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NCAA Tournament Day 3

Gonzaga led 58 to 51 and then the baskets started falling. In Doug Gottlieb’s words, “Wap, Wap, Wap!”

-Tekele Cotton Three Pointer

-Cleanthony Early Three Pointer

-Ron Baker Three Pointer

-Carl Hall Jumper

-Ron Baker Free Throws

-Ron Baker Three Pointer

-And then, with the shot-clock down to one and Fred Vanvleet fumbling the ball, the shot of the tournament, another three. Wap!

19 points in 7 possessions

In 14 years, Mark Few has won 12 WCC titles at Gonzaga. But in 14 years, Mark Few has never made it to the Elite Eight. You can say all you want about how this is bad coaching. If Mark Few really had Gonzaga playing great basketball, they would have led by more than seven points late in the game. If Mark Few’s teams really played elite defense, Gonzaga wouldn’t give up runs like this.

But really that is all hyperbole. How do you make sure four separate guys don’t get hot from the perimeter in a short-stretch. What coaching adjustment are you supposed to make? 19 points in four minutes and 34 seconds. Sometimes, even for the best coaches in the world, basketball isn’t fair.

Meanwhile, if Gregg Marshall isn’t coaching in a Power Conference next season, he’s making $1.75 million at Wichita St. His NCAA tournament appearances at Winthrop, rebuilding a winner at Wichita St., and exceeding expectations in the tournament make him the hottest coaching prospect not named Shaka Smart. (I honestly don’t see Brad Stevens leaving Butler, especially with Butler headed to the new Big East.)

Re-Match

Brad Stevens has seemingly had a lucky horseshoe in his pocket the last few years. A lot of that is planning and preparation, but his fortune in close games has been too good to be true. There was Butler’s last-second lay-up win against Pittsburgh in the NCAA tournament a few years ago; there was the former walk-on hitting a floater to beat Indiana in OT this season; there was the possible shove, steal, and miracle basket against Gonzaga. And oh-by-the-way, there was that buzzer-beating three pointer to beat Marquette in the Maui Invitational to open the season.

Execution absolutely has a lot to do with it. And even down four with five seconds left, Butler executed enough to give itself a chance to win. Butler pulled off a beautiful full-court pass to Andrew Smith whose (goaltended) basket cut the lead to two. And there was the great inbounds defense that forced a turnover and gave Butler a chance for the win in regulation. But finally, even with good execution, the percentages finally caught up to Brad Stevens. Rotnei Clarke was used as a diversion, and Andrew Smith a capable if not elite three point shooter (read 29%) caught the ball at the top of the key. He should have had the size to get up a clean look. But instead he tripped over his own feet. And Butler’s chance at a miracle three pointer came up short.

A Double Digit Seed to the Sweet 16

I absolutely believe Oregon was under-seed in this tournament and they were better than a 12-seed. But the talk about how Oregon is a different team with Dominic Artis in the lineup has to stop. Artis was 0-for-7 with one assist and one turnover on Saturday, and this follows up a string of recent games where Artis has posted ORtgs of 47, 48, 81, and 34.

This isn’t a team that we vastly overlooked in the regular season. Rather, this is a team that lost its last two regular season games and blew a chance to share the Pac-12 title. What they have done in the Pac-12 tournament and NCAA tournament is simply start playing better basketball.

It was Damyean Dotson on Saturday who provided the surprise boost for the Ducks. St. Louis does a fantastic job at denying three-point opportunities. Much like Duke, they do everything possible to stop teams from even attempting shots on the perimeter. But somehow Dotson got open on Saturday and the freshman 31 percent three-point shooter made five of six three-pointers. Meanwhile, the Ducks as a team made 8 of 11 from deep. And that surprise outside shooting made a normally stout St. Louis defense look suspect. A team that had not lost in regulation since January 12th, and that many of us felt could handle Louisville’s pressure in the Sweet Sixteen, was blown out of the water.

Elsewhere

The rest of the games were all relatively easy wins by the favored seeds. I was amused at the CBS graphic that said “Lost Shoes” and listed one apiece in the Michigan St. vs Memphis game. I am nervous that Michigan St.’s Keith Appling injured his shoulder. But mostly in the other games, I was just sad to see another crop of seniors go out.

I hope Memphis forward DJ Stephens isn’t too upset to see his career come to an end with a 1-for-7 performance. Because even in defeat he showed plenty of grit. Whether it was his blocked shot in the first half that seemed to temporarily change Michigan St.’s inside attack, his hustle to knock a ball out from behind, or simply the play at the seven-minute mark of the first half where Stephens dove horizontally to keep a possession alive for his team, Stephens was worth the price of admission. And in my opinion he has absolutely done enough to get invited to the NBA summer league this season. He is under-sized and has no plausible NBA position. But someone needs to evaluate his raw athleticism against the other top prospects. And for a former 0-star recruit with asthma, his senior year highlight reel of dunks and blocks reminded us all why we love college basketball.

Finally, I hope Saturday’s game reminded Shaka Smart that he isn’t done learning yet. Smart seems to be a young Rick Pitino, a master of the full-court pressure, and a master motivator of his program. But one of the key lessons Pitino has learned over the years is that you can’t press every team. Sometimes you encounter teams with brilliant guard play and outstanding passing, and the only right call is to play tough-nosed half-court defense. Until Smart learns to better adapt to his opponents, he won’t quite be able to reach elite status. He isn’t quite there yet, but I think someday Smart will reach that point.

Expected Wins in Round of 64

As I have done throughout this tournament, I am tracking the expected wins in the Round of 64, according to the Pomeroy Rankings. Saturday saw more losers than winners as more of the favored seeds advanced.

As a reminder of how to interpret this table, Wichita St.’s win over Gonzaga increased the shockers expected wins in this tournament by a full 1.34 games. But since it was more of a mismatch, Arizona’s win over Harvard only increased Arizona’s expected wins by 0.38. (See own game.)

The margin of games also matters as well as other results in the tournament. Thanks to a dominating performance, Michigan added another 0.13 to their expected wins in the tournament. And thanks to Gonzaga losing, Mississippi and La Salle saw their odds of advancing improve as well. (See Other.)

Winners

EW Start Sat

Own Game

Other

EW End Sat

Wichita St.

1.49

1.34

0.04

2.86

Michigan

1.99

0.86

0.13

2.98

Oregon

1.43

0.84

-0.05

2.21

Louisville

3.48

0.54

0.18

4.20

Marquette

1.91

0.66

-0.01

2.56

Michigan St.

2.31

0.54

0.06

2.91

Arizona

2.32

0.31

0.11

2.74

Syracuse

2.38

0.38

-0.04

2.73

Mississippi

1.86

0.00

0.13

2.00

La Salle

1.55

0.00

0.04

1.59

Ohio St.

2.83

0.00

0.03

2.86

Minnesota

1.36

0.00

0.01

1.37

Illinois

1.51

0.00

0.00

1.51

Florida Gulf Coast

1.22

0.00

0.00

1.23

With Michigan St. advancing, Duke’s expected wins fell slightly. Similarly, the fact that Michigan won in such dominating fashion lowered the Kansas expectations slightly.

Losers

EW Start Sat

Own Game

Other

EW End Sat

Temple

1.16

0.00

-0.02

1.14

North Carolina

1.49

0.00

-0.02

1.47

San Diego St.

2.05

0.00

-0.03

2.02

Iowa St.

1.43

0.00

-0.04

1.39

Creighton

1.61

0.00

-0.04

1.57

Indiana

3.41

0.00

-0.05

3.36

Florida

3.67

0.00

-0.06

3.61

Miami FL

2.42

0.00

-0.07

2.35

Kansas

2.27

0.00

-0.09

2.18

Duke

2.33

0.00

-0.17

2.16

Harvard

1.22

-0.22

0.00

1.00

California

1.27

-0.27

0.00

1.00

Colorado St.

1.31

-0.31

0.00

1.00

Memphis

1.41

-0.41

0.00

1.00

Butler

1.60

-0.60

0.00

1.00

VCU

1.82

-0.82

0.00

1.00

St. Louis

2.00

-1.00

0.00

1.00

Gonzaga

2.89

-1.89

0.00

1.00

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