Saturday and Sunday's Elite-8
THE BIG DANCE ROLLS ON - NOW HERE ARE SATURDAY'S NCAA TOURNAMENT ELITE 8 GAME PREVIEWS BETWEEN MARQUETTE- SYRACUSE IN THE EAST AND WICHITA STATE-OHIO STATE IN THE WEST
By Jm Hurley:
The stage is set in the nation's capital and out in Hollywood too - a pair of NCAA Tournament Elite 8 games that figures to be riveting stuff. Here's what is on the Saturday college hoops menu ...
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT EAST REGIONAL FINAL
Verizon Center - Washington, D.C.
#4 SYRACUSE (29-9) vs. #3 MARQUETTE (26-8) - 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
It's not often a pair of Sweet 16 underdog sides dominate their favored foes but that's what happened on Thursday night in D.C.
Okay, so maybe that famed 2-3 Syracuse zone was just too much to handle for a smaller Indiana backcourt that seemed intimidated at nearly every turn - plus the Hoosiers front court was pretty timid too as the Big 10 gang committed 19 turnovers and had 10 shots blocked (it only seemed as if it were more!) but how does anyone explain Marquette's rousing 71-61 triumph over 5 ½-point fav Miami - our Sweet-16 Shocker of the Year!
Yes, it was discovered publicly that Miami PG Shane Larkin was sick to his stomach but the Hurricanes played truly uninspiring offense in the Sweet 16 affair and now the 'Cuse wants its athletic group to go hard to the hoop and hope that PG Michael Carter-Williams (game-high 24 points against Indiana) keeps hitting his 15-foot jumpers while the Orange needs sharpshooter James Southerland to heat up after going a strangely silent 1-of-3 from the floor against Indiana.
Hey, did you notice - that as well as Syracuse played - Jim Boeheim's club registered a mere four assists on 21 made field goals on Thursday night? Hmmm.
But back to Marquette:
The Golden Eagles here need to get the majority of those "50-50 balls" that hoarse head coach Buzz Williams is always talkin' about and it sure would help if someone like Jamil Wilson (16 points and 8 boards in the blowout win against Miami) stepped it up to give G Vander Blue some help but here's two tips for the crew from Milwaukee:
Send everyone hard to the hoop - the 10 offensive rebounds against Miami was okay but count us among the folks that believe Marquette needs 15-to-20 "gimme points" here off offensive misses, etc. - or else!
Finally, in that 74-71 regular-season home win against the Orange back on February 25th, Marquette had a huge advantage from the foul line as the Golden Eagles connected on 29-of-35 FTs while the Orange nailed just 5-of-7 FTs - to think things will be lopsided in Marquette's favor again here from the charity stripe is silly, right?
Not if Blue, Junior Cadougan and mates are "making" the officials call fouls on aggressive drives through the zone and into the lane. Stay tuned.
SYRACUSE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Syracuse||- 13.5||Montana||Syracuse 81-34|
|3-23||Syracuse||- 7||California||Syracuse 66-60|
|3-22||Indiana||- 5||Syracuse||Syracuse 61-50|
MARQUETTE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Marquette||- 3||Davidson||Marquette 59-58|
|3-23||Marquette||- 1.5||Butler||Marquette 74-72|
|3-28||Miami||- 5.5||Marquette||Marquette 71-61|
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NCAA TOURNAMENT WEST REGIONAL FINAL
Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA
#9 WICHITA STATE (29-8) vs. #2 OHIO STATE (29-7) - 7:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Now that the O-State Buckeyes are making it an NCAA Tourney habit of winning games with late perimeter jumpers - first it was PG Aaron Craft in last Sunday's near buzzer-beater win against Iowa State and than in the Sweet 16 tilt it was kid LaQuinton Ross who nailed the sweet wing jump shot - you get the feeling that Thad Matta's guys may be playing with fire.
Is that gonna cost 'em here against a rough-and-tumble Wichita State team that has won its three NCAA Tournament games by a per-game margin of 12.6 points?
The Shockers buried LaSalle 72-58 and really mashed the Explorers on the boards - did you know Wichita State won the first-half glass battle 25-8 en route to a 47-to-28 backboard advantage? - but maybe the first order of business for this Missouri Valley Conference club is to "check" the aforementioned Ross who registered 14 of his 17 points against Arizona in the second half and that aggressiveness to his game that was lacking back in January/February is now a major part of the Buckeyes' scene and game plan.
Let's not forget the chap who dished it off for the Ross game-winner on Thursday night in LA-LA land and that was - of course -- PG Aaron Craft (13 points, 5 assists and 5 rebs against 'Zona) but the reality here is Craft may not even be the top point guard on the floor for this West Regional Final.
Wichita State's do-it-all PG Malcolm Armstead (18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists against LaSalle) continues to make a major name for himself in this year's tourney and here look for Armstead to joust with Craft the full 94-feet while the Shockers' guard looks to get open looks for the likes of veteran F Carl Hall (16 points versus LaSalle) and frosh G Ron Baker - still something tells us Wichita State needs to drain more than a handful of triples here because Ohio State will "pack it in" at times and challenge that beefy W-State front court.
Tell us right now if Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas is good for 20-or-more points and we'll tell you who's going to the Final Four. It might be that simple, folks.
WICHITA STATE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Pittsburgh||- 4.5||Wichita State||Wichita State 73-55|
|3-23||Gonzaga||- 6.5||Wichita State||Wichita State 76-70|
|3-28||Wichita State||- 4.5||La Salle||Wichita State 72-58|
OHIO STATE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-22||Ohio State||- 14.5||Iona||Ohio State 95-70|
|3-24||Ohio State||- 7.5||Iowa State||Ohio State 78-75|
|3-28||Ohio State||- 3.5||Arizona||Ohio State 73-70|
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT - HERE'S THE SUNDAY ELITE 8 PREVIEWS FROM BOTH INDY & ARLINGTON
By Jim Hurley:
We're set to complete the puzzle in the NCAA Tournament's Final Four in Atlanta next weekend - and now here's the Sunday duo of games from the Elite 8 field and talk about your heavy-hitters in action!
NCAA TOURNAMENT SOUTH REGIONAL FINAL - Cowboys Stadium - Arlington, TX
#3 FLORIDA (29-7) vs. #4 MICHIGAN (26-7) - 2:20 p.m. ET, CBS
Not a bad hoops appetizer here on this Easter Sunday, eh? The Michigan Wolverines completed the biggest and best Sweet 16 round comeback of them all with that epic 87-85 overtime win against a free-falling Kansas team and - while everyone wants to stop and chat about guard Trey Burke's 23 points (all coming after halftime) and his monstrous way-back three-point/late-regulation triple, let us not forget the fact that the guy the maize-and-blue call "Monster" - that's Mitch McGary - was a major star in that tilt with game highs in points (25) and rebounds (14). There is no question that McGary has blossomed as a real star in this tourney - no question one of the top five players in this year's "Big Dance" - and he figures to be a central figure here 'cause Florida often times can be muscled off the low box and beaten to short caroms and loose balls.
Okay, so let's say Burke posts a 20-plus point game here for John Beilein's troops and McGary is a double-double chap one more time, now the $64,000 question is can Michigan get out and guard the Gators' perimeter shooters who didn't exactly shine in Friday night's 62-50 non-cover win against Florida Gulf Coast. The trio of Mike Rosario, Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton combined to drill just 11-of-31 field-goal tries in all and note that the Gators canned just four triples but a pair of consecutive treys by reserve G Michael Frazier II really saved the day as they started a 16-0 scoring spree late in the first half.
Michigan needs to be ultra-aggressive to the tin - note Florida committed only 11 personal fouls against Florida Gulf Coast two nights ago - and so that means more than just Burke going hard to the hoop and trying to pick up fouls on the likes of front-court stars Erik Murphy and Patric Young - hey, paging Nik Stauskas who is just 9-of-25 from the field in this tourney but could be an X-factor type for the Big 10 team.
FLORIDA'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-22||Florida||- 19||Northwestern State||Florida 79-47|
|3-24||Florida||- 8||Minnesota||Florida 78-64|
|3-29||Florida||- 14||Florida Gulf Coast||Florida 62-50|
MICHIGAN'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Michigan||- 12||South Dakota State||Michigan 71-56|
|3-23||Michigan||- 3.5||VCU||Michigan 78-53|
|3-29||Kansas||- 1.5||Michigan||Michigan 87-85 (ot)|
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT MIDWEST REGIONAL FINAL - Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, IN
#1 LOUISVILLE (32-5) vs. #2 DUKE (30-5) - 5:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Who said anything about the Louisville Cardinals not "looking themselves"? Rick Pitino's team - and specifically ace scorer G Russ Smith - has been battling a hacking cough and flu symptoms in recent days but you really wouldn't know it by that showing in a 77-69 win against Oregon in Sweet 16 action.
The Cards charged out of the starting gate with a 24-8 advantage - yes, the Ducks drew within six points late but you never did get the sense that the 'Ville was in any sort of real trouble - and Smith finished up with 31 points as he further stamped his imprint on this tourney and proved that at this point he's been the single-best player in this whole "Big Dance". Now, if Smith wants to help spark the Cards to a second consecutive Final Four appearance (remember Louisville bested Florida in last year's Elite 8 game in Phoenix) than he'll have to shake off that sleepy/sluggish feeling and be the best scorer on the floor here.
And that won't necessarily be an easy thing to do because Duke mega-star G Seth Curry (29 points in Friday night's 71-61 win against Michigan State in Sweet 16 round play) is playing with utmost confidence these days as his 6-of-9 shooting night from beyond the arc should have Louisville's backcourt raising their eyebrows here. Curry posted his 8-of-17 FG night in 37 minutes and it's worth noting that four of Duke's starting five played 36-or-more minutes versus Sparty and so you do wonder if that will any effect here - or maybe some outside shots that don't drop will cause Mike Krzyzewski's squad to go hard to the hoop where Louisville's Gorgui Dieng is fresh off a four-block night.
It's not as if these teams can't find their way to the Final Four but here's a case where Pitino needs Smith at 100 percent health-wise while Coach K needs his guys to play sticky "D" for a full 40 minutes - it sure worked against Michigan State who went on a prolonged dry spell or too in the Sweet 16.
Hey, the Dookies only had two players sink triples against Michigan State - reserve G Tyler Thornton hit the one Curry didn't - and that's gotta change here as the ACC guys probably need 30-or-so beyond-the-arc points in this clash.
LOUISVILLE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-21||Louisville||- 26.5||North Carolina A&T||Louisville 79-48|
|3-23||Louisville||- 10.5||Colorado State||Louisville 82-56|
|3-29||Louisville||- 11||Oregon||Louisville 77-69|
DUKE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-22||Duke||- 21||Albany||Duke 73-61|
|3-24||Duke||- 6||Creighton||Duke 66-50|
|3-29||Duke||- 2||Michigan State||Duke 71-61|
NCAA TOURNAMENT CONFERENCE-BY-CONFERENCE POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART
Here's an update on the tourney chart with a reminder that here we bring you only the conferences/leagues that were part of the Sweet 16 action - the figures below are through the games of Friday, March 29:
NOTE: There's more NCAA Tournament News/Notes plus our Major-League Baseball 2013 Preview is coming in the next Jim Sez.
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