me North Carolina over Notre Dame in the regional final Saturday night.

What the hell else do you have to talk about?

Yeah, the media…and because Bob limited me ONLY to this region, here are some of the best Vine’s, Instagram’s and Tweet’s I could come up with in five minutes.

I don’t think we’ll ever be done with Wisconsin-Xavier, so here’s Syracuse’s Christian White’s fathers’ (get all that?) reaction from behind Wisconsin’s bench on that last second shot:

Barstool Sports has another dramatic view of that same shot. The guy in the orange hat, yeah that’s White’s father. 

Unreal view of Wisconsin’s game-winner

A video posted by Barstool Sports (@barstool_sports) on

Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger’s now-famous tip-in:

Steven F. Austin’s coach Brad Underwood talks about Thomas Walkup:

E-mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr.