The Final Four is set. Michigan beat Florida and Louisville beat Duke as there was little drama in the final scores. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva dominated. Trey Burke was brilliant. Mitch McGary was tough inside once again. So we are set with Wichita State against Louisville and Michigan versus Syracuse. I cannot wait to get to Atlanta.
Friday night saw a number of great performances in the Sweet 16.
Russ Smith of Louisville had 31 points in a win over Oregon. Mitch McGary had 25 points and 14 rebounds as the Wolverines rallied from a 14 point deficit to beat Kansas.
Seth Curry was brilliant hitting tifectas for Duke. He made 6 of 9 and finished with 29 points.
This was Rick Pitino’s 900th game as a collegiate coach. His record is now 661-239. The future Hall of Famer has been special in March, going 50-18 in the month of madness since 2005. With 45 NCAA tournament wins, Pitino is behind Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim among active coaches. This is Louisville’s fourth Elite Eight appearance in six years. The Cardinals also have a 13 game win streak.
Florida Gulf Coast’s Cinderella run came to an end as Florida moved on.
Syracuse scored shock city, beating Indiana by 11. Michael Carter-Williams was brilliant, putting up 24 points on the board. The Hoosiers could not hit long range shots and turned the ball over too often. Congratulations to Jim Boeheim and the Orange.
Ohio State pulled out another thriller as LaQuinton Ross hit the game winning trifecta. Aaron Craft made the key pass to set up the Ross shot.
DeShaun Thomas was brilliant in the first half, keeping the Buckeyes in the game with 16 points. Craft, Ross, and Sam Thompson helped get Thad Matta’s team to the winner’s circle.
Marquette put on a show in knocking out ACC regular season and tournament champion, Miami. It was a M&M’er, blowout city.
Perhaps people forgot that the Golden Eagles shared the Big East regular season championship. This is a quality team. Miami missed 12 of its first 13 three point attempts. The Hurricanes have counted on an outside attack all season long. Durand Scott, Trey McKinney-Jones, Shane Larkin and Julian Gamble combined for one field goal in the first half. It was a great season for Miami but it is over now as Marquette advanced.
Wichita State continued its great run by beating LaSalle. The Shockers were ranked as high as 15th in late January and they belong in the Elite Eight.
I am looking forward to Michigan-Kansas and Michigan State-Duke on Friday.
The Big Ten was the best league in college basketball this season. The VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) said so, even if the RPI said the Mountain West was the best. Now the Big Ten has the most teams in the Sweet 16, but all four should be tested. Ohio State will face an Arizona squad that has impressed so far. Michigan meets Kansas in a dynamic matchup. Michigan State meets Duke and Indiana battles Syracuse. I still believe the Big Ten will send three teams to Atlanta. That is the beauty of March Madness. Thursday and Friday should be awesome baby with a capital A!
A Sunshine State showdown between Florida and Florida Gulf Coast…wow!
Is there any doubt that Florida Gulf Coast is the story of the 2013 NCAA tournament? The Eagles are the first #15 seed to make the Sweet 16. FGCU followed up the upset of Georgetown with an impressive showing against a quality San Diego State team. How many people had the Eagles winning two games in the bracket? It has been that kind of season.
FGCU has played very loosely, and the key to me has been confidence. Andy Enfield has his team playing so well. Names like Sherwood Brown, Bernard Thompson, Brett Corner, Chase Fieler, Eric McKnight and Eddie Murray (not the Hall of Famer baseball player) have earned their due.
One aspect which makes this Cinderella story so amazing is the 10 regular season losses. The Atlantic Sun tournament champion (they beat favorite Mercer in the final), upset Miami during the campaign. There were also losses to some pretty good teams, like Duke, VCU, Iowa State and St. John’s. How do you explain losing to Lipscomb twice, Stetson, East Tennessee State, and Maine. Wow! The Eagles now have a seven game win streak going into a Sweet 16 showdown with Sunshine State rival, Florida. That will be at Cowboys Stadium, a huge facility. Realize that this team played before an average crowd of 2,290 for their home games this season.
FGCU is Cinderella once again.
Saturday was a good day for diaper dandies from the Big Ten. Michigan State’s Gary Harris scored a career high 23 points, including four trifectas, in a win over Memphis. He had 16 of those points in the first half. Harris was plagued by foul trouble in the second half, but his performance helped the Spartans survive and advance.
Michigan’s Mitch McGary hit 10 of 11 shots from the floor and posted career highs in points (21) and rebounds (14). Teammate Glenn Robinson III added 14 points and 9 boards as the Wolverines blasted VCU.
McGary and Robinson have been outstanding so far in the tourney, combining to shoot 31 of 39 from the floor. Michigan has won its first two tourney games by a total of 40 points. These guys don’t act like freshmen at this time of the season. They have a year’s worth of experience under their belts and it shows.
There were more upsets on Friday afternoon. A lot of people had Wisconsin going far. Mississippi had other ideas as Marshall Henderson warmed up after starting 1 of 13 from the floor. Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner did a great job on the glass and the Badgers missed 23 three pointers (7 of 30).
LaSalle built up a big lead and got to the winner’s circle against Kansas State. Jarrell Wright made all six of his field goal attempts and missed just one free throw.
NC State’s disappointing season ended with a loss to Temple. The Wolfpack came back from a 16 point halftime deficit to shoot over 70 percent from the floor in the second half, but it was not enough as Khalif Wyatt put up 31 points. NC State was a top ten team in the preseason rankings but it never lived up to expectations.
Among the stars of the day: Creighton’s Doug McDermott scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and hit all 11 free throw attempts in a win over Cincinnati. Jake O’Brien of Temple hit seven of nine shots and scored 18 points, almost double his season average. Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry of Duke combined to hit 19 of 25 from the field, totaling 49 points.
Florida Gulf Coast scored the shock of the tournament, sending Georgetown packing. FGCU was known for its win over Miami earlier this year, and Andy Enfield’s team played several NCAA tournament teams, including Duke, Iowa State and VCU. Senior guard Sherwood Brown was the star of stars with 24 points and nine rebounds. The Atlantic Sun Player of the Year looked like he was having a blast out there. Bernard Thompson added 23 and it marked the third 15 over 2 stunner over the last two years.
I am looking forward to Michigan State-Memphis and Saint Louis-Oregon among the Saturday showdowns!
The biggest surprise came at night when Harvard stunned New Mexico, 68-62. It was a great win for Tommy Amaker’s team as Wesley Saunders and Laurent Rivard combined for 35 points. Harvard did a great job defending the perimeter as the Lobos shot three for 14 on trifectas. Harvard hit eight treys and that was a key. Tony Snell and Kendall Williams combined to go 5 for 18 from the field as New Mexico finished 29-6. It was a great day for the Pac-12. Oregon and California both won as #12 seeds, and Arizona beat Belmont even though many experts thought Rick Byrd’s team would give them a battle.
VCU was impressive in a win over Akron. Next up is a showdown against Michigan and that will be a matchup of intrigue. Shaka Smart’s team leads the nation in turnover margin while the Wolverines have committed the fewest turnovers. Syracuse also scored a blowout, knocking out Montana.
Players of the day included Dwayne Evans of Saint Louis, who scored 24 points, converting 11 of 16 from the floor. Derrick Nix of Michigan State came through with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Dorian Green had 26 to lead Colorado State over Missouri.
Pittsburgh had one of the most disappointing performances of the day, losing blowout city to Wichita State.
I am looking forward to action Friday. The Minnesota-UCLA game should be interesting. Can the Bruins bounce back after losing guard Jordan Adams? Which Golden Gophers team will show up, the one that beat Indiana or the one which went 3-7 in their last 10?
The field of 68 is set and this year’s tourney should be fantastic. This has been the best season of college basketball in all of my years calling games for ESPN, with so many great contests and close calls. There should be more memorable moments as we go to the Final Four in Atlanta. I agreed with the top seeds and I had no issue with what the committee did to reward the little guy like Middle Tennessee State and St. Mary’s. Sorry Big Blue Nation. I believe this is a great year for the Big Ten. The last time the league won the national championship was back in 2000, when Tom Izzo and Michigan State cut down the nets in Indianapolis. I feel the league has five teams capable of winning it all. In fact, I have three Big Ten teams going to Atlanta – Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan. Louisville rounds out my Final Four. I picked the Cardinals before the season and I am not about to change now. I think Rick Pitino will make it into the Hall of Fame and get the gold trophy in Atlanta. I think we will have a great tournament and I will be on a number of ESPN shows over the next few weeks. It should be awesome baby, with a capital A!
It’s Selection Sunday and I cannot wait for the bracket to come out. Congratulations to Jim Larranaga and the Miami Hurricanes on winning the ACC regular season title and now the tournament championship. Shane Larkin was super as he scored 28 points and controlled the Miami offense. Trey McKinney-Jones was a big factor hitting trifectas. Julian Gamble was an unsung hero inside in the second half. Roy Williams will have to wait for win number 700. It should come in his next game, at the NCAA tournament. PJ Hairston had a terrific game for the Heels. It was not enough as there is serious celebration in South Beach.