NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.19.2011Posted by Brian Goodman on March 19th, 2011
Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.
- George Mason took out a fizzling Villanova in the first round, and continues to carve its own identity separate from the 2006 Final Four squad. The Wildcats’ season is over, and considering it lost 11 of its last 16 games, including its final six, perhaps it’s for the best.
- The blistering performance Marquette put on Xavier Friday night sent a big message to its doubters. The Golden Eagles shot 57% on their end, and put the clamps on star Musketeer Tu Holloway. Next for Buzz Williams‘ team is Syracuse, a team Marquette beat earlier this season.
- The Tar Heels broke out in the second half to pull away from Long Island. The high-scoring final outcome, 102-87, didn’t take long to become a polarizing talking point between tempo-free stat-heads (UNC gave up 0.89 points per possession) and traditional analysts (87 points allowed to a lower-tier mid-major)
- Syracuse stuck to its game plan of feeding Rick Jackson and polished off Indiana State. The game ended at 12:41 AM local time in Cleveland (more on this later), and set up an intra-conference battle with Marquette on Sunday (this too).
- For Lorenzo Romar and company, winning away from home has been a large concern, but it shook off the stigma, if only for one night, in their win against Georgia. Is it open season on Bulldogs head coach Mark Fox?
- West Virginia may mix in a 1-3-1 look on defense today when the Mountaineers clash against Kentucky. The game is a rematch of last season’s regional final in Syracuse, when WVU bested John Calipari‘s team in the Carrier Dome.
- The Southeast region has a full slate on Saturday, including a battle between Florida and UCLA. Though the rosters have turned over, UCLA can exact revenge from elimination at the hands of the Gators in the 2006 and 2007 Final Fours.
- Gonzaga faces the same question posed to the 35 teams on BYU‘s schedule to this point – how do you stop Jimmer Fredette? It seems like there’s nothing out of the realm of possibility from 30 feet in for Fredette, so Gonzaga’s defenders need to be on high alert.
- Free throw proficiency has been a major factor to Wisconsin‘s success this season, which is on the line in Saturday’s game against Kansas State. The Wildcats need to show patience in defending Wisconsin’s attack, and play smart defense.
- Butler guard Ronald Nored had to swallow his pride and accept a late-season move from a starting to role to a contributor off the bench. Will he provide a spark against the top-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers?
- For all the attention Jacob Pullen receives (and deservedly so), Rodney McGruder is one of Frank Martin‘s more underrated players. Six-foot-four guards who average six boards a game don’t fall out of the sky.
- After defeating Boston University, Bill Self and Kansas will take on Illinois on Sunday. If you recall, Self’s last coaching stop was at Champaign, and as coach, his Illini beat Kansas in the 2001 Sweet Sixteen.
- VCU throttled Georgetown, erasing doubt over whether the Rams belong in the tournament. Shaka Smart‘s stock continues to rise at a meteoric pace thanks to hot shooters like Joey Rodriguez and Brandon Rozell. VCU turned the ball over just six times all game and had 14 assists on 18 made shots.
- A story on Morehead State and head coach Donnie Tyndall takes a look at the long road taken by the Eagles’ leader. Tyndall at one point had two coaching jobs plus a night shift as a dorm security guard. The hard work is certainly paying off now.
- Those stingy Seminoles beat Texas A&M on a slow-paced affair, but as long as it does the job, Leonard Hamilton will take it. Perhaps most impressive was that the ‘Noles received only sparse contributions from Chris Singleton, who continues to recover from a broken right foot.
- The Boilermakers cruised to an easy win over St. Peter‘s behind strong play from E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. For a team that got clobbered by Michigan State in Indianapolis last week and stunned by Iowa at the end of the regular season, the blowout has to give Purdue some much-needed confidence going into Sunday’s game with VCU.
- After Arizona beat Memphis on a controversial no-call involving Derrick Williams, the Longhorns await. Sunday’s game should be a terrific matchup between Williams and Jordan Hamilton, two of the best athletes in the tournament.
- For the Longhorns, it was a simple case of “survive and advance.” Tristan Thompson handled Keith Benson, but the Golden Grizzlies’ high-tempo offense kept it in the game until the final minutes.
- With Duke and Michigan handling business in respective blowouts, we’ll get another interesting matchup Sunday, particularly in the wake of the recent Fab Five documentary and the comments exchanged between former Blue Devil Grant Hill and Wolverine great Jalen Rose.
- One of two early clashes between Big East teams will involve Cincinnati taking on Connecticut. One lightning rod of discussion has been the overwhelming number of teams from the conference in the tournament, making such matchups unavoidable. Is the conference too big or is the Big East really this good? Would the NCAA find itself in this position if the bubble was better this year?
- In today’s matchup between Temple and San Diego State, each possession counts. Both teams prefer a more methodical pace, which magnifies the importance of every trip down the floor on both ends of the court.
Odds and Ends
- Thursday’s tournament action pulled in the highest television ratings in over 20 years for the first full day of NCAA Tournament coverage, a stellar start for the first year of a lengthy TV partnership between the NCAA, CBS and the Turner networks.
- A byproduct of that growth is that the duration of games is extended with longer timeouts and halftimes. Game action in Cleveland didn’t wrap up until early Saturday morning, as the site’s first game didn’t tip off until around 2:15. Take Basketball Prospectus writer John Gasaway’s advice and send some love to your friendly neighborhood beat writer, whomever it may be.