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March 20, 2011
Indelible, Incredible
Day Three

by John Gasaway



(8) Butler 71, (1) Pitt 70 [60 possessions]
After this game's first 39:57 it would have been unthinkable that the name "Andrew Smith" would be an afterthought in today's recaps. Just like it would have been unfathomable to think that in those final three seconds Shelvin Mack would do something so apocalyptically dumb that it would very nearly eclipse scoring 30 points on 7-of-12 three-point shooting against a No. 1 seed.

TIMEOUT TEAM                     00:08
                                 00:03  69-70  V 1  GOOD! LAYUP by SMITH, Andrew [PNT]
                                 00:03              ASSIST by VANZANT, Shawn
GOOD! FT SHOT by BROWN, Gilbert  00:02  70-70  T 10 FOUL by MACK, Shelvin (P3T10)

Mack won this game for Butler, then very nearly lost it. Fouling Gilbert Brown 50 feet from the basket with 1.4 seconds left when his team was up by one is perhaps the single most decisive error in judgment I've ever seen in the NCAA tournament. Or it was, until Nasir Robinson put himself in a position where he could plausibly be called for fouling Matt Howard 85 feet from the basket with 0.8 seconds left in the game.

MISSED FT SHOT by BROWN, Gilbert 00:02
FOUL by ROBINSON, Nasir (P4T13)  00:01  70-71  V 1  GOOD! FT SHOT by HOWARD, Matt
                                 00:01              MISSED FT SHOT by HOWARD, Matt

"I've been playing basketball my whole life and I know I shouldn't have done that. It was a stupid play," Robinson said after the game. "It wasn't the ref's fault. It was my fault." But leave it to Brad Stevens to put the definitive sound bite on the 2011 tournament's most incredible game to date: "We're not better than Old Dominion. We're not better than Pittsburgh. We just had the ball last." The coach is at once a modest hoops citizen and an astute basketball critic. (He always has been. I'm happy when someone has just one of those qualities.) In seven consecutive NCAA tournament games, Butler has played an opponent known for outstanding offensive rebounding, and all seven times the game has been contested into the 40th minute. On five of those occasions the outcome has been in doubt until the final seconds. And the Bulldogs' record in those games stands at 6-1. Wisconsin's not known for their offensive rebounding, of course, but know going in to this Sweet 16 game that it will very likely be close.

(4) Wisconsin 70, (5) Kansas State 65 [56]
The Badgers looked absolutely dreadful on offense for long stretches of the second half, and of course Jordan Taylor really was dreadful on offense: 2-of-16 from the floor. And then you look up at the end of the game and see that Bo Ryan's team has advanced because they scored 70 points in 56 possessions. How often do we need to see this eye-score disparity before we get used to it? I don't know. Two things I do know. One, Taylor's block of Jacob Pullen's would-be game-tying shot was a heroic piece of defense from a scorer on a night when he wasn't scoring. (Speaking of heroic, Pullen: 38 points, 6-of-8 from beyond the arc. With apologies to Shelvin Mack and a couple players based in Provo and Storrs respectively -- see below -- it was the day's best performance.) And two, Mike Bruesewitz has basketball repercussions that box scores cannot see. Frank Martin is exactly right. After the game he told Bruesewitz: "I don't recruit Minnesota, but if you have a brother I'm coming after him."

(2) Florida 73, (7) UCLA 65 [62]
Bruin freshman Josh Smith, all 6-10 and 305 of him, had four fouls with four minutes left in a three-point game, so Gator junior Erving Walker, all 5-8 and 170 of him, went right at him. The sight of Walker driving directly into Smith's ample amplitude while Smith was furiously if inartistically backpedaling to get out of the way was one part Coach Wooden, two parts Warner Bros. cartoon -- sound basketball tactics packaged to delight the nine-year-old in all of us. At one point Walker was actually enveloped by Smith's capacious torso, before Florida's mighty guard popped back out into the outside world and drained a high arcing bank shot. Powered by 8-of-10 shooting at the line Walker led all scorers with 21 points, eight of which were scored after the final media timeout.

(3) BYU 89, (11) Gonzaga 67 [70]
For the second consecutive year the Zags were bounced out of the round of 32 by a team scoring like crazy even though it's missing a starting big man. Contrary to stereotype Mark Few's team was very good on defense this year, but not last night. The Cougars shot 28 threes and made 14. Jimmer Fredette shot 12 of those and made seven on his way to 34 points. BYU finds itself in the Sweet 16 for the first time since Danny Ainge was in Provo, when the Cougars reached the Elite Eight by beating a pretty big trio of coaching names: Pete Carril (Princeton), Larry Brown (UCLA), and Digger Phelps (Digger Phelps).


(12) Richmond 65, (13) Morehead State 48 [55]
In A-10 play Richmond's defense rated out as merely a little better than average, but yesterday the 13-seeded Eagles simply couldn't score against Chris Mooney's team. If not for seven offensive boards from Kenneth Faried, the point total would have been even lower. Louisville-slayer Demonte Harper attempted 15 shots and netted just four points. The Spiders find themselves in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1988, when they reached the second weekend by beating a pretty big duo of coaching names: Bob Knight and Bobby Cremins.


(4) Kentucky 71, (5) West Virginia 63 [63]
If all of D-I except for West Virginia were comprised of teams that wore "KENTUCKY" on their jerseys, Joe Mazzulla would be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. As seen last year in the Elite Eight and again yesterday, when the senior from Johnston, Rhode Island, plays the team from Lexington he is instantly transformed into Oscar Robertson. It got to the point where Mazzulla was doing Kemba Walker-style shot-fakes and jump-in's on opposing airborne defenders. But his 20 points weren't enough. On a day when Doron Lamb was in foul trouble and Terrence Jones was as quiet as someone recording a double-double (12-10) can be, Brandon Knight needed to assert himself. He did: 30 points, including 9-of-10 shooting at the line. Note additionally that Josh Harrellson's unprepossessing and somewhat lumbering but nevertheless vital presence is rapidly approaching Zoubekian proportions.


(2) San Diego State 71, (7) Temple 64, 2OT [69]
Billy White scored 16 points and hauled down 13 boards for SDSU in just 43 minutes -- "just" is apt because D.J. Gay as well as the Owls' Lavoy Allen and Rahlir Jefferson all went the whole 50. Give Temple credit. With Juan Fernandez in foul trouble they found themselves a few time zones away from Philly, down seven with seven minutes left, and found a way to push this game to a second OT. Until this year San Diego State had never won a game in the NCAA tournament. Now they've won two.

(3) Connecticut 69, (6) Cincinnati 58 [60]
When the Huskies get to the line they are a very tough team to beat. They proved that at the Big East tournament and it was true again last night. Kemba Walker was 14-of-14 from 15 feet away with the clock stopped. Rashad Bishop tried valiantly to keep the Bearcats in this game but his teammates were a combined 14-of-42 from the field. Jim Calhoun has now put his team into six of the last ten Sweet 16s.

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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