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Butler—the Cinderella story.
UConn—the NCAA basketball powerhouse.
Oh what a storyline we have for the 2011 NCAA title game. Butler head coach Brad Stevens has his Bulldogs team back in the final for the second consecutive year, and Jim Calhoun has the Connecticut Huskies back to the big game.
Butler and VCU played a close game tonight, but it was the Bulldogs who pulled away as time began to run out, and they are back in the championship picture once more.
There are some who believe this championship will receive low ratings, but I think this is a very intriguing storyline. You have a team that isn’t supposed to be there in any capacity and you have arguably the best player in the country leading UConn to an undefeated record in games not played in Big East conference play.
UConn is undefeated in tournament play, dating back to their early season tournaments as well as the Big East tournament and now the National tournament.
What an intriguing matchup as Butler and UConn will battle it out to see who will be the next NCAA basketball champion.
With only three games remaining in the 2011 NCAA basketball tournament, it’s pretty safe to say that this year has been more “mad” than most when it comes to the craziness that is March Madness.
For the first time in the history of the tournament, there is not a one or two seed in the final four. Butler and VCU are competing for the chance to go to a national title, and oddly enough, Butler is playing for a chance to go back to the big game.
On the other side, you have two big programs with big-name coaches and a constant flow of NBA talent in UConn and Kentucky.
Connecticut is led by point guard Kemba Walker, who has been one of the best player in all of college basketball this year, as well as Hall of Fame head coach Jim Calhoun. The Huskies have been arguably the hottest team in college basketball over the last four weeks, winning five straight games in the Big East tournament and now competing in the Final Four.
Kentucky lost seven players to the NBA last year, but head coach John Calipari managed to put together a squad that started slow but won the SEC conference tournament and now has a chance to go to the title game. Led by guard Brandon Knight, the Wildcats have won some close games against some very, very good teams on their way to the final four.
I think the leadership of Calhoun and Walker is going to lead the Connecticut Huskies to the winner’s circle, and I like Butler’s experience to end VCU’s magical run. I think you’ll see UConn against Butler in the national title game after tonight’s game, but take my predictions with a grain of salt, as my bracket has been busted and I did not get a single final four pick correct.
After starting the game down 6-0, it appeared as though VCU was completely overmatched against the bigger, faster, and stronger Kansas Jayhawks. A 17-4 run and a 14 point halftime lead really quieted that notion, as the Rams of VCU showed the country that they are for real.
This game really had a lot of similarities to Thursday’s Duke-Arizona matchup, where Arizona seemingly could not miss from three point range. Even though VCU was not big enough to compete with the Morris twins inside, they had the touch from beyond the arc, hitting nearly 50 percent of their attempts from three point range.
Kansas would not go down quietly, and made VCU work for every second of their hard earned victory by cutting the lead to as low as two points in the early stages of the second half, but the Rams were able to weather the storm and finish the game strong.
In what will be one of the more intriguing Final Four matchups you will probably ever see, the 11th seeded VCU rams will take on the 8th seeded Butler Bulldogs. These two teams were absolutely not supposed to make it to this point, but great coaching and excellent perimeter shooting have been the difference for these Cinderella stories.
Kansas had a terrible first half shooting, and that continued into the second half. They were almost 10 percent from beyond the arc, and it seemed like they simply could not buy a bucket on this day.
This will go down in NCAA tournament history as one of the most shocking upset victories. VCU, a school with 11 regular season losses and barely a fighting chance to even get into the tournament initially has done it. They have pulled off the great upset, and have stamped their name in the history books.
What an exciting month it has been to be a Connecticut basketball fan. Forget for a second that the women’s team is the most dominant in NCAA history—the men’s team is the hottest team in the game right now.
Kemba Walker’s game seems to get better and better with every game the Huskies play, and he continued on his amazing run tonight against Arizona with 20 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and a steal. Walker really struggled with his outside shooting, hitting only one of seven attempts on the game, but he stepped up his game when it mattered and UConn beat Arizona 65-63.
For the Wildcats, three point shooting proved to be their downfall tonight, ironic because it was the main reason they were able to beat Duke so handily just two days ago. Derrick Williams had another solid scoring performance with 20 points, but Arizona was only 4-of-21 from three point range, including two misses in the waning seconds with a chance to win.
Connecticut will face the winner of North Carolina and Kentucky in the Final Four.
Has the term March Madness ever been more appropriate?
Everyone’s favorite underdog, the Butler Bulldogs, unseat the favored Florida Gators on Saturday night in a stunning overtime upset. Senior Shelvin Mack, the unquestioned leader of Butler’s team now, led the team with 27 points including five in overtime to send Butler to its second straight Final Four appearance.
Florida did all it could to move on to the next round, but they simply could not last another overtime game against a scrappy opponent. Center Vernon Macklin was virtually unstoppable for the Gators in the post, but Butler had just enough to overcome him and the Gators.
Neither team had a very stellar shooting performance, especially on Butler’s side where they were ice cold from three point range.
Butler will move on to the Final Four and face the winner of Kansas and VCU.
Two teams with plenty of NCAA Tournament experience will battle for the first spot in the 2011 Final Four when the Butler takes on Florida from New Orleans, LA this afternoon.
Think about for a moment what Butler – from the Horizon League – is trying to do. A win today over the Gators, and the Bulldogs are back to the Final Four for the second consecutive year. That’s a tall task for the most prestigious of programs.
“The cool part is — our guys — it’s not above their imagination,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said of upsetting one higher seed after another. “It’s just what they think that we have to do next.”
As for Florida, coach Bill Donavan has the Gators back as the cusp of the Final Four for the first time since the Gators won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
Florida has size, athleticism and balance. Four starters — guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, along with center 6-foot-10 center Vernon Macklin and 6-9 forward Chanlder Parsons — have averaged double figures in scoring. Alex Tyus, the one who hasn’t, was the best player in Florida’s regional semifinal victory over BYU on Thursday night, with 19 points and 17 rebounds.
MY PICK – Florida – Sorry, Butler, but the magic has to stop somewhere. I will say, however, that should the Bulldogs win and shock the world one more time it could change the way we look at college basketball – especially the mid-majors – forever.
FLORIDA 67 – BUTLER 58
When was the last time a play-in team went to the Elite Eight? That would be never. For the first time in school history, the VCU Rams have moved on to the Elite Eight and will face the Kansas Jayhawks following their dramatic victory over the Florida State Seminoles.
VCU guard Bradford Burgess had 26 points and the game-winner for the Rams. Burgess has been averaging about 14 points all season long, and VCU needed every single minute from him tonight.
Thus far, VCU has played and beaten USC (Pac-10), Georgetown (Big East), Purdue (Big Ten), and now Florida State (ACC). There were so many qualms about them reaching the tournament, and they are proving the committee made the right choice by extending the field to 68, because imagine if this team had not gotten in?
Truly a fantastic story, and coming out of the right side of your brackets, you could have two Cinderella stories battling for a chance at the National Title, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Both VCU and fellow Cinderella team Butler have to get past Kansas and Florida respectively, no easy task.
Will the slipper fit, or will the clock strike midnight?
And then there was one.
In one of the most back and forth games you will see all tournament, the fourth seeded Kentucky Wildcats got the better of top ranked and top seeded Ohio State on Friday night. Guard Brandon Knight hit a shot with a little more than five seconds remaining to put Kentucky up 62-60 after Jon Diebler hit an NBA-range three pointer to tie the game. Both teams had timeouts remaining, but neither team chose to use any.
Ohio State missed a three pointer at the horn to win the game, and their journey will end at the Elite Eight.
Jared Sullinger had another excellent performance with 21 points and 16 rebounds on the night, and Diebler added 16 including four three pointers. Still, it was a very poor shooting night for the Buckeyes, who are one of the more efficient offensive units in the country. They shot a mere 32.8 percent from the field, and it proved to be their downfall.
For Kentucky, Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins picked up the slack for poor shooting performances from Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight. The two big men combined for 32 points and 16 rebounds, but it was Knight who hit the game winner.
Kentucky will face North Carolina in the elite eight, a game where the winner will be the sole owner of the most victories in NCAA tournament history.
The Kansas Jayhawks have had their troubles will mid-major teams in the past. Tonight, however, they dominated a talented Richmond Spiders team right from the start while cruising to a 77-57 win in San Antonio.
Brady Morningstar scored 18 points for Kansas(35-2) who looked every bit the part of the No. 1 seed. Richmond, however, looked overmatched as Kansas raced to a 41-22 lead. Much like the first game of the night between North Carolina and Marquette, Kansas seemed the more relaxed team right from the tip – by the time Richmond had settled down to play basketball, it was too late.
Richmond made a bit of a run in the second half, cutting the lead 47-32 with 16 minutes to go, but Kansas answered with a 17-10 run extending the lead back to 22 with 7 minutes to go.
Justin Harper led the Spiders(29-8) with 22 points and 9 rebounds while the Jayhawks dominated the boards 40-33. Kansas awaits the winners of tonight’s VCU – Florida St. contest.
The second set of Sweet 16 games have begin and so far the intrigue is not nearly what we saw on Thursday night. The first final of the night saw the North Carolina Tar Heels crush the No. 11-seed Marquette Golden Eagles 81-63. The difference in the game cam in the first half when Marquette went over 8 minutes without scoring a single point. North Carolina scored 19 straight points to turn a 10-8 deficit into a 27-10 lead and the game was never in doubt after that.
The score at halftime was 40-15 Tar Heels and the final 20 minutes seemed to be go by at a snail’s pace.
North Carolina will await the winner from tonight’s game between Ohio State and Kentucky.
One team wasn't on anyone's radar when the 2011 NCAA Tournament began. The other was getting plenty of attention for all the wrong reasons. Tonight the two teams meet to determine who will advance to the Elite 8.
It isn't that often that you get to the Sweet 16 as a No. 10 seed and are the lower seed in a showdown with the Elite 8 appearance on the line. That is the situation the Florida State Seminoles fine themselves in. There are plenty of storylines in this one other than the seedings.
Chris Singleton, voted the ACC defensive player of the year by league coaches, is coming off his two best practices since breaking his right foot and undergoing arthroscopic surgery in February. He played in both games of the tournament but should be even better against VCU.
The Seminoles also feature 26-year old Bernard James, who spent 3 years in the Air Force stationed in the Middle East.
As for VCU, they have proven without a doubt that they earned a place in the Tournament. In 2010, it is likely the Rams would have played in the NIT. Now, with the 68-team format, VCU got its chance and has taken advantage of it. They knocked-off USC in the play-in game, then beat Georgetown and Purdue once the real tournament began.
Not bad for a team that didn't hold a selection-show party for fear they wouldn't get selected.
"I saw somebody had us rated 16th out of the 16 teams still left," VCU coach Shaka Smart said, smiling. "I think there's still some people that are doubting, you know, how well we can do down here in San Antonio. ... There's some challenges that we have to battle through. But our guys know what brought us success last week. It's mostly a matter of maintaining that mindset going into this game."
MY PICK: I have to admit, I'll be focused on the Buckeyes, but VCU has built a ton of momentum, and 'ole Mo is hard to stop.
VCU 67 - FSU 63
For Kansas, it is a pretty simple recipe. Simply beat - at best - a No. 10 seed and you'll be on your way to the 2011 Final Four. Kansas is, on paper at least, the beneficiary of the craziness that is the Southwest Region.
After beating the No. 16-seed Boston University in the 2nd Round, the Jayhawks beat No. 9 seed Illinois to earn a spot in the Sweet 16. Up next for the Jayhawks is No. 12-seed Richmond. A win, and Kansas would meet the winner of a 10-11 matchup in the Regional Final. It has happened twice before - in 2001(Michigan State) and 1991(North Carolina). Talk about fortunate.
I doubt Kansas coach Bill Self would think so. The Jayhawks are one year removed from their shocking loss to Northern Iowa in the 2010 Tournament and always seem to struggle in contests against 'mid-majors'. Richmond fits that mold perfectly, and the Spiders have plenty of talent to do the job.
They also have history on their side. We all know the story of Richmond in the Tournament back in the 1980's. They have also shocked the Jayhawks, beating Kansas in 2004 to break a 52-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents.
"I think everyone is confident," Richmond guard Cedric Martel said. "We've shown in the past we can compete with bigger teams. It's a great experience to play a number one seed in the tournament. We're trying to make history."
As the lowest seed still remaining, a win over Kansas would surely do that.
MY PICK: I really want to pick Richmond in this spot. Kansas can be so erratic when playing smaller schools. In the end, I can't.
KANSAS 68 - RICHMOND - 60
The first night of Sweet 16 action in the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament saw just one lower seed make it to the Elite 8. Only Florida held serve, needing overtime to beat BYU. Will the upsets continue tonight? There are some interesting match-ups that suggest it just might:
Tonight’s first game may appear to be a bit of a mismatch on paper, but Marquette is playing well above their performance during the regular season in a deep Big East.
A bubble-team to begin the tournament, the Golden Eagles have earned their spot in the tournament with wins over Xavier(66-55) in Round 2 and No. 3-seed Syracuse(66-62) in Round 3. Of the 11 teams the Big East had in the tournament, only two remain – including Marquette.
They face a North Carolina squad that missed the 2010 Tournament entirely. They are back and looking to get back to the Final Four this year – though they know if they get past Marquette that Kentucky or Ohio State will be on deck. There’s work to do before then, however.
MY PICK: The Tar Heels may have more raw talent than any team left in the tournament. It will be enough against Marquette.
NORTH CAROLINA 71 – MARQUETTE 63
Once again, Butler was involved in a nail-biter, and once again, Matt Howard made the play of the game. With 28.6 seconds remaining, Howard got an offensive rebound on a missed Butler free throw, and proceeded to make two of his own to give Butler a seven point lead late in the game.
It was too much for the Badgers, who trailed big for most of the game. The biggest factor for Wisconsin was the play of John Leuer, who was ice cold from all over the floor.
Leuer made one shot—a three pointer—and finished the game with just three points. No free throws, and he ended the game by fouling out. It was a very tough finish to a solid career.
For Butler, Matt Howard had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and continued to lead the defensive dominance that Butler has shown this whole tournament.
Butler will take on Florida, and has advanced to the Elite Eight for the second straight year.
Is your bracket busted yet?
If it wasn’t before the slate of late games, it probably is now. In what can only be described as “shocking” the fifth seeded Arizona Wildcats have beaten the top seeded Duke Blue Devils, and it wasn’t close.
At halftime, Duke led by six points, and when the final buzzer sounded they were down by 16. The reigning champs could not keep pace with Arizona’s white hot shooting, and the performance of likely top draft pick Derrick Williams.
Williams, the sophomore sensation, had 32 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, two assists, and a block in Arizona’s victory. The big man was 5-6 from beyond the arc, and absolutely unstoppable all game long.
But he didn’t do it alone.
LaMont “Mo Mo” Jones had 16 points and six assists for the Wildcats, and made some huge shots in their second half run when they finally took the lead from Duke, and then when they took it for good.
Freshman sensation Kyrie Irving led the Blue Devils with 28 points, and senior Kyle Singler contributed 18 of his own. Nolan Smith was only 3-14 from the field, and simply could not find his stroke all night long.
Arizona will take on UConn for a trip to the Final Four.
Jimmer Fredette simply could not will the BYU Cougars to victory this time. Fredette has been arguably the most important player in the country this year, and one of the nation’s most prolific scorers. On this night, though, it was not enough as the Florida Gators simply were too big, too fast, and too good for the Cougars to handle.
Alex Tyus, the power forward for the Gators, had the game of his life. He only missed one shot on his way to what Gus Johnson called “a game of a lifetime.” Tyus finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds, two assists, and a block. Tyus’ game helped Florida to the Elite Eight where they await the winner of Butler and Wisconsin.
Why should you buy into the Gators?
Right now, I don’t think there is a more deadly starting unit than Billy Donovan’s crew. Erving Walker at the point guard position had 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Kenny Boynton had 17 points and five assists, and SEC player of the year Chandler Parsons filled the stat sheet with 16 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.
The Gators simply have too many options offensively, and too much length defensively for a team like BYU to beat them, even though it came down to the wire. The Gators are most definitely a team to buy into as the tournament progresses.
UConn didn’t even barely need to bring a bench to defeat the Aztecs of San Diego State, but it was a close encounter as the Huskies hung on to move on to the Elite Eight with a final score of 74-67.
The last three weeks have been absolutely magical for Jim Calhoun in the Huskies. After winning five games in a row to take the Big East Conference tournament, they have continued their hot streak into the big dance and now won eight straight games.
For the Aztecs, D.J. Gay led four players in double scoring figures with 16 points. Billy White, Malcolm Thomas, and Kawhi Leonard had 14, 13, and 12 points respectively, and the Aztecs’ season has now come to a close.
For UConn, only Walker and Lamb scored more than five points, and the only points off the bench came from Shabazz Napier, who made only one of his five shots all game.
The Madness will continue for the Huskies on Saturday as they await the winner of Duke and Arizona.
Only one team - the Duke Blue Devils -has won more NCAA Tournament games than the Butler Bulldogs that past two seasons. That's simply because it was Duke that beat Butler in the NCAA Championship Game last year. That one blemish is all that has kept Butler from making a truly historic run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, though for some what they have been able to accomplish is already amazing enough.
9:57PM et: (8)Butler Bulldogs(25-9) Vs. (4)Wisconsin Badgers(25-8) - TBS
Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Butler's opponent tonight is a tough, hardworking, midwestern team that in a lot of ways mirrors what the Bulldogs are all about - the Wisconsin Badgers. Like Butler, Wisconsin has made success in the NCAA Tournament a habit making their 5th run to the Sweet 16 in the past 11 years.
"They don't beat themselves so we're going to have to beat them," Wisconsin freshman Josh Gasser said. "That's a lot like how we play."
That means tonight's contest will come down to which team known for execution will execute the best. Both teams can look great at times, or simply awful - as Wisconsin proved in a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament. Still, Butler coach Brad Stevens knows the Badgers do it the right way.
"I could sit up here and flatter them all day," Stevens said. "I'll telling you what -- why wouldn't you want to play a way where everybody is completely unselfish? There's a reason they don't lose often."
The same could be said for the Bulldogs, and with rumors swirling around what the future could hold for Stevens - no easily the hottest coaching prospect in the country - his battle could be as much about outside distractions as it is the Badgers vaunted defense.
MY PICK: My head says Wisconsin, but how can my heart pick against Butler? The answer - it can't.
BUTLER 53 - WISCONSIN 52
The Duke Blue Devils are the defending NCAA Basketball National Champions. They won the ACC regular season title, then followed it up with the ACC Tournament championship. All the while the Blue Devils did it without arguably their best player, freshman guard Kyrie Irving, who missed 26 games during the season before returning for the NCAA Tournament.
9:45PM et: (5)Arizona Wildcats(29-7) Vs. (1)Duke Blue Devils(32-4) - CBS
One thing is for certain, the Blue Devils will have to play better if they are going to get past an Arizona Wildcats team that looks to be back in the discussion for a National Championship.
After getting swept in a trip to USC and UCLA towards the end of the season, the Wildcats have gotten hot. Though they lost the PAC-10 Tournament, the Wildcats appear to have peaked in time for the NCAA Tournament. Add to that the fact that several of their players are from Los Angeles, and playing in Anaheim amounts to a home game.
"It's good to be home, but we're here for business right now," Kyle Fogg said.
Arizona coach Sean Miller knows all about the Blue Devils in the Tournament. Miller was an assistant at Xavier under Ohio St. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta when the Musketeers lost to Duke by 3 points with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Miller also did some winning of his own in the Tournament as the head man at Xavier.
For Duke, of course, it is all about Irving and trying to find a rhythm while inserting the talented freshman back into the lineup. For Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who picked up his 900th career win last week, a spot in the 2011 Final Four would mean he ties Bob Knight as the winningest coach in NCAA history.
"Any individual win during a season is never that big, except if it leads to a league championship, a tournament championship, and obviously the national championship," he said.
MY PICK: For some reason I like Arizona in this spot. Duke seems ripe for the picking and Anaheim is so close to home for so many of the Wildcats.
Arizona 58 - Duke 56
There are four games on the schedule for in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. We took a look at the game between Connecticut and San Diego State a bit earlier. Now we take a look at another 3 Vs. 2 game, BYU and Florida.
7:27PM et – (3)Florida Gators(28-7) Vs. BYU Cougars(32-4) – TBS
Jimmer Fredette fever is sweeping the nation. While some people are solely focussed on whether or not Fredette can play in the NBA, I’d rather enjoy what the kid is doing in college. Fredette has averaged 29 points per game this season and will likely be named the Naismith Award Winner, basketball’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
Florida, meanwhile, knows firsthand what the Cougars are capable of. It was BYU that beat the Gators in the 2010 NCAA Tournament – Fredette scored 37 points – and are looking to return the favor with the stakes much higher.
“The game plan isn’t just to stop Jimmer,” the Gators’ Chandler Parsons said. “They’ve got a complete team. We had a taste playing against them last year and now we understand just how good they are. We don’t have to watch film to understand that. They’re strong and they execute.”
Parsons is no slouch himself being named the SEC Player of the Year.
MY PICK: Florida looks like a team possessed after losing in the SEC Tournament. Jimmer-mania is coming to an end.
FLORIDA 83 – BYU 75
The 2011 NCAA Tournament gears back up tonight with the first four games of the Sweet 16. The Ohio State Buckeyes won't play until tomorrow night, but there is plenty of entertaining action, headlined by the Connecticut Huskies going up against the No. 2 seed San Diego St. Aztecs.
Here is a look at each game and where you can find it. For all of you truTV fans I hate to break the news that it's time with the tournament is over.
7:15PM et: (3)Connecticut Huskies(28-9) Vs. (2)San Diego St. Aztecs(34-2) - CBS
No one has been hotter the past 3 weeks or so than the UConn Huskies. First, coach Jim Calhoun's team won five games in 5 days to win the Big East Tournament. Earning a No. 3 seed, the Huskies have continued winning, beating Bucknell 81-52, then taking down Big East rival Cincinnati 69-58. Not bad for a team picked to finish 10th in the Big East in the preseason coaches poll.
"I'm happy. Elated," said Calhoun. "I can't tell you I wrote it down, because I usually try to write where I think we'll be at the end of the season. ... They have the most resilience of any team I've ever coached. We're playing the best basketball right now, and everything that could happen good, has happened good."
As for SDSU, they also have a coach with some experience in the Tournament. Steve Fisher won a National Championship at the University of Michigan in 1989, and was the man that brought the Fab-5 to Ann Arbor in 1991. With the Aztecs, however, Fisher has already done something never before accomplished at the School - Advance to the Sweet 16.
"You see the rankings and you see us up there, but people don't really know much about us," Aztecs forward Tim Shelton said. "We're finally getting an opportunity to let people see what we're about. Our guys feed off that. We understand that we're seen as a mid-major, so people feel like (we) don't deserve it because (we) don't consistently play the same type of competition. But we've won 34 games. That's a whole lot of wins."
MY PICK: Who doesn't love a story like SDSU's? That said, it is hard to pick against UConn - especially with how hot they've been of late. Kemba Walker looks unstoppable and no lead against the Huskies appears to be safe.
UCONN 65 - SDSU 62
The first three rounds of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament are in the books and the field of 68 has been cut to the Sweet 16. Three No. 1 seeds remain in the tournament - Ohio State, Duke and Kansas - while four double-digit seeds are still hanging around including three in the Southwest Region alone.
Here is a complete look at the pairings for Thursday and Friday's Sweet 16 Bracket action:
Ironically, my bracket has a No. 10, No. 11 and No. 12 seed, all from the same region, all in the Sweet 16. Of course, I chose the West region for it to happen, not the Southwest, so my bracket is completely wasted, but they don't call it March Madness for nothing.
The George Mason Patriots were supposed to give the Ohio State Buckeyes some trouble in their 3rd ROund game this afternoon in Cleveland. Ohio State made sure early on that any magic GMU possessed had quickly dried up.
On a day when four Buckeyes received their diplomas, one of them - David Lighty - drilled seven three pointers on his way to 25 points and the top-seeded Buckeyes raced to a 26-point halftime lead on their way to a 98-66 win. Jared Sullinger scored 18 points for the Buckeys, who actually feel behind to start the game 11-2.
The lead didn't last long for the Patriots, however, as Ohio State used a 15-3 run to take the lead at 17-14, a lead Ohio State would never give back to George Mason.
Up 26-20 with 9:00 minutes to go in the first half, the Buckeyes went on their decisive 26-6 run to end the half, led by Lighty, Sullinger and Jon Diebler. The Buckeyes 16 three pointers broke a NCAA Tournament record for most threes in a game, a record they set on Friday by hitting 12 threes.
The Buckeyes shot 61% from the field and, amazingly, shot even better from behind the arc(16-26, 61.5%). Ohio State turned the ball over 9 times compared to 17 times for the Patriots who shot 43.3% from the field.
Up next for Ohio State is Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday, March 25.
The North Carolina Tar Heels got quite a scare in their third round showdown with the Washington Huskies. Down five points in the second half, the Tar Heels went on an 11-2 run moving on to the Sweet 16 for the 24th time in team history.
Terrence Ross scored 19 points and Matt Bryan-Amaning chipped in 14 for Washington (24-11), which was denied a second straight trip to the Sweet 16 in a somewhat controversial finish that may have included a timing error.
The Huskies led for most of the second half and opened a five-point edge at 74-69, but North Carolina came right back with 11 of the next 13 points. Barnes drilled a three-pointer with 4:05 to play, giving the Heels a 78-76 lead, and two free throws by Zeller made it a four-point game.
North Carolina extended the margin to six with two minutes remaining, but Washington got a layup from Bryan-Amaning and a three-pointer by Scott Suggs to make it an 84-83 game with 17 seconds left.
Kendall Marshall then missed the front end of a one-and-one for the Tar Heels, giving Washington a chance to win it. Venoy Overton’s drive was blocked and the ball went out of bounds to the Huskies, but the inbound pass was deflected by John Henson into the hands of Dexter Strickland, who converted both ends of the one-and-one to give North Carolina a three-point edge with 5.4 seconds to play.
Overton took the inbound pass and raced up the floor, but fired up a shot from half-court with two seconds left that came nowhere near the basket. Henson, standing under the hoop, failed to corral the errant shot and the ball went out of bounds with 5/10ths of a second remaining.
Despite replays showing the ball hitting the floor with just over a second to play, the officials never went to the monitor to check the time. Washington’s inbound pass went to Isaiah Thomas in the left corner and his shot — which would have been a two-point effort because he straddled the three-point line — came up short as time expired.
Henson, after guarding the inbound pass, nearly interfered with the shot as it reached the rim.
The Sweet Sixteen is half completed after Saturday's action. The Butler Bulldogs are in as a No. 8 Seed. The Richmond Spiders are in as well from a No. 12 seed. Pittsburgh became the first No. 1 seed to leave the tournament. The Big Ten has one team so far - Wisconsin - but has three more teams in action today. Three No. 1 seeds are in action today as well. Here's a look at the schedule:
5:15PM et: (8)George Mason Patriots(27-6) Vs. Ohio State Buckeyes(32-2) - CBS
7:10PM et: (11)VCU Rams(25-11) Vs. Purdue Boilermakers(26-7) - TBS
The magic continues for the Butler Bulldogs. 2010’s National Runner-up is back in the Sweet Sixteen and top-ranked teams are once again laying in their wake. Butler beat Old Dominion on Thursday on the buzzer-beater and nearly did so again today against Pitt.
The tale of the game could be told starting with 7.1 seconds to go with Butler trailing 69-68. Butler inbounded the ball, got the ball inside and got the go-ahead layup from Andrew Smith with 2.2 seconds to go. Pittsburgh then inbounded the ball to halfcourt with Gilbert Brown trying a catch and shoot before time expired.
Butler guard Shelvin Mack met Brown just after the ball arrived drawing a whistle. Was the contact between Mack and Brown a foul? Yes. Would I rather the referee’s swallow their whistle in that spot? Definitely.
The result was two free throws for Brown. He hit the first to tie the game at 70. The second rattled out and was rebounded by Matt Howard. Just like the play before there was some contact as Howard tried to simply throw the ball down court to get the game to overtime. Once again, there was a whistle.
A foul? Yes. Would I rather the referees swallow their whistle in that spot? Absolutely.
Howard would go on to make the first free throw before missing the second giving the Bulldogs a 71-70 win over the Panthers making Pitt the first No. 1 seed to exit the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament.
While most will focus on the final seven seconds, the story of the game was Shelvin Mack and a resilient Butler squad that simply refused to give up. Mack scored 30 points on 10-16 shooting, including 7-12 from deep. In the second half when it looked like Pitt was taking over the game it was Mack that kept the Bulldogs within striking distance.
Pittsburgh shot the ball incredibly well – 56.5% from the field and still found a way to lose. The Panthers dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 31-21 and still found a way to lose. As has been the case with Pitt in the past in this tournament, they found a way to lose.
Butler now moves on to face the winner of the Kansas State – Wisconsin game next weekend.
5’8" guard Erving Walker was absolutely huge for the Florida Gators today, as they moved on to the Sweet Sixteen after beating UCLA 73-65. Walker had 21 points including a couple of huge shots late in the game to propel Billy Donovan’s Gators, who were one of the teams people were really sleeping on in this tournament.
Though the Big East is not known as a basketball powerhouse, they have put the first two teams into the Sweet Sixteen so far, and Florida and Kentucky were two of the teams I thought could surprise some people.
Through three rounds, they have done just that. Guard Kenny Boynton added 12 points for the Gators, and center Vernon Macklin had 10 points. Forward Alex Tyus had 8 points and 13 rebounds and was instrumental for the Gators defensively.
The “X-Factor” for the Gators though is forward Chandler Parsons, who can really do it all. The 6’10" forward only had seven points, but he added five rebounds, five assists, and a block.
UCLA had five players in double figures on the day, and leading the way was forward Reeves Nelson, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. The Bruins really struggled from three point range, hitting only three of their 13 attempts.
Florida will face the winner of BYU and Gonzaga in the next round.
The Kentucky Wildcats now have the most victories in NCAA tournament history with 103 following their victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers. John Calipari’s squad lost all the momentum going into halftime, giving up a 22-7 run and trailing by eight points at the break, but came out of the locker room with a new found intensity.
Four minutes into the second half, the Wildcats had a one point lead over the Mountaineers who led by eight, and the teams battled back and forth throughout the second half.
Late in the second, Kentucky’s size and rebounding took over. West Virginia’s offense was simply over-aggressive and inefficient, and Kentucky got some big minutes from Brandon Knight. The freshman sensation finished with a career high 30 points and was 9-10 from the free throw line.
For West Virginia, Joe Mazulla had a fantastic game, shooting 7-12 from the field on his way to 20 points. Forward Darryl Bryant was also in double figures for the Mountaineers, and he finished the game with 15 points, 9 of which came from beyond the arc.
SEC Freshman of the year Terrence Jones had a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and was a key contributor in the win.
Kentucky will advance to the Sweet Sixteen to face off against the winner of Ohio State and George Mason, which will be played on Sunday.
The field of 68 has been whittled down to 32 teams with the Sweet 16 next to come in the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Ohio State will face George Mason tomorrow, while Akron's time in the Tournament ended yesterday in a loss to Notre Dame. Eight games are on the schedule today - here is a look at the match-ups, tip-off times and where to find the action on TV:
West Virginia knocked off Clemson 84-76 while Kentucky survived an upset attempt by Princeton 59-57. Princeton was a tough matchup for the youthful Wildcats, but West Virginia, being more traditional, should be a better matchup on both sides of the floor. For a young team like Kentucky, sometimes getting past that first game is the hardest and things fall into place after that.
MY PICK: Kentucky
The Gators put everyone in the Southeast Region on notice with a dominating 79-51 win over UC-Santa Barbara in the second round. UCLA nearly lost all of a 23-point second half lead in beating Michigan State 78-76. While the quality of opponent was quite different, Florida looked fast while UCLA seemed to limp to the finish line.
MY PICK: Florida
Morehead State shocked the world - and destroyed thousands of brackets - by beating Louisville 62-61 at the buzzer. Richmond rekindled memories of Cinderella's past with a 69-66 win over Vanderbilt. Now the two will meet for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, and the official title of the 2011 NCAA Tournament Cinderella story.
MY PICK: Richmond
The Temple Owls were the beneficiaries of another buzzer beater, knocking off Penn St. 66-64. SDSU, entering the Tournament as a No. 2 seed, had little trouble beating Northern Colorado 68-50. This is going to be a tough out for SDSU. Temple is a storied program that is finally beginning to reassert themselves in the national scene. They are a tough, physical, in-your-face squad while SDSU plays more of a finesse, up-tempo style.
MY PICK: San Diego State
The Bulldogs are once again in line to make it to the Sweet 16 after beating Old Dominion 6-58. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, beat UNC-Asheville 74-51 and is in line to get upset long before their time. This Pittsburgh team looks to be the strongest Pitt team we have seen, but something tells me Butler has a little bit more magic up their sleeve.
MY PICK: Butler
Gonzaga surprised some with how easily they handled St. John's in the second round 86-71. BYU, led by Jimmer Fredette, beat Wofford 74-66. Like Butler above, Gonzaga is tournament test. They are facing a BYU team that doesn't have a ton of experience, but have Fredette who might be the National Player of the Year.
MY PICK: Gonzaga
Kansas State avoided the 12-5 upset, beating Utah State 73-68 while Wisconsin ended a two game losing streak, beating Belmont 72-58. So, has Wisconsin gotten their mojo back? As a Big Ten fan I think they have. Kansas State has a ton of talent, however, and won't be easy for Wisconsin, who will have to find a way to score.
MY PICK: Wisconsin
Connecticut made quick work of Bucknell 81-52 while Cincinnati beat down Missouri 78-63 leading to a match-up of Big East foes. Connecticut won their regular season meeting 67-59 and is playing their best basketball of the season after winning the Big East Tournament.
MY PICK: UCONN
The Ohio State Buckeyes put their foot on the pedal and never looked back in their first round matchup today against UT-San Antionio. The Buckeyes dominated this game from start to finish, and were led by William Buford and his 18 points.
Jon Diebler, Jared Sullinger, and Deshaun Thomas all finished with double digit scoring totals for Ohio State, which shot 57 percent from the field and out-rebounded UTSA 33-24. The Buckeyes also had 26 assists compared to only 6 by UTSA.
No 16 seed has ever beaten a top seeded team in the tournament, and Ohio State was not about to “buck” that trend today. They really have a complete offensive attack, and they have multiple guys who are able to pick up the scoring slack. Today, the lead man was William Buford but even Jon Diebler was still hot from beyond the arc, getting 12 of his 14 points from three.
Ohio State will take on George Mason in the third round. The Patriots beat Villanova on Friday in dramatic fashion.
The Ohio State Buckeyes got off to a bit of a slow start against No. 16 Texas-San Antonio but have taken control and lead the Roadrunners 37-21 at halftime. William Buford leads the Buckeyes with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
Ohio State is shooting as a blistering pace – 65.2% – while dominating the Roadrunners on the glass 14-6. To their credit UTSA has shot the ball well also, 45.5%, but has been unable to get it going from three point range(1-8).
UTSA scored the first basket of the game and actually led 9-7 with 13 minutes to go before the Buckeyes went on a 16-4 run to take a 23-13 lead. The Buckeyes went on another 12-4 run to end the half in front of a huge pro-Buckeyes crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
The Akron Zips basketball team showed, at times, that they had what it took to beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In the end, the same problems that plagued the Zips all season long ended up being their undoing this afternoon in a 69-56 loss to the Irish in Chicago.
Akron constantly found itself down double-digits. Each time, the Zips would hit a couple of big buckets to get the lead back to 5 or 6. They did it at the end of the first half when the Zips cut a 10-point deficit to 34-30 at the buzzer.
Notre Dame again got the lead to double-digits before the Zips cut the Irish lead to 50-45. That was as close as the Zips would get. Shooting just 36.5%, 35% from three point range, the Zips just couldn’t string enough offense together to get over the hump
Notre Dame, on the other hand, shot the ball just well enough – 44.7% from the field, 41.2% from deep – to keep Akron at bay.
The Zips did a good job on Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough, who scored just 15 points on 4-11 shooting. The Zips, however, could only get one player in double figures – Quincy Diggs with 11.
It’s a tough end to a successful season for the Zips. Being in the NCAA Tournament can only help – never hurt. The Zips will be back.
The Michigan Wolverines got off to a slow start in their 2nd round meeting with the Tennessee Volunteers. Down 23-17 with 6 minutes to go it appeared the Wolverines might be in for a long day. Little did the Volunteers know, Michigan was just getting started.
A 12-2 run at the end of the first half gave the Wolverines a 33-29 lead at halftime, while a 19-2 run to start the second half propelled the Wolverines to a 52-31 lead and an easy trip to the 3rd Round where they will likely face Duke.
In what likely will be Bruce Pearl’s final game as head coach at Tennessee, the Volunteers simply gave up in the second half being outscored 42-16. How bad was it for Tennessee? Their leading scorer – Tobias Harris – scored 19 points, all in the first half. After going 6-6 from the field in the first 20 minutes, Tobias was 0-5 in the second.
Michigan ended the day shooting 51.6% from the field and out-rebounded the Volunteers 35-24. The Wolverines had 20 assists compared to Tennessee’s 10 while forcing Tennessee into 18 turnovers.
The Akron Zips showed the MAC just how resilient they are. Now the entire country – and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish – are getting to see it as well. After falling behind the Irish 16-6 early in the first half, the Zips toughened and trail the No. 2 seed 34-30 at Haltime.
The Zips are doing it the way they usually do – getting a bunch of scoring from everyone on the roster. Brett McKnight has 7 points while Brett McClanahan has 7 points and 3 rebounds. In all, seven Zips players have tallied scores.
Notre Dame is led by Ben Hansbrough who has 11 points while Carleton Scott has 3 points and 6 rebounds. Notre Dame has shot 39.3 % from the field while the Zips are shooting 36.4%. Akron has the advantage on the glass 18-14, however, which has led to 5 more shot opportunities. Akron also has 5 offensive rebounds.
The Michigan Wolverines have jumped out to a 33-29 halftime lead over the Tennessee Volunteers in their NCAA Tournament game in Charlotte, NC. The Wolverines trailed the Volunteers 23-17 with six minutes to go in the first half before exploding on a 16-6 run to end the half.
Tennessee forward Tobias Harris has been unstoppable, scoring 19 points on 6-6 shooting. Harris is also 7-7 from the free throw line. The rest of the Volunteers, however, have shot just 3-14 from the field.
Michigan has enjoyed balanced scoring from guard Darius Morris with 6 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, Zack Novak with 5 points and Matt Vogrich off this bench with 9 points. The Wolverines shot 41.7% in the first half.
Michigan is out-rebounding Tennessee on the glass 19-13 and has committed just four turnovers compared to 8 for Tennessee. Tennessee has enjoyed a huge advantage at the free throw line, however, going 10-12 from the line while Michigan has attempted just one free throw.
Where will all the games be today? Well, if you are looking for Ohio State and Texas-San Antonio you can find them at 4:40 p.m. ET on TNT. Akron tips off against Notre Dame at 1:40 p.m. ET over on TBS. Here is a complete schedule for today's NCAA Basketball Tournament:
4:10PM et: (10) Florida St. Seminoles(21-10) Vs. (7) Texas A&M Aggies(24-8) - TBS
6:50PM et: (16)Boston University Terriers(21-13) Vs. (1) Kansas Jayhawks(32-2) - TBS
9:50PM et: (11)Virginia Commonwealth Rams(24-11) Vs. (6)Georgetown Hoyas(21-10)
Six games on the schedule in the Southwest bracket, including the top 3 seeds all taking the floor. No. 1 seed Kansas will face No. 16 Boston U, No. 2 seed Notre Dame will battle No. 15 Akron and No. 3 Purdue takes on No. 14 Saint Peter's. Could a bracket get busted with an upset today?
I was a bit surprised the Akron was seeded all the way down at No. 15. The MAC usually gets a bit more respect than that, and Akron did beat the best the MAC had to offer to win the MAC Tournament.
The challenge for the Zips is to contain Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough. The younger brother of former Tar Heel Tyler, Hansbrough is the vocal leader of the Irish.
The Zips do have some experience on their side - five of their players have played in 100+ games, and the maturity that comes from having been to the Tournament before.
"We learned a lot from that experience and I think this year that might show up in our maturity level and the way we're going to play," said Nikola Cvetinovic, the Zips' leading scorer and rebounder. "It's much more comfortable than two years ago."
MY PICK: Notre Dame - My heart wants Akron to win, but Notre Dame is deep and motivated after blowing a big lead in the Big East Tournament last week.
4:10PM et: (10) Florida St. Seminoles(21-10) Vs. (7) Texas A&M Aggies(24-8) - TBS
Teams in the NCAA Tournament find motivation everywhere. For Texas A&M, the motivation comes from a chance to play in the Sweet 16 in their home state of Texas.
The Sothwest Region will make a stop in San Antonio before the Final Four reaches Houston, something not lost on the Aggies.
"It's kind of in the back of your mind, use it as motivation," Aggies forward Nathan Walkup said. "Obviously, you can't look past your first or your second game. So that's our main focus. But in the back of your mind, hey, if we can come out of Chicago with two wins going back home to Texas, two hours away from campus, it would just be an awesome place to play."
Needless to say, Florida State would like nothing more than to ruin the Aggies' dreams of a Texas home-court advantage. Whether or not the Seminoles have their best player, Chris Singleton, remains a mystery in the hours before tip-off.
The team's leading scorer and rebounder, Singleton was injured in the first half against Virginia on Feb. 12. He had surgery two days later, and the Seminoles (21-10) have split six games in his absence.
MY PICK: Texas A&M - Even if Singleton does return, you have to wonder what kind of condition he will be in.
6:50PM et: (16)Boston University Terriers(21-13) Vs. (1) Kansas Jayhawks(32-2) - TBS
The third of the 1 v. 16 matchups today and probably the biggest mismatch, along with Ohio State. Kansas looks primed and ready for a deep Tourney run, especially after last season's disappointment. Last night, Kansas coaches reminded their team about the 2010 tourney defeat at the hands of Northern Iowa.
"It's a little reminder of if you don't show up, you're going to go home," Brady Morningstar said. "No one wants that. No one likes that feeling.
Boston University knows the story as well and wants to rewrite it, with them as Cinderella. Winners of 11 straight games, the Terriers feel they are perfect for the role.
"If you're going to beat anybody, it takes belief," Holland said. "I feel like we believe in each other. I think if you're going to do anything, even winning a game in this tournament, you have to have that belief in one another that you can win."
MY PICK: Kansas - Not only is Kansas talented, they are motivated as well.
Sometimes we forget that Purdue is this good without their best player, Robbie Hummel, who missed all season after re-injuring his knee during the preseason. After the loss, Big Ten Player of the Year JuJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore have combined to score 38.7 points per game - 53% of Purdue's offense this season.
"You know this is our last time playing in the NCAA tournament," said Johnson, the 6-foot-10 Big Ten Player of the Year who will be in an NBA uniform this time next year. "We're going to be playing with a lot of emotion and things like that."
St. Peter's won a total of 11 games from 2006-2008, but now find themselves back in the Tournament for the first time since 1995.
MY PICK: Purdue - The Boilermakers will struggle later in the Tournament, but they should advance pretty easily today.
Illinois went just 6-10 down the stretch, limping into the NCAA Tournament. A surprise, considering that Illinois is loaded with experienced seniors, like Mike Davis.
"It's do or die. It's our last game if we lose," Davis said Thursday, a day before facing No. 8-seeded UNLV. "I'm not ready for it to be over. I know they're not ready for it to be over. We want to make a little run here."
Former Illini coach Lon Kruger runs the show at UNLV and knows that, despite their struggles, Illinois is a dangerous opponent.
"Any team that has the ability to play as they did on occasion throughout the year, there is a lot of reason for concern," Kruger said. "No doubt. They have a lot of different weapons and a lot of guys that can make plays."
MY PICK: UNLV - Illinois has been too erratic the past 3 months to ignore - especially for a team with so much experience.
9:50PM et: (11)Virginia Commonwealth Rams(24-11) Vs. (6)Georgetown Hoyas(21-10)
UPSET ALERT! If there is a big upset to be had today this one is it. Georgetown has really struggled the past month or so and seem ripe for the picking.
The return of point guard Chris Wright will be a huge help to the Hoyas.
"Having him back in our lineup is really good," leading scorer Austin Freeman said Thursday. "Just to have his ability to penetrate, get to the basket, create his own shot and also be able to create shots for his teammates. It's going to be good to have that back in our lineup, and also have his voice back on court. He's one of our captains, one of our leaders."
VCU was one of the more controversial entries in the Tournament and want to validate their selection. They earned a shot at the Hoyas by beating USC on Wednesday.
MY PICK: Georgetown - I have been picking against all of the 'First Four' teams, and VCU really wasn't impressive in their win over USC
Four games are on tap out West - ironically, the first two games of the day are from the West bracket, being played in Charlotte, NC. Included on the schedule today are No. 1 Seed Duke, No. 4 seed Texas and the No. 8, No. 9 match-up featuring Michigan and Tennessee.
Texas? As a No. 4 seed? No way. That's the hand the Longhorns were dealt, but I look at Texas as a No. 2 seed. Sure, there were a couple of missteps along the way, including a 4-4 finish to the season, but the Longhorns were 7-3 against teams that were ranked when they played them.
The Golden Grizzles of Oakland sport an impressive 17-1 record in conference, but it also means that were just 8-8 out of conference. Oakland did play a solid schedule, beating Tennessee on the road when the Vols were ranked #7, but overall were 1-4 against ranked teams.
MY PICK: Texas - Way too much Longhorns for Oakland to handle. It's a tough break for the Grizzlies who have the talent to win a Tournament game. They simply were matched up with a team that was under-seeded.
Will Bruce Pearl return to Tennessee or won't he. Unfortunately that has been the question surrounding this game during the days leading up. Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton created the uproar by saying the 'jury is still out' on whether or not Pearl would return after it was found that Pearl had misled the NCAA during an investigation.
"When you put yourself in a position where you provide false or misleading information to the NCAA and you go through an NCAA investigation, you put yourself in a position where you're going to be evaluated at the end of the year," Pearl said. "So that's what our status is.
The Wolverines have dealt with an up and down season themselves, starting the Big Ten season at 1-6 before finishing strong. The Wolverines lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight season.
"Right now we're boxing out anybody we see. If you get in that hallway on the way back I'm going to box you out," Michigan coach John Beilein told a reporter. "They are tremendous offensive rebounders. Somebody asked me if it would concern you. It would concern the Boston Celtics if they had to box these guys out."
MY PICK: Michigan - Too much distraction for Tennessee means the Wolverines advance.
You know the old saying, every year a No. 12 seed rises up and beats a No. 5 seed. It's happened already in 2011 with Richmond taking down Vanderbilt yesterday. West Virginia and Kansas State already have wins over No. 12 seeds this year leaving Arizona as the last No. 5 seed to play.
Their opponent, Memphis, returns to the Tournament after a one year hiatus. Coach Josh Pastner - an Arizona alum - makes his NCAA Tournament debut as head coach facing the team he won a National Championship with in 1997.
"I know people tried to make the story line of ... me against Arizona. It would be different if Coach Olson was still coaching," Pastner said. "But once the ball's tipped, it's about the team that wins advances and the other one's done."
MY PICK: Arizona - Memphis is young and with a head coach with little NCAA experience their time might be next year. A dangerous game for the Wildcats, to be sure.
Ten years ago, Hampton, in the Tournament as a No. 15 seed, beat No. 2 seed Iowa State. It equaled the biggest upset according to seeding in Tournament history. Can the Pirates do it again, this time as a No. 16 seed? Against Duke, no less?
MY PICK: Duke - I hope Hampton enjoyed their stay in Charlotte because the journey ends today.
So, are your brackets busted? For me, the Michigan State Spartans have always been a thorn in my side. I usually have little respect for Sparty and for years that's killed me. This year, despite the Spartan rocky road of a season, I picked MSU to make a deep tournament run. Once again, the Spartans have killed me.
Alas, Friday is a new day and I have plenty of white out. Let's break down all of today's matchups, starting first with the East Region, where the top-seeded Buckeyes get their tournament underway this afternoon.
Cleveland will be in the spotlight when Villanova and George Mason tip-off just after 2:00PM this afternoon. For 'Nova, this season has quickly turned into a nightmare. After starting the year 16-1, the 'Cats have struggled, going just 5-10 since January 17. That includes a current 5-game losing streak and a first round exit in the Big East Tournament at the hands of South Florida.
As for the Patriots, who can forget their historic run to the Final Four a few years ago? Unlike Villanova, George Mason comes into the NCAA Tournament winners of 16-of-17. That loss, however, came to VCU in their conference tournament.
MY PICK: George Mason - When March comes around you have to be playing your best basketball. Villanova isn't just losing games recently, they are getting blown out.
I'll have more about the Buckeyes game a bit later, but there might not be a more lopsided matchup in the field of 64 than this one. I will say this about the Roadrunners, they come into the game with some confidence, having won their past 6 games, and no fear.
MY PICK: Ohio State - No. 1 seeds are 105-0 against No. 16 seeds. 'Nuf said.
After winning the 2009 National Championship, the Tar Heels missed the NCAA Tournament all together in 2010. After starting out this season at 4-3, with losses to Minnesota and Illinois, people along Tobacco Road were nervous to say the least. Then the Tar Heels got hot, and haven't looked back since. UNC is 14-2 over it's last 16 games, both losses coming at the hands of the Duke Blue Devils.
The Blackbirds present an interesting opponent for the Tar Heels. They, too, come into the Tournament red hot, winners of 13 games in a row, 21 of their last 22. LIU can also score, they are 4th in all of college basketball, averaging 82.6 points per game. It's also a battle of two great rebounding teams - UNC is No. 1 in the NCAA, averaging 42.5 rebounds, while LIU is 3rd averaging 41.8
MY PICK: North Carolina - I'll take the Heels, but something tells me this game could be closer that Roy Williams would like it to be.
Not many people know the name Tu Holloway. After the 2011 NCAA Tournament, I have a feeling that will change in a big way. Holloway, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, is the leader for a Musketeers team making it's sixth straight NCAA Tournament. His 20.2 points leads Xavier in scoring - as he goes, so go the Musketeers.
"He's a very great player," Marquette guard Jimmy Butler said. "He can shoot it. He can drive it, rebound it, distribute the ball as a guard."
Marquette enters the Tournament after a solid performance in the Big East Tournament. Wins over Providence and west Virginia sealed their ticket and now the Eagles want to make some noise.
MY PICK: Xavier - I really like Xavier a lot. They, along with Michigan State, are the only teams to make it to the Sweet 16 the past three seasons. MSU is gone, but Xavier can make it four in a row this year.
Washington is a long way from home. 3000 miles, to be exact. It's the longest trip for any team in this year's tournament, but one the Huskies feel they deserved after losing 3-of-4 to end the regular season. Washington rebounded to win the PAC-10 Tournament, but the damage was already done.
The Bulldogs are one of the controversial teams in the bracket, making the Tournament over teams that many felt were more qualified - like Colorado or Virginia Tech - still, they are hear, pretty close to home, and look forward to the opportunity.
"It's a grand opportunity to be at this point and still be playing," forward Trey Thompkins said. "I feel like our team is mature enough that we can handle the fact that we're in the tournament very well. Coach (Mark) Fox has done a great job of keeping us focused and worried about the task at hand and worrying about Washington. Not looking forward, not looking back."
MY PICK: Washington - The Huskies get backup point guard Venoy Overton back and that will only add to the depth UW has in the backcourt.
Indiana State in the NCAA Tournament. Talk about having a 'Hoosiers' feel. Larry Bird's alma mater is back in the tournament, staring a match-up with the match-up of Syracuse. The match-up zone that is.
The zone is a human flytrap of sorts. Venture into its middle and risk getting your shot swatted or the ball stolen at your feet. Dribble into the court's corners and expect to be double teamed by swarming defenders. There is no easy way around this mobile, 10-armed, 10-legged monster.
To prepare for it, Indiana State actually practiced against six defenders - using hockey sticks. Radical, but what do the Sycamores have to lose?
MY PICK: Syracuse. The Orange are primed and ready for a deep Tournament run. It'll be fun to see Indiana State on the floor, however.
Penn State could almost taste the “third” round of NCAA tournament play when the Temple Owls crushed their dreams on a buzzer-beater. Needless to say, the Big Ten teams started off the day right in the middle of the madness. The Nittany Lions lost a 66-64 heart-breaker despite 21 points by guard Talor Battle.
After Penn State’s close loss to Temple, the Big Ten got on the board for the first time when Wisconsin beat Belmont handily 72-58. The Badgers were led by John Leuer’s 22 points and are headed to the second round to face either Kansas State or Utah State, and right now the Wildcats have a substantial lead.
The highlight of the day might go to Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans, who put together a remarkable rally. In the final 8 minutes of play, they outscored the Bruins by more than 20 points. Down by only one point with 4.4 seconds remaining, UCLA hit only one free throw, and Kalin Lucas, a senior, was called for a travel at the end of the game. A tough call, but probably the right call as the Spartans’ rally fell two points short.
Four more Big Ten teams will be in action for tomorrow’s games.
One of the en vogue picks this week in many NCAA Tournament Brackets was Belmont over Wisconsin. Despite their seeds – Wisconsin is a No. 4 seed while Belmont came in as a No. 13 – people looked at Wisconsin’s last two games – a blowout loss to Ohio State and a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament – as reason for an early departure for Wisconsin in this year’s tourney.
So much for prognostications.
Jon Leuer finished with 22 points and seven rebounds to lead the Badgers while Jordan Taylor added 21 points, including five baskets from beyond the arc, and also dished out six assists for the Badgers (24-8), who will face the winner of Kansas State-Utah State in the third round.
Mick Hedgepeth paced the Bruins (30-5) with 17 points. Kerron Johnson added 13 points for the Atlantic Sun Champions, who returned to the tournament for the first time since 2008.
Wofford didn't go down without a fight, but in the end the BYU Cougars simply had too much Jimmer Fredette. The likely NCAA Player of the Year scored 32 points leading the No. 3 seeded Cougars to a 74-66 win over the Wofford Terriers in the 2nd round match-up this afternoon in Denver, CO.
BYU (31-4), which set a school record for wins, advanced to play the winner of the Gonzaga-St. John's nightcap on Saturday.
Noah Dahlman led Wofford (21-13) with 22 points, but the Southern Conference champions shot just 4-for-20 from beyond the arc to fall short of the upset bid.
Kemba Walker led the way with 18 points and 12 assists, and Connecticut opened the NCAA Tournament with an easy 81-52 victory over Bucknell.
After letting the Patriot League champions hang around early, Connecticut pulled away in the final 28 minutes of the game to earn a third-round meeting with either Cincinnati or Missouri in the West Region.
The Huskies, of course, won five games in five days last week to capture the Big East Tournament -- a Herculean feat that left some wondering whether Jim Calhoun's team would have a letdown on Thursday.
Instead, Connecticut (27-9) did what it normally does: make it past the first game of the NCAAs. Seeded No. 3 this year, the Huskies improved to 16-1 in their tournament opener since 1990, beginning a trek they hope will end in a Final Four appearance for the fourth time in 13 years.
The Bison (25-9) had been red-hot, carrying a 10-game winning streak into the NCAAs after capturing their conference title game last week as the No. 1 seed. They were led by 14 points from Mike Muscala and 11 from Bryson Johnson.
PSU trailed by three points, that is until Battle tied the game with a deep 3-pointer. The game did not remain tied for long. On the ensuing play, Juan Fernandez took matters into his own hands and hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer.
Fernandez and Battle each scored 23 points, but it was Fernandez that got the last laugh as the Owls edged the Nittany Lions. Temple fought back from a 9 point deficit thanks to Fernandez and another 23 point effort from Ramone Moore. Tim Frazier and David Jackson chipped in 15 and 14 points respectively.
Temple had lost its first game in the past three years. This year they will be moving on to the face the winner of the game between San Diego St. and Northern Colorado.
It didn't take long for the first huge upset of the NCAA Tournament. The (13) Morehead State Eagles, led by Kenneth Faried toppled Rick Pitino's (4) Louisville Cardinals. Faried, the NCAA's all-time rebounding leader, had 12 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Eagles to the shocking second round victory.
Morehead State led for much of the first half before Louisville, led by Chris Smith, came roaring back to tie it at halftime. The game remained close for all of the second half, as the underdog Eagles played Louisville tough all afternoon. Morehead State was relentless on the glass. Faried had 17 rebounds and Terrance Hill added 8 of his own to go along with his game-leading 23 points. Overall, the Eagles outrebounded Louisville 36-27 including 14-6 on the offensive glass.
The Cardinals led by 2 with ten seconds remaining. Morehead State's Demonte Harper then hit a 3 pointer with 4.2 seconds left to take the lead. Kenneth Faried then blocked Louisville's buzzer beater attempt to clinched the upset. The first big shocker hopefully marks the first of many as March Madness is now in full swing.
The Temple Owls and Penn St. Nittany Lions are locked in a tight game at the half, as Temple leads 35-33. Juan Gonzalez leads the Owls with 17 points and 3 assists while Rahlir Jefferson has contributed 7 points and 4 rebounds. Two of the slower paced teams in the country have managed to put up a decent total at halftime.
Penn St. scored 36 points in their game against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament and is dangerously close to eclipsing that mark already. Talor Battle leads a balanced attack for the Nittany Lions with 13 points and 3 of 5 on 3-pointers. Tim Frazier and Jeff Brooks have contributed 8 and 6 points respectively.
Penn State led by as much as 9 points, but the Owls managed to battle back to tie the game, and then take the lead going into the break. Battle and Gonzalez look to carry their teams to a second round victory in what is sure to be a close finish.
(8)BUTLER BULLDOGS 60 – OLD DOMINION MONARCHS 58
We have our first buzzer beater of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament. The Butler Bulldogs, locked in a 58-58 tie with Old Dominion, got a rebound put-back by Matt Howard as the buzzer sounded giving the Bulldogs a 60-58 win.
Butler led most of the second half but couldn’t score over the final two minutes as Old Dominion was able to come back from 58-52 down to tie the game on a pair of Kent Bazemore free throws with :32 seconds to go. That gave Butler the final possession which was all they needed to advance.
Howard scored 15 points off the bench for Butler to go along with 8 rebounds. Shelvin Mack also scored 15 points while dishing out 7 assists. Butler didn’t shoot the ball well, just 38.6%, including just 7-27 from three point range.
Old Dominion was even worse, shooting 35.6% from the field but enjoyed a huge advantage from the free throw line where they converted 21-27 while Butler was just 9-11.
(5)WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS 84 – (12)CLEMSON TIGERS 76
The West Virginia Mountaineers used a huge 15-1 run the sandwiched the end of the first half through the first five minutes of the second half to beat Clemson 84-76. Down 40-31 with 2 minutes to go in the first half, the Mountaineers scored the final 9 points of the first half, then added the first 6 points of the second half to turn a nine point deficit into a 5 point lead they would never relinquish.
Darryl Bryant scored 19 points for West Virginia, one of five players in double figures, as the depth of West Virginia was simply too much for a Clemson team playing on short rest after their first round win Tuesday night.
Andre Young did his best to keep Clemson close, scoring 22 points for the Tigers in a losing effort.
Things got a bit interesting for the Louisville Cardinals early in their 2nd Round game against Morehead St. The Eagles scored the first 8 points of the game and led 15-5 at one point before the Cardinal got into the flow of their offense, rallying to game at 33.Terrance Hill led the Eagles with 10 points and 6 rebounds while Kenneth Faried, the NCAA’s all-time rebound king, had 7 points and 9 rebounds. Morehead State started hot but trailed off, shooting 36.4% from the field.
Chris Smith scored 8 points for the Cardinal who shot 41.4%
Down 15-5, Louisville made a slow, methodical run to get back into the game. The Cardinal actually took the lead at 33-30 after a Kyle Kurec three ball, but Morehead buried a three of their own at the buzzer to tie the game.
The two teams combined to commit 21 turnovers in the first half while Morehead State held a 21-17 rebound advantage.
A close game throughout, Butler trailed by 5 points early – 18-13 – before coming back to briefly hold a 23-22 lead. Old Dominion finished the first half on a 7-4 run, however, to take the two point advantage.
Shelvin Mack has 11 points for the Bulldogs who shot just 36.7% from the field in the first half. Butler was just 5-14 from three-point range and was out-rebounded by ODU 13-10.
Old Dominion was much more efficient than Butler, shooting 47.8%, including 4-8 from deep. The teams combined to shoot just 4 free throws – none by Butler – and combined to commit 19 first half turnovers.
The Clemson Tigers dominated the first 18 minutes of their game with the West Virginia Mountaineers. They play 20 minute halves in college basketball, however, and West Virginia took advantage of the two minutes Clemson played poorly. Using a 9-0 run over the final few minutes of the first half, the Mountaineers tied the Tigers at halftime 40-40.
West Virginia is led by Kevin Jones who has 11, including 3-4 from three-point range. The Mountaineers have shot 54.2% from the field, including 4-9 from deep while going a perfect 10-10 from the line.
Clemson shot 46.4% from the field in the first half while shooting 11-14 from the line. West Virginia has been hampered by 7 first half turnovers.
One has to wonder about Clemson's endurance after playing a game less than 36 hours ago followed by a flight and early arrival in Tampa.
We're about a hour away from the REAL start of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament. The first game tips off at 12:15PM et when (12)Clemson takes on (5) West Virginia from Tampa Florida. Below is the complete schedule for Thursday, complete with TV listings for each game:
The state of Kentucky is known for basketball. Kentucky is a national powerhouse, Louisville, under Denny Crum and now Rick Pitino has done it's share of winning as well. Then there is tiny Morehead State, located in the northeast corner of the state. It is this tiny school that has produced the top-rebounder in college basketball since 1973.
Kenneth Faried has grabbed 1643 rebounds, topping Tim Duncan's record. Better yet, his 84 career double-doubles are tied for second in NCAA-history with Ralph Sampson. Not bad for a guy that stands 6-7, 182 pounds. This season, Faried is averaging 17.6 points, 14.5 rebounds.
Pitino and the Cardinals are plenty familiar with Faried. The schools are located only 130 miles apart and this marks the second time in three seasons they've met in the NCAA tournament. In 2009, the Cardinals turned a two-point game at halftime into a 20-point blowout. Faried had 14 points and 11 rebounds that day.
Now he's back for the Eagles (24-9), along with teammates Demonte Harper and Terrance Hill.
Louisville's roster, meanwhile, has been almost completely turned over, one of the reasons Pitino predicted this would be a "bridge season," not one in which Louisville would contend for the Big East title. The Cardinals were picked to finish eighth in their 16-team conference.
"I called it a bridge year, saying we were going to build something special," Pitino said. "I just didn't know when the bridge will be complete."
MY PICK: Louisville - Morehead State is a nice story, but Rick Pitino is a big-time coach.
One of my earliest memories of the NCAA Tournament came in 1984 when the Richmond Spiders, a small, little known school upset a Charles Barkley-led Auburn Tigers team. The Spiders did it again in 1991, this time against No. 2-seed Syracuse. In 1998, it was as a No. 14 seed that Richmond knocked out South Carolina. Anytime I see Richmond on the line, especially at the No.12-seed, I have to seriously consider taking them.
This year their opponent is Vanderbilt, a No. 5 seed but hardly a great team. The Commodores have stumbled in their last two appearances in the tournament, losing to No. 13 seed Murray State on a last-second shot last season and falling to Siena, another 13th seed, in 2008.
A spotty track record in the tournament of late has led many to deduce that Vandy's ripe for an upset, especially since 12 seeds have a history of springing big wins in the tournament.
MY PICK: Richmond - Who am I to bet against destiny? That, and the fact that Richmond has won 7-straight games heading into the Tournament.
A jam-packed day in the Southeast Region with all 16 teams tipping off this afternoon. Included in that group is No. 1-seed Pittsburgh, the only top seed taking the floor today in the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Here's a look at the schedule and who I have winning in the Southeast Region today:
2010's National Runners-Up is back and in true Butler fashion they look to be playing their best basketball of the season at exactly the right time. After struggling through much of the Horizon League regular season, Butler steamrolled through their conference tournament.
Even so, Butler has won 11 tournament games in their six NCAA Tournament appearances.
Old Dominion knows first hand what it is like to lose to Butler, doing so in 2007. In preparation for Thursday's rematch, Monarchs coach Blaine Taylor ran a tape of that game on the team bus ride to the nation's capital. The Monarchs enter the tournament on a 9-game winning streak.
MY PICK: Butler - It is hard to pick against Butler, so I won't. There is way too much experience and the Bulldogs are playing their best basketball of the season.
A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed and it isn't going to happen this year either. While Pitt has often been in a position to make noise in the tournament, only to fall short, the Panthers are primed to get over the hump this year.
Their opponent is making just their 2nd NCAA tournament appearance, the first coming in 2003, and needed to win their first-round game against Arkansas-Little Rock on Tuesday night to earn the right to face Pittsburgh.
MY PICK - Pitt - A 16 will beat a 1 eventually, just not this time.
Some think a #2-seed was a bit high for Florida. They'll get the chance to prove their worth today with their 2nd round match-up against the Gauchos of UC-Santa Barbara.
While I tend to agree that the Gators are a bit overseeded, they shouldn't have much issue with the Gauchos. UCSB finished just 8-8 in the Big West standings before getting hot in the conference tournament and beating regular-season champ Long Beach St. in the title game.
MY PICK: Florida - The Gators will have a hard time going deep in the tourney, but they'll win this one easily.
If for some strange reason you don't know who Jimmer Fredette is, chances are you will after the NCAA Tournament. The BYU Cougars have had their best season every, but the midseason removal of Brandon Davies could have a huge impact on just how far BYU goes this month.
Right now, however, the Cougars hopes lie with Fredette - He's the nation's leading scorer with the nation's best name -- a humble, eminently watchable star who has revved up the Cougars program to a level not seen since the days of Danny Ainge. Or maybe better than that.
"What's it they say? You get Jimmerized? He's a verb, he's an adverb," said CBS' effervescent color commentator, Bill Raftery, who will certainly have fun calling this game -- and saying that name. "From watching the tapes, what stands out is his enjoyment of the game. It's visible with the energy and the infectiousness and the personality he plays with. It comes across the screen when you're watching it."
To move on, Brigham Young will have to handle Wofford, which is making its second straight trip to the tournament as champion of the Southern Conference.
The Terriers are ranked eighth in the nation in shooting percentage (47.9) and sixth from 3-point range (40.7). They're led by 20-point-a-game scorer Noah Dahlman. With an average of 2.73 years' experience, the Terriers are one of the most seasoned teams in the country. Last year, they took Wisconsin to the wire in a first-round game before falling 53-49.
MY PICK - BYU - Something tells me this game could be tougher than BYU would hope for, but there is no way 'Jimmer-time' ends today.
When is an upset really not an upset? When it's Belmont, inexplicably a No. 13 seed, facing Wisconsin, inexplicably a No. 4 seed. The Badgers have holes, tons of them, and I don't care what league you play in, a 30-4 record is impressive at the Division I college level.
The small school based in Nashville, TN is deep and they can shoot the ball. In his 25th season at Belmont, coach Rick Byrd directed the Bruins (30-4) to their fourth Atlantic Sun championship in six years. Belmont's losses have been at Tennessee twice, at Vanderbilt and, in its lone conference loss, at archrival Lipscomb.
Meanwhile, the Badgers have to be wondering which team will show up. After getting drilled by Ohio St. in the regular season finale 93-65, the Badgers followed it up with a dismal 36-33 loss to Penn St. in the Big Ten Tournament.
Belmont, on the other hand, has won 12 in a row and 18-of-19.
MY PICK - Belmont - Other than the seeding, I'm not sure this is really an upset. I think Belmont is the better basketball team and they'll prove it.
I have a few rules in the tournament. One of them is to pick Michigan State to go one round further than you think they'll go . For me, that round might actually be today. Can anyone really see a Tom Izzo team bail in the first weekend of action?
Facing them is another team rich in tournament tradition - UCLA. The tradition-rich programs, which have combined for 26 trips to the Final Four and 13 national titles, meet in the second round of the Southeast region Thursday night, each hoping to salvage seasons marked by inconsistency.
Surprisingly, this is the first ever meeting between the Spartans and Bruins in the tournament.
Both struggled at times this season. Michigan State coped with injuries and playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. UCLA overcame youth and inexperience to surge late to finish second in the Pac-10.
"It's been a journey this year. ... We didn't sit back and wonder what seed (we were). We sat back and wondered if we were in," Izzo said. "That's been different at Michigan State, but it's also brought some humility to everything, and it's made you appreciate things a little bit."
UCLA is coming off a 17-point loss to Oregon in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals. The Bruins have lost two of their past three games following a stretch in which they won 12 of 14 to right themselves following a slow start in conference play.
MY PICK - Michigan State - Everything in me says to pick the Bruins, but like my tourney rules say - always have MSU go one round further than you expect.
Another questionable pairing based one seeding. St. John's did play a tougher schedule in the Big East, but all the recent tournament pedigree belongs to Gonzaga. Combine that with the loss of D.J. Kennedy for St. John's, and you have a recipe for an upset that really isn't.
Senior D.J. Kennedy tore is ACL during the Big East tournament. Given Gonzaga's size -- the Bulldogs have nine players at 6-foot-5 or taller -- Lavin will start 6-8 senior Sean Evans in Kennedy's place. He was a starter the last two years, but has been coming off the bench this season.
"It's humbling knowing the reason you got in there is because of one of your closest friends is hurt," Evans said. "Our focus is on the game. But it's also on D.J., knowing what he put in for us. Him not being there is a big motivation for us."
Gonzaga found its stride late in the season, winning nine straight games, including the West Coast Conference tournament title game against Saint Mary's to secure an automatic bid.
"This team was able to really draw a line in the sand, started winning games when we had to," said senior guard Steven Gray, who's averaging nearly 14 points and four assists this season. "It was tough realizing that this team, who's put in a lot of time, really had some growth, wasn't potentially going to get this opportunity to play in one of the greatest sporting events out there."
MY PICK: Gonzaga - Even with Kennedy, I might think about picking Gonzaga. Without Kennedy, I am going with 'Zags to pull the upset.
Could it be? Another upset? You bet. I have a soft spot for teams that win 30 games in a season. Kansas State, however, looks like they have saved a season on the brink.
"We're starting to gel at the perfect time where we have to go on a streak," Kansas State senior forward Curtis Kelly said Wednesday. "That streak could be big for our program and I think it's the perfect time. Now's the time we've finally knocked off all the negative stuff."
Utah State, led by six seniors, rolled through the regular season to win the WAC by five games and followed that up with the conference tournament title.
The Aggies are tenacious, disciplined and multidimensional. They have one of the country's best -- and most patient -- post players in WAC player of the year Tai Wesley, steady-and-heady point guard Brockeith Pane and plenty of experience with just three underclassmen on the roster.
MY PICK: Utah State: This is a veteran group that knows how to win - even in March.
Four games in two locations get things underway in the West Region, with No. 2 seed San Diego St and No. 3-seed UConn getting underway this afternoon. Top-seeded Duke will face Hampton tomorrow. In a scheduling twist, a pair of games in the West Region actually take place in Washington D.C., about as far East as you can get. Here's a breakdown of the action:
When you really think about it, the Nittany Lions are one of the teams that likely took a spot away from Colorado, or Virgina Tech, with their run in the Big Ten Tournament. Bu getting to the title game, Penn State assured itself of a spot in the Tournament that likely wasn't there when the Big Ten Tournament began.
They face a Temple Owls team that has lost 3-straight tournament games. In fact, Owls coach Fran Dunphy has lost 11-straight dating back to his days at Penn. Dunphy comes in with much more firepower this time around, and is looking for a win.
"I certainly hope so," Dunphy said Wednesday. "That would be great. We've had a good year. And we've had a resilient year. Guys have stepped up and did some things that you would hope your bench players would do. ... I hope that we're going to be as good as we can be tomorrow morning."
MY PICK: Temple - I really like what I saw from Penn St. in the Big Ten Tournament, but the Nittany Lions depend way to much on Talor Battle. Temple will get it done.
San Diego St. is coming off their best season ever. An early NCAA Tournament exit would put a bit of a damper on a year that saw them win 32 games, a share of the Mountain West regular season title and a MWC Tournament championship as well.
The Aztecs have the burden on never winning a NCAA Tournament game - they are 0-6 - including trips in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
Northern Colorado hopes to continue that trend, though on paper the Bears seem to be outmatched. Making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since joining Division I in 2006-07, the Bears earned their way in by winning the Big Sky Conference regular season and post-season tournament.
Both teams come into the game playing well - SDSU has won 5-straight games while Northern Colorado has won 7-straight.
MY PICK - SDSU - The Aztecs are good. Really good.
UConn shocked everyone by winning five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament. Now they need to find the magic once again against Bucknell in the NCAA Tournament. Coach Jim Calhoun calls the Huskies run last weekend his third-biggest thrill after winning National Championships in 1999 and 2004.
"When I put it back in perspective, after the two national championships there's nothing more special than to win that kind of fight in your neighborhood," Calhoun said Wednesday. "It certainly is one of the highlights of my coaching career."
Bucknell, the champions of the Patriot League, has had success as the No. 14 seed. In 2005 the Bison beat No. 3 seeded Kansas in the first round.
"The comparisons have been there pretty much the whole year," Boon said. "I actually got a chance to talk to the star player from that team, Charles Reed, a few weeks ago and he told me that, 'Yeah, you guys are getting compared to our team and everything, but this is your year. Make your own legacy."
MY PICK: UConn - I don't expect a letdown from UConn today, and I don't expect a repeat of what happened in 2005 for Bucknell.
It's been six years since the Cincinnati Bearcats have played in the NCAA Tournament. After finishing 11-7 in the battle-tested Big East Conference, I expect their stay in the Tournament to be a long one.
Coach Mick Cronin inherited a mess of a program in 2006, a year after longtime Bob Huggins was ousted amid criticism over low graduation rates, a series of player arrests and NCAA rules violations that ultimately led to probation and a reduction in scholarships.
The wins have increased for the Bearcats, from 13 in 06-07 to 25 this season, and the Bearcats are back on the national scene.
The Missouri Tigers are making their third straight appearance in the tournament. Known for a furious pace dubbed the "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" the Tigers love to push the pace while the Bearcats feature the Big East's best defense, allowing just 59.2 points per game.
MY PICK: Cincinnati - This was a tough one, and it could easily go either way. If Missouri starts the game hot, it could be a long day for Cincinnati. I like defense in March, however, and this the Bearcats will get it done.
Unlike years past, every game of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament can be found on television somewhere. You just have to know where to look. No worries, we've got you covered all day long and into the weekend. Ohio State doesn't play until tomorrow, but that doesn't mean there isn't solid action in the East Region today. Here's the when and where of Thursday's East Region tournament action:
The first game of the weekend comes to us from Tampa, Florida, when Clemson, fresh off their First Round win over UAB on Tuesday night takes on Bob Huggins and the No. 5-seed West Virginia. For the Tigers, Tuesday's win was the first for the program in the NCAA Tournament in 14 years. Their prize is a 36-hour turnaround to face the Mountaineers.
Coach Brad Bownell knows the Tigers need to take advantage of the opportunity:
"It was difficult, but you know, it's the NCAA tournament. It's a tremendous opportunity, so I'm not talking about the negatives," Brownell said. "We're going to be ready at 12 o'clock, and we're going to lace them up and be ready to go."
Meanwhile, a well-rested West Virginia squad isn't taking the Tigers lightly. In fact, Huggins thinks it might be a bit of advantage for Clemson.
"Kids today, they play at two, and they go get a hamburger and french fries and a chocolate shake and they come back and play at six," Huggins said. "It's kind of a different breed of athletes, I think. I think they'll be fine."
MY PICK: West Virginia - The Tigers didn't get to Tampa until 5AM yesterday morning. That is going to be a factor. West Virginia will pull away in the 2nd Half.
The champions of the Ivy League take on the SEC Champs in the 2nd game from Tampa today, the only other action in the East Region today.
It's a matchup that features Princeton's seasoned upperclassmen and Kentucky's talented freshmen -- experience against youth, veterans versus rookies.
It will be interesting to watch how the youth of Kentucky handles Princeton - a team known for its frustrating style of play. The Wildcats will need to stay patient and wear the Tigers down. If not, Kentucky could find itself in a dogfight down the stretch - and out of the Tournament much earlier than expected.
MY PICK: Kentucky - While all the experience is on the side of Princeton, there is just too much talent in Kentucky blue.
The Presidential bracket is complete with Barack Obama completing his bracket on Tuesday for today's unofficial Offical start to the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Despite a year in which upsets were en vogue, the Commander-in-Chief has all four No. 1 seeds advancing to his Final Four before the top two - Ohio State and Kansas battle it out for the National Championship. In the end, Obama has the Jayhawks defeating the Buckeyes.
There were a few notable upset predictions from the President:
Arizona defeating Texas in the Round of 32 has me scratching my head a bit.
UConn is the pick du jour after their run in the Big East Tournament. That means a trip to the Sweet 16 in Obama's bracket.
Richmond over Vanderbilt is the President's pick for the 12-over-5 upset. It happens every year, so you have to pick at least one of them.
While I disagree with the President's Champion, there is little doubt he played it safe.
The Ohio State Buckeyes finally know who they will face on Friday in the 2nd Round of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Thanks to a career game from Melvin Johnson III, the Roadrunners of UT-San Antonio took a 27-point halftime lead over Alabama State before hanging on for a 70-61 win in tonight’s first of two First Round contests at the University of Dayton.
ohnson, a 6-5 sophomore guard, took over the first 20 minutes for Texas-San Antonio (20-13), hitting eight of his 13 shots and all eight free throws to lead the Southland Conference tournament champions to their big lead.
Refusing to quit, Alabama State (17-18) hustled down the stretch to inject some drama into the opening-round game. But it was too little, too late.
Jeff Middlebrooks and Tremayne Moorer scored 12 points apiece to lead the Hornets, who fell to 0-4 all-time in the NCAA tournament after winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament for the second time in three seasons.
Alabama State did much of its damage in the second half with Johnson sitting on the bench. But the Hornets had no answer for him in the first half.
During one series, Johnson stepped in front of an Alabama State pass for a steal, dribbled the length of the court untouched and threw down a one-handed dunk to make it 38-15.
Near the end of the half, Johnson was guarded by three players on the right side when he hit a step-back baseline jumper with the shot clock winding down for a 26-point lead.
Teammate Tyler Wood stole the spotlight, hitting a long three-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Roadrunners a 48-21 lead at halftime.
Texas-San Antonio outshot Alabama State 53-30 percent in the first half and 43-36 percent for the game. Jeromie Hill added 14 points in the game for the Roadrunners while the team’s leading scorer, Devin Gibson, had 10.
Alabama State used a 14-2 run to pull within nine points, 64-55, on Moorer’s turnaround baseline jumper. Later, the Hornets cut a 13-point deficit to 10 on Kenderek Washington’s three-pointer with 1:18 remaining.
But they were never as close as nine again until Tramaine Butler’s steal and layup with 20.9 seconds left for the final margin.
The game was part of the new format for this year’s 68-team NCAA Tournament — one of the “First Four” games at University of Dayton Arena. Texas-San Antonio will be the No. 16 seed when it faces the powerhouse Buckeyes and star freshman Sullinger in Cleveland.
The Roadrunners, in control from the start, improved to 1-2 in the NCAA Tournament and continued an improbable run that saw them win their conference tournament as a No. 7 seed.
Sparked by Johnson, who opened the game with a three-point play, Texas-San Antonio never trailed against the Hornets and extended its winning streak to six.
The final two games of the first round of the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament are tonight in Dayton, Ohio, with the Ohio State Buckeyes finding out who they will face in their 2nd Round match-up on Friday in Cleveland. UNC-Asheville and Clemson have already advanced. Who will join them?
Once again the games are on truTV, which is channel 246 on DirecTV.
Texas-San Antonio triumphed as the Southland Conference champs as an improbable seventh seed, dispatching with second seed, Northwestern State (97-96), in the quarterfinals, third-seeded and defending Southland Tournament champs Sam Houston State (79-70) in the semis, and finally regular-season champion and top seed McNeese State (75-72) in the final. It was the Roadrunners' third conference tourney crown and first since 2004. This will be their fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, having lost on all three previous occasions -- the last in 2004 to No. 1 seed Stanford. UTSA has won five in a row entering the tournament and seven of its last nine games overall.
Alabama State captured its second SWAC Tournament championship in the last three seasons by running the table as the No. 4 seed in 2011. It was the Hornets' fourth tourney title overall, defeating Alabama A&M (81-61), regular- season champs and top seed Texas Southern (73-66) in the semis, and finally Grambling State (65-48) in the final for their 11th win in the past 12 games and a fourth trip to the Big Dance. ASU stands at 0-3 in the tournament with its last loss coming in 2009 to Morehead State.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs in men's basketball. The winner gets the privilege of facing Ohio St. on Friday in Cleveland.
9:00PM et: (11)Va. Commonweath Rams(23-11) Vs. (11)USC Trojans(19-14) - truTV
Virginia Commonwealth secured an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after a strong showing in the CAA this season. The Rams entered the conference tournament as the No. 4 seed, defeated Drexel (62-60) in the quarterfinals, then took down top-seeded George Mason (79-63) in the semis before losing to Old Dominion (70-65) in the final game. VCU had a rather ambitious non- conference schedule that included five teams that made this tournament and a few other tough matchups, resulting in wins over Wofford and UCLA as well as defeats to Tennessee, Richmond and UAB. This will be the Rams' fourth NCAA appearance since 2004 and their 11th overall. They are 5-9 in the event all- time. The 2011 tournament will be the club's first as an at-large team since the 1983-84 season. VCU's last go-round was in 2009 when it lost to UCLA in the first round. The Rams had lost four straight CAA games heading into the conference tourney, their first such occurrence since the 1999-2000 campaign.
USC also received an at-large bid to this tournament after logging a 19-14 record this season, which included a 10-8 mark in Pac-10 play. The Trojans got by Cal, 70-56, in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament before falling to top seed and regular-season champion Arizona, 67-62, in the semis. USC finished strong overall, though, winning six of its last eight games, including regular-season triumphs over Arizona and eventual Pac-10 tourney champ Washington. The Trojans' non-conference schedule also yielded impressive victories against teams from this year's field, Texas and Tennessee, as well as a two-point loss at Kansas. USC is appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in the last 11 seasons and making its 16th appearance overall. Over that time, the Trojans have managed a 12-16 record and last participated in 2009 when they dismissed Boston College in the first round before falling to eventual runner-up Michigan State in the second.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between USC and VCU on the hardwood. The winner faces Georgetown on Friday in Chicago.
Here's the last of the regional previews for the first and second round games. The Southwest region includes some powerhouses, but I could realistically see any of the top 4 seeds reaching the Final Four. Of course there will be an upset or two thrown in there as well. Like usual, every part of the NCAA Tournament is awesome, and this region is no exception. Let's have a look at my picks.
USC Trojans (19-14) vs. VCU Rams (23-11)
March 16 9:00 PM ET
Say what you want about whether these teams deserved to be in the field of 68 or not, but someone has to win this game. I'll be the first to admit that teams such as the Colorado Buffaloes, Virginia Tech Hokies, and Boston College Eagles were more deserving than VCU or perhaps USC. Regardless, it is what it is. I have USC advancing because I think they are better and have faced better competition this year. Of two teams that may or may not belong here, you can make a stronger case for USC. Therefore, I believe they are a better team and will thus move on.
Second Round Games
(1) Kansas Jayhawks (32-2) vs. (16) Boston University Terriers (21-13)
March 18 6:50 PM ET
It's becoming really hard to come up with a few sentences to write about these #1 vs. #16 match-ups. The #1 seed is going to win, deal with it.
(8) UNLV Rebels (24-8) vs. (9) Illinois Fighting Illini (19-13)
March 18 9:20 PM ET
I previously had Illinois winning this game, but upon further review, picked the Rebels. Wins over the Kansas St. Wildcats, Wisconsin Badgers, and Virginia Tech Hokies are impressive. Sometimes the teams in the 8 vs. 9 match-ups are too similar in ability to make a confident pick. Sometimes you have to just make your best educated guess. This is one of those times. I'm picking the Rebels, although I could change my mind again by the time I finish this article.
March 17 4:10 PM ET
Prediction: Richmond **UPSET SPECIAL**
One of the staples of the NCAA Tournament, a twelve seed upsets a five seed. I think it happens here this year. Vanderbilt has some strong early season wins, but kind of faded down the stretch, losing 4 of its last 7 games. Richmond, meanwhile, cruised through the Atlantic 10 tournament and hasn't lost in nearly a month. This is probably a pretty popular pick, as many think Richmond has what it takes to pull off the upset.
March 17 1:40 PM ET
This is another case of a team from a small conference winning the tournament to gain an NCAA bid. Then, that team has to go in and play a powerhouse team from a legitimately good conference. Generally, the team from the small conference gets blown away. That is precisely what I expect here.
(6) Georgetown Hoyas (21-10) vs. (11) Winner of USC/VCU
March 18 9:50 PM ET
Based on my previous prediction, I think USC will be playing against the Hoyas in this game. If that's the case they could probably give G-Town a tough game. Regardless, I think the Hoyas just have too much experience and are used to paying on the big stage after putting together a very impressive season in the Big East. Georgetown has not played well as of late, but still boast the 12th best FG% in the country. Georgetown survives, barely.
March 18 7:20 PM ET
I simply refuse to pick a team called the "Peacocks." I cannot do it. Similarly, I refuse to pick a team that is bound to get destroyed. Coincidentally, St. Peter's is both of those things. Purdue cost itself a chance at a number one-seed by dropping games to the Iowa Hawkeyes and Michigan St. Spartans at the end of the year, but I think they bounce back. I have Purdue as one of the teams that will make a big impact in this tournament and needless to say, I think they can handle the ferocious Peacocks from St. Peter's.
(7) Texas A&M Aggies (24-8) vs. (10) Florida St. Seminoles (21-10)
March 18 4:10 PM ET
Prediction: Texas A&M
I think this game comes down to the impact the Chris Singleton has on the FSU defense. If he doesn't play, then I would guess that his impact will be limited. Florida State is an extremely good defensive team when Singleton is healthy, and is capable with playing with the big boys (as shown by their win over the Duke Blue Devils). However, their defensive leader has been hurt for several games now, and will likely not be at full strength, even if he manages to play in this one. Therefore, I do not think this one will be as difficult for the Aggies as it could have been. Aggies are moving on.
March 18 1:40 PM ET
Prediction: Notre Dame
I know many people reading this may be especially close to this Akron team, however, Notre Dame is so good. The Irish may have had the best claim to a number one-seed out of all of the 2-seeds. Losing just 4 times in the Big East is unbelievable. My apologies to any Akron natives, Notre Dame is cruising to the next round.
That concludes the preview for the play-in and second round games. Make sure to check back for updates about the tournament and previews of rounds to come. Enjoy the madness!
Think my picks are genius? Want to ridicule me for my outrageous choices? Follow me on Twitter @Lookitsckaz.
The 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament gets underway tonight with what the NCAA is calling the ‘First Four’. Actually, tonight is the first two of the first four, with the final two games tomorrow. Another change – the ‘First Four’ games are now officially considered the ‘First Round’ of the tournament, with Thursday and Friday now officially considered the 2nd Round.
If not, you might be when you find out that tonight’s games are on Tru TV. Yes, Tru TV. Where would one find Tru TV? Well, for those with DirecTV, you’ll find it on Channel 246.
Now, on to tonight’s games:
6:30PM et: (16)UNC-Asheville Bulldogs(19-13) Vs. (16)Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans(19-16) – tru TV
UNC-Asheville emerged out of the Big South Conference as the third seed, taking out top-seeded and regular-season champ Coastal Carolina, 60-47, for its third conference tournament championship and first since 2003. The Bulldogs ran through Charleston Southern (72-63) and High Point (62-45) to reach the final and now enter their second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance riding a six-game winning streak. UNC-Asheville took on a hefty non-conference schedule with matchups against three of this year’s better tournament teams, Ohio State, North Carolina and Georgetown, and although each resulted in defeat, the top-flight competition should help prepare the Bulldogs for center stage come Tuesday. This will be Asheville’s second-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, having gone 1-1 in its only other trip in 2003 when the Bulldogs downed Texas Southern in the opening round before falling to Texas.
Arkansas-Little Rock claimed its first-ever Sun Belt Conference Tournament title in dramatic fashion as senior Solomon Bozeman’s three pointer with 1.5 seconds to play lifted the Trojans to a 64-63 win over North Texas in the championship game. UALR needed to rip off four wins in four days as the fifth seed in the Sun Belt’s Western Division to earn an NCAA berth, taking out South Alabama (82-68), Arkansas State (59-52), Middle Tennessee (65-56) and North Texas along the way. It was quite the turnaround for the Trojans, who ended the regular season on a three-game slide. UALR makes its return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990 when it lost to eventual national champion UNLV, 102-72. The Trojans own a 1-3 mark in the tourney all- time.
My Take: UNC-Asheville: They’ve been here before and that kind of tradition leads to confidence.
The winner will face (1)Pittsburgh in Washington D.C. on Thursday.
9:00PM et: (12)Clemson Tigers(21-11) Vs. UAB Blazers(22-8) – tru TV
Clemson competed in the always tough ACC and emerged with a first-round bye to the conference tournament after winning out on a tie-breaker with both Boston College and Virginia Tech at 9-7 in league play. The Tigers handled Boston College easily in a 70-47 rout in the quarterfinals before giving top-seeded regular-season champ North Carolina all they could handle in a 92-87 overtime loss in the semifinals. Clemson comes into this matchup with four wins in six games with its only two losses coming against UNC and Duke, which defeated the Tar Heels in the conference championship Sunday. The Tigers are making a fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament but are searching for their first win since the 1997 team advanced to the Sweet 16. Clemson is 8-10 all- time in the tourney and will make its 11th appearance in the Dance this year.
UAB closed out the regular-season with four straight wins in a competitive Conference USA field to clinch its first league regular-season championship. The Blazers’ top seeding and momentum quickly ended though, as East Carolina pulled off a 75-70 overtime win in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. It was a disappointing end to the Blazers’ hopes of capturing their initial conference tourney crown, but the NCAA’s decision to hand out an at-large bid was no surprise. UAB posted a solid 12-4 record against C-USA opponents during the year and played a tough non-conference slate that included losses to fellow NCAA Tournament teams Duke (85-64) and Georgia (66-64), both on the road, as well as a pair of close defeats to Memphis. The Blazers also beat one of this year’s other "First Four" clubs, VCU. UAB is making its 14th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2006 when it was bounced in the first round by Kentucky. The Blazers are 9-13 all-time in tournament play with their best finish an Elite Eight appearance in 1982.
My Take: CLEMSON - The ACC is a tough-as-nails conference. Clemson had North Carolina on the ropes before losing in overtime. I’ll take the Tigers to advance.
The winner will face (4)Kentucky on Thursday in Tampa, FL.
After the Ohio St. Buckeyes, the Duke Blue Devils may have the next hardest road to the Final Four in the West region. The region features the relatively unknown #2 San Diego St. Aztecs and the red-hot #3 Connecticut Huskies, led by superstar, Kemba Walker. Furthermore, the Texas Longhorns and Arizona Wildcats are poised to make some noise in the bracket this year. In my opinion, the West region lacks massive upset potential, but instead offers several inevitable battles of the titans. You may want to look elsewhere for Cinderella stories, but the West region is sure to provide some of the highest quality basketball in the tournament. Care to take a look at the match-ups and my picks? Of course you do. Here we go.
Round Two Games
(1) Duke Blue Devils (30-4) vs. (16) Hampton Pirates (24-8)
March 18 3:10 PM ET
Maybe someday a number 16 seed will beat a number 1 seed. However, it isn't happening this year. Duke is way too good to fall this early.
March 18 12:40 PM ET
Both of these teams appear to be over-seeded. Neither has a very impressive record or resumé, however here they are. In the end, it comes down to which team has been playing better as of late. Michigan had an impressive showing in the Big Ten Tournament while Tennessee did not play very well down the stretch, losing 7 of their last 11 games. The Wolverines are moving on.
(5) Arizona Wildcats (27-7) vs. (12) Memphis Tigers (25-9)
March 18 2:45 PM ET
It seems like there is a number 12 seed upsetting a number 5 seed every single year. That's because there basically is. Regardless, the Memphis Tigers barely eked out a one-point win over the UTEP Miners to secure the NCAA berth. Memphis likely would not have earned an at-large bid and quite frankly aren't that good. Arizona's Derrick Williams is a beast and could take over several games this March. Special note to fellow Cavalier fans: Be sure to watch Williams, as he could be sporting Wine and Gold next year.
(4) Texas Longhorns (27-7) vs. (13) Oakland Golden Grizzlies (25-9)
March 18 12:15 PM ET
If you wanted to, one could make the case that the Longhorns have not played very well lately and are primed for an upset. Texas went just 4-4 in their last 8 games, so that claim may be valid. Also, Oakland is 2nd in the country in points scored at 85.6 per game. Some people have the guts to call this upset, but this guy is banking on Texas showing up in midseason form as opposed to the team we saw down the stretch. A rather uneventful bracket region continues the trend as another favorite moves on.
March 17 9:50 PM ET
Prediction: Missouri **UPSET SPECIAL**
The Big East is the best conference in the country, no question. However, I tend to think that some teams get taken along for the ride with the conference being so good. Admittedly, after looking at what the Bearcats have accomplished, the hate seems a big arbitrary. It's more of a gut feeling on this pick. Missouri was impressive in what I saw this year and I love their style of play. If you disagree, just don't copy my entire bracket.
(3) Connecticut Huskies (26-9) vs. (14) Bucknell Bison (25-8)
March 17 7:20 PM ET
If you missed UCONN's unprecedented run through the Big East tournament and Kemba Walker's video game-like performance, I can only assume you have been living under a rock. UCONN faced 5 unbelievable teams in 5 days and took them all down. The tourney may end up hurting the Huskies in the long run, as Kemba Walker might eventually realize he is in fact, still a human being and run out of energy. However, he's got enough in the tank to take down Bucknell. Kardiac Kemba's run lasts at least one more round.
Penn St. used a late season surge to put themselves into the tournament and may be over-seeded as a #10 seed with 14 losses. I may be punishing PSU for putting me through that horrific 36-33 game against the Wisconsin Badgers, but I think the Owls will move on here.
(2) San Diego St. Aztecs (32-2) vs. (15) Northern Colorado Bears (21-10)
Prediction: San Diego State
The Aztecs are really good. That much we know. How good? I guess we'll find out if they have to face UConn or Duke later in the tournament. But right now, we know that Kawhi Leonard is a beast and that SDSU is better than anyone in the Big Sky conference.
So that's all we've got for the West region. Be sure to check back for more tournament updates and more picks! Hate my picks? Love my picks? Want to debate my picks? Follow me on Twitter @Lookitsckaz
The Southeast region may be the easiest path for any of the number one seeds to reach the Final Four. Looking at the bracket, it seems quite difficult to find a team that is likely to take down top-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers, but you never know. After all, that's why they call it March Madness. Apart from Pittsburgh, there are not any sure bets in this region at all. While the Southeast region may be the weakest region, it may also be the most exciting, with plenty of teams capable of pulling off the big upset.
Regardless of the outcome, the entertainment value for this quarter of the bracket is off the charts. It boasts possible Cinderellas in the #13 Belmont Bruins and #12 Utah State Aggies. Two perennial powerhouses in the #10 Michigan St. Spartans and #7 UCLA Bruins will face off in the second round instead of the Final Four this year. Oh yeah, and the nation's leading scorer, Jimmer Fredette of the BYU Cougars, is here too. Let's take a look at the match-ups and take our best guesses at predicting the results.
The East region features some very interesting first and second round matchups, including a couple of play-in games early in the week. The top-rated Ohio State Buckeyes await the winner of UT-San Antonio and Alabama State, and their region is so deep, they could face a team like Villanova in the second round.
This will not be a very easy region to come out of, but that's what makes March Madness so enticing. Here are the matchups, predictions, and some upset alerts for your East region bracket.
March 15 9:10 PM EST
Tigers have the top defense in the ACC, and played 35 great minutes against North Carolina in the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament.
March 16 6:40 PM EST
UT-San Antonio Roadrunners (19-13) vs. Alabama State Hornets (17-17)
Prediction: UT-SAN ANTONIO
Alabama State's offense is really lacking for firepower. UT-SA is riding a five game winning streak coming into this game. I like the Roadrunners.
Round Two Games
March 18th 4:30 PM ET
(1) Ohio St. Buckeyes (32-2) vs. (16) Winner of UT-SA/Alabama St.
Prediction: OHIO STATE
No 16 seed has ever beaten a top seed. The Buckeyes are too big, too fast, too good for any 16 seed.
March 18th 2:10 PM ET
The Wildcats are ice cold right now, but that's because they played in the toughest conference in America. I don't know how long they will last, but I know they are good enough to take a round one game.
(5) West Virginia Mountaineers (20-11) vs. (12) Winner of UAB/Clemson
Prediction: WEST VIRGINIA
But it's very close. I really like Clemson right now, but they could make it all moot by losing in the play-in. WVU is well-coached and battle tested. They are the safe pick.
March 17th 2:45 PM ET
Right now, Kentucky is red hot and even though Princeton was able to win the Ivy League Tournament, I think Calipari's crew will be much too much to handle.
March 18th 7:27 PM ET
Marquette is the top scoring offense in all of the Big East. While I think Xavier is a very solid team, and they have the leadership of guard Tu Holloway, but can they stop Marquette's offense?
March 18th 9:57 PM ET
(3) Syracuse Orange (26-7) vs. (13) Indiana State Sycamores
You can pretty much take this one to the bank. Indiana State barely snuck into the tournament, and Syracuse finished 3rd in the Big East and has a Hall of Fame coach. This would be a very big upset.
March 18th 9:45 PM ET
Georgia is somewhat limping into the tournament here while the Washington Huskies just came off an extremely impressive run in the Pac-10 tournament. Led by guard Isaiah Thomas, I think the Huskies will take this one.
March 18th 7:15 PM ET
(2) North Carolina Tar Heels (26-7) vs. (15) Long Island Blackbirds (27-5)
Prediction: NORTH CAROLINA
UNC has too much length and too much talent, even though LIU is on a 13-game winning streak right now. Look for UNC to get their feet back underneath them in this game after a loss to Duke.
The Butler Bulldogs, champions of the Horizon League and 2010 National Runners-up, are among the 16 teams that will vie for the Final Four from the Southeast region in the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Butler, despite double-digit losses, has earned the respect of the Selection committee and will enter the tourney as an 8-seed.
Michigan State also found a home in the Southeast Region, giving the Big Ten seven teams. Wisconsin joins the Spartans, coming in as a 4-seed. Below are the match-ups in the Southeast Region.
Thursday, March 17
(1)Pittsburgh vs. (16)UNC Asheville/Arkansas-Little Rock winner
(8)Butler vs. (9)Old Dominion
Thursday, March 17
(5)Kansas State vs. (12)Utah State
(4)Wisconsin vs. (13)Belmont
Thursday, March 17
(6)St. John’s vs. (11)Gonzaga
(3)BYU vs. (14)Wofford
Thursday, March 17
(7)UCLA vs. (10) Michigan State
(2)Florida vs. (15)UC Santa Barbara
Get your Printable 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament Bracket by clicking on the link.
Now that the 68 teams have been announced, office pools everywhere can kick into high gear. Your friends at SBNation have you covered with your very own
Printable 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament Bracket.
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Just another fine, outstanding service from the good folks at SB Nation. SB Nation has sites for a vast majority of the teams represented in this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and they offer the best perspective on their teams that you’ll find anywhere on the internet. All the passion and excitement that embodies March Madness can be found everywhere across the SB Nation family of websites.
Enjoy your brackets, ladies and gentlemen!
The 2011 NCAA Tournament gets underway on Tuesday, March 15, with 68 teams vying for a trip to the 2011 Final Four. The Big Ten, who has a total of seven team in the big dance, will have two in the West Region, with the (10)Penn St. Nittany Lions as well as (8)Michigan Wolverines. As a side note, the state of Ohio has three teams in the tournament with Ohio St., Akron, and the (6)Cincinnati Bearcats, who will play in the West.
Here are the match-ups out West:
Friday, March 18
(1) Duke vs. (16)Hampton
(8)Michigan vs. (9)Tennessee
Friday, March 18
(5)Arizona vs. (12)Memphis
(4)Texas vs. (13)Oakland
Thursday, March 17
(6) Cincinnati vs. (11) Missouri
(3) UConn vs. (14)Bucknell
Thursday, March 17
(7) Temple vs. (10) Penn State
(2) San Diego State vs. (15) Northern Colorado
Coming up, we’ll take a look at the Southeast Region
The Akron Zips earned their trip to the 2011 NCAA Tournament by beating Kent St. in the MAC Tournament Championship Game on Saturday Night. On Sunday, the Zips found out when and where they'll play, including who they'll face in their first round matchup.
Entering the tournament as a 15-seed, the Zips will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Chicago on Firday, March 18. The Irish were thought to be a 1-seed until an early loss in the Big East Tournament. A 15-seed shows a complete lack of respect for the Zips, however, so it will be interesting if they can make some noise.
The rest of the Southwest Bracket looks like this:
Friday, March 18
(1)Kansas vs. (16)Boston University
(8)UNLV vs. (9)Illinois
Thursday, March 17
(5)Vanderbilt vs. (12)Richmond
(4)Louisville vs. (13)Morehead State
Friday, March 18
(6)Georgetown vs. (11)USC/VCU winner
(3)Purdue vs. (14)Saint Peter's
Friday, March 18
(7)Texas A&M vs. (10)Florida State
(2)Notre Dame vs. (15)Akron
The Big Ten has two teams in the Southwest region, with (3)Purude to face (14) St. Peter's while (9)Illinois set to face (8)UNLV
The Ohio St. Buckeyes are the #1-overall seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament on the heels of the 32-2 season, plus Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. The reward the Buckeyes receive for their hard work is a short trip - about 120 miles north - to start their Road to the Final Four.
The Buckeyes will be the top seed in the East and play their first round games in Cleveland at the Wolstein Center. Their first game will be Friday, March 18, with their opponent to be determined. Texas-San Antonio will play Alabama State on Tuesday for the right to face the Buckeyes.
The rest of the East region matchups include:
Friday, March 18
(1)Ohio State vs. (16)Texas-San Antonio/Alabama State winner
(8)George Mason vs. (9)Villanova
Thursday, March 17
(5)West Virginia vs. (12)UAB/Clemson winner
(4)Kentucky vs. (13)Princeton
Friday, March 18
(6)Xavier vs. (11)Marquette
(3)Syracuse vs. (14)Indiana State
Friday, March 18
(7)Washington vs. (10)Georgia
(2)North Carolina vs. (15)Long Island University
We'll have the rest of the Brackets as they are announced.
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