Sunday, March 18, 2007

Saturday Thoughts

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Birthday to me!

Ohio St vs Xavier: Tied at the end of regulation.
Butler vs Maryland: Tied with 3 minutes and change on the clock.
Texas A&M vs Louisville: Tied in the final minute.
Georgetown vs Boston College: 2 point game with 3 minutes and change on the clock.
Pittsburgh vs VCU: Tied at the end of regulation.
Vanderbilt vs Washington St.: Tied at the end of overtime.
North Carolina vs Michigan St.: 2 point game with 5 minutes and 30 seconds left.
UCLA vs Indiana: Tied in the final minute.

This year my birthday present was some of the best basketball games of the season. 8 teams lost, but there were no losers in a memorable day of basketball action.

8 Questions

1) Did Greg Oden commit a flagrant foul? Maybe, but if the referees had called it, we would not have seen Ron Lewis’ dramatic three pointer. If Ohio St. wins the championship, this may very well be the one shining moment. A lot of people are going to write that the team won in spite of Oden fouling out, but Oden still provided some big plays in this game, including a huge steal under the basket in the final minute.

2) Why didn’t Maryland foul at the end of the game? Leading by 2 with 40 seconds left and 35 seconds on the shot clock, Butler had the ball. Maryland elected not to foul, apparently believing that they could get a stop and score in the final seconds. But, in a best-case scenario, they were only going to get a rebound with 4 seconds left. That’s hardly enough time to get a high percentage shot. Unless they believed they were an inferior team, they needed to extend the game in the situation. As it turned out, Butler got the rebound with 4 seconds left and held on to win.

3) Do you ever want your opponent to make a free throw? With 35 seconds left, leading by one, and having watched Lousville miss the first of two free throws, Texas A&M might have liked Louisville to make the 2nd free throw and tie the game. Then Texas A&M would have the ball for the final possession in a tie game with the ball in the hand of “Mr. Clutch” Acie Law.

Instead Louisville missed the free throw and then fouled Joseph Jones who proceeded to miss two free throws for A&M. This meant Texas A&M was no longer in position to hit the buzzer beating shot, and they had to defend against the buzzer beating shot from Louisville. But Texas A&M doesn’t allow 59.2 points a game for nothing. They played tough defense at the end, forced a difficult shot, and got the rebound. (By the way, you know you are a tempo-free stat junky if the fact that a team allows 59.2 points a game does not impress you.)

4) Which one of the Hoya dunks was more impressive, Jeff Green’s “Superman” clean-up or Patrick Ewing Jr,’s reverse-and-one dunk at the end of the game? Both were critical. Give Boston College credit for hanging with the Hoyas, but BC was unable to come up with the loose balls and defensive rebounds at the end of the game. Perhaps their star trio played too many minutes as Dudley, Rice, and Marshall all played the full 40. But, Georgetown also tightened their rotation as four Hoyas played over 34 minutes.

5) Can Eric Maynor and VCU have an encore next season? The team will have to find a way to replace seniors B.A. Walker and Jesse Pellot-Rosa, but Eric Maynor is only a sophomore. This team has easily been the most fun team to watch in March due to their trapping defense and clutch guard play. To come back from 19 down against Pittsburgh is a tremendous accomplishment.

6) Can you top this? That’s what Derrick Byars and Derrick Low said in a double overtime game. I really did not see enough of this game to do it justice, but what I saw was two teams showing tremendous heart.

7) Is this what Roy Williams envisioned at the beginning of the season? Michigan St. played an incredible game, but in the end the massive substitutions and never-ending energy of North Carolina proved too much for Michigan St. After Reyshawn Terry hit a big three near the end, Dick Enberg pointed out the fact that an exhausted Drew Neitzel looked at his coach as if to say, “What more can I do?”

8) Where was Lance Stemler all year? Being a talented and smart defensive team, UCLA knew they needed to shut down Roderick Wilmont and they also did their best to limit DJ White and Calloway’s offensive game. Indiana’s offense looked frustrated and stagnant, scoring only 13 points in the first half. (Things would have looked a little better if they had hit their free throws.) Knowing Stemler had only shot 32% on his three pointers on the season and had made only 3 three pointers in February and March, UCLA was willing to allow him a few more open looks. But in the final minutes, the junior college transfer was huge. Stemler hit two big threes and was fouled on a third, making 3 clutch free throws. Stemler showed a ton of heart, but in the end it was the smart play of UCLA that won the game. Afflalo took the ball inside and kept getting fouled, preventing Indiana from taking the lead and winning the game.

It was an amazing day of basketball. I end by revisiting my predictions.

Good: I correctly predicted that the lack of upsets Thursday would make for some memorable games Saturday.

Bad: I expected this to also translate into some major upsets. But the true tournament favorites all held tough and advanced. Will the same hold true tomorrow?