#1 UCLA defeated #4 Arizona, #3 Oregon defeated #10 Utah
Today’s Pac-12 recap will consistent entirely of Bill Walton quotes:
“So many things in this tournament defy rational thought.”
“If you’ve ever thought you were too small to play basketball, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.”
I can’t type what Walton said about the Arizona vs UCLA game because he spoke for a solid two minutes. Suffice to say, Bill Walton was happy it was a good game and happy that UCLA won.
“Oregon has major advantages in this game, size, speed, depth, quickness.”
Regarding the Dominic Artis injury, “It’s sad because like with Ryan Kelly, you put so much into it, and then things go wrong. But that’s kind of life.”
Dave Pasch breaks in with the news that UCLA freshman Jordan Adams re-aggravated a high school foot injury and is done for the season. Let’s turn this over to Bill Walton. “We need more details, can he have surgery tonight?” Dave Pasch, “Well it happened about 15 minutes ago, I’m guessing they are still trying to work these things out.”
“I love it when Kazemi shoots, I don’t care if he misses.”
“Kazemi has to understand that you don’t have to go back to Iran if you miss a shot.” This sounds borderline racist, but Walton saves himself by telling a story about how Hakeem Olajuwon felt that way when he first came to the US.
OK, this isn’t a quote, but 4:30 left in the first half of Oregon vs Utah, Tony Woods had one of the worst missed dunks of all time.
“This may be the fastest game ever played … in the history of the Pac-12 tournament … at the MGM grand” Dave Pasch, “This is the first year at the MGM grand.”
Dave Pasch, “What will the loss of Jordan Adams mean to UCLA tomorrow?” Walton, “Oregon isn’t going to feel sorry for UCLA. Put Norman Powell in. Don’t over think it. This is a basketball game. Nobody is going to feel sorry for UCLA. UCLA has every advantage known to man.”
“Back-to-back-to-back turnovers, come on guys, this is the semifinals, you are on ESPN!”
#1 Florida defeated #9 LSU, #4 Alabama defeated #5 Tennessee, #10 Vanderbilt defeated #2 Kentucky, #3 Ole Miss defeated #6 Missouri
And Kennedy’s Ole Miss team has been to the NIT in five of the last six seasons. And in every season the Rebels have finished somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7 in the SEC. Mississippi’s team has consistently been on the bubble, but never been able to break through. Finally, this season Ole Miss broke through and finished 12-6. But it was a down year in the SEC, and they didn’t really earn many impressive victories along the way. Down double digits to Missouri, it seemed like Ole Miss was destined for another NIT finish that would likely cost head coach Andy Kennedy his job. And as he watched his team miss free throws down the stretch, you could imagine the thought bubble in his head. “Why don’t we ever have something break our way? Why can’t something good ever happen to this program?”
But in the final 6 minutes, something good did happen. Seldom used freshmen point guard Derrick Millinghaus, who played just 3 minutes in his last game, suddenly caught fire. He scored 11 points in the last 6 minutes, including a game-tying 3 and the go ahead basket with 1 second left.
And yes, Ole Miss got a few more breaks too. In a tie game, where Missouri had a chance to take the game’s final shot, the supremely talented Missouri forward Laurence Bowers had a complete brain freeze and threw the inbounds pass to no one. Were it not for that dumb mistake, Millinghaus wouldn’t have even had a chance for the buzzer beating win. But Andy Kennedy can rest assured, that for the first time in his career at Ole Miss, fate has smiled on the Rebels tournament hopes.
I’m not quite as optimistic as Joe Lunardi that Ole Miss is in the NCAA field. They still only have 2 Top 50 wins (both against Missouri.) And their head-to-head loss to Middle Tennessee is the kind of loss that can keep a team out of the field. But if Ole Miss can beat Vanderbilt on Saturday (in a game where they will be favored), Ole Miss will play for an SEC conference title. And if they win that game, Ole Miss can take the decision out of the committee’s hands.
In other news, Kentucky might be out of the NCAA tournament after a horrendous loss to Vanderbilt. When Ryan Harrow left NC State, the Wolfpack went from being an NIT team to an NCAA tournament winner. That might have been a red flag that Harrow was not a great chemistry player. And his early season off-court issues at Kentucky fueled that speculation. But with John Calipari at the helm, you certainly felt the Kentucky coach could get more out of the talented point-guard. But after a 2 for 15 shooting night against Vanderbilt where he racked up 4 turnovers and only 1 assist, Harrow appears destined for the NIT at his new school too.
Despite Tennessee’s improved play late in the season, they too seemed destined for the NIT. Watching the talented Jarnell Stokes in that game, I was thinking how much his draft stock has slipped because of his presence on a bad team. And it made me wonder. Has enrolling in college early ever worked out for a player? Andre Dawkins enrolled early at Duke and has often struggled for playing time (before leaving for an off-court issue this season.) Kadeem Jack has never panned out for Rutgers despite his athleticism. Even Hollis Thompson, who enrolled early at Georgetown and posted great numbers, was never drafted to the NBA after entering the draft early last year. It would seem that taking the unconventional route and enrolling early hasn’t worked out for many players.
Big East Semifinals
#5 Syracuse defeated #1 Georgetown, #2 Louisville defeated #6 Notre Dame
Georgetown led 11-6 early. The Hoyas zone offense has been dominant this season because Otto Porter is so dangerous catching the ball at the top of the free throw line, and the hot start seemed like more of the same. Meanwhile Syracuse seemed to have its normal variety of missed shots early in the game and everything seemed on track for a repeat of the first two match-ups which Georgetown won easily.
But then two things changed. First, Baye Moussa Keita started playing much more aggressive post defense. With Rakeem Christmas benched, Keita became extremely active in preventing Otto Porter from catching the ball at the top of the key or passing into the post. Second, the Orange started hitting some outside shots. Trevor Cooney scored 10 points in the first half, including 3 huge jump shots, which forced Georgetown to abandon its zone defense. The Hoyas had been cheating off Cooney in the earlier match-ups, but with that possibility out the window, Syracuse’s offense was back to functioning perfectly.
Syracuse built a 12 point lead, and it seemed that much like the two Georgetown wins, this might become a laugher. But for some reason Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams didn’t want that to happen. His crazy late turnovers, missed free throws, and dumb fouls gave Georgetown a chance to tie in regulation. And then he drove down the court and took an off-balance shot at the end of regulation instead of getting the ball to James Southerland who had set a Big East Tournament record for three pointers made.
The Orange eventually prevailed in OT thanks to Keita’s shockingly perfect free throw shooting and a crazy dunk by CJ Fair. But the last second desperation three by Georgetown ensured the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry ended with a bang and not a whimper.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame never once made it to the finals of the Big East tournament while in the Big East, and I think we know why. The Fighting Irish are a jump shooting team, and asking them to make jump shots for a multiple nights in a row (against the best defense in the country) was simply asking too much. Jerian Grant had some nice assists, but it never felt like the Fighting Irish actually had a chance to upset an elite Louisville team.
Big Ten Quarterfinals
#1 Indiana defeated #8 Illinois, #4 Wisconsin defeated #5 Michigan, #2 Ohio St. defeated #10 Nebraska, #3 Michigan St. defeated #6 Iowa
Iowa built a comfortable 47-35 lead on Michigan St. with 9 minutes left, but like so many games this season against Top 50 teams, Fran McCaffery’s squad failed to execute in crunch time. Aaron White’s remarkable pop-up three (hit the rim, went 10 feet up, then somehow came down in the net) provided momentary hope, but a late foolish foul when Iowa was hoping to play straight-up defense led Fran McCaffery to slap the scorer’s table in anger. And you could just feel Iowa lose it at that point. There is no doubt this has been a heart-breaking season for Iowa, but a head coach can’t show his team emotion like that. I was willing to defend McCaffery for his earlier chair throwing incident, but I’m starting to wonder whether he has the emotional stability to win in the Big Ten. The league has so many good coaches that every team will have their ups and downs. And you have to be able to inspire confidence even when things do not go well.
Speaking of ups and downs, have the Michigan freshmen finally hit the wall? Dan Dakich kept harping on Glen Robinson, but Nik Stauskas was 1 for 8 from the floor. It really feels like the whole weight of this team’s success in on Trey Burke right now, and no single player, even a national player-of-the-year favorite, can do it all alone. But give Bo Ryan some credit. I usually feel like when the shots aren’t falling Wisconsin has zero chance to win. But the Badgers pounded the ball in the paint in this one, and found a way to overcome early cold shooting.
Big 12 Semifinals
#1 Kansas defeated #5 Iowa St., #2 Kansas St. defeated #3 Oklahoma St.
On a night with so many other compelling match-ups, these games fell into the background. But I thought Bill Self’s emotional outburst when Ben McLemore got a technical was a little over-the-top, much like McCaffery’s tantrum. I’ve seen some referees give truly bizarre technicals the last few days, and McLemore’s taunting incident was no worse than any of the others. Arizona’s Sean Miller and Richmond’s Chris Mooney actually appeared to have something to complain about with their technicals.
#1 Miami defeated #8 Boston College, #5 NC State defeated #4 Virginia, #7 Maryland defeated #2 Duke, #3 North Carolina defeated #6 Florida St.
I am considering picking Duke to win the NCAA tournament, but from a bracket-picking perspective, this depends a little on the odds. If Duke is the overwhelming favorite, you are better off picking another team because this year really is wide open. Had Duke won this tournament, I feared the “Duke is perfect with Ryan Kelly” story might lead them to be the overwhelming NCAA favorite. But this loss ensures that won’t be the case. Instead people will nit-pick whether they deserve a 1-seed between now and Sunday and I suspect Duke will become a better bracket “bet” because of it.
Few teams in America have two players as good as Alex Len and Dez Wells, which makes Maryland’s 8-10 conference finish all the more puzzling. This team should be in the NCAA tournament field, but they likely have to beat North Carolina again on Saturday to do it. But this won’t stop Dick Vitale from saying they deserve to be in the NCAA field whether they win the game or not. “There isn’t a team in the country with two wins as impressive as Maryland’s pair of victories against Duke. I’d stack Maryland up against anybody.” You know it is coming.
Virginia’s season is clearly done. Had their game been close their might have been an argument, but they were not competitive thanks to a cold shooting afternoon from Joe Harris. As much as I like NC State in the NCAA tournament because of their offense, their defense has been poor all year. And with Richard Howell injuring his thigh on Friday, you wonder whether the Wolfpack can win without his dominance on the defensive boards. When you play bad defense, you have to at least clean up the rare misses. Howell was extremely gutty in his performance in this game, fighting through the injury and dominating on the glass, but I wonder if he will be able to sustain it.
Elsewhere, the injury to North Carolina’s PJ Hairston’s hand is also worth monitoring. According to Roy Williams, “His hand is torn up. It doesn’t look good.” His status is uncertain for Saturday.
#1 New Mexico defeated #4 San Diego St., #3 UNLV defeated #2 Colorado St.
Doug Gottlieb’s NCAA tournament bracket advice is that San Diego St. cannot beat a team with two good forwards or a team that plays zone defense. Otherwise they are a great bracket pick.
UNLV’s Anthony Bennett has finally gotten over his shoulder injury, or so his first half performance against Colorado St. would suggest. Bennett hit a pair of devastating threes to give his team the early momentum en route to a 19 point evening.
#1 St. Louis defeated #9 Charlotte, #5 Butler defeated #4 La Salle, #2 VCU defeated #10 St. Joseph’s, #6 UMass defeated #3 Temple
I think Derek Kellogg might be going a little too far when he tells his UMass team to go win this tournament for Chaz Williams, since this is the first time all season Chaz has been able to play in front of his family in New York. But so far the fastest little man in college basketball continues his amazing season. I am very much looking forward to see Williams attack VCU’s vaunted press defense on Saturday. Will his small size sneak between the traps? Or will his lack of size cause him to be a liability as he tries to pass out of those traps? Stay tuned.