V-RECAPS | NCAA Tournament, Second Round | Sunday, March 23
(Posted 10:00 p.m. ET)
(12) Butler 79, (4) Louisville 71 -- I've been screaming about how good the mid-majors are, and Butler made me look good today, baby! The Bulldogs have played brilliantly for two years and it was an injustice that they weren't in the tournament last year, and they have responded big-time this year. They beat Mississippi State, a team that many picked as the true sleeper in this region, and then Butler faced a tough Louisville team. The Cardinals had their A-game on early, pressing all over, taking away the three and really creating problems in jumping out to a 15-point lead in the first half.
But all of a sudden, poise, patience and execution took over. The ability to move the ball, handle the traps and get in the open areas came out for the Bulldogs. Darnell Archey, a kid who hit 85 in a row from the free throw line at one point this year, knocked down eight of his nine attempts from trifecta range, and Joel Cornette was a force on the inside with 14 big points. The Cornette family has a real dilemma now, with Joel headed to Albany for the Sweet 16 and his brother Jordan, a sophomore at Notre Dame, getting ready to go to Anaheim with the Fighting Irish.
Give a big salute to Todd Lickliter and the Butler Bulldogs for a brilliant performance. I know one guy dancing with joy is Jon LeCrone, the Horizon League commissioner, because he and many others felt Butler got a raw deal last year. But the Bulldogs have proven without a doubt that they belong in the Big Dance, and they have a date with No. 1 seed Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.
(3) Syracuse 68, (6) Oklahoma State 56 -- Eddie Sutton's Oklahoma State team was doing a brilliant job in transition early, beating Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone before it got set up. They were out on the break and filling the lanes, scoring at will and looking like they were headed to Blowout City. And all of a sudden, subtle adjustments and full-court pressure by Syracuse really became factors.
The shooting of Gerry McNamara, the unheralded frosh, was big. He knocked down four big trifectas and the Orangemen were on there way. Get ready up in Albany, because that place is going to be rocking and rolling the the fans chanting, "Go 'Cuse, Go!"
And yes, this club features more than just Carmelo Anthony. Billy Edelin is getting into the flow and scored 20 against the Cowboys. He missed the first 12 games, but is starting to get the feel and is becoming a positive force for Jimmy Boeheim. Jeremy McNeil blocks shots on the interior, and Hakim Warrick presents problems as well.
But this club is led by Mr. Anthony, and even though he shot 5-for-16 and had just 13 points, he made several big plays and his presence on the floor helps other people get open.
The Cowboys' problem was simple: they shot 3-for-19 from 3-point land. Oklahoma State also went 9-for-19 from the free throw line, and that was the difference. OSU had an opportunity to put this game away, but Syracuse was able to crawl back into the game and Boeheim's team had to feel pretty good being down just six at halftime.
And Boeheim gets his 34th win in NCAA Tournament play, the most ever for a coach who hasn't won a title. And now they need just two more Ws to make it back to the Big Easy, where they lost to Indiana in the 1987 championship game. Up next for the Orangemen is Auburn, led by Marquis Daniels, and there should be a tremendous advantage for the 'Cuse in terms of home-court atmosphere in Albany.
(10) Auburn 68, (2) Wake Forest 62 -- I believe, I believe, man! I'll be sending a basket of fruit and plenty of congratulations to Cliff Ellis and his Tigers, because I was among many who said Auburn didn't have sufficient NCAA Tournament credentials. But they have proven us wrong with two outstanding wins, over St. Joseph's and the ACC-champion Demon Deacons.
When the Tigers needed scoring, Marquis Daniels provided it big-time with 18 points today. But this club is more than one guy, because when he got in foul trouble, people like Marco Killingsworth and Derrick Bird making some big plays.
Yes, the Tigers have proven that the competition in the SEC really played a part in getting them ready for the teams they have faced so far. And it has not been Cupcake City in the tourney, man! Next up for Auburn is Syracuse, and the color orange will be out in force up in Albany. It should be a heck of a matchup with Carmelo Anthony against Marquis Daniels, my pick as the best unknown player in America. Get to know this kid, America, because he has the whole pack cage!
(1) Kentucky 74, (9) Utah 54 -- It was just a matter of time before Kentucky Wildcats was able to jump on Utah Utes and end the Utes' dream of a major upset. But you have to give them credit for the way they battled and cut the deficit to ten at one point. The Wildcats were simply too multi-dimensional, getting inside-outside scoring from so many different people.
Balance, balance, balance, and defense, defense, defense is the formula for Kentucky, and the question now is whether the Wildcats will be tested when they go up to Minneapolis. You better believe, Bo Ryan's Wisconsin club is going to have many a Midwestern fan cheering the Badgers on. The bottom line is, if Wisconsin is going to have any shot at all, Kirk Penney has to have a big game. He cannot have another 2-for-12 performance like he did versus Tulsa.
(2) Pittsburgh 74, (7) Indiana 52 -- How about the physical play in the frontcourt for Pittsburgh! Everybody talks about the Panthers' great guard duo of Brandin Knight and Julius Page, but let me tell you, this team has so many other weapons. Jaron Brown is one of the unsung heroes for Pitt, and he responded today with a 20-point, seven-rebound performance. And the knock on the Panthers has been free throw shooting, their supposed Achilles Heel, but they went 20-for-28 today and were physical on the glass.
Yes, this is one tenacious, tough basketball team. They relate so well to their coach, Ben Howland, who is a real teacher on the defensive end. Pittsburgh defends and gets high-quality offensive shots. And the big people inside -- Brown, Chevy Troutman, Ontario Lett and Donatas Zavackas -- know how to finish plays. But the catalyst and the engine, on defense as well as offense, is Knight. He pressures the ball exceptionally well and sets the tone for disrupting the offensive flow of any team the Panthers play. They threw off the rhythm of the Indiana offense today and were able to contain Tom Coverdale, who had brilliant night in the opener against Alabama. Pittsburgh is now a little closer to a dream matchup with Kentucky, but first the Panthers have a date with Marquette.
That will not be an easy one, my friends, because the Golden Eagles are physical as well. It will be a tenacious game, and the question is whether Pitt's backcourt can outplay the combination of Travis Diener and Dwayne Wade.
(1) Texas 77, (9) Purdue 67 -- Texas was in a battle with Gene Keady's Boilermakers, man! Purdue went toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with the Longhorns, who were looking to get to San Antonio and get the Alamodome rockin'. It was a nail-biter, a Maalox Masher, against the Boilers, and in the end it was the creativity and innovativeness of the little guy, T.J. Ford, who created for his teammates and made big plays down the stretch, that made the difference. Ford came through big-time with 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Texas marches on and sets up a match with Connecticut. Wow, Emeka Okafor and James Thomas on the interior, and Taliek Brown having a challenge defensively with the penetration of Ford! That should be special.
But Rick Barnes and his club had all they could handle against Purdue, and they get to the Sweet 16 after being denied there in a nail-biter by Oregon last year. Will playing in front of a Texas crowd play a big role in sparking them to an Elite Eight appearance?
Remember, Jim Calhoun is a winner and knows how to prepare a team for tournament action. Purdue was a tough team, but the 'Horns found a way to get it done by putting the ball in the hands of the best pound-for-pound player in land, T.J. Ford.
(7) Michigan State 68, (2) Florida 46 -- WOW, Michigan State really put a whipping on Florida! The Gators had such an opportunity, having been given a No. 2 seed and playing in their own backyard despite losing three straight to end the year, but they came up with a subpar performance. And what a brilliant performance by the Spartans. Defensively, they did a phenomenal job shutting down Florida's offensive attack, and the balance offensively was tremendous, led by Maurice Ager's career-high 16 points to go with 12 apiece from Chris Hill and Erazem Lorbek. Tom Izzo has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt what a brilliant tournament coach he is, and it's incredible to think of MSU's success in the NCAA tournament in recent year. He really gets his teams ready for the one-game shot.
Michigan State was average for much of the year but is marching on to face Maryland down in San Antonio, with two intense competitors going head-to-head in Izzo and Gary Williams. It was defense and balanced scoring that allowed the Spartans to dominate a Florida team that ranked third in the SEC in scoring this season. But the Gators had no answer, in any shape or form, for Michigan State. From wire to wire, it was complete domination as MSU played brilliantly and executed Izzo's gameplan to perfection.
(6) Maryland 77, (3) Xavier 64 -- The Terps played brilliantly, coming out of the gate on fire, still with the fire from the Drew Nicholas 3-pointer that allowed them to survive and move on to this game. Like Jimmy V always said, it's not about the margin of victory, it's about advancing. And Maryland was able to march on. Ryan Randle was solid on the interior with 17 points, and the Terps got balance with Nicholas also scoring 17 and Jamar Smith getting 12.
On the other side, a Xavier team that was dominant all year long in the Atlantic 10 just got itself in such a hole that it was difficult to come back. They made a gutsy comeback to get within three points late in the game. But it wasn't enough as Maryland did a phenomenal job on the glass, out-rebounding the Musketeers 39-28, and was able to put it away from the free throw line.
Gary Williams takes his team to the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row, to face the winner of the Michigan State-Florida game. The Terps are a No. 6 seed but are a very dangerous team, and as we indicated on out selection show that might be too low for a team of this quality. The bottom line is, they have found a way to win the first two games of the tournament.