Sunday, March 28, 2010

Week in Review: Bummer City

Second straight busy week at PHSports.

First off, check out the NEW POLL top right of the page. Vote on!!!!

Picture of the Week: It still leaves a sick feeling in my stomach...
Credit: DailyOrange.com

1) Urban Meyer is a tool. Yeah, we already knew that. But Gator fan has a much tougher task defending his blatantly ridiculous actions this week. For a summary: check it. For my opinion, see the first sentence in this post. Tool.

2) Women's basketball remains boring. No matter how much ESPN wants us to care, women's college basketball is unwatchable and UCONN's streak is as meaningless as any of its kind in recent memory. Don't try and be PC, either. Admit it.

3) Butler and West Virginia advanced to the Final Four on Saturday. Who told you to worry about Kentucky? Oh yeah, ME!!!
A) Nobody could stabilize them on the court as West Virginia dominated the second half with back cuts and a non-scoring point guard SCORING at will. Not to mention them missing countless 3s against WVU in a 73-66 loss Saturday night.
B) John Wall didn't shoot free throws well at all (4-8), ala Derrick Rose in 2008. Yeah, I went there.
C) Patrick Patterson has NO business shooting 3s. Not even 1. So to prove me wrong...he shot 4. And missed all 4. Well predicted, me.

4) Michigan State/Tennessee and Duke/Baylor today for the two remaining Final Four slots. Who told you not to doubt Izzo (going for 6 Final Fours in 12 years)? Oh yeah, ME!!! Who won't have even 1 Final Four team correct from his "Sheet of Integrity"? Oh yeah, ME!!!

5) Go Baylor. Duh.

Video of the Week: Can somebody PLEASE tell Optimus Prime to shutup so I can hear Meyer pretend he's a bad@ss???
video
Credit: YouTube.com [UFSoftballFan]

I only hope Meyer doesn't threaten to ban PHSports from Gator practices now...

Time to pretend I'm still not bumming...over a game.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Anatomy of an Upset:

You want to know why Butler WON tonight's game? Syracuse lost it.

I know that wreaks of sour grapes, but it's true.
And don't get me wrong...I'd have killed to have Butler lose it.
But they didn't. Syracuse did.


18 turnovers to 7. Syracuse was lazy, undisciplined, and lacking any touch on lob passes into the paint.
That's just the start of what went wrong.
In a word: pathetic.
Credit: ESPN.go.com

1) Jim Boeheim was outcoached, completely. Not that this ever surprises me anymore. Calhoun, Dixon, and Pitino have been outclassing him in the Big East for years now.
2) Wesley Johnson isn't assertive enough to create his own shot. His raw athleticism is amazing, but he did NOTHING after a nice 3 that gave Syracuse a BRIEF 41-40 lead. He may be a top 5-pick, but if he can't learn to create his own shot...bye bye relevancy in the NBA.
3) A 7-man rotation that goes to 6 - after AO's injury - showed the pathetic lack of depth on Cuse's bench. (Believe me, I don't blame DeShonte Riley one bit. Not his fault.) Pay knew it (I hated to agree, but he was soooo right), that Boeheim was playing with fire with such a short bench; especially if an injury occurred to one of his bigs. Lucky for the Cuse, AO is injury prone!!!
4) Rick Jackson is NOT someone you run your offense through. The game plan was AWFUL tonight. Jackson touched the ball far too much. He was uncomfortable, turnover prone, lazy on defense (probably due to being exhausted), and couldn't grip the basketball anywhere near the paint. Pathetic performance from Rick Jackson, who deserves a reign of boos next time he enters the Carrier Dome.

Of course, I'm INCREDIBLY dissapointed as a fan. I didn't have 100% Final Four aspirations, without AO, if Kansas State was waiting for us. However, I didn't want a season I invested so much time in, to end so poorly. I'd love to throw a few words in front of poorly. Man, would I ever.

To the victor goes the spoils. An impressive final 5 minutes, to say the least, for the Bulldogs.
Credit: CNNSI.com


But props to Butler. They made stops, hit deep 3s very late (lucky bounces or not), contained Jackson with relative ease, and made Rautins work his butt off. Syracuse had little to no chance to get second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass, force turnovers due to the zone extending, or get the fast break going.

Funny thing is, Butler didn't shoot lights out either (40% from the field, 25% from 3). Far from it. They didn't need twelve 3s or 30 trips to the free throw line to win. Syracuse beat themselves by failing to execute on the offensive side of the ball. A minor tweak may result in 2 or 3 nice possessions, only until things broke down yet again.

Obviously the point is, Syracuse played a pathetic game. With a pathetic game plan. With pathetic coaching. Outside of an above average opening stretch in the second half, I could sadly see the writing on the wall. No lead lasted long, even 54-50 with the under 4-timeout. Of course, the inbound play led to a turnover, a Butler deep 3, and an 11-0 run! Great adjustments Jimmy!!!

I knew it all too soon in the second half. This game would end in all too unfamiliar fashion.
It wreaked of that infamous Vermont game in 2005.
Credit: CNNSI.com

Up 54-50, Syracuse stalled completely. Killing any momentum by holding onto the ball too long on multiple possessions (after STOPS, no less). Why on EARTH did Boeheim allow the team to force BAD shots by Scoop Jardine (really?) late in the shot clock, allowing Butler time to settle their defense in, rebound poor shots, and then hit shots of their own on the offensive end??? Why not call a timeout and map out an offensive gameplan. Maybe one through Johnson, Rautins, or Joseph (who looked like his 2008-self) and NOT Jackson or Jardine. Then of course, the aforementioned turnover and 11-0 run came after the 4-minute timeout. No surprise Brad Stevens had a better game plan for the final 4 than Jimmy, right?

A team of overachievers just underachieved.
And I want real answers. From Boeheim.
Credit: CNNSI.com

Unfortunately, much like the Vermont-loss in 2005...I won't get any (answers).

I'll just get Gus Johnson unabashedly rooting for underdogs to hit deep 3s.
At least he doesn't hide it, I guess.

Utterly embarrassed to be a Syracuse fan right now.
I'd feel better if I were a Jayhawk fan right now, I think.

Now I'm going to stop pouting, grow up, and move on.
At least I didn't break anything...expensive.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sweet Sixteen: Questions without Answers...yet (Part IV)

Extending to a final (extra day) in which I took a detailed look at each of the four regionals for this weekend's upcoming NCAA Tournament action.

You might hear more from me - or Pay - otherwise; however, I'm going to ride my tournament momentum and address a few issues on the upcoming weekend of regional semi-finals and finals.

Midwest = Mid-day Monday
West = Late Monday

East = Early Tuesday
South = Early Wednesday (aka BELOW)

Darryl Bryant, now out for the remainder of the season after suffering a broken foot, and the Mountaineers got their due yesterday. Added pressure to Joe Mazzulla now, of course.
Credit: WVUMountaineersports.com

South Region:

#1 Duke vs. #4 Purdue

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Duke QUESTION: Coach K won't let this team underestimate Purdue's talent. Question is, is Duke capable of winning a tightly contested game in this tournament? Fortunately, due to the sad state of their region, the Dookies may not need to have a close game for another weekend. (Sigh)

Duke X-FACTOR: Two early (chippy) fouls on Jorge Guitierrez hurt Cal as Scheyer became more relaxed and comfortable. One of the best in the country at doing it, how does Duke get some of the more talented Boilermakers off of the court and into foul trouble. I'm looking at you Johnson, Moore, and Kramer.

Blue Devil I'm Watching: Alright. I finally am going make a stand. Is this the game where Brian Zoubek overreaches his boundaries? Crash the boards and set screens is all he has to do. Even sans Hummel, can Purdue get the Dookie big man to committ some careless fouls and open up a few and-1s?

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Purdue QUESTION: Question is, how do Moore and Johnson dominate in the paint without committing ticky-tack fouls? Believe me, I'm not beating a dead drum when I talk about the Dookies and their opponents committing ticky tack fouls. If you disagree, check the tape. Any tape. As for the Boilermaker bigs, both can get foul happy and Duke takes more charges - fair or flop - than anyone in the country (times 9,787). That means the Boilermaker big men might have to give up a layup or two or take a deeper jumper than expected...all in the name of avoiding the nickle-dimer.

Purdue X-FACTOR: They've been doubted about 15 seconds after Hummel went down with the ACL tear. So why should they care what the odds are against them? Duke hasn't beat a legit team in the tournament in years and the Boilermakers made the Sweet Sixteen last year (before bowing out in the West to #1 seed UCONN). This team has nothing to lose. Embrace the suck and shock the world.

Boilermaker I'm Watching: Chris Kramer is all heart. Shane Falco-heart. I just like watching the kid play.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 St. Mary's

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Baylor QUESTION: They have one thing Villanova had (athleticism) and one they sorely lacked (size and length). So question is, how do they use that to attack Omar Samhan and put the big man - perhaps the star of the first weekend not named Ali (STONES!) on the bench in foul trouble?

Baylor X-FACTOR: Houston. Forget everything else. I've heard about two locations more than any other: BYU in Salt Laker City and Baylor in Houston. Since the Cougars have said bye-bye, I want to see if the Bears gain enough of an advantage - playing in Houston - to be noticed.

Bear I'm Watching: I'd be lying if I told you I'd seen a lot of Baylor this year. In fact, you can count the fingers on one of my hands and divide by two and get the number. Nevertheless, with a name like LaceDarius Dunn, how can your eyes not jump out of the box score. Nearly 20 points a game out of the Big XII ain't too shabby either. It's time to see what the junior can do. All the attention can't go to (Kansas State's) Jacob Pullen, right?

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

St. Mary's QUESTION: Question is, how do you avoid an early letdown in the first game of the second weekend...after a flawless opening tilt? The Gaels are confident, brash, and cocky. Who can blame them? However, we've all see more than our fair share of teams who were the darlings of the opening weekend, only to flame out with crushing 20+-point defeats. The Gaels don't need to start out on fire, but they can't fall behind early. A back-and-forth pace is exatly what this team needs. Sometimes staying on your toes for 40-minutes, isn't such a bad strategy.

St. Mary's X-FACTOR: Watch the game tape of Sam Houston State's defensive scheme against Baylor, as well as the opening 10 minutes of the second half from ODU against the Bears. Now, craft your defensive strategy as such. Both of Baylor's opponents were able to find - if only for a portion of a half - something that worked. Combine that with a more potent offense and a talented big man, and St. Mary's has a shot.

Gael I'm Watching: If you want me to say a name besides Omar Samhan, you haven't been watching this tournament. Come on, you're better than that.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sweet Sixteen: Questions without Answers...yet (Part III)

Continuing with the second day of two days and four posts.

You might hear more from me - or Pay - otherwise; however, I'm going to ride my tournament momentum and address a few issues on the upcoming weekend of regional semi-finals and finals.

Midwest = Mid-day Monday
West = Late Monday

East = Early Tuesday (aka BELOW)
South = Mid-to-late Tuesday

Denis Clemente, Frank Martin, and the Wildcats got their shot last night.
Up next, the East region.
Credit: KCConfidential.com


East Region:
#1 Kentucky vs. #12 Cornell

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Kentucky QUESTION: Simply put, question is: who stabilizes Kentucky when they start to struggle? If the Wildcats start out slow, hit a rough patch from the field mid-way through a tighter than expected second half, or suffer foul trouble from Cousins or Wall, who is the stabilizing presence on the court? Perhaps the answer can be found below.

Kentucky X-FACTOR: Speed. I talked about tempo, at length, when dissecting the Xavier/Kansas State matchup in the Midwest region. The same must be said about this affair between the Wildcats and the Big Red. Cornell has shown before - particularly against Rock, Chalk - that they can score with the big boys. Problem is: can they score for 40 minutes with Kentucky? Probably not, considering the pace John Wall and company are known to play with.

Wildcat I'm Watching: Perhaps I'm more guilty than most for underrating Patrick Patterson's versatility. While I think's it's completely moronic for him to chuck up any 3s - no less more than 1 - in a game, Cousins affords him extra spacing in the paint and his mid-range game has steadily improved this season. While he's not their top option, he's as close as the Wildcats have to a veteran on the court. Might come in hand against a team (Cornell) oozing with senior leadership.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Cornell QUESTION: Question is, does Cornell have the bodies and the legs to withstand the runs Kentucky is capable of putting together? Cornell simply can't afford to be down by double-digits early on. This doesn't mean chucking up 3s and hoping to build an early 12-5(ish) lead. Instead, it's valuing possessions, limiting second chance opportunities for the Wildcats, and getting to the charity stripe. Hitting open 3s wouldn't hurt though. Unfortunately, much of that is quite a tall order against most people's prohibitive tournament favorite, Kentucky.

Cornell X-FACTOR: Veteran leadership. Cornell has a slew of seniors who know each other, their system, and exactly what their coach asks of them. Sounds a little like Northern Iowa, doesn't it? Cornell won't be rattled by Kentucky; however, let's not pretend Temple and Wisconsin run an offense anywhere near as talented and free-wheelin' as the Wildcats do. I don't buy any sort of hometown discount playing in Syracuse, either. Kentucky travels as well as any program in the nation. Bank on that.

Big Red I'm Watching: Ryan Wittman may be the star of Cornell, but beating Kentucky will take a star-making performance from senior point guard Louis Dale. Clark Kellog noted, quite wisely, that Dale plays at a speed that's "as fast as the situation calls for." Dale doesn't need to blow by opponents on every possession, just the ones where the lane is clear. His ability to make Wall work on defense - and effectively attack the paint - will go a long way in Cornell pulling off the upset.


#2 West Virginia vs. #11 Washington

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Washington QUESTION: Star power is the name of the game. Question is, can Quincy Pondexter go toe to toe with De'Sean Butler?

Washington X-FACTOR: Washington needs to get to the free throw line 20+ times and make 80% of them. That's not gonna be easy. 9-14 (64%) and 10-20 (50%) in their two opening victories are HIGHLY unimpressive numbers. West Virginia has 4 players on the court who can hit a 3 - covered or uncovered - deeper than you'd expect. To nullify that, make your free throws and force the Mountaineers into working for their shots, wherever they come from.

Husky I'm Watching: Quincy Pondexter is the star of this team. He may need to score 30+ and effectively bang for 35+ minutes against a team of forwards. Nevertheless, Isaiah Thomas Jr. needs to isolate West Virginia's glaring weakness, the point guard position. If Thomas can protect the ball and establish himself with a confident penetrating dribble, Mazzulla is foul prone and Bryant can turn into a walking disaster in little to no time. Win the point guard battle and Washington's improbable run can more easily continue.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

West Virginia QUESTION: I hate to be redundant, but if the point needs to be made...in fact, I'll make it two or three times if I have to. For the Mountaineers, question is: how do they limit Quincy Pondexter's touches and if they can't, how do they avoid fouling him as he attacks the hoop off the dribble?

West Virginia X-FACTOR: It's obviously the point guard position. Bob Huggins would be foolish to expect the duo of Mazzulla/Bryant to go for 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists (with less than 5 turnovers). Problem is: he's gonna need that. Isaiah Thomas Jr. is a young, dynamic point guard in the making who can cause trouble for the WVU backcourt. Unless they can find one of the two to be a steadying force, West Virginia may be forced late in possessions to take tough, contested shots. Or to rely to heavily on Mr. Butler (if that's possible).

Mountaineer I'm Watching: Devin Ebanks seemed like a safe pick as preseason All-America. On a team full of forwards, he was the most willing to give up his body and make a play in the lane. Or so we thought. While his stats are far from dissapointing (12 points and 8 rebounds), I keep expecting Ebanks to show his lottery potential and take over games mid-way through the second half. Perhaps Bob Huggins and De'Sean Butler have something to do with that. Nevertheless, if Butler struggles - which isn't out of the question - can Ebanks control the glass or get to the free throw line (two things he can excel at) often enough to stem the tide before Mr. Clutch (eventually) arrives?

The final region, the South, gets its due later tonight.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sweet Sixteen: Questions without Answers...yet (Part II)

Continuing what will be two days and four posts.

You might hear more from me - or Pay - otherwise; however, I'm going to ride my tournament momentum and address a few issues on the upcoming weekend of regional semi-finals and finals.

Midwest = Mid-day Monday
West = Late Monday (aka BELOW)

East = Early Tuesday
South = Mid-to-late Tuesday

Izzo and Sparty already got their due.
Up next: the West Regional.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports



West Region: #1 Syracuse vs. #5. Butler

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Syracuse QUESTION: The health of Arinze Onuaku is a pre-existing circumstance. One I've mentioned more than enough, right? That aside, question is: what can Syracuse expect from the point guard position (duo of freshman Brandon Triche & sophomore Scoop Jardine) on both sides of the ball?

Syracuse X-FACTOR: How does Butler deal with the 2-3 zone? If they can't hit outside shots early and the Orange can rebound, much like they did against Gonzaga, things should go quite smoothly again for the Orange. Key word: can't.

Orange(man) I'm Watching: Wes Johnson was Big East Player of the Year and a 1st-team All American. Whether or not Onuaku plays (broken record?), he needs to be more selfish. Problem is, that's against Johnson's nature. Bigger problem is, how do you ask that without giving him potentially too much range? Credit the relationship he has with his teammates and, most of all, Jim Boeheim for that answer.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Butler QUESTION: Out of conference opponents often struggle mightily against Syracuse's 2-3 zone. You don't see a zone like it often (or at all) and especially not with the length and athleticism Syracuse has. Butler has 3 days to prepare to attack it. Question is, how do you simulate that type of length and proficiency in practice?

Butler X-FACTOR: Outside shooting. His 10+ 3s and you can beat the Orange. Louisville did it, twice. Attack the zone and run and gun with the Orange and you can beat them. Georgetown did. Greg Monroe gave the blueprint for a big man. Either way, you need to score 90+ or hold the Orange 20% below their FG average to beat them. Don't turnover the ball either. And defend Andy Rautins well. Don't underestimate Butler being able to do a few of those things potentially.

Bulldog I'm Watching: Shelvin Mack. 25 against UTEP, but only 11 against Murray State. Mack will need to be productive from the perimeter and help break down the zone in order for the Bulldogs to keep up a consistent offensive pace. Long lapses are the worst nightmare for the Bulldogs next Thursday.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

#6. Xavier vs. #2. Kansas State

Xavier QUESTION: No need to ellaborate. TEMPO is the be all, end all of this game. Question is, how do the Musketeers force Kansas State into their tempo and avoid running up and down the court against superrior athletes?

Xavier X-FACTOR: Xavier didn't rebound very well down the stretch against Pitt (outrebounded 35-29). That could be an issue against Kansas State. It you give Jacob Pullen multiple opportunities, he'll burn you. Big time.

Musketeer I'm Watching: Dante Jackson better stop missing free throws late. He did in the A-10 semi-finals and it burned the Musketeers. He did it against the Panthers on Sunday evening and it ALMOST did again. If Jackson can't contribute in late stretches - and more than just on a leadership level - the Musketeers won't put up enough points to defeat the Wildcats.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Kansas State QUESTION: Question is, how does Frank Martin allow his guards to have free range without turning the ball over and forcing poor shots? Xavier values possessions as well as any team in the nation. That means you better do the same. Otherwise, an 7-8 point lead against the Musketeers may feel like 15+ from other opponents.

Kansas State X-FACTOR: Speed and athleticism. Pullen and Clemente should get to the line 10+ times EACH. Both are ridiculously quick off of the rebound, can create their own shot with relative ease, and have no problem hitting from the outside. These two guards must dictate the pace of this game. Which means run, run, run.

Wildcat I'm Watching: Jacob Pullen is a star. His hip-injury is a little overplayed and it won't bother him. If he wants to do so much more than what Michael Beasley ever could in Manhattan (Kansas), he'll deliver in the clutch on Thursday night and put his team close to the brink of what was once seemingly unthinkable: a Final Four appearance.

The East regional gets it due earlier tomorrow. Until then...

Sweet Sixteen: Questions without Answers...yet (Part I)

Upcoming will be two days and four posts.

You might hear more from me - or Pay - otherwise; however, I'm going to ride my tournament momentum and address a few issues on the upcoming weekend of regional semi-finals and finals.

Midwest = Mid-day Monday (aka BELOW)
West = Late Monday

East = Early Tuesday
South = Mid-to-late Tuesday

Midwest Region:
#9 Northern Iowa vs. #5 Michigan State

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Northern Iowa QUESTION: Michigan State is battle tested. While Kalin Lucas' health is far from stable, that can't matter to the Panthers. Question is: how do the Panthers avoid a slow start, in both halves, and get this game closer to being in the 70s than the 50s?


Northern Iowa X-FACTOR: This team is ridiculously well-coached. They value possessions, aren't intimidated by the number of All-Americans on another roster, and have the STONES necessary to make clutch shots. They won't underestimate the Spartans. Count on it.

Panther I'm Watching: Ali Farokhmanesh. Aka STONES. As if there was any doubt, right? If you want to become the next Stephen Curry, a letdown can't occur here. Early shots may go in or out, but it's play down the stretch that will determine if his name becomes one of second-weekend folklore or another first-rounder who only gets 15 minutes of fame.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Michigan State QUESTION: With Kalin Lucas likely OUT and Chris Allen relegated to going 4 minutes due to injury against Maryland; question is, does Michigan State have enough scoring power for 40 minutes of basketball?

Michigan State X-FACTOR: I know it seems repetitive, but one of the reasons I picked Michigan State to BEAT Kansas (and will Northern Iowa, I think) is Tom Izzo. Players have to execute, and Izzo may be the best pure coach left in the field. In 15 years at East Lansing, Izzo has a national championship (200) and is one away from a half-dozen Final Four appearances. He will have his team prepared and pumped, regardless of who is on the roster. Michigan State converted on a late possession due to the talent of their players and the preparation done by their coach. Key word, as always, for Izzo: focus.

Spartan I'm Watching: While plenty of eyes will (justifably) be on PG Korie Lucious, I'm going to watch and see how Raymar Morgan, a frontcourt senior, handles a lot of big bodies and attention in the paint. If he can attack the glass, while staying out of foul trouble, Sparty has a much better chance to punch their ticket to the Elite Eight.

#6 Tennessee vs. #2 Ohio State

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Tennessee QUESTION: A lot of people easily dismissed the Vols several times this season. Myself included. After the dismissal of star Tyler Smith, it was way too easy not to do so. Even if they beat Kansas and Kentucky (both at home), they also suffered losses to Georgia and USC. Nevertheless, Bruce Pearl has the Vols in the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in four years. Question is: can the Vols finally break through to the Elite Eight after previous letdowns?

Tennessee X-FACTOR: Statistically speaking, the box scores from the Vols' first 2 games don't leave much to be desired. They didn't shoot lights out, take care of the ball particularly well, hit a ton of 3s, or dominate the boards. Nevertheless, they go 10, and sometimes 11, deep. Can the Vols use their depth to pluck a primary scorer or defender to give the Buckeyes fits?

Volunteer I'm Watching
: I've been talking about Wayne Chism for years, so I won't stop now. If Tennessee can establish a presence inside, that won't force Hopson or Prince to go basket-for-basket with Evan Turner (who can light up a stat sheet). Chism must avoid chippy fouls and convert inside 8-feet. Easier said then done for the inconsistent senior.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Ohio State QUESTION: Evan Turner is the heart and soul of this team. Duh. Even when he's not at his best making shots, he can pick apart opponents by drawing double teams (or more) and rebounding the ball extremely well at his position. Question is: how good can Ohio State be in this tournament when Turner puts everything together?

Ohio State X-FACTOR
: Thad Matta is a proven postseason entity. Bruce Pearl is as well...but to a lesser extent. Pearl has done the best job of his career (thanks for the insight, Pay) this season. The same might be said for Matta. While he's reached a National Championship before, he's balanced riding a star player (Turner), who was injured for 2 loooong weeks, and helped develop considerable talent alongside him. If you had Ohio State contending for a national championship back in late 2009, you're smarter than I am.

Buckeye I'm Watching: Jon Diebler shoots 3s. A lot of them. He also shoots 3s a LOT better at home than he does on the road or at neutral locations. Against UCSB he was lights out (7-12), despite being under the weather. Against Georgia Tech he was an admirable 4-10. If he can find a similar touch - that is, over 40% - and is able to hit 5+ shots from behind the arc, it will open up massive lanes for Evan Turner and David Leighty, causing havoc on the Tennessee interrior defense.

See you all later tonight for the West regional...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week in Review: Ides of March...Madness

Been a busier week than usual here at PHSports.

First off, check out the NEW POLL top right of the page. Vote on!!!!

Picture of the Week: Wesley Johnson flying high against the Zags

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Let's check in on what transpired...

1) Pay posted his final bracket projections.
--> As always, job well done. 64 of 65 teams.
--> Pay's reflections can be found HERE.

2) I reflected upon Fab Five Memories and highlighted some potential for the week ahead.

3) Running commentary resumed. Highlights below...
--> Thursday
--> Friday
--> Saturday (I and II)

4) Kansas BUSTED some brackets with their loss on Saturday.
--> STONES: thy name is Ali Farokhmanesh.

5) Syracuse was impressive early Sunday afternoon.

NCAA Tournament Running Commentary: Sunday Afternoon Edition

It's no surprise that CBS selected Syracuse and Gonzaga for the nationally-televised 12:10pm start. Syracuse is a popular team in more than just upstate New York, Gonzaga is a name even the most novice college basketball recognizes instantly, and the injury to Arinze Onuaku is a story that's easy to sell.

Johnson's ability to attack the hoop, as well as shoot the 3-ball, was unmatched today by the 'Zags.
Credit: ESPN.go.com


Not to mention, Syracuse is a 1-seed and was buried at 9:55 pm on Friday night.

Unfortunately for Gus Johnson fans, today's game was over with rather quickly. A competitive early 10 minutes had a few Orange fans (like me) worried ; however, it was the 3rd foul on Rick Jackson - the only legit foul the big man committed in the 1st half - that changed the game for the Cuse...for the better.

Gonzaga's offensive game plan completely stalled, their guards were unable to hit perimeter shots, the 2-3 zone set in (especially up at the top), DeShonte Riley didn't bring upon the apocalypse, and Wesley Johnson reminded viewers why he was a LEGIT selection as a 1st-team All America (the school's first since Hakim Warrick in 2005) and the Big East Player of the Year. An award voted on by Big East coaches, not sportswriters.

The Orange built a halftime lead of 15 and extended it to almost 30 before the under-12 timeout in the 2nd half. The start of each of the second-halves in Buffalo have been shooting exhibitions for Andy Rautins. Len Elmore said it best: "He has in-the-gym range." I'm sure Len was thinking of Troy Bell at some point today, though.

Whereas Brandon Triche (who used the matchup against Vermont to get his shot going) hit BIG outside shots in the 1st half, the aforementioned senior Rautins drained three early 3s in the second. Rick Jackson was a steadying influence in the paint, Kris Joseph dominated the defensive glass, and Wesley Johnson (31 points and 14 rebounds on 11-16 shooting, 4-6 from 3s) was completely unguardable. Simply put, Syracuse didn't simply rely on the outside shot after their lead was built.

The health of Onuaku next week - Cuse will play Butler on Thursday evening/night - is pivotal.
However, Syracuse isn't lost without their talented 6'9 senior. Not yet, at least.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports


Johnson didn't force outside shots, but he drained most of the one's he took. Maybe the silver lining of an injury to Onuaku is the impetus on Johnson to step up and shine. Johnson seems completely healed from a tough, underreported hand-injury - suffered in a brutal fall against Providence back in February - and perhaps remains as the top overall athlete left in the tournament field.

Boeheim used his new 7-man rotation quite well. DeShonte Riley struggled - as a freshman with limited experience should - but also added a few assists, a couple of nice box outs, and helped spell Jackson during foul trouble with size and length. Things could've gone far, far worse for the 7-foot freshman from Chicago.

As for the Sweet Sixteen matchup in the top-half of the Midwest bracket, Butler will offer a much more difficult matchup for the Orange; especially on the defensive side of the ball. Butler will take 3s, open or not, and has the ability to hit them. Question remains for Syracuse: how well can you rebound the ball and limit second chance opportunities? Gonzaga had very few, which only further hurt their outside shooting. Butler wants this game in the 50s or 60s; whereas Cuse wants to run and gun, with Johnson at the center.

Obviously, after hearing head coach Jim Boeheim talk about his star center's quad injury, Arinze Onuaku seems further away from returning than some of us had expected (hoped). Nevertheless, the lethal outside shooting of Rautins, superstar ability of Johnson, interrior presence of Jackson, versatility of Joseph (who is able to log a TON of minutes), and steadiness from the point guard position duo of Triche and Jardine (Scoop!) leave the Orange as a legit national title contender. Butler should be an improvement upon Gonzaga (of course), but Syracuse is playing great basketball right now (save a brief 5-minute stretch to close out the half against Vermont, although they were up 25 at the time).

In Salt Lake City, if Triche continues to shoot and penetrate with the steadiness and confidence he displayed in Buffalo, that position becomes a completely different one for the Orange. Particularly considering the immense talent Jardine brings as the backup point guard. There may not be a more talented backup at the position in the country.

As a Cuse fan, I couldn't be more pleased right now. But after seeing what St. Mary's and Northern Iowa have done to perceived juggernauts and Butler's final 2 minutes against upstart Murray State, cautiously optimistic is the best I can do.

STONES: Ali Farokhmanesh Edition

Brackets BUSTED: Rock, Chalked Edition

Courtesy: CBS
video
Courtesy: CBS
[Kudos to the folks at CBS for posting this via YouTube quickly and efficiently.]


So...how much did your bracket suffer after one of the NCAA Tournament's most memorable shots???

Saturday, March 20, 2010

NCAA Tournament Running Commentary: Saturday Night Edition

Note: STONES! Want a fresh take on Kansas falling to the MVC's Northern Iowa? Avoid Subway. Check out analysis from ME right here.

If you're looking for analysis on the earlier matchups of the day, c-c-check it out.

East Region
#1 Kentucky vs #9 Wake Forest

UK's most notable fan, Ashley Judd, has to be enjoying this thorough bludgeoning of the Deamon Deacons.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports


Halftime score = Kentucky leads 44-28

Running commentary following the under-16 timeout...

-Al-Farouq Aminu commits his 3rd foul with 11:19 to go in the 1st half. Jay Bilas was wise to alert people to keep that time in mind. This is the same guy who went for 20 and 15 against Texas.
-DeMarcus Cousins is going to make a mistake. Question is, how big of one? Wake is trying to rattle him with hard fouls, moving screens, and elbows in the gut. Cousins is about to unleash an elbow or commit a rough foul. How will the refs react?
-Ish Smith blows a wide-open dunk. Didn't I mention earlier how he CAN'T miss easy shots tonight?
-I watch John Wall miss free throws and think Derrick Rose in 2008. Am I alone?
-Why is Calipari letting Patrick Patterson take 3-pointers? It's an idiotic option on such a loaded offensive group. If he starts shooting 4+ of those a game in the later rounds, Kentucky will lose at some point.
-Wake, down 29-24 with 5+ to go, needs to keep this under 7 or 8 with Aminu out, if possible.
-Keutucky's role players - two former starters now riding the pine - are the difference in this game thus far.
-Kentucky owns this arena. The fans are ballistic. Wake can't let this deficit stretch into double-digits.
-Put Wake to bed. They are a classic underachiever and Kentucky - unlike Texas - won't hand this one away. Kentucky may not see a true neutral court until Indianapolis.
-No need to say anything more, Wake is making me sleepy.

West Region
#2 Kansas State vs #10 BYU

Clemente's ability to get to the hoop, at lightning-fast speed, needs to be more of a constant in the 2nd half.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports


Halftime score = Kansas State leads 41-31

Running commentary, from the 2nd option game of the primetime lineup...

-BYU starts of 10-0. Hitting open shots is what the Cougars do.
-BYU doesn't rebound. You want to know a good way to catch up if you're Kansas State? 2nd and 3rd opportunities on offense and limiting good-shooting teams to 1-contested shot. Although KSU has missed some gimmes.
-Pullen took a nasty spill. The Cougar guard nipped his heel while reaching for the ball. That was a missed call that was completely unacceptable.
-Denis Clemente is fast as lightning, but he doesn't take it to the hoop and draw fouls enough.
-Greg Gumbel shouldn't call Jimmer Fredette, Jimmy. Then again, the name Jimmer is stupid. Yeah, I said it.
-Remember that BYU is one-win away from a regional semi-final in Salt Lake City. Gotta love that juicy location (ala Baylor in Houston).
-Still waiting for Domonique Sutton to establish a presence for a spurt or two.
-Kansas State caught up by rebounding the ball, pushing it up court and attacking the hoop, and by pushing Jimmer Fredette, whenever he touches the ball, to pass the ball.
-I love seeing the BYU (male) cheerleaders calling for traveling call. He may have gotten one right actually...
-Fredette has gone 13 minutes without a field goal. They are working him every inch he handles the ball. Frank Martin deserves a lot of credit for that defensive switch in strategy.
-BYU shouldn't try to run and gun with the Wildcats. Pullen is the most NBA-ready player on the court. It shows.
-CBS may be overworking Pullen's "hip-injury"? Then again, I can't blame them.
-19-4 run by Kansas State has them up 1:47. BYU isn't setting screens properly and can't break the press. THIS is why Kansas State was such a popular Final Four selection. Good thing they don't have to play Kansas a fourth time.
-BYU has 3 players with 3 fouls. All inside guys. The size and strength of Kansas State can't be understated right now.
-BYU has gone from up 10-0 to down 41-31. Wow.
-BYU has 3.2 seconds to take back some juju. Awful D from Kansas State leads to a near tip-in. Missed it by 0.1. Great effort though.

Brackets BUSTED: Rock, Chalked Edition

So that happened. Rock, Chalk-nation just got a case of STONES!!!

Countless expert and novice brackets had Kansas winning it all.
So much for that.
Maybe my Georgetown pick wasn't so awful after all...
Credit: Yahoo! Sports


#1-overall seed Kansas was given an early exit, on Saturday of the opening weekend, by the 9-seed Northern Iowa, losing 69-67. More than just the Midwest "Bracket of Death" is shaken up now.

Although somewhere, Evan Turner is smiling a little bigger.

Hopefully, you saw the game. Assuredly, you'll see a detailed break-down of how things went down. Nevertheless, here's the 1 fact you need to know. STONES!

It took serious STONES for Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh to drain a wide-open 3 with 34 seconds remaining. With his team up 1 and the Jayhawks completely locking down the in-bounds attempts of the Panthers, a cross-court pass to Farokhmanesh left him wide open and behind the arc. Instead of waiting to be fouled or passing the ball to a teammate to help kill time, Farokhmanesh turned and drained the deep 3, clinching (by far) the tournament's biggest upset.

The announcers weren't the only ones in the building completely stunned at the shot attempt. I won't repeat the words I uttered. But funny thing is, I knew it was going in. So did Farokhmanesh, obviously. STONES!

I've getting too repetitive, but I can't stress enough that taking that shot takes incredible STONES. You know you are going to make it when you put up a shot like that. No need to pass to a teammate, attack the hoop (they had a 2-on-1 advantage), or wait to be fouled and go to the charity stripe. Show your STONES, drain the 3, and become another highlight in tournament (and of course, Northern Iowa basketball) history.

KU will still be loaded. Nevertheless, this one will sting for quite some time.
This was a LOADED roster and a clear-cut national title contender all season long.
Brackets across the nation...shattered.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

A few other quick notes...
-Bill Self has a ring, but I still question this guy's coaching ability. He isn't in the class of the elite coaches...not yet.
-Sherron Collins was awful today. He knows it, too.
-Cole Aldrich isn't come back to Kansas. Don't pretend he will Jayhawk-nation.
-Something tells me Xavier Henry is 1-and-done as well. DraftExpress.com has him projected to be in the lottery.
-Northern Iowa is don't yet. This team is too well coaches and too gritty to stop now. -All of the 1-seed (even that one in the West I love) are on notice now.

What I'm thinking now???
Can Ish Smith hit open shots and keep Wake in contention to pull off another major upset? In the tournament, these things happen in pairs, not 3s.

Note: Running commentary isn't going anywhere tonight. I'll check in at HALFTIME of the Kentucky/Wake Forest game. BYU/Kansas State is also ongoing.

NCAA Tournament Running Commentary: Saturday Afternoon Edition

Note: I will be in and out today/tonight with some observations from the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Feel free to comment and be aware that the MOST RECENT updates will be found at the top of the post, although nothing will be deleted from earlier action.

7:20 PM

3 game currently on tap, 2 at the half and one 5 minutes to go in the 1st. Scroll DOWN to get re-caps of today's earlier action.

-Old Dominion has rallied to tie Baylor at 47. An early 11-2 run got the Monarchs right back in the game. ODU is 5-10 from behind the arc including a pair (3 total) from Ben Finney. Baylor has gone cold (as I fortold) and the pace has shored up to ODU. Nevertheless, do you favor the Monarchs in a game that may reach the 70s? ODU takes its first lead at 49-47 with 12:21 left. Baylor seems rattled.

Northern Iowa leads Kansas 52-43 in the second half as we're nearing the under-8 timeout. Because I'm a girlish corward, I've avoided watching the game. When does this become Must See TV? A lead with 5 minutes left? Or is it already now? Northern Iowa has maintained a 8-12 point lead the entire second half. Is a MAJOR story developing? I still have too many doubts...

Washington is controlling New Mexico 44-34 as we're 2 minutes into the second half. While New Mexico made a run against Montana on Thursday, the pace of this game completely favors the Huskies. Nevertheless, if this lead is under 8 with less than 10 to go, the Lobos should have plenty of chances.

6:45 PM
Careful to put up the finger too quickly. Kansas can put a 10-0 run together in less than 60 seconds far too easily. Especially if Aldrich starts blocking shots left and right.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

3 game currently on tap, 2 at the half and one 5 minutes to go in the 1st.

Washington has controlled the pace and is shooting 60% from the field against the Lobos of New Mexico. The Lobos are 3-11 from the behind the arc and are playing uglier than Steve Alford's jacket. Ouch. Isaiah Thomas Jr. and Quincy Pondexter already have combined for 17 in the 1st half.
Both also have 2 fouls. Washington leads 34-25 with 4:412 to go.

Northern Iowa leads #1-overall seed Kansas (I know, do I need to add that?) at the half 36-28. The first 5 minutes of the second-half will be HUGE. If Northern Iowa wants to make the loudest statement of the tournament thus far, they must: value possessions, hit over 50% of open 3s, limit fast break opportunities for the Jayhawks, and not allow Collins to have an and-1 festival when attacking the hoop. That shouldn't be too hard, right?

Baylor
leads ODU 38-28 at the half. The Bears have this game at the EXACT pace they want. Question is: when Baylor goes cold for 4-6 minutes (and believe me, they will), can ODU turn possessions into points??? The Monarchs don't hit 3s, but they can pass the ball well from the post - specifically through Gerald Lee - and leave themselves with wide open perimeter looks. ODU can't afford this lead to spread to 15+. They did trail Notre Dame by 6 at the half, but in a much lower scoring affair.

6:15 PM



As much as he's tortured Big East opponents, Scottie Reynolds will still be missed.
He's Villanova's finest guard - in my book - since Kerry Kittles.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports


So there are 32 teams still alive, with far fewer possessing legit Final Four aspirations. Then again, crazier things have happened.

On the docket today is a lot of the excitement remaining from Thursday's MUST-SEE schedule (Friday was so-so at best, to be honest).

While my bracket is in pieces (2 Final Four teams = GONE), Syracuse took the #1 seeds to 104-0 against the lowly 16s. Gus Johnson seemed totally devastated Vermont didn't bury a barrage of 3s early on the in the second half to make it another "Game for the Ages". Oh well, Gus.

As for Gonzaga/Cuse, I am worried about Onuaku's absence. Rick Jackson will have to play a TON of minutes and not commit fouls. The outside shooting of Rautins, Jardine, Johnson, and (somehow) Triche should end up being a MAJOR factor. We shall see, I suppose.

As for today...let's check in.

The Vols' defense led them to victory today.
A matchup with Naismith-frontrunner Evan Turner next is likely.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports


The weather in central Virginia (R-I-C!) has been absolutely stellar today and between softball practice (@11), lunch with some teammates, and a trip to Dick's for some new cleats...I haven't seen a ton of early action. Fear not, I'll be with you until the conclusion of tonight's matchups. Thanks, Five Hour Energy!!!

Currently in progress...
Old Dominion
can't be happy with the pace of their game early on against Baylor. Trying to play a game in the 50s, Baylor is attacking the hoop early and holds an early 20-8 lead with 11+minutes left in the half. ODU can't afford to fall too far behind early on, as they aren't an efficient 3-point shooting team; especially considering Baylor's ability today thus far to use their team speed to attack the hoop at will.

Northern Iowa is shooting the ball very well and playing confidently against #1-overall seed Kansas. The Jayhawks started quietly on Thursday night and should have far too much size and athleticism - specifically via Collins and the Morris twins - to allow Northern Iowa to shoot themselves into a big enough lead to worry Rock, Chalk nation. Northern Iowa leads 19-15 mid-way through the 1st half.

New Mexico and Washington may be a more entertaining game than you think, although you may need a satellite to see it from your house (especially on the East Coast). The Lobos started poorly on Thursday, though they are an uber-talented team who shouldn't be dismissed because of their conference affiliation. My eyes will be on Washington's Quincy Pondexter, who single-handedly took over their matchup against Marquette down the stretch, sealing the game with less than 2 seconds with an impressive runner to secure the W for the Pac-10's Huskies. Could the Pac 10 join the WCC with a 3-0 record after 3 days? The game is tie at 19 nearing the 10-minute mark in the first half. This game could have plenty of fireworks.

Later tonight...
-In the East, Kentucky looks to keep it going against Wake Forest. How DeMarcus Cousins handles the duo of Yellow Jacket big men is of the utmost importance for Coach Cal.
-In the West, BYU tries to make the trip to Salt Lake City for the regional semi-final. However, red hot Kansas State - one of the most impressive performers of the opening day's games - has an extremely talented backcourt of their own and must be the early favorite to advance.

South Region
#2 Villanova vs. #10 St. Mary's
Fortunately I caught the last 10 minutes of each of the halves of Villanova and St. Mary's. Many people ignored Nova's recent struggles - and a complete LACK of rebounding an interior presence - and decided their region was weak enough to allow the Wildcats to return to the Final Four. No so much. Scottie Reynolds struggled all day, reverting to far too much 1-on-1 play in the closing possessions, as St. Mary's became the first team to punch a ticket to the Sweet Sixteen, defeating the 2-seeded Wildcats 75-68.

Omar Samhan, who makes Sam Perkins circa-96 look like he had LeBron's vertical, may be the emerging star of the tournament thus far. After completely dominating the Spiders of Richmond in the opening round (29 and 12), Villanova had ABSOLUTELY no answer for Samhan (32 and 7 on 13-16 shooting from the field). Samhan sealed the game with a late block as well. The Gaels leave the WCC 3-0 and should be considered a legit contender out of the South region in Houston next weekend.

Midwest Region
#6 Tennessee vs. #14 Ohio
It may be difficult to think of a team who played a more complete game - on both sides of the ball - than the Bobcats did in the opening round; especially considering their opponent (Georgetown). That momentum couldn't be carried over against the Volunteers, who led by 11 at the half and kept that lead for the majority of the second half - outside of one brief spurt by Ohio that cut the Tennessee lead to 5 - due to the Vols' superior athletes and shooting 55% from the field. 12 missed free throws (14-26) from the Bobcats certainly didn't help.

If you had Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen after Tyler Smith's exit from the team...you are far more adept than I am. The true question is if Bruce Pearl and the Vols can finally advance to the Elite Eight, after being frequent second weekend participants in years past.

West Region
#5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State
This one will sting for the Racers. Leading by 3 with less than 90 seconds to go, the charity stripe was good to Butler; meanwhile Murray State struggled to find quality shots. On the last possession of the game, the Racers failed to get off a 3, thanks in large party to gritty, tenacious defense from the Bulldogs behind the 3-point line. Cinderella took a backseat unfortunately as this game slipped away from the underdog.

Friday, March 19, 2010

NCAA Tournament Running Commentary: Friday Night Edition

Note: I will be in and out tonight with some observations from the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Feel free to comment and be aware that the MOST RECENT updates will be found at the top of the post, although nothing will be deleted from earlier action.

8:40 PM

Author's Note: Of course Gus Johnson (who is so over the top it's CORNY) is in Buffalo, calling Syracuse vs. Vermont. How early into the game does he scream after a Catamount 3 about 2005? I say before tip-off, during warm-ups.

Matt Bouldin and the Zags have total control over the Seminoles inside and outside of the paint early on.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Midwest Region
-Oklahoma State is shooting lights out inside the 3-point line, not so much from the outside. They lead Georgia Tech by a narrow 2-point margin early in the 2nd half. James Anderson may have to carry the Cowboys to victory late this evening.
-New Mexico State is struggling to keep its composure, hit perimeter shots, and rebound anything against Sparty. Michigan State seems in total control and exuding the one principle coach Tom Izzo preaches most: poise.

South Region
-Duke is pounding Arkansas Pine-Bluff 39-20 at the half. Need I elaborate more?

West Region
-Gonzaga
sprinted out early 24-9 and leads Florida State by double-digits early in the second half. Florida State isn't working the soft rims and the Zags have forced several early turnovers from the Seminole backcourt. Can FSU string together enough stops to wake up the transition game? 46-35 with 13+ to go...

A quick rundown of the day's earlier action...

East Region
-West Virginia fell down early 10-0. No worries. The Mountaineers cruised from then on, ending up with a 77-50 victory over 15th seeded Morgan State. I still wonder about the point guard position for this team, who should advance deep into the tournament.
-Cornell, via a balanced attack, was simply too much for the A10's finest, Temple 78-65. A popular 12/5 upset selection, the Big Red broke a drought of NCAA Tournament victories for the Ivy League dating back to 1998. Limiting fouls and controlling the boards, Cornell looks like a team with clear-cut second weekend potential.
-Missouri took control of a back-and-forth game against Clemson in the second half, walking away 86-78 victors. Never doubt the ability of Mizzou head coach Mike Anderson in the tournament. Anderson has 7 wins in 3 trips (and counting).
-Wofford, in their first ever tournament appearance, nearly snakebit 4th-seeded Wisconsin. However, a clutch shot with 17 seconds left by Badger Lon Leuer anchored the (predictably) gritty victory 53-49. Even more critical might have been his steal on the next possession, sealing the victory for Bo Ryan and company.

South Region
-More than a few experts told you take Siena over Purdue. WRONG! The Boilermakers overcame a 3-point halftime deficit to win 72-64. JaJaun Johnson's 23 and 15 led a balance Boilermakers' attack. Shooting 33% from the field didn't help the Metro Atlantic Champion Saints either.
-Texas A&M made it at least one victory in 5 straight tournaments (only Pitt can also say that) after defeating Utah State - another set of Aggies - 69-53. One game away from a regional semi-final in Houston, A&M was one of the most impressive teams on a somewhat lackluster Friday docket.

West Region
-Xavier
took control over Minnesota mid-way through the second half, hitting enough shots down the stretch to walk away victorious, 65-54. Minnesota is the first, and only thus far, Big 10 team to drop a game in this tournament. The A10 is 1-2, with Richmond and Temple bowing out early to underdogs (St. Mary's & Cornell, respectively).
-Pittsburgh overcame a sluggish start to trounce the Summit champion Oakland Grizzlies 89-66. A tough elbow from Gary McGhee took away any momentum from the Grizzlies after starter Derick Nelson, who was forced to leave the game for the remainder of the 1st half with a huge gash over his right eye. Pitt and Xavier could easily be a game in the 50s or the 80s.

I have to admit that Friday's action has been quite tame.
Might sneak out for a dice game before the Cuse tip-off around 9:45 pm.
Credit: CelticsBlog.com

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NCAA Tournament Running Commentary: Thursday Edition

Note: I will be in and out today with some observations from the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Feel free to comment and be aware that the MOST RECENT updates will be found at the top of the post, although nothing will be deleted from earlier action.

I give Gody a harder time than most (even Pay). Nevertheless...
HIS "defense" is among the worst in the post I've seen in years and Notre Dame is a BETTER team with him not on the court.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

6:00 pm
Scroll down to check out updates for the first 4 finals of the day. ODU/ND, Nova/RM, BYU/Fla, & Murray State's heroics over Vandy. Hope you enjoyed the early session, as primetime doesn't look as enticing.

Brief updates...
-UTEP leads Baylor 29-24 as both teams close in on halftime. This was a POPULAR upset pick for the 12th-seeded Miners. Conversely, plenty of people have Butler going deep in this tournament.

West Regional
#2 Kansas State throttled #15 North Texas 82-62
No real surprise here whatsoever. Impressive opener for the Wildcats, who next draw BYU.

East Regional
#3 Baylor "defeated" Sam Houston State 68-59
First tourney win since 1950 for the Bears. To get another couple, they can't have a performance equal to this one.

#10 St. Mary's BALANCED #7 Richmond 80-71
Despite a competitive opening 20 minutes, the Gaels dominated the second half from start-to-finish. Inside they got 29 and 11 from big-man Omar Samhan and from the outside, 23 from Mickey McConnell (5-9 3's). Balance.

.......

5:05 pm

Brief updates...
-Baylor pulling away late over Sam Houston State. Very unimpressive debut for the Bears. State is 6-30 from the 3-point line. OUCH. Baylor looked quite stagnant and will need a lot more offensive flow to not fall into a game in the 50s against Old Dominion (see more below on the Monarchs).
-Richmond and St. Mary's are trading punches. The backcourt of Richmond is one of the top 10 in the country...seriously. Meanwhile, momentum for the Gaels behind 16 early points from Omar Samhan were quieted by 3 first-half fouls. This one should go down to the wire, especially if Samhan has "thriller arms" on defense. Spiders better double up in the paint until he does or things may start to turn against them. (Richmond has wins as a #12, #13, #14, and #15 seed. Even more surprising is this is the first time they've worn the white jerseys as the higher seed.)
-Kansas State is pummeling North Texas. Not much more needs to be said, right? BYU is likely taking copious notes.

West Region
#13 Murray State buzzerbeated #4 Vanderbilt 66-65
Danero Thomas' jumper, which left his hands with 0.6 ticks left, is the early highlight of the tournament. Murray State, a popular sleeper, should be given full credit for this win. Don't simply blame Vanderbilt (who had an insane backdoor cut to take the lead) or the SEC. A clutch shot and a great moment to remember, less than 5 hours into the tournament.

#7 BYU outlasted #10 Florida 99-92 (2 OT)
BYU led by as much as 11 with 8 minutes to go. Despite a stellar late comeback, Florida failed 't close out the Cougars, blowing multiple chances in regulation and in overtime. The Cougars controlled the second OT period, thanks in large part to the scoring duo of Jimmer Fredette (37 points) and Michael Loyd Jr. (26 points, 9-10 FTs). Kenny Boynton deserves a lot of credit for the Gators, catching fire late in the game. Fouling out may have been the final nail in the Gators' coffins. BYU lacks any interior rebounding presence. This will be a major issue WHEN they face Kansas State (North Texas is getting whipped).

South Region
#10 ODU CAAd #7 Notre Dame 51-50.
Pay said it best to me in a brief, yet poignant e-mail: Tyrone Nash barely played in the second half, and Gody has missed at least 3 bunnies. And (Gody) was poor on defense per usual. Good job by (ODU head coach Blaine) Taylor to switch the defense at halftime. Gody got his first basket with 12.6 remaining ... he sucks worse than ODU's ft shooting on 1-and-1s.
If you ask me, Notre Dame changed their style too late in the season. Once they were matched up with ODU, they played a team who employed that same ball-control strategy, with far more expertise at running it and far less reliance on the 3-ball. As for Gerald Lee (spotlighted by ME earlier today), he didn't erupt scoring-wise, but made some critical buckets down the stretch. Just as I expected. CAA strikes again!!!

#2 Villanova Chris Pauled #15 Robert Morris 73-70
A late 10-3 run, led by Scottie Reynolds, gave Villanova the last shot (or tip) in regulation...to no avail. Opening OT on a 6-0 run, the Wildcats withstood the best efforts of the Colonials to walk away with a narrow victory. Far more narrow than last year's mini-escape against American University. If the South bracket wasn't such a joke, Nova would be in more trouble than they are. That being said, Richmond/St. Mary's may pose an interesting matchup in the 2nd round (much more so than UCLA did last year). As for the context of "Chris Pauled", ask any Wake or VCU fan about 2003 and CP3's free throw barrage.