Posted on: March 25, 2010 2:59 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2010 3:49 pm
Before they tipoff tonight at approximately 7:07 pm, I'd like to share with you my five random thoughts on the Syracuse-Butler game:
Watch the tempo of the game. Butler will try to slow it down, Syracuse will want to run a fast paced game. Butler gives up just under 60 points per game while Syracuse likes to score in the 80s. Whoever controls the tempo will likely win the game.
Wesley Johnson vs. Gordon Hayward. In order for their teams to win, these guys will need to have a big game. If Wesley Johnson puts on a show, Syracuse will most likely win no matter how Hayward plays. But if Johnson can't get it going, and Hayward has a strong performance, look out for an upset.
Arinze Onuaku is out again. The status of Onuaku's injury is no longer a question of how long he will be out, but if he'll ever return. Coming into the tournament, the report was that we might see him in the first weekend. Now, Onuaku is out for the Sweet 16 game and no real timetable has been set for his return. The reserves have played well filling in for the senior center, but if Syracuse is going to win it all, I don't see them doing it without the big man.
Leo Rautins will be on TV. Nothing has changed. He will get more camera time than Juli Boeheim.
Eric Devendorf isn't walking through that door. It may just be me, but every time I watch a Syracuse game, I expect to see Eric Devendorf hitting a three and taunting an opponent. I still haven't accepted the fact that he's gone. Watching a Syracuse game without Devendorf is like watching E.R. after George Clooney left. The show is still the same, but the face is gone.
That's all. Enjoy the game.
Posted on: March 24, 2010 4:21 pm
Final Four: Play like the team we saw in the first two rounds. Syracuse has the ability to dominate teams when they hit their outside shot and their zone causes teams to go on early cold streaks. What is important for the Orange is that they find a way to jump on teams early, causing them to rush and their defense to become more frustrating. Plus when Wesley Johnson plays within himself, there are only two or three players in the Tournament that are in his class. Use the superior talent to beat Butler and then get ready for a contrast of styles versus Kansas State, in which Johnson wins it for the Orange as the best player on the floor.
Lose Next Game: Play like the opponent is Louisville. Syracuse gets itself in trouble when the opponent comes out and hits threes early and controls the pace. Butler has the ability to do just that and if their guards are able to force the tempo, Syracuse can find itself playing out of rhythm. Plus if the Butler defense focuses in on Wesley Johnson (which would seem to be obvious), and Johnson finds himself cold, the West coast crowd senses the upset and pulls Butler to a shocking victory.
Final Four: George Mason making the Final Four was a Cinderella fluke story which may never be repeated. But Butler has the first chance to be a legitimate mid-major to make the Final Four since Jacksonville and Penn did it in 1979. This is the best Butler team in years and their guard play and outside shooting makes them a formidable opponent for anyone. With Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack knocking down outside shots, they can beat anyone on a given day. 33 year old Coach Brad Stephens has his team playing as well as anyone in the tournament and if they get hot, perplex the Syracuse zone and find openings against Kansas State, they could be headed for a HOME game at the Final Four.
Lose Next Game: Butler has not seen any team all year with the length and athleticism of Syracuse. If the Bulldogs don’t come out early and make shots, they could easily get frustrated and find themselves with difficulty to score against the tremendous defense of the Orange. This is a game in which the first ten minutes will tell you all you need to know.
Final Four: The success of Xavier, like Butler, is not a surprise to anyone who follows college basketball. But the oddity of this year gives the X-men a chance to make a legitimate Final Four run for the second time in the last three years. Jordan Crawford does everything on the offensive end and if he is able to reproduce his first two NCAA Tournament game performances, Xavier can hang with Kansas State. Down the stretch, Crawford could be the best scorer on the floor and the Musketeers can move on. If Butler squeaks past the ‘Cuse, you have the battle of the two best mid-majors of the last decade, with a spot in the Final Four on the line. Xavier has more overall talent and athleticism, and they win, sending the city of Cincinnati in a mad rush to Indy.
Lose Next Game: Its probable. While Xavier has played well and overcame its demon from last year in beating Pittsburgh, Kansas State is better at 4 of the 5 positions on the floor and can simply dominate with its guard play. Xavier hangs around early and gives a scare, but Kansas State is too much in the end, sending Xavier home with a solid Sweet 16 run.
Final Four: In my mind, no team has had more surprising success this year than Kansas State. Coach Frank Martin is clearly crazy, but almost everyone assumed that when Michael Beasley departed, so would our need to follow the basketball happenings in Manhattan, Kansas. But Martin has his team fired up and his intensity is contagious. No team is playing better and Kansas State keeps rolling past a game, but ultimately lesser, Xavier team. Jacob Pullen continues his uber-hot play in the next game against Syracuse and Martin’s gang win a flat-out war to make it to the Final Four and produce bragging rights for a long time over the Jayhawks.
Lose Next Game: Martin’s group isn’t ready for the big stage and come out flat against Xavier. Crawford goes off for 30 points, leaving Martin’s head to spontaneously combust on the sideline. With no direction or leadership, Kansas State loses by 8 and the Jayhawk fans taunt all the way from Lawrence.
Posted on: March 24, 2010 12:27 pm
The Gaels of St. Mary's pulled off upsets in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament and are on their way to Houston for the Sweet 16. As St. Mary's writes its Cinderella story, Omar Samhan is writing his own as that once little-known big man that is winning over college basketball fans across the country.
While most are just now finding out about the most unheard of, dominant big man in the country, I can proudly say that I have been a fan for two years now (I credit insomnia, a gambling addiction, and 1am WCC games on ESPNU.) I have always admired the big man's play. He's big (obviously), has good post moves (in slow motion), and is fundamentally sound. He's like the YMCA lunch break league version of Tim Duncan. But now that he is getting the national attention, I'm starting to like a side of Omar Samhan that ESPNU never showed in between the Nutrisystem infomercials - his personality.
For instance, take a look at some of Omar's Villanova quotes in the New York Times:
"Hey, you impressed me tonight,” Samhan said to Stokes. “Did I impress you?” Stokes could only muster a smirk, which prompted Samhan to say, “I’ll take your silence as a yes.”
“I get it,” he said. “I’m a slow white guy, and I’m overweight. So maybe you don’t respect me because I have good numbers. But after I kill you the first half, what are you waiting for. I don’t know what he wanted. Did he want me to have 40?”
"We’re so old school,” Samhan said. “I’m in low tops. Our star point guard is named Mickey. Enough said.”
"It’s not a good-feeling story, we should be here.”
"You’re supposed to be diplomatic with questions like this,” he said, smiling. “No. 1. Best win ever. Quote it, Omar Samhan said best win ever.”
I mean, how can you not like him with quotes like that?
He also has an increasingly popular Twitter account where he takes a jab at Georgia Tech's cell phone policy and harasses Bill Simmons for an interview.
If that's not enough media for you, you can always check out Omar's YouTube channel where fans can watch his dog Cooper bark at credit card commercials or get behind the scenes clips of life in the tournament:
Posted on: March 23, 2010 10:31 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2010 10:33 pm
Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcat team is a lot of things. Math majors is not one of those things (they’re all social sciences majors). But, if they want to be the last team standing when the West regional ends and advance to the school’s first Final Four since 1964, it might be as simple as a mathematical statistic.
As a sophomore last season, Wildcat guard Jacob Pullen struggled with his jumper throughout the entire year and finished with a shooting percentage (38% from the field) uglier than Jesse James’ mistress. As the Wildcats suffered through an inconsistent NIT season, 1-13 and 2-14 nights become more frequent than anyone in Manhattan would have liked. It seemed almost as if the Wildcats came and went with Jacob Pullen’s jump shot.
And that is what brings us to this - the single most important stat in the West. Kansas State is only going to go as far as Jacob Pullen’s three-point shot takes them.
Though Pullen’s accuracy hasn’t improved to a Steve Nash-like level yet (it’s 42% now), he’s shown better shot selection and an improved touch from downtown. With the improvement of Pullen’s jumper and the Wildcats’ record, the correlation between the two becomes even more pronounced.
In Kansas State’s 28 wins this season, Jacob Pullen has knocked down 52% from downtown. In their seven losses? Try 24%. But, it’s not even as simple as just the percentages. In those losses, Pullen is attempting nearly 10 threes per game compared to only 6 per game in the wins. And, if you dig deeper, Pullen is not only attempting five more field goal attempts per game in the losses, he’s also doing so purely from the three-point line. This, of course, does a number of things - all of them negative - the Wildcats. It makes Pullen easier to guard and takes away from his ability to create quality looks for his teammates.
In Salt Lake City this week against Xavier and, most likely, Syracuse, the Wildcats are going to need Pullen to continue the efficient and intelligent point guard play he’s shown so far this tournament. He hasn’t been forcing his deep ball and, especially against BYU when he knocked down seven treys, he is making most of the open opportunities he’s getting. Frank Martin can only hope this continues because, as Jacob Pullen’s shot goes, so do the Kansas State Wildcats.
Posted on: March 23, 2010 6:20 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2010 6:30 pm
Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you're aware of the Twitter fad. It's rapidly becoming the best source for news and information because it allows you to get everything straight for the source. Every sports personality from Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson to Bill Raftery are on it and updating daily. It's a direct source to find out what you need to know about anybody who's anybody.
So, with that being said, what would be a better way to know what the players are thinking as the Sweet 16 approaches? I could trying calling them but I'm sure they get enough of that. I could sit in during practice, but that's not as easy as it sounds. Twitter seemed like the most logical source. So, I logged on to the One Blogging Moment imaginary Twitter account and browsed through these fictional Twitter accounts to see what everyone in the South Region is thinking before heading to Houston. See for yourself...
-- South Region's Fictional Tweets --
@JScheyer23: "I have to get out of this slump. It's hurting my chances of playing quarterback at Syracuse next year." (Jon Scheyer, Duke)
@RawBHummel: "Anyone know if Reliant Stadium has good popcorn?" (Robbie Hummel, Purdue)
@IrishGaelBomb: "Feck off 'Nova. I called bank you know!" (Mickey McConnell, St. Mary's)
@YoungTreeBU: "I can't wait to cop a feel on Samhan" (Ekpe Udoh, Baylor)
@RealWojo: "I want to slap the floor so bad but Coach K won't let me" (Steve Wojciechowski, Duke asst. coach)
@CoachCollinsDuke: "RT @RealWojo: "I want to slap the floor so bad but Coach K won't let me" (Chris Collins, Duke asst. coach)
@GaelsCoachBennett: "Does anyone know of a good realtor in Eugune, Oregon?" (Randy Bennett, St. Mary's head coach)
@LaceDarius1: "Suck it, Kansas." (LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor)
@KrazyKramer: "Who the hell am I supposed to guard? Dibs on Thomas" (Chris Kramer, Purdue)
@ScottDrewBU: "St. Mary's? Really?" (Scott Drew, Baylor head coach)
@OMAR_SAMHAN: "I think I'm lactating." (Omar Samhan, St. Mary's)
Posted on: March 23, 2010 3:30 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2010 10:47 pm
This is the time of the year when things get serious. Sure, there will be plenty of competition on the court, but the real battle will be on the media front as all the big guys compete for all the human interest stories that they can find. If your emotions aren’t jerked around like Tiger Woods in a Perkins, then what good is March Madness?
So, rather than read another Mark Coury/Kentucky story today, here are a couple of feel-good stories you can brace yourself for in the coming days:
Gerry McNamara (Syracuse): Carmelo Anthony will always get a hero’s welcome in Syracuse after a miraculous run to the title in 2003. It’s another member of that storied recruiting class, though, that has the hearts of Orange fans everywhere – and he’s back in town. After a career that started with a title and ended with his coach defending him against those who called him overrated, Gerry McNamara’s basketball career continued to be up-and-down after leaving Syracuse as he bounced from Europe to the NBDL to NBA summer league to even being the top pick in the USBL Draft. He was even a passenger on the USAirways flight that crashed in the Hudson River . So, no one could blame him if he wanted a little stability in his life.
So, in the fall of 2009, McNamara decided it was time to return to where everyone knows his name and signed back up with the Cuse and Coach Jim Boeheim – this time as a graduate assistant. And he brought magic with him. How else would you explain what happened in the Carrier Dome this year? This team lost three star players, lost to LeMoyne and then tore through the regular season. Coaching? Player development? Please. It’s that old McNamara Magic.
1-7 FA (Kansas State): Sports are often compared to war (see: Winslow, Kellen), though no one in their right mind would ever classify them as such. But, if you were pressed to pick out a school that best represents a tough military mindset, it would be Kansas State. And, with good reason.
Frank Martin's team formed a partnership with the Field Artillery Battalion of nearby Fort Riley Military Base in 2008 when he took his young team to the base for a team-building day of full-on military training sessions, including firing guns and cruising around in Humvees. A few weeks later, the 1-7 FA returned the favor and sent troops to go through a Frank Martin workout and a bond was formed. When the unit was deployed to Iraq, players sent care packages and started wearing a patch on their jerseys every game honoring the soldiers . They also started forcefully taking over rival Big 12 cities with a tough brand of basketball that was a little Frank Martin and a little Fort Riley.
Bobby Plump (Butler): Though his name might make you assume that he’s using an assistant coach’s tickets to sit front-row at a Kansas game, Bobby Plump is actually possibly the only true Mr. Basketball. He is as pure of an American basketball story that exists and I guarantee you know who he is. Even if you don’t. Plump is a 6’1”, 150-pound 73-year Indianapolis restaurant owner who is probably known to those outside of the Hoosier State by another name. Jimmy Chitwood.
In his younger years, Plump was the sharp-shooting hero of 1954 Indiana high school basketball state tournament champion Milan High School, which inspired the greatest film of all-time and made every nobody think they had a shot to be the hero long before Freddie Prinze Jr. was around. And, after he and Milan beat Oscar Robertson in the playoffs and he a state-championship winning buzzer beater at Hinkle Field House, Plump decided to just play his entire college career there as a Butler Bulldog. After winning team MVP honors in 1957 and 1958, Plump settled into the real world. But, if you’re lucky, you can still catch the Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer at his restaurant, “Plump’s Last Shot”.
Sister Rose Ann Fleming (Xavier): Frequently in sports (and life in general), the only time you look to a cleric, it’s because you’re in a little too deep and you need some spiritual guidance and some prayers to be answered. At Xavier, Sister Rose Ann Fleming makes sure it never reaches that point.
As the Musketeers’ Academic Advising Coordinator, Fleming has avoided losses as deftly as Xavier’s football team, which, as the school proudly boasts in its cafeteria, is undefeated since 1973. Under her watch, every senior basketball player of the last 22 years has earned a college diploma and, in 1998, Xavier had a graduation rate of 100%. She’s already starting to get a little media attention this week, making her an early favorite to be the subject of Sister Act III and put on a basketball clinic slightly more impressive than when Seth Davis practiced with Michigan State. But, rest assured, that's not what it's all about with Sister Rose Ann Fleming. Although, she looks like she can dance. And I know she can beat Seth Davis in basketball.
So, make sure when you saddle up for some college basketball this weekend, you grab the tissues too. It's going to an emotional and likely repetitive ride.
Posted on: March 23, 2010 1:01 pm
Final Four: The baby Cats have been the most impressive team of the first two days by far. From the opening tip in both their games against ETSU and Wake Forest, the Cats came out rolling and quickly put away both teams by halftime. They have averaged 95 points a game, seen twenty-point performances by 4<sup>th</sup> and 5<sup>th</sup> option scorers and have emptied their bench in both contests. If Kentucky can simply repeat the level of performance that they have shown so far, they can’t be touched in this field.
Loss Next Game: The hot pick of the basketball writing elite is to argue that Cornell can beat Kentucky in the next game. Jay Bilas even predicted the upset before the Tournament started, a rather gutsy selection. To win, Cornell must come out quickly, hit threes in the opening minutes and establish a cushion. They the Big Red must deflate the ball, hope the Cats begin to take bad shots and sustain a lead until the final minutes. At that point, Cornell hits a couple of late threes and the Cats lose in the second shocking upset of the Tournament.
Final Four: The Big Red were very fortunate that their two first-round opponents both played a slow-down style to which Cornell could adapt. This Regional however doesn’t have the same makeup. Kentucky and Washington like to get up the court and West Virginia is as physical a team as there is in America. For Cornell to become the new George Mason, they have to hit threes in masse, slow the games down to a crawl and hope their big men stay out of foul trouble. It’s a long shot, but possible.
Loss Next Game: Cornell runs into a set of talent they simply can’t match. No defense the Big Red can produce slows down John Wall or Eric Bledsoe, Demarcus Cousins controls the paint and Patrick Patterson is left to roam and score inside and outside. Cornell keeps it close by hitting outside shots but has no ability to stop Kentucky from scoring. They go down valiantly, allowing New York Times writers to wax poetic for at least one more column.
Final Four: While the focus has generally been on the surprise of seeing Cornell in this Regional, Washington may be just as big of a shocker. Two weeks ago, they weren’t even likely to go to the NCAA Tournament, but then the Huskies got hot in the Pac 10 Tourney, won a slugfest over “tough as nails” Marquette and crushed the hopes and dreams of an over-seeded New Mexico team. Washington has the toughness to hang with West Virginia and can put up a lot of points, which could lead to a late win. Then if they see Kentucky, they are one of the few teams left in the Tournament with the athletes to guard UK. If the Wildcats go cold and the Huskies play great defense, they could be the most improbable Final Four team from a major conference since LSU in 1986.
Loss Next Game: West Virginia usually imposes its will on opponents, and when that happens, the Mountaineers are successful. The Big East has shown itself to be rather unimposing this Tournament, but West Virginia has hung on for victories, even when shots aren’t falling. If they control the paint, get offensive rebounds and keep the pace from going manic, WVU should end the Huskies’ dream run.
Final Four: Going into the Tournament, West Virginia was everyone’s sexy pick to make some noise and upset Kentucky to head to the Final Four. But after some early struggles with Morgan State and a close game with Missouri, the experts have backed off. I am not sure why. No team left in the field is tougher than Bob Huggins’ group and they have one of the five best scorers left in De’sean Butler. They should outman the Washington group and win a test of willpower and then face Kentucky in the Regional final. If Butler has one of his crazy days and hits big shots, WVU can keep Cousins and Patterson off the glass and steal Bob Huggins’ second trip to the Final Four.
Loss Next Game: You could look at WVU’s success as simply a fluke. They are one banked three-pointer from Butler from having lost in the Big East Quarterfinal and their NCAA Tournament performance hasn’t been exceptional. With poor guard play plaguing at times, Washington gets an early lead and the Mountaineers simply do not have the fire power to fight back. Washington wins and a Huggins coached team loses to a lower-seeded team…again.
Posted on: March 23, 2010 12:11 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2010 12:14 pm
With the Sweet 16 rapidly approaching, we here at CBS's One Blogging Moment will be breaking down every angle of every region. Today, I bring you the South Region Gambling Guide.
DISCLAIMER: One Blogging Moment does not condone gambling. Millions of lives were drastically changed due to last week's outcomes and One Blogging Moment will not be held responsible for your divorce, binge drinking, and/or bankruptcy.
(3) BAYLOR vs. (10) ST. MARY'S, Friday 7:27 ET
Spread: Baylor (-4)
Ken Pom Predicts: Baylor, 75-71
-- Omar Samhan Points + Rebounds: O/U 29.5
-- LaceDarius Dunn Points + Assists: O/U 24
-- Ekpe Udoh "Mutombo Fingers": O/U 3.5
-- Will Mickey McConnell bank a three pointer?: Yes (-170) No (+210)
-- Omar Samhan Bra Color: Red (-210) Blue (-130) Commando (+350)
Pick: Baylor (-4) Omar Samhan faces his biggest competition in Baylor's Ekpe Udoh (6'10) and Josh Lomers (7'0). This game will be very close, and I'm not counting St. Mary's out, but I flipped a coin and Baylor won so that's what I'm going with. Tails never fails.
(1) DUKE vs. (4) PURDUE, Friday 9:57 ET
Spread: Duke (-8)
Ken Pom Predicts: Duke, 68-61
-- Jon Scheyer Points + Assists: O/U 21
-- JuJuan Johnson Points + Assists: O/U 18.5
-- Combined Plumee Brother Points: O/U 11.5
-- Chris Kramer Chest Bumps: O/U 16
-- Robbie Hummel References: O/U 64
-- Will Wojo Slap The Floor?: Of course he will.
-- Asian Duke Students in Attendance: O/U 3,4000
Pick: Duke (-8) Purdue plays great defense but Chris Kramer can't guard everyone. Duke's Jon Scheyer is ready to break out of his slump and the Blue Devils have too much size down low. Duke wins this one by double digits.