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March 24, 2008
Bracket Breakdown
NCAA Tournament, Day Four

by Ken Pomeroy

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Two rounds are in the books, and for my money, day four was the most riveting. A recap of Sunday's eight games...

(10) Davidson 74, (2) Georgetown 70 [63 possessions]

I'll go ahead and give the SoCon coaches some unsolicited advice for 2009: drop your conference schedule back to 18 games. It'll give Davidson two more shots at national TV exposure and proving that they are at-large worthy. Just think, their seeding suggests that with a single loss in the conference tournament and possibly (though, possibly not) a key win from other bubble teams, this team would have not been deemed one of the 34 best at-large teams. In this one, Davidson dug out of a 17-point second half deficit and took one of the best defenses in the country behind the woodshed in the second half. This contest also provided an example of how FG% can be misleading. Davidson shot under 40%, but went to the line 30 times, grabbed 12 offensive boards and committed just five turnovers to more than compensate for the poor shooting. The same comments that applied to Georgetown on Saturday apply to Wisconsin now. The Badgers are not getting a walkover in the Sweet 16. Far from it, they should expect a tense game from start to finish.

(2) Tennessee 76, (7) Butler 71 [OT, 75]

One theme of the day was "inexplicable airballs". Butler's Mike Green had one with 1:45 left in regulation. After successfully driving into the lane, Green found himself rising for an uncontested five-footer to tie the game. His shot went about three feet. Green probably makes that 80% of the time, and probably misses everything about 1%. Butler would tie the game on a subsequent possession, but had Green converted, OT may not have been necessary.

(12) Villanova 84, (13) Siena 72 [77]

This felt like an NIT semi-final rather than an NCAA second round game. My big beef with CBS is that they cram seven second-round games into two time slots on Sunday. We were left with this as the national game to kick off the day, while multiple close finishes cluttered the middle time slot. Nothing against either of the teams involved, though. It was 'Nova's fault for making the game so boring by steadily building a double-digit lead and giving no indication they would let it slip. Kudos to Jay Wright for resurrecting this team from the dead over the past month. I suppose we'll get about 84 gratuitous shots of Rollie Massimino in the stands on Friday. As long as there are an equal number of shots of Dell Curry in the Wisconsin/Davidson game, I'm fine with it.

(12) Western Kentucky 72, (13) San Diego 63 [69]

Believe it or not, a Sun Belt team once got a two-seed in the 64-team era. The Hilltoppers have advanced farther than the '85 VCU Rams did. Courtney Lee had 29 in this one. Do that against UCLA, especially if it's on 15 FGAs and 8 FTAs, and watch your draft stock rise.

(2) Texas 75, (7) Miami FL 72 [65]

Rick Barnes, in a March tradition, has almost totally cut off his bench. He gave non-starters a total of 21 minutes in this one, while D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams went the distance. Miami was down 16 with 4:15 to go, but managed to give itself a desperation possession to tie the game with two seconds left. At some point, someone will refer to D.J. Augustin as clutch, so remember that he airballed a free throw to set up that final possession. It happens to the best.

(1) Memphis 77, (8) Mississippi State 74 [65]

Lost in the off-the-charts athleticism in this one was the fact that these teams took remarkably good care of the ball. This was a rare game that had more blocks (18) than turnovers (13). There were only four other games like that this season, and the imbalance of five in this one was the most, exceeding the mark of three set by Gonzaga and Saint Mary's on March 1. MSU was able to take advantage of Memphis' big men being in foul trouble for most of the second half. Inexplicable airball #3 occurred with five minutes to go. Charles Rhodes had been dutifully following his coach's instructions to post up the foul-plagued Robert Dozier. But for whatever reason on this possession, Rhodes decided to launch an 18-footer early in the shot clock. It hit nothing, and Memphis turned a five-point cushion into seven on the following trip then coasted to victory.

(3) Louisville 78, (6) Oklahoma 48 [63]

I can never say it enough, if you can't make free throws, you're going to struggle this time of year. Louisville made five of 15 free throws and, wait, won by 30?!? Never mind, then. The Cards get Tennessee on Thursday in what should be their first test of the tournament.

(1) North Carolina 108, (9) Arkansas 77 [67]

I would look up the last time a team has scored 100 points in three consecutive tournament games, but since the Tar Heels get Washington State on Thursday, that information won't be necessary. In its first two games, Carolina has made 72 of 104 two-point attempts and Surry Wood had played seven minutes. Enough said.

The first two rounds produced five events that had less than a 20% chance of occurring according to the log5 analysis.

Western Kentucky making Sweet 16 (7.6%)
San Diego making 2nd Round (11.2%)
Davidson making Sweet 16 (11.8%)
Villanova making Sweet 16 (12.4%)
West Virginia making Sweet 16 (16.2%)

All in all, not a bad first two rounds. It wasn't overloaded with bracket-busting events, but getting three double-digit seeds into the second week should sate those who have a desire for chaos. Coming this week, I'll have the usual log5 preview of Sweet 16 action. In addition to other prescient information, you'll find out how much closer we are to the apocalypse that would occur upon all four one-seeds advancing to San Antonio.

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

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Bracket Breakdown (03/23)
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Game Reax (03/24)

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