Tournament Thoughts From Third Round B1G ActionPosted by Deepak Jayanti on March 18th, 2012
Did somebody mention a potential letdown? Michigan‘s loss to Ohio on Friday night may have sent some signals across the tournament that the rest of the B1G teams may be vulnerable, but Saturday turned out to be great for the historical conference. Three Big Ten teams flexed their muscle to prove to the nation that they might not always be flashy in their winning ways, but they are definitely the toughest, both mentally and physically. Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio State faced adversity during their games, but they showed great composure to pull out with a huge wins as they advance to the Sweet 16. The following are a few thoughts from Saturday’s action.
Ohio State over Gonzaga (73-66)
Mark Few had the frontline to challenge Ohio State. Robert Sacre and Elias Harris have the physical tools to hang with Jared Sullinger and they certainly did that during the first half of the game. Gonzaga owned the glass during the first 20 minutes which resulted in a 52.9% offensive rebounding rate. Matta’s crew did a great job of hitting the boards in the second half which led to a bruising win. Sullinger scored on two key possessions during the final minutes from the post, and that’s exactly what Matta expects from his star player in the clutch. Aaron Craft and William Buford were committed to feeding the post. When Ohio State is patient with their shots from beyond the arc and go through Sullinger consistently, they are a handful for rest of the teams in the tournament. The guards need to be persistent including Deshaun Thomas. If Sullinger doesn’t get a good position the first time, the ball needs to come back out and Craft needs to find him again until he gets a good position in the post. Sullinger ended up with 18 points for the game and he earned every one of them. Aaron Craft was able to control the tempo during the second half by locking down Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos. Craft assisted or scored on 44 of the 73 points during the game but as usual, his defense was a more important key to the victory. Pangos was stifled on the perimeter as he missed six out of the eight three-point attempts. Craft’s defense limited him to 3-13 from the field and just ten points. Thad Matta‘s Buckeyes took a few jabs throughout the game and punched back to make the Sweet 16.
Wisconsin over Vanderbilt (60-57)
The Badgers just wanted to win this one more than Vanderbilt. They made it clear from the initial minutes of the game as Ryan Evans showed up to play. Evans outscored Vanderbilt 8-2 during the first couple minutes by showing a nice array of moves from the post and the baseline. Consistent offensive production has been an issue for Bo Ryan‘s team this season. But they led for practically throughtout the whole game despite certain droughts and their stingy defense deserves all of the credit. Wisconsin’s guards and wings did an excellent job on Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins. Jenkins shot just 2-9 from beyond the arc because Bo Ryan’s crew knew every one of his tendencies off the screens. Jenkins’ rhythm from the long-range drives Vanderbilt but he had a hand in his face all day long. Jeffrey Taylor tried to pick up the pieces during Jenkins’ slump but was unsuccessful as he was limited to just nine points. Vanderbilt should have run their offense through the big man, Festus Ezeli but they waited too long. Ezeli led them back into the game during the final ten minutes with some putbacks and by dominating the glass (11 rebounds) but it was too late. Wisconsin had one more run in them to counter Ezeli and it came from an unexpected player - Ben Brust. He scored eight of his 11 points in the second half as Wisconsin hung on to beat Vanderbilt to return to the Sweet 16. Consistent defense and bad shot selection by the Commodores helped Bo Ryan to keep their pursuit of the Final Four alive in the postseason.
Indiana over VCU (63-61)
Remember all of the Indiana’s road losses during the Big Ten season? Indiana dominated at home but just couldn’t figure it out on the road but those losses brought the team together. On a night when VCU’s suffocating full court press forced Tom Crean’s group to turn the ball over 22 times, they still managed to come out with a victory. The adversity during the season prepared them to handle a rough game and it showed during the final minutes. The Hoosiers could have used Verdell Jones III‘s services because Jordan Hulls couldn’t handle the length of VCU’s guards, and turned the ball over five times. VCU did a great job of preventing Indiana from feeding the ball to Cody Zeller in the post, but Zeller found other ways to make an impact. He clearly took advantange of VCU’s lack of size by grabbing 13 rebounds and drove the ball to the hoop from the high post a couple of times during the final minutes, resulting in free throw attempts. The Hoosiers only allowed five points during the final ten minutes of the game and earned every one of their buckets in a comeback win. Victor Oladipo sliced his way towards the hoop during a couple of possessions as they clawed their way back to a Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002. Last night was a well deserved win for Tom Crean and the Indiana program.