NCAA Tournament

NCAA Tournament

Final Four: Shockers and Injury Highlight Last Week of March Madness

As the old saying goes, March Madness brings April Sadness. The tournament field is down to four teams, and if the first two weeks of the tournament served as any indication, the last three games have all the makings of a classic finish in Atlanta. In fact, only nine people out of 3 million participants in the Yahoo bracket challenge picked the Final Four teams correctly.

Florida Gulf Coast’s Cinderella run ended with a whimper against big brother Florida, Michigan staged an unbelievable comeback against Kansas in the only overtime game thus far, and nine seed Wichita State is in their first Final Four since 1964. Jim Boeheim and Syracuse’s oft-shaky squad have used a seamless 2-3 zone defense to get to Atlanta, while Louisville hasn’t let off the gas since their opening round throttling of North Carolina A&T.

The two games on Sunday afternoon weren’t even close, and the most shocking aspect of the day was Louisville’s Kevin Ware breaking his leg after contesting a shot from Duke’s Tyler Thornton. When Ware landed, his right shin snapped in half, exposing a considerable among of bone and leaving the entire arena shuddering. ABC News’ Liz Neporent explained the injury. Louisville players fell to their knees and wept on the court, and gathered around Ware as he was wheeled off on a stretcher. He told them to go win the game, and they abided. With the score knotted at 42, Louisville used a stellar 17-2 run to ice the game. Louisville’s stellar guard play, size and athleticism in the paint, and emotional crusade to win for their fallen teammate, the Cardinals are the favorite to win it all. Read the rest of this entry »



Wichita State and Florida Gulf Coast are Sweet 16’s Cinderella Stories

The 2013 NCAA Tournament field is down to 16 teams, your bracket is destroyed, and apparently Florida Gulf Coast University has a basketball team. Upsets abounded, the madness was unparalleled, and the first three rounds of the Big Dance reminded us that the title “Expert Analyst” is flimsy at best.

Of the remaining 16 teams, 30% are between seeds six through 15. For the first time in history, a number 15 seed team (Florida Gulf Coast) is in the Sweet 16. Ninth seeded Wichita State upset number one Gonzaga in a stunning third round match in which the Shockers shot an incredible 54% from three. La Salle, a 13th seed, shocked Kansas State and Mississippi to advance. The games have been unprecedented from a competitive standpoint, as Kansas and Gonzaga nearly became the first one seeds in tourney history to lose to a 16 seed.

Though predicting how the rest of the mayhem will play out makes me as mad as a March hare, I’ll play Cinderella and give it the old college try.

Midwest Region

Shocking Upset: No. 12 Oregon 74, No. 4. St. Louis 57

Sweet 16 Match Ups:

No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 12 Oregon

Two teams that are playing devastatingly efficient, I think Louisville’s size advantage and inspired guard play will topple the under-seeded Ducks.

No. 2 Duke vs No. 3 Michigan St.

Michigan State will finally meet some complimentary size in the paint, but with Mason Plumlee dominating down low and Seth Curry lighting up all over the court, the Blue Devils will roll over the outmatched Spartans. Read the rest of this entry »



March Madness 2013: Breaking Down the Big Dance

Dweebos, geeks, hipsters, foodies, motorheads and burnouts take notice: March Madness is here, and I know you all care. Parity in college basketball has helped small schools play significant roles come NCAA tournament time. Athletes at blue blood programs are declaring for the NBA draft earlier than ever, giving mid-major programs the opportunity to develop quality players that challenge big name schools with unsexy, yet seasoned, team-oriented recruits. That’s right smart kids, your schools are in the mix this year. Private schools, Jesuit universities, and mid-majors, and even an Ivy League school are in the Big Dance.

Let’s break down some of the NCAA tournament’s impact players, possible upsets and exciting potential match ups.

Midwest Region

Top Overall Seed: No. 1 Louisville

Don’t Sleep On: No. 4 Saint Louis

Potential Upset: No. 10 Cincinnati over No. 7 Creighton

Creighton big man Doug McDermott is a versatile scorer who can reel off 30-plus points if he’s feeling it. But Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright can score too, and their team’s solid defense and rebounding should help them prevail. Read the rest of this entry »



NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 Preview

The Sweet 16 kicks off tonight, with a batch of four games that should all be compelling. So let’s take a look at the four games:

1. Butler vs. Wisconsin: Here we go again. A year removed from a surprising National Championship Game appearance, the Butler Bulldogs are a Cinderella story again. They upset the top-seeded Pitt Panthers in the second round (Really, who hasn’t at this point?) but will need some more help for Shelvin Mack, who probably won’t go 7-of-12 from three-point range again.

Wisconsin held off Kansas State last round and can shake their postseason demons with a solid win here. But star guard Jordan Taylor better not pull another 2-for-16 from the floor, or the Badgers will be in trouble.

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NCAA Basketball Tournament Player Profile: Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor

Despite a lack of fanfare, the University of Wisconsin has quietly churned out another 20-win season under Head Coach Bo Ryan. One of the main reasons for that is the play of guard Jordan Taylor.

The 6-1 guard played in 33 games for the Badgers last season, but has really come into his own this year. He’s shooting 44% from the floor, 85% from the line (up from 71% last season) and an obscene 44% from three point range (up from 33% last season). When he’s on, few can stop him, or Wisconsin.

In the Badgers stunning comeback win over Ohio State, Taylor took over in the second half, scoring 21 of his 27 points, fifteen of which came from three point range. He buried seven three-pointers later in the season against Indiana.

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NCAA Basketball Tournament Player Profile: Butler’s Matt Howard

Matt Howard’s biggest problem for the Butler Bulldogs is simply staying on the court. The talented forward is tough inside but his constant foul trouble has forced the team to put him on the bench for stretches.

Last season, Howard fouled out of nine basketball games, and picked up four fouls 13 more times. This season however, he’s been markedly better, and has only fouled out four times. That discipline has allowed him to average a career high 31 minutes a night, as well as a career best 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds a game.

He’s also added the outside shot to his game, hitting 48 three-pointers this year after making just five his previous two seasons. So far in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Howard has averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Perhaps more importantly, however, he’s only committed four fouls, allowing him to play 71 of a possible 80 minutes.

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NCAA Basketball Tournament Player Profile: BYU’s Jimmer Fredette

We continue our profiles of the key players in the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with a look at BYU‘s Jimmer Fredette.

Ahh, the Jimmer. A deadly shooter, one of the most prolific scorers in the game today, a possible player of the year, and a senior to boot. What’s not to love? Well pretty much all that if you’re one of the teams actually tasked with stopping this kid. Fredrette can score seemingly from anywhere on the court, is great at shooting threes (40%) and is almost automatic from the line (90%).

When he’s on, there’s simply nothing you can do. He’s averaging over 28 points per game and has cracked the 40-point barrier four times. He’s also averaging four assists per game, although his game is mostly about scoring. His 52-point outburst against New Mexico was stunning to watch and he’s practically carried BYU on his back the last few games.

Expect him to continue to light it up in the NCAA’s. Teams seem content to let Fredette shoot at will with the goal of shutting down his teammates. Last season, in a double-overtime first-round victory over Florida, Fredette scored a game high 37 points on 13-of-26 shooting. He went cold in the next round though, going just 5-of-13 in a loss to Kansas State.

I’ve already pegged BYU as a candidate for an upset, so Jimmer may not be around very long. But if he proves me wrong, odds are it’s going to be through a prolific display of scoring, which is going to be fun to watch.



NCAA Basketball Tournament Player Profile: Connecticut’s Kemba Walker

Our spotlight on the best players in the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament with a look at the University of Connecticut‘s Kemba Walker.

The run Walker went on in the grueling Big East Tournament is the stuff of legends. Against competition from the best conference in the country, Walker scored an astounding 130 points in five games, the most by a player in any conference tournament in 15 years.

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NCAA Basketball Tournament Player Profile: Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger

We’re going to be looking at some of the key players of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and we’re going to kick it off with Ohio State‘s Jared Sullinger.

There’s a strong case to be made that Sullinger is the top player in the country. The 6-9, 280-pound freshman was a monster inside for the Buckeyes, averaging 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds a game while shooting 53% from the floor.

He’s been named a Wooden Award finalist, an award given to “the nation’s best player at an institution of higher education who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA.” He was also named the Big 10’s Freshman of the Year and is a finalist for the U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Oscar Robertson Award, given to their player of the year.

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NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview

It’s time once again for The Big Dance! The 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament seriously kicks into gear today–don’t try and sell me on play-in games–and we’re giving you a preview of the round, replete with upsets and sleepers.

Best shot for an upset/sleeper: Half the games in the Southeast bracket

The Southeast strikes me as a bracket loaded with red flags and teams that constantly underachieve, making it ripe for upsets and the chance of a low-seeded team making a run. Three seed BYU is a possibility for an early exit. Yes, Jimmer Fredette is amazing. But the suspension of Brandon Davies has turned the Cougars into a one man-show. Fredette has scored 80 of BYU’s 130 points over the last two games. He can’t do it alone.

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