NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.21.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 21st, 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.

East

  • No one team had a more impressive day yesterday than the Ohio State Buckeyes. Their tremendous play may be due the emergence of freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who dished a career-best 15 assists. Craft, who comes off the bench, plays starter’s minutes for Thad Matta’s squad.
  • Once thought to be an afterthought on John Calipari’s Kentucky team, big man Josh Harrelson has made a huge contribution in leading the Wildcats to the Sweet 16. If Kentucky wants to continue its run, Harrelson needs to keep putting up solid numbers.
  • After their second-round upset over Syracuse, former bubble team Marquette is headed to the Sweet 16. Head coach Buzz Williams, a man known for his wide variety of emotions, could not be happier with his squad.
  • While Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes mostly lit up the stat sheet, Dexter Strickland served as a defensive menace in North Carolina’s win over Washington. Strickland was key in the Tar Heels’ comeback, as he was handed the assignment of guarding Washington’s Isaiah Thomas.
  • Following Washington’s loss to North Carolina to end its season, many are beginning to wonder if junior guard Thomas will return to school or enter the NBA Draft. Last week, coach Lorenzo Romar acknowledged that he would encourage Thomas to at least test the waters. The Huskies have turned Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson to the league in recent years, so in that regard, another early departure would hardly be surprising.

Southeast

  • Who would have thought at the midpoint of the season that Butler would be headed to another Sweet 16? Right now, their upset win over #1 seed Pittsburgh is gaining great acclaim across the country.
  • While Florida is happy with its Sweet 16 berth, its ultimate goal is beyond the Sweet 16. This should not be surprising, as the program knows how it feels to win college basketball’s ultimate prize.
  • After their healthy win over Gonzaga, BYU finds themselves in the Sweet 16. One Salt Lake Tribune columnist argues that the Cougars have a chance at the Final Four.
  • Wisconsin has recently held the reputation of being a quality team that gets quality contributions from a variety of guys. This tournament, it seems as if their role players are stepping into a more important position.
  • Florida’s advancing to the Sweet 16 was hugely influenced by the hot shooting of guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. The two guards, who have struggled with inconsistency in their careers, look to be on a hot streak for Billy Donovan’s Gators.

Southwest

  • The Kansas City Star‘s Sam Mellinger says that with the havoc wreaked in the Southwest, the sea has parted for Kansas, which has a relatively easy road between the Sweet Sixteen and the Final Four. Provided they take care of business, the Jayhawks won’t face a single-digit-seeded team until they get to Houston.
  • If the regions went back to being named for cities, the city of Richmond would have a great case to attach its name to the tournament. Although it isn’t the home of a BCS conference team, Richmond has two teams in the Sweet 16 (Richmond and VCU) – as many as the entire Big East conference and one more than the Big 12.
  • The Florida State Seminoles have something to say to those who thought the ACC was divided into the three tiers of “Duke, North Carolina and everyone else.” FSU put on another stifling defensive display to stun Notre Dame on its way to its first Sweet Sixteen berth since 1993.
  • If you’re following the tournament closely, chances are you already know the big names for VCU after crashing the party – head coach Shaka Smart and leading scorers Jamie Skeen and Joey Rodriguez. But also important for the Rams are its freshmen, DJ Haley and Juvonte Reddic.
  • The Jayhawks pulled away from Illinois with another big second half thanks to one of the all-time classic offensive strategies in basketball – the pick-and-roll. We can’t help but wonder if Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone and John Stockton were watching.

West

  • Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski earned career win #900 when the Blue Devils edged Michigan for a trip to Anaheim. After the battle against the Wolverines recalled matchups from the early 90s, the trips down memory lane are sure to continue this week as Duke prepares to take on Arizona, its foe from the 2001 National Championship.
  • Like Butler in the Southeast region, Arizona has survived by the skin of its teeth in its first two games of the NCAA Tournament. On Friday, a Derrick Williams block saved the win for the Wildcats, and on Sunday, stout defense on a last-second drive by Texas helped propel Sean Miller‘s team into the Sweet 16.
  • There’s nothing that fazes Kemba Walker. His head-turning run through the season has catapulted him among Husky greats like Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Caron Butler and Ben Gordon. Beating San Diego State roughly two hours away from the Aztec campus is his next hurdle.
  • The margin of error for Steve Fisher‘s team becomes smaller, as the Aztecs need to eliminate some of its problem spots from the first two rounds in order to play two games in Anaheim instead of one.
  • Officiating remains a lightning rod for discussion in the tournament, and a five-second violation called on Texas’ Cory Joseph late in the Longhorns’ game against Arizona did nothing to quell the fires. As was the case in Syracuse’s loss, there are other things one can point to, but as long as are games are close, and especially in the Sweet 16 and beyond, the magnifying glass will continue to hover over the zebras.
Brian Goodman (746 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.


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