Day In Review: March 22, 2008

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2008

The story of the day was UCLA surviving an upset bid by Texas A&M. We (like a lot of other analysts) thought that UCLA had a clear path to San Antonio. With the 2 (Duke) & 4 (UConn) seeds in the West going down in the past 24 hours, things looked pretty easy for the Bruins. Instead, Texas A&M opened up a 10 pt lead in the 2nd half. After falling behind 36-26, Ben Howland rode Kevin Love and Darren Collison back to a tie at 45 with 2:53 left. The final 2 minutes were filled with both teams hitting big baskets. The game appeared to be sealed with 9.5 seconds left when Darren Collison hit a shot that was eerily reminiscent of Tyus Edney’s shot against Missouri in 1995. However, the Aggies had one last shot, but their attempt was “blocked” and Russell Westbrook finished the scoring with an emphatic slam that appeared to be after the buzzer. They often say that championship teams usually end up winning tight games like this that they probably shouldn’t win. UCLA’s offense didn’t show up today with the exception of Collison and Love, but Howland’s defense came through (especially Love’s 7 blocks). If the Bruins end up winning a championship, they (along with their fans) will point to this game as that game.

Pittsburgh, another trendy pick to make it deep into the tournament (Knight picked them to win the championship), was unable to make it past a big performance by Drew Neitzel’s 21 and freshman Kalin Lucas’s 19 that led the Michigan State Spartans to a 65-54 victory that was closer than the final score makes it appear. In the end, Pittsburgh’s awful 3 pt shooting (2/18) cost them a shot at the victory. Perhaps their legs finally gave out after a run through the Big East tournament.

In the other big upset, everybody’s most hated team (unless they’re your favorite team) Duke fell to West Virginia, 73-67. Going into the tournament, everybody knew Duke’s weakness–they rely on their outside shooting. When the outside shot isn’t falling, they’re screwed. Today it wasn’t falling, and today they’re heading back to Durham. The Blue Devils went 5/22 from 3 pt range including 15 straight misses. Somehow Duke stayed in this game. And before people claim conspiracy theory, the difference in fouls was only 25-23 in favor of Duke. In the end, the Mountaineers used big games from Joe Alexander and Joe Mazzulla to send the Blue Devils home for the season.

In what might have been the best game of the day, Stanford beat Marquette, 82-81 on a Brook Lopez crazy leaning/falling down shot with 1.5 seconds left in OT. Seriously, Lopez has the strangest form of any shooter we have ever seen. We have no idea how he gets his shot off and we are even less sure that he will be able to put that up at the NBA level, but it goes in. Lopez (Stanford) and Jerel McNeal (Marquette) each put in 30 pts for their respective sides. The Cardinal made it to the Sweet 16 without the help of head coach Trent Johnson who was ejected in the first half. With the Cardinal advancing, it appears that Brook Lopez is the most difficult player in the tournament to match up against. We just don’t see anybody in college who can stop him.

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Predictions for today’s games

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2008

We’ll be updating this throughout the day so we can get the predictions out before the games start.

2:10 PM tip:
West Virginia vs. Duke – If the Blue Devils want to get to the second week, they will have to play much better than they did in their opening round game versus Belmont. The key for Duke (as it has been for every game this year) is whether they will hit they 3. If they do, they can beat anybody because well 3 points > 2 points. For the Mountaineers to win, they will need to play solid D on the Blue Devils perimeter shooters and get a big game out of Joe Alexander. Duke also needs be cognizant of the West Virginia shooters as these are still guys recruited that John Beilein recruited.
We’re going with Duke by 5.

4:20/4:40 PM tip:
Kansas State vs. Wisconsin – If the Wildcats are going to get past the Badgers, they will need Bill Walker to have another good game. Michael Beasley will get his 20 and 10, but he needs a little help if KSU wants to beat the Big 10 champs. The Badgers don’t have the big names that KSU has, but they have more depth. The key to the game for them is to play solid defense on Walker and try not to let Beasley have a 40/20 game. We figure that they will put Michael Flowers on Walker and pray that Beasley doesn’t go off (or just hope he gets in early foul trouble again).
We think the Wildcats run ends here. We just can’t see Walker having another big game especially with Flowers, an outstanding defender, guarding him.

Purdue vs. Xavier – This game lacks the star power and national appeal of most of the other games today, but it should be interesting. Purdue brings in a very young, but talented team while Xavier brings in a deep team without a defined star. Even though Xavier is the favorite (both in Vegas and in seeding), but we think the crowd will be behind Xavier because of their mid-major status against the traditional Big 10 power.
Xavier’s mix of experience and depth will give them the edge as they pull away late by 10

6:40/6:45/6:50 PM tip:
Notre Dame vs. Washington State – We really have no idea who will win this game. The Irish have an explosive offense led by Luke Harangody along with some good outside shooting while the Cougars have been up-and-down all year. Both teams had relatively easy first round games. The winner gets a date with UNC.
We’re going Washington State by 5.

Marquette vs. Stanford – The Golden Eagles had a tough first-round game that was closer than the final score made it appear. They will have to play much better today if they want to get by Stanford who crushed Cornell in the first round in the all-nerd matchup. Marquette will have to dominate the perimeter to make up for the huge advantage Stanford has on the inside with Brook Lopez.
We don’t think Marquette will be able to make up for Stanford’s edge inside. The Cardinal by 10.

Kansas vs. UNLV – The Jayhawks cruised in their first round while UNLV dominated Kent State despite the lack of respect Vegas was giving them. We just don’t see how UNLV can keep up with this Jayhawk team. Just too much talent and experience on Kansas’s side.
We think it will be close for a half then Kansas pulls away to win by 15.

We’ll be updating the final games later today so check back in a bit.

9:10/9:15 PM tip:
Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh – This game is a matchup between two teams that are traditionally known for their physical play. Officiating will play a major factor in this game especially for Pittsburgh, which plays very physically. Pittsburgh has been playing better than Michigan State lately and the Spartans will need Drew Neitzel to play much better than he did in the first round while still getting a good game out of Raymar Morgan.
We think that Pittsburgh will win this game fairly comfortably given how well they have played lately.

UCLA vs. Texas A&M – UCLA is definitely the dominant team in this region and has the easiest path to the Final 4 especially with UConn losing to San Diego. Texas A&M has some good low-post players but nobody with the skill of Kevin Love. UCLA also has the advantage on the perimeter.
UCLA should win this game by double digits

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Your Announcers for Tomorrow

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2008

Courtesy of Awful Announcing:

2:10 PM tip:
– West Virginia vs. Duke – Craig Bolerjack and Bob Wenzel

4:20/4:40 PM tip:
– Kansas State vs. Wisconsin – Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner
– Purdue vs. Xavier – Craig Bolerjack and Bob Wenzel

6:40/6:45/6:50 PM tip:
– Notre Dame vs. Washington State – Gus Johnson and Len Elmore
– Marquette vs. Stanford – Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas
– Kansas vs. UNLV – Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner

9:10/9:15 PM tip:
– Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh – Gus Johnson and Len Elmore
– UCLA vs. Texas A&M – Dick Enberg and Jay Bilas

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San Diego pulls off the biggest upset so far

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2008

In the second great finish of the day San Diego pulled off the big upset of UConn. De’Jon Jackson hit a fallaway jumper to give San Diego the lead with 1.2 secs left and the Toreros managed to hang on giving Jim Calhoun his first 1st round loss ever. Although some analysts warned us about UConn going down early, this still has to be a massive surprise to most people. We wonder if this will affect Calhoun’s memory of the St. Pete Times Forum where he won the national title in 1999.

Congrats to San Diego. Going into the tournament who would have thought they would be the only West Coast Conference team to make it to the weekend.

Once again, YouTube comes through with the video:

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Video of the Western Kentucky-Drake finish

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2008

Here it is for those of you who missed it the first time or just want to watch it over and over and over. . .

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The Tournament has officially begun

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2008

– Great individual performance? Check (Stephen Curry)

– Great finish? Check (Western Kentucky’s Ty Rogers hitting a huge 3 pointer at the buzzer with hands in his face)

After the media widely criticized the opening day of the tournament as boring (outside of Belmont’s near-upset of Duke), we think this should change them over to our point of view.

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Is Stephen Curry becoming a March legend?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2008

A year after having giving Gary Williams and Maryland all they could handle with 30 points in the opening round, Stephen Curry came back this year with an even bigger performance. His 40 points (30 in the 2nd half!!!) including his 3 with about a minute left (the signature moment of the tournament so far) pushed #10 seed Davidson by #7 Gonzaga 82-76.

With Davidson becoming a mid-major power, they will likely be in the NCAA tournament as long as Curry remains in school. Although we consider him one of the best players in the country (do you think schools would like to recruit him if they had another chance?), we realize that he isn’t a big-time NBA prospect (according to scouts) because he isn’t that tall, strong, or athletic. In fact his biggest attributes are his shooting and intelligence, which are two things the NBA scouts don’t seem to care about these days. We are assuming that his family is doing ok financially given the fact that his father (Dell) had a long and distinguished career in the NBA. When you combine all of that, it seems like he might be one college star who remains in college all 4 years. In this day and age, that might be enough to make him a legendary player in March by the time he finishes his college career in 2010.

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Friday, March 21st: Update #1

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2008

– It looks like Bruce Pearl’s Volunteers haven’t shown up for the tournament yet. It’s 59-53 with 2:13 left. American is riding a big game from Garrison Carr’s 24 pts. It looks like Tennessee is pulling away now, but it should be an interesting finish.

– Gonzaga is up 71-70 against Davidson with 4:30 left. Stephen Curry is having a huge game with 34 pts. This looks like it is going down to the wire. Should be an exciting finish? We are enjoying Billy Packer having to sit/suffer through this.

– It looks like Western Kentucky and Miami (FL) are in control. We’ll update you if those games get interesting.

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Thursday, March 20th: Update #3

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2008

This is going to be a brief update because we realize listing the scores is kind of useless since you’re already on the Internet. We’ll just give you a little commentary and offer some more thoughts in the morning.

– The big story of the night was Belmont’s nearly historic near-upset of Duke. The amazing thing is that Belmont didn’t even have a player going off or a great night from beyond the arc. That just shows you how vulnerable this Duke team is when it doesn’t hit the 3. They needed a great 2nd half and end-to-end layup by Gerald Henderson to escape with the win. We also have to question the decision-making by Belmont in the final 10 seconds. Given their distinct disadvantage athletically we thought the decision to come back after Henderson’s layup without taking a timeout a questionable one. Then when DeMarcus Nelson short-armed a FT, they ran a horrible in-bounds play. How does Belmont expect to get a jump-ball against Duke? We also wonder why Coach K didn’t put Brian Zoubek by the basket to prevent that type of play anyways.

– In the only legitimate upset of the day, #11 Kansas State knocked off #6 USC. Surprisingly, they did it without a huge game from Michael Beasley (by his standards). Instead, Beasley used a solid game from Bill Walker and an off-night from OJ Mayo to lead the Wildcats to the win and ruin my bracket. Yes, you’re looking at the sucker who thought USC would make a run to the Elite 8.

– In the only other interesting game of the evening/early night, Texas A&M beat BYU 67-62 behind 26 pts from Josh Carter. This marks the sixth straight opening-round loss for the Cougars. Let that be a lesson before you pick BYU again. Well unless they have Danny Ainge on the team again. . .

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Thursday, March 20th: Update #2

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2008

We missed the 2nd half of the first set of games while we were being tortured by a massage therapist so these recaps will be brief.

Final Scores
#1 Kansas 85, #16 Portland State 61:On the bright side for Portland State, they played Kansas close in the 2nd half. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks already had won the game in the first 10 minutes.

#3 Xavier 73, #14 Georgia 61: I’d like to thank Xavier for turning it around and saving my perfect bracket. Maybe Georgia should have scheduled another game earlier in the day.

#5 Michigan State 72, #12 Temple 61:The Spartans survive an awful game from Drew Neitzel (2/11 FG) thanks to an even worse game from Dionte Christmas (1/12 FG). Raymar Morgan wasn’t bad either with 15 pts on 7/9 FG.

#6 Marquette 56, #11 UK 51: The only reason Kentucky is still in this game is because of a huge game from Joe Crawford (28 pts with 7:43 left).

#4 Pittsburgh 47, #13 Oral Roberts 24: The Panthers are cruising as they are almost doubling up their overmatched opponents.

#6 Purdue 48, #11 Baylor 27: The young Boilermakers look like they have this game in control.

#8 UNLV 51, #9 Kent State 30: It looks like the Vegas books led me astray and cost me my perfect bracket.

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