The End of the Regular Season. Since there was so much going on this weekend, we’re going to separate today’s ATB into two separate posts. This post exclusively covers the major conference teams, none of whom have gotten to the postseason portion of their schedules yet. We’ll also have another ATB tonight that solely focuses on the mid-major conference tournaments — that post is here.
It’s Kyle Kuric’s World, We’re Just Living In It. Louisville 78, #1 Syracuse 68. Rick Pitino loves these games, as it takes him back to the early days of his coaching career as the underdog at Providence or his early probation-era Kentucky teams. With a possible NCAA bid on the line and the air filled with the pomp and circumstance of the closing of Freedom Hall, the Cards found the unlikeliest of heroes in the second half after guard Jerry Smith hurt his thumb and had to leave the game. A little-used sophomore by the name of Kyle Kuric who had logged eight scoreless games this season found a groove from seemingly everywhere on the court. Dunks, threes, rebounds, assists, you name it — Kuric did it. He scored all 22 of his points in the second half, including a stretch of four treys in five minutes that gave Louisville some breathing room as Syracuse kept going inside to their big men. It was an unbelievable performance that you have to figure will never be duplicated in that young man’s career. With the win, Louisville moved into the #6 seed in the Big East Tournament and will await the winner of Cincinnati and Rutgers on Wednesday. As for Syracuse, we’re not going to read much into this loss on the road where UL was playing for everything and Jim Boeheim’s team was playing for nothing, but it should be noted that the Cardinals defeated the Orange twice this year, and the Cuse only lost three times. The way that the Cardinal players attacked the SU zone in the two wins should be Cliff Notes material for every team that the Orange faces the rest of the way. You have to have athletes who understand good offensive spacing, and it doesn’t hurt to have a Kyle Kuric draining everything he throws up, but it can certainly be done.
Think Louisville's Next Opponent Might Scout Him? (C-J/S. Upshaw)
KU Hangover. Iowa State 85, Kansas State 82 (OT). This is why we’re not sold on K-State as a Final Four contender this year. Mere days after getting run out of the gym against rival Kansas in the Phog, we would expect a top five team to rebound at home on Senior Day to obliterate a vastly inferior team like Iowa State. Instead what we got was an uninspired performance by Frank Martin’s team that included poor shooting (34% FG and 3-23 from three) and even worse decision-making. Often the K-State players decided on a forced shot when there were better opportunities available, and it showed as Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen combined for 11-38 from the field (3-21 from three). ISU led for most of the game, but when Kansas State finally tied it up in the last minute, you figured that the better team would eventually pull it out. Didn’t happen. There’s an element of undisciplined and scattered play that we’ve repeatedly noticed in the KSU attack this year, and while the Wildcats are definitely a dangerous team, Martin agrees that his team is not yet at a championship level of play. It will be interesting to see how a team that doesn’t have a lot of postseason success to hang its hat on will handle going into the Big 12 Tournament next week as the #2 seed.
Quincy Acy, Dunking Machine. We had to mention this because we’re not sure we’ve ever heard of such a thing. In Baylor’s win against Texas on Saturday, forward Quincy Acy had 24 points on 12-15 shooting, an amazing ten of which were on dunks. Acy is a very nice swing player, but it’s not like he’s Shaq or Dwight Howard standing in the paint all night. How a single player can throw down that many dunks, many of which were earth-shaking in force, is as indicative as anything that Texas’ defense has checked out for the season.
Acy is a Raging Dunkaholic (AP/M. Bancale)
Conference Recaps. As of tonight, there’s only one regular season game left (Penn-Princeton), and it’s meaningless to the national picture, although certainly important to fans of that rivalry. Let’s recap how the final weekend of the regular season shaped up in the major conferences.
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