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March 18, 2011
The Harper Image
Day One

by John Gasaway



(13) Morehead State 62, (4) Louisville 61 [66 possessions]
An upset that nevertheless was tight throughout the second half, with neither team leading by more than eight. Demonte Harper's step-back three with four seconds left cleared the net with the kind of emphatic sureness that one doesn't expect from a player who to that point was 0-of-5 from beyond the arc. In the final second Louisville's Mike Marra and Morehead's Kenneth Faried came together, as Marra tried to hit a game-winner for the Cards. A watching nation held its breath, no foul was called, and the Eagles advance, thanks in no small part to the 17 offensive boards they were able to record against the 'Ville. Harper's heroics sets up one of those 12-13 match-ups that mean this here bracket's done been busted up good....

(12) Richmond 69, (5) Vanderbilt 66 [54]
This season in A-10 play Richmond was a very good offensive team that rarely turned the ball over. Both characteristics were on full display against Vanderbilt, as the Spiders gave the ball away just three times in 54 possessions. Kevin Anderson was fairly Jimmer-like for Chris Mooney, taking 43 percent of the team's shots all by his lonesome and scoring 25 points. For the Commodores Festus Ezeli was again effective (21 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, albeit with just 5-of-10 success at the line), as he's been so often this season, but on this day it wasn't enough. Fun fact: the last 90 seconds of game clock in this game took, by my estimation, seven hours and eight minutes to complete.


(5) West Virginia 84, (12) Clemson 76 [66]
For 18 minutes it looked like the Tigers' rigorous travel schedule that I fretted about -- play Tuesday night in Dayton, then play Thursday at noon in Tampa -- wasn't going to be a problem after all. Brad Brownell's team was up 39-29 late in the first half. From that point on, however, it was all Mountaineers, as Bob Huggins' team rang up 55 points in 22 minutes against what during the regular season was a very good defense. And watching the 5 seed rebound no less than 44 percent of its own misses certainly lent credence to any "tired legs" speculating you heard floating around. Kevin Jones led West Virginia with 17 points, including 3-of-4 shooting on his threes. It looked like the 2009-10 Kevin Jones.

(4) Kentucky 59, (13) Princeton 57 [54]
Take a picture of this game and put it next to "round of 64 upset" in the dictionary, because everything was by-the-book save only the final score. The team in the ugly road uniforms played a flawless no-turnover game and dragged the pace down into the mid-50s. The talented favorites in the home whites looked taller, younger, and really nervous. But in the end Kentucky did what they've done all year: they made threes. The Wildcats' 5-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc (Darius Miller was a stone-cold 3-of-3) was good enough, barely, to overcome their "Did we mention we're nervous?" 6-of-11 shooting at the line. Freshman Brandon Knight hit the game winner on a driving scoop shot high off the glass with two seconds remaining. The box score says Knight was 1-of-8 from the field, but the "1" was well-timed. Kudos as well to the notably efficient and feisty Josh Harrellson, who recorded a 15-10 double-double on 7-of-8 shooting.


(8) Butler 60, (9) Old Dominion 58 [58]
The Monarchs found themselves in a thriller against an Indiana-based opponent in the round of 64 for the second consecutive year. This time the final minute didn't go their way. Matt Howard's put-back at the buzzer sent the Bulldogs to the next round, where they'll meet top seed Pitt. This year Brad Stevens' team looked shaky on defense for much of the regular season, but starting in early February that began to change. Yesterday they held ODU to 37 percent shooting inside the arc. Frank Hassell was his usual productive self for the Monarchs (20 points on 7-of-13 shooting) but his teammates were a combined 9-of-32 from the field. Butler has now played six consecutive NCAA tournament games against opponents who are outstanding on the offensive glass. That streak will be extended to a seventh game against the Panthers....

(1) Pitt 74, (16) UNC-Asheville 51 [65]
The 16-seeded Bulldogs outscored Ashton Gibbs by just six points in the second half; the junior recorded 20 points after intermission. Speaking of six points, that was Pitt's lead in this game with a little more than 15 minutes remaining. Jamie Dixon called timeout, reminded his team of the 104-0 record of No. 1 seeds in the round of 64 over the past few decades, and the rest is history.

(4) Wisconsin 72, (13) Belmont 58 [60]
At the risk of oversimplifying, the Badgers' threes went in and the Bruins' did not. Both teams shot 44 percent on their twos, and both recorded 22 attempts from beyond the arc. Bo Ryan's team made 12 (Jordan Taylor alone went 5-of-9), Rick Byrd's just six. Wisconsin actually has an admirable record of success in the round of 64 -- 9-2 this millennium coming into last night -- but tell them that. You could see relief written on the Badgers' faces as their threes began to fall just like in the good old days (January to early March). The preceding apprehension carried by Ryan's team was a product not only of this offense's most recent experience in the Big Ten tournament, but also a result of this team's recent experiences with mid-majors in March. Rest easy, Wisconsin. Your next opponent is an honest-to-goodness major-conference type....

(5) Kansas State 73, (12) Utah State 68 [65]
The Wildcats led by 11 at the half and by ten with just a little more than a minute remaining, but the Aggies made a nice run at the end to keep things interesting. Make no mistake, when K-State takes care of the ball and gets to the line like they did against USU, Frank Martin's team can look a lot more 2010-like in a hurry. The Bearded One led all scorers with 22 points, thanks to 9-of-12 shooting from 15 feet away with the clock stopped. In the space of about 160 minutes, fans at the McKale Center in Tucson saw the cream of 2011's (non-MWC/Colonial/Horizon) mid-major crop -- the Aggies and Belmont -- fall to big-school heavies who'd looked thoroughly mortal in their conference tournaments. Outside the big six sic transit gloria mundi, or something like that.

(3) BYU 74, (14) Wofford 66 [73]
Every year the Terriers do the SoCon proud (last year they scared the cheddar out of Wisconsin) but, alas, the committee keeps pairing Mike Young's team up with really good opponents. James Taft Fredette scored 32 points fueled by 10-of-12 shooting at the line. Though he was just 2-of-9 beyond the arc, the pride of Glens Falls, New York, was able to get into the lane at will. When that happens fouls and points ensue.

(11) Gonzaga 86, (6) St. John's 71 [69]
Yes, that's 1.25 points per trip recorded by the Bulldogs against a very tough Big East defense. Take the middle 16 minutes played by Mark Few's team in the first half last night and put them up against anything else anyone did yesterday. Even without D.J. Kennedy (lost to a torn ACL in the Big East tournament), Steve Lavin's team shot significantly better in this game than they did in conference play -- and look what it got them. If last night was any indication Dave Rose and the Cougars would be well advised not to take this particular double-digit seed too lightly. Someone not named Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, or Steven Gray scored 24 points. Meet Marquise Carter. Few has many (har!) weapons.

(2) Florida 79, (15) UCSB 51 [64]
In a match-up pitting two of day one's most bucolic and enticing campus locations, the Gators prevailed. The Gauchos actually have more size than your run-of-the-mill Big West team, but that was of little help against Billy Donovan's team. At 5-8, Erving Walker ran under, over, and around UCSB for 18 points.

(7) UCLA 78, (10) Michigan State 76 [73]
Watching the Spartans' amazing, improbable, heroic rally in the last eight minutes of this game (which the Bruins led 64-41), it occurred to me I've been thinking of this comeback thing all wrong. We only call it a "comeback" when it's successful. But even in defeat the point margin that Tom Izzo's team erased was epic. (Also an apt word for a 23-11-10 points-rebounds-assists triple-double by Draymond Green.) Epic but not sufficient. Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee together scored 32 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the floor.


(7) Temple 66, (10) Penn State 64 [58]
Last week everyone yelled at Wisconsin for that whole 36-33 thing that went down between the Badgers and the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten tournament. But watching PSU deliver still another sub-60-possession game yesterday made me think maybe Bo Ryan had an enabler that night at Conseco Fieldhouse. Juan Fernandez delivered the game-winning 18-footer in the final second for the Owls. He and Ramone Moore each scored 23, a number matched in defeat by Talor Battle. Congratulations to Fran Dunphy who, if you haven't heard, dreads every single occasion where a bright youngster starts delving into head coaches' career W-L records in the NCAA tournament.

(2) San Diego State 68, (15) Northern Colorado 50 [60]
UNC's Devon Beitzel hit 6-of-10 threes and with 14 minutes to go the Bears were within three, but the Aztecs wrapped things up with a 30-15 run. Kawhi Leonard recorded a 21-10 double-double, but equally vital were the seven offensive boards chipped in by Billy White.

(3) Connecticut 81, (14) Bucknell 52 [63]
The Huskies brushed the Bison aside the old-fashioned way, from the field. In a game where Jim Calhoun's team shot just nine free throws, UConn scored 1.29 points per trip thanks to balanced mastery from Kemba Walker (18-12 double-double), Roscoe Smith (17 points in 27 minutes), and Jeremy Lamb (16 points and 4-of-5 on his threes).

(6) Cincinnati 78, (14) Missouri 63 [63]
The Bearcats salvaged some pride for Big East teams on the 6 line by attacking the Tigers in the paint. It worked. Yancy Gates notched an 18-11 double-double and missed just one shot from the field. Missouri ended their 2010-11 campaign with a 1-5 run, the "1" coming against an opponent that promptly fired its coach. This time, at least, it looks like the laptops may have been right.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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2011-03-20 - Indelible, Incredible: Day Three
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