Thursday, March 25, 2010
3rd Round Winners: Butler, W. Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas St.
5 Butler 63
1 Syracuse 59
Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson hit back-to-back 3-point shots to bring Syracuse all the way back from a 35-25 half time deficit and take a 40-39 lead just six minutes into the second half. From there, the lead changed hands 3 times and the game tied twice, but Syracuse wrested a 54-50 lead with 2 minutes left. Butler would not be denied, however, scoring ten straight points to hold a 60-54 lead with 37 clicks remaining. Syracuse extended the game by fouling, but could only draw to within 4 before time expired and Butler moved on to Saturday's regional final.
The top-seeded Orange fell behind early, with lethargic play and 11 first half turnovers. Gordon Hayward led the Bulldogs with 17 points. Shelvin Mack added 14 and Willie Veasley had 13. Butler went to the free throw line 21 times and made 15. Syracuse was just 10-for-14.
6 Xavier 96
2 Kansas St. 101
The Musketeers took the Wildcats into double overtime, but Kansas State emerged with the win as Jacob Pullen was magnificent the entire game, but especially in the overtime periods, nailing important three-pointers with deadly accuracy. Pullen scored 28 points for K-State, hitting 6 of 13 shots from long range. Xavier's Jordan Crawford led everyone with 32.
11 Washington 56
2 West Virginia 69
Washington's Quincy Pondexter got into early foul trouble, but the Huskies managed to lead at the half, but West Virginia's overall size advantage eventually produced defensive stops, easy baskets and a double-digit lead. Washington got as close as 8 points with under 6 minutes to play, but could not produce any semblance of a rally.
Playing without point guard, Darryl "Truck" Bryant, who broke a bone in his foot during a practice and is out for the remainder of the tournament, the Mountaineers still proved to be too much for the undersized Huskies. Kevin Jones led all scorers with 18 points on 7-12 shooting, including 3 of 4 3-pointers and 8 rebounds.
1 Kentucky 62
12 Cornell 45
Kentucky's length and tenacious defense stifled Cornell's outside shooting, maintaining a lead established after the Big Red had opened the game with a 10-2 start. DeMarcus Cousins was a tower of power inside, leading the Wildcats with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Kentucky held Cornell to 33% shooting, with a 24% mark from beyond the arc. Cornell's fonal score was by far its lowest point total of the season in a losing effort. Their previous low was 64 points in a loss to Penn. The Big Red did score 48 points in a three-point victory over Princeton.
NCAA Tourney: Thursday Night Previews
Obviously, the level of competition in the Horizon League wasn't strong this season, as the Bulldogs ripped through the regular season and the conference tournament unscathed and unfazed, tearing up Wright St. in the final, 70-45. Butler easily won their opening round game over UTEP, 77-59, but survived a scare against Murray State, winning 54-52. The win over Murray State put Butler's determination and game-ending abilities on display against a very capable team. The Bulldogs trailed much of the game, but stepped up as time wound down, making key buckets and finally stopping the Racers - with a chance to tie or win - from getting off a final shot. Besides their obvious talent on offense, Butler can defend as well.
Syracuse seems to not miss Onuaku at all, winning their tourney opener against Vermont by 23 points and pounding Gonzaga by 22. The Orange 2-3 zone defense seems to be all its cracked up to be, allowing 56 and 65 points respectively in the first two rounds.
Even without their center, Syracuse appears likely to advance due to their explosive offense. They will have four or five players on the floor at any time who can single-handedly run up the score. Wes Johnson is coming off his best game of the season and has seemingly unlimited upside. Andy Rautins is one of the best pure shooters left in the tourney, and Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson can all fill it up. Butler will be racing to keep up with the expected Orange scoring onslaught. Butler beat Xavier by a point and topped Ohio State earlier in the season, though the Buckeyes were without Evan Turner at that time, a difference-maker. Losses to Georgetown, Minnesota and Clemson might be more indicative of their true quality.
11 Washington (26-9) vs. 2 West Virginia (29-6), 7:27 pm EDT - Both teams won their conference tournaments and received automatic bids. The Mountaineers have won 8 straight, the Huskies 9 in a row. Washington relies heavily on Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas, their only players who average in double figures, though Elston Turner has stepped up in their first two tourney games and is their best 3-point shooter.
The Mountaineers sport more balance on offense, though their key player, Da'Sean Butler is a big-play guy with ice in his veins. If any game comes down to the wire, Butler is sure to have the ball in his hands, and he usually produces a winning play. Tourney play usually produces a number of stars, and Butler looks like one. He only scored 9 points in the opening round win over Morgan State, but wasn't really needed as West Virginia won by 27 points. Against Missouri, he was unstoppable, scoring 28 points and helping out on the boards with 8 rebounds.
West Virginia has a distinct size advantage over the Huskies. Pondexter, Washington's best inside player, is only 6'6", but plays bigger. Butler, who lines up as a guard, goes 6'7". Kevin Jones is 6'8", Devin Ebanks, 6'9" and Wellington Smith stands 6'7". If the size doesn't get to Washington, the Mountaineers can bring on their outside gunners, John Flowers and Jonnie West, son of West Virginia and NBA legend Jerry West.
This could turn into a coaching clinic as well. Washington's Lorenzo Romar is arguably the best coach in the PAC-10 and a brilliant tactician. Bob Huggins is coaching at his alma mater. This is his dream team.
6 Xavier (26-8) vs. 2 Kansas St. (28-7), 9:37 pm EDT The Xavier Musketeers have flown somewhat under the radar all season even though they've been ranked in the top 15 or 20 most of the season. They've won 9 of their last 10, the only loss coming to Richmond in the A-10 tourney final, which put three teams from that conference into the tourney. Xavier is the last one standing as Richmond and Temple were wiped out in the opening round.
Jordan Crawford is Xavier's go-to guy, scoring at over 20 points per game on average and coming up big in the tourney with 28 against Minnesota and 27 in the second round win over Pitt.
While Crawford is a one-man highlight reel, K-State offers an abundance of talent, especially in their back court, where Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente have ruled all season. The front line of Curtis Kelly, Dominique Sutton and Jamar Samuels can get after as well. Their combined 30 points per game, with Pullen and Clemente's combined 35, gives the Wildcats unusual scoring balance and plenty of options.
K-State's record down the stretch may be a little misleading. After winning 7 straight in the Big 12, they ended the regular season with losses to Kansas and Iowa State, and then lost to Kansas again in the conference tourney final, but they remained motivated, easily handling North Texas and BYU in the first two rounds. They will be further energized by the departure of Kansas from the tourney field, knowing that they were the second-best team in the Big 12 all year and now have a shot at the Final Four. A meeting with #1 seed in the West region, Syracuse, seems inevitable.
1 Kentucky (32-2) vs. 12 Cornell (29-4), 9:57 pm EDT - This game could be a shocker or a Kentucky rout. It depends on whether the upstarts from upstate - the Cornell Big Red - can continue their torrid shooting pace against the tallest - and possibly the best - team in the nation.
Cornell bombed Temple, 78-65, and blistered Wisconsin, 87-69, shooting 56% against the Owls and an incredible 61% against the Badgers. The Big Red has shocked higher seeds - Temple was 5, Washington a 4 - but Kentucky poses other problems. Still, any team that shoots over 50% is going to be in any game, and the Cornell offense, predicated on ball screens, three-pointers and back-door cuts is extremely disciplined and they carry a nine-game win streak into the fray.
Kentucky comes into the game with about as much swagger and confidence a young, 34-2 team can offer. Guard John Wall has been touted as the NBA's next big thing, forward DeMarcus Cousins is a true powerhouse inside and the balance of the team is absolutely loaded with talent. The Wildcats can, and have, done damage inside or out, in transition or in their half-court sets.
The only knock on them - if there is a legitimate one - is their youth. They will put four freshman on the floor at any given time. Along with Wall and Cousins, guard Eric Bledose and forward Daniel Orton are also freshmen, but they will be aided by junior Patrick Patterson, a blue chip player in his own regard, who could prove to be the wild card for the Wildcats. Cornell simply doesn't have a player who can match up to his size and speed.
Cornell counters with plenty of experience, the biggest man on the floor, center Jeff Foote, Ivy league player of the year, Ryan Wittman and a bevy of 3-point bombers. The Big Red owns the top percentage from beyond the arc in the nation, and, if they're on the mark, will make this game much closer than many expect.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Wildcats on the Prowl: K-State, Kentucky Advance
1 Kentucky 90
9 Wake Forest 60
This one was all Kentucky, as the Wildcats thoroughly dominated Wake Forest, earning the right to move on to the East regional semi-final. Darius Miller led the Wildcats with a career-high 20 points as coach John Calipari emptied the bench and 11 different players scored.
Kentucky will play the winner of Sunday's Wisconsin-Cornell game.
2 Kansas St. 84
7 BYU 72
With conference rival Kansas out of the way, the Wildcats of Kansas State can carve themselves a path to the national championship, having dispatched BYU in their second round match-up. Jacob Pullen was outstanding for K-State, hitting 8 of 15 shots, including 7 of 12 from three-point distance for a game-high and career-best 34 points.
The #2 seed in the West, Kansas State can look forward to playing the winner of Sunday's Xavier-Pitt contest.
NCAA Conference Scoreboard (through games of March 20)
Big East (4-5)
Big Ten (4-1)
Big 12 (7-3)
Mountain West (2-4)
West Coast (3-0)
Western Athletic (0-2)
*Conferences with only one tournament team listed as "Other."
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Kentucky, Northern Iowa, Washington Move on; Georgetown Stunned by Ohio
9 Northern Iowa 69
8 UNLV 66
Ali Farokhmanesh scored a game-high 17 points and gave Northern Iowa the lead on a long three-pointer with 4.9 seconds left as the Panthers moved into the second round. Farokhmanesh hit 5 of 9 from beyond the arc.
14 Ohio 97
3 Georgetown 83
If you're looking for the Cinderella of the 2010 tourney, look no further than the Ohio Bobcats, out of the Mid-Aerican conference. The Bobcats were the #9 seed in their conference tourney, winning four straight to earn the automatic bid. On the opening night of the tournament, Ohio took Georgetown out behind the woodshed for a good, old fashioned whipping. Ohio grabbed an early lead and never looked back, using deft passing and torrid outside shooting to establish, at one juncture, a 19-point lead.
The Bobcats were led by guards Armon Bassett and D.J. Cooper. Basset scored a game-high 32 points, while point man Cooper tallied 23, with 3 steals, 3 rebounds and 8 assists.
1 Kentucky 100
16 East Tenn. St. 71
No surprises as the Kentucky Wildcats, the nation's tallest team, dominated the interior and hammered East Tennessee State into submission and a quick exit. Freshman Eric Bledsoe and senior Patrick Patterson had 29 and 22 points, respectively.
11 Washington 80
6 Marquette 78
Quincy Pondexter scored on a drive to the hoop with 1.7 seconds left to supply the winning margin for underrated Washington, winners of the PAC-10 tourney. The game was another close call, evening Marquette's record in games decided by four points or less at 8-8, the most in the nation. Pondexter finished with 18 points; teammate Isaiah Thomas led the Huskies with 19.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Cousins, Kentucky Get Revenge; Hummel Out for Season
Avenging their only loss of the season, the #2 Kentucky Wildcats cruised past SEC leading-scorer Devan Downey and his South Carolina teammates for an 82-61 win, boosting their gaudy record to 27-1 and 12-1 in the conference.
The Gamecocks had no answers for Kentucky's powerful front line, as DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson ruled the lane on both ends of the floor. Cousins finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, his 18th double-double of the season. Patterson provided a team-high 23 points, 8 boards and 4 blocked shots.
Kentucky leads Vanderbilt by 2 games in the SC East, with 3 to play, though their remaining games are against Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, among the best in the league, though the Wildcats have already beaten each of them. The Tennessee and Georgia games are on the road. Kentucky finishes their regular season at home, hosting Florida.
Notable: In the midst of one of the best seasons in school history, the Purdue Boilermakers suffered a devastating blow as star forward Robbie Hummel has been ruled out of the season with a torn ACL. The injury took place in Purdue's 59-58 win over Minnesota Wednesday night.
With just three games left in the regular season, the Boilermakers lead the Big Ten at 10-3, though they face a tough test Sunday when they host Michigan State. A loss by Purdue opens the door for both the Spartans and Ohio State to capture the conference title. Purdue was ranked #3 - their highest ranking of the season - and has won 10 straight Big Ten games after dropping their first three.
The blow to the Boilermakers will be significant. Hummel was second on the squad in minutes, scoring and rebounding. He was CBD's Player of the Day three times this season.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Six-for-Six... Unbeaten Teams Remain Perfect
When the balls hit the various floors across the college basketball spectrum on Tuesday, six teams remained undefeated. By the time the final buzzers sounded, all six - Kansas, Texas, Syracuse, Purdue, Kentucky and West Virginia - still had perfect records.
Most of the games were one-sided affairs, though Syracuse had to sweat out a 80-73 win at Seton Hall, aided by Wesley Johnson's huge effort: 20 points and 19 boards.
West Virginia narrowly escaped at home against Marquette, getting a buzzer-beating 20-foot jumper from Da’Sean Butler for the 63-62 win. The Mountaineers are 11-0.
The most impressive performance by a single player came in the most one-sided game of the evening, Kentucky's 104-61 pounding of Hartford. Freshman sensation John Wall scored just 9 points, but set a school record by dishing out 16 assists. The accomplishment is augmented by remembering the exceptional players who passed the rock over Kentucky's 100 years or so of basketball excellence. Wall's effort was the best ever. Now that's saying something.
NOTABLE: Not only did the top six teams in the rankings win on Monday, but so did #7 Duke, #12 Kansas State, #16 Mississippi, and #21 Clemson. The only Top 25 team to lose was #20 Texas Tech. They took a 90-75 loss at #19 New Mexico.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wildcats' Wall Throws No Bricks
In one of this season's best inter-conference contests, the Kentucky Wildcats barely outlasted the UConn Huskies, 64-61, as the legend of freshman John Wall extended through Madison Square Garden.
The Wildcats broke out to an early 12-0 lead, only to have the Huskies come back and take a 29-23 lead into half time. In the second half, Kentucky took control early, outscoring the Huskies by 9 in the period, paced by Wall's career-high 25 points. A time ticked down to the final buzzer, Wall took over the game, scoring 12 of Kentucky's final 12 points, including a dazzling drive to the hoop, bucket and foul for a three-point play that put the Wildcats ahead for good.
Wall hit 10-of-16 shots overall, including 1-1 from 3-point range. He hit all four free throw attempts, and, despite turning the ball over 7 times, made 6 steals.
#4 Kentucky improved to 9-0, while the #14 Huskies dropped to 6-2.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wall the Real Deal in Maui Win
Everyone who's seen him play says Kentucky freshman, John Wall, is ready for the NBA. After his performance Wednesday night, propelling the Wildcats to a 73-65 OT win over Stanford to capture the title game of the Maui Invitational, it's tough to argue with that assessment.
Wall scored a career-high 23 points - it's only his 5th college game - and hit a clutch jumper and a pair of free throws in the final seconds to send the game into overtime. There, the Wildcats outscored the Cardinal, 10-2, with Wall punctuating the win with a dunk at the buzzer. He also had 4 boards, 5 assists, a steal and 2 blocked shots in the game.
Matching Wall on the scoreboard was Stanford's Landry Fields, who accounted for 23 points and 15 boards - his third straight double-double. Unranked Stanford and Landry garnered some respect in Maui. The senior forward is averaging 23 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
NOTABLE: Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson each scored 20 points as #13 Connecticut engulfed LSU, 81-55, in the semi-finals of the Preseason NIT Tournament at Madison Square Garden. The 6-0 Huskies will play #7 Duke, who struggled to a 64-53 win over a sub-par Arizona State squad.
Sophomore Willie Warren lit it up for 30 points but couldn't help the #25 (and falling) Oklahoma Sooners from losing their second straight game, this time to unheralded San Diego, 76-64. Last Saturday, the Sooners fell to Virginia Commonwealth, 82-69. The main problem for Oklahoma seems to be accuracy. They shot 33% from the field in the loss to San Diego and 41% when losing to VCU, but only 19% from 3-point range in that contest.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Wildcats Run on Patterson Power
John Calipari is off to a 4-0 start as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats, thanks in part to the easy early schedule, and also to some of the exceptional players who remained from last year's squad.
One such standout is junior forward Patrick Patterson, who was unstoppable in the lane against undersized Rider University. Patterson lit up the Broncs for 19 points and 18 rebounds, as the Wildcats cruised to a 92-63 victory. It was Patterson's 3rd double-double of the season. Last year, he averaged 17.9 points and 9.3 boards.
Rider has come back to earth after opening their season with a road win at Mississippi State. After beating Lehigh at home on Monday, they've lost consecutive road games, to Virginia and Kentucky this week, evening their record at 2-2. One has to give the small New Jersey school (student population roughly 6000) credit for such an ambitious early schedule. The MAAC school already has played two SEC teams and one from the ACC.
NOTABLE: Beware the Rams! VCU, a perennial powerhouse out of the Colonial Athletic Association, upset #17 Oklahoma, 82-69, Saturday. Three-point shooting proved to be the difference, as the Sooners hit just 5 of 26, while the Rams drained 9 of 26.
All 13 players scored for the #24 Fighting Illini as they took out Presbyterian, 94-48, for their third straight win without a loss.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Calipari Gets 27 Points and 18 Boards from Freshman Cousins
Talk about lighting it up. Kentucky outscored Sam Houston State, 102-92, for their third straight win to open the 2009-10 campaign, but the margins of victory haven't been as wide as new head coach John Calipari might have liked.
After topping Miami (OH), 72-70, the Wildcats had to go longer and deeper with their starters in order to stave off the upset-minded Bearcats. In the end, the strategy worked, but not until senior Corey Allmond had thrown down 37 points for Sam Houston on 13-of-22 shooting, including an incredible 11-of-16 3-pointers. Allmond's monster night was eventually outdone by Kentucky freshman DeMarcus Cousins' 27-point, 18-rebound effort. The 6'11" Cousins didn't even attempt a 3-point shot, doing the majority of his damage within 5 feet of the hoop. His 18 rebounds included 8 offensive boards which resulted in a good number of put-backs. Both his points and rebound totals were career highs.
NOTABLE: The opening round of the third-annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off in San Juan, featured two quality games, one upset and once close call for the 3-0 Villanova Wildcats, who slipped past George Mason, 69-68, after trailing almost the entire game. The opener of the tourney did produce the minor upset, as the #18 Dayton Flyers dropped #21 Georgia Tech, 63-59. Dayton will play Villanova for the championship on Friday.
In the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic at Madison Square Garden, Syracuse defeated an obviously-overrated #13 Cal squad by a 95-73 score, while the Tar Heels took down Ohio State, 77-73. The Orangemen will face North Carolina in the title match on Friday night.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Kentucky May Be Left Out
The Gators struck early, gaining a quick ten-point lead, and never let the Wildcats back in the game. After consecutive losses to LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, Kentucky ends the regular season at 8-8 in the conference and 19-12 overall. They would conceivably have to reach the finals of the SEC tournament this coming week in order to have a reasonable chance of receiving an NCAA invitation and even then, it's an iffy call.
Elsewhere, Jonny Flynn scored 24 points and Andy Rautins hit 4 of 9 3-pointers in a 20-point effort, as #25 Syracuse upended #13 Marquette, 86-79, in overtime, helping their NCAA case as they get ready for the upcoming Big East tournament. Marquette has lost four straight - all to ranked opponents - and look ripe for an early exit from both the Big East and NCAA tourneys. Syracuse, on the other hand, has won 4 in a row. Both teams are nearly sure bets to receive NCAA bids.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
SEC: Kentucky Rolls at Rupp, 77-58 over Vols
The Vols accomplished one goal - limiting Meeks to a pedestrian 14 points - but the rest of Kentucky's troops rose to the occasion for a dominating 77-58 win.
Tennessee put themselves into a big hole, unable to score for the first 8 minutes of the game, missing all seven shots and turning the ball over five times before finally getting on the board. By then, though, Kentucky led 15-2, and even though the Vols got to within 7 points by halftime, they just could not compete with the fired-up Wildcats, who are on a mission to take the SEC East division and finish impressively enough to snag a bid for the NCAA tournament.
Midway through the second half, the Wildcats opened up a 22-point lead, and kept the Vols at bay the rest of the way. Patrick Patterson put up a game-high 19 points on 9-12 shooting, many of them on dunks, and Darius Miller threw down 17, with a perfect 6-for-6 shooting performance, including 3 three-pointers.
The day began with 4 teams - Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida - all tied for the division lead at 7-4. By mid-afternoon, the Wildcats had earned at least a share of the top spot, as Florida and SC each played later in the day (more in subsequent posts).
The win puts Kentucky in a good spot at 19-8 and 8-4, with just four more regular season games remaining, while dropping the Vols to 16-10 and 7-5 and a likely end to their post-season hopes.
Three of those four games for Kentucky are against some of the best teams in the SEC, however. On Feb. 25, they travel to South Carolina, returning home on the 28th to host LSU and then Georgia on March 4, before finishing at Florida on the 7th.
Should the Wildcats reach the NCAAs, they will have trouble advancing very far as they are undersized inside and are often out of position on defense. They will need maximum production from Meeks the rest of the season, no matter how long it extends.