Posted on: March 27, 2010 12:29 am
Edited on: March 27, 2010 12:31 am

Duke Dispatches Plucky Purdue


In case you weren't aware, Purdue was playing without Robbie Hummel tonight.

Truly, you haven't been able to hear the name Purdue over the past month without someone chiming in that they've lost Hummel, arguably the Boilermakers' greatest star this season. Seriously. It's everywhere. I think I myself have written that upwards of a hundred times since this blog began. He hasn't played a second, and he's all anyone can talk about regarding Purdue.

That said, how would you like to be Purdue and battle that for your entire postseason? How many times a day do you think JaJuan Johnson gets asked each day what this tournament season would be like if Hummel were there? The doggedness of having to field questions and judgments about Hummel's absence is probably more of a detriment than Hummel's actual absence. 

Tonight that absence may have finally caught up to the surging, overcompensating Boilermakers as Duke sent them packing 70-57. Coach K's number one seed was simply a better team than the boys from Indiana, and though Matt Painter's expert coaching job kept finding new ways for his team to dismount solid opponents, it wasn't meant to be. Perhaps their luck just ran out. Perhaps they were just tired. Or perhaps Duke was just too good for them.

We're going to hear more about Duke in the next few days, perhaps even the next week, but I don't think we should let this Purdue team slide into the night without giving them their due. Here's a team that, for weeks now, has been told they can't do something because one of their key players is out. Siena was everyone's "lock" to beat them because it was believed that without Hummel, they were nothing. Wrong. Then it was Texas A&M's turn to get pumped because, as the press would have us believe, Purdue couldn't do it again without Hummel. Again, wrong. Strangely enough, it seemed there were other guys on this team; and amazingly, they wanted to win this tournament as well. Imagine that.

I say kudos to the Boilermakers in this tournament. Everyone kept expecting them to lose, and tonight they did -- to a one-seed -- but not before proving everyone that losing one guy doesn't mean it's time to hang it up and go home. This was a great story that's very underreported, and these guys deserve a standing ovation for putting up with all the slings and arrows tossed their way since Hummel's injury on February 24th. So way to go, guys. You may have been a four seed on paper, but the world for some reason was against you. And you shut a lot of folks up.

Duke progresses to play the three-seed Baylor in the South region finals on Sunday at 5:05 PM.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Duke, Purdue, South
Posted on: March 26, 2010 2:23 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2010 2:25 pm

Who's Coming Out of the South?

Welcome to Houston, everyone -- also known as "Space City" -- for two great matchups from the Southern Region of the bracket tonight. I can tell you're not from here, because your car doesn't have giant cattle horns attached to the grill, so let me break down the head-to-heads going down at Reliant Stadium this very evening:


Jim Nantz, with his matinee idol good looks, and Clark Kellogg, with his interesting pronunciations of everyday words, will be on-hand tonight for the games in Houston, opening up with surprise Saint Mary's taking on the number three-seeded Baylor Bears. From a logistical standpoint, this should be a Baylor lean -- but the Gaels have astounded everyone in this tournament (for my money, they've been the most consistently strong cinderella in a wacky, wacky season), and I'm not sure that Saint Mary's isn't in some circles a bit of a favorite here. The Bears are good, but the Gaels are constantly proving that they're better than you thought they were. 

So is there anything we should know? Yes, actually.

Watch out for Tweety Carter, running the show from behind the scenes. He's not going to be a leading scorer. He's not going to blow you away with assists or rebounds. In fact, if you look at the box scores you may not even know he's a major factor But watch any amount of Baylor playing basketball and you'll see that Carter is the engine that makes this team run. He's a huge leader on this team as far as setting the pace and keeping his teammates pumped, and that means a lot for a team. He's quiet and consistent and his teammates look to him often. If he's taken off the court, it's a step in the right direction for the Gaels to diffuse the Baylor bomb.

Omar Samhan isn't going to be the biggest man out there. The Saint Mary's center is going to have his hands full with a tall Baylor team tonight, including 6'10 Ekpe Udoh, 6'10" Anthony Jones and 7-foot Josh Lomers. We've seen how Samhan can run roughshod on a shorter team, but tonight we'll see how he goes head-to-head with some other big men, which should be fun. 

Mickey McConnell is shooting 52% from three-point land right now. Yes, I hate the phrase "three-point land," too. But Samhan has a great supporting cast, including point guard Mickey McConnell, who has been a great backup to Samhan thus far. The two make a great tandem that brings a lot of firepower to the battle, and Baylor needs to double-tier their game plan to effectively cover whoever's "on" tonight. Because one of them, if not both of them, will be. Bet on that.

Baylor has the best names in the Tournament this year. You have to love a team that not only has a Tweety, a Quincy Acy, a LaceDarius and a Dragan, but at the same time has a Fred, a Nolan and an Oscar. That beats Saint Mary's Bens, Matthews and Tims any day.

Scott Drew is a good coach, if widely unliked. Baylor's coach has been slammed by Rick Barnes for negative recruiting tactics and rumors abound that he's not even incredibly liked by his own staff. Drew himself even has said that he'd do things differently as far as his approach to staff and colleagues if he had it to do over again. The Dallas Morning News even compared him to Eddie Haskell. That said, he's done very well for Baylor and if the Bears do well in this tourney, Drew could get some offers elsewhere. Although we know what happened the last time a semi-unliked coach from Texas had a great stint and took a major league job. How'd that work out, Kentucky?

The Bottom Line: If Baylor thinks this is in the bag, they're wrong. The Gaels are cruising on adrenaline big-time and Omar Samhan's tweets from this week not only hit on Taylor Swift and referenced GTL-ing, they also gave a glimpse into a team that knows they have to work hard but doesn't see why they shouldn't make the final four. Could be a bare-knuckler in Houston tonight between these two if Saint Mary's trademark scrappiness shows up again.

DUKE vs. PURDUE (9:57 PM)

On one hand, Duke's not exactly a surprise to be where they are right now. On the other, I don't know that anyone expected Purdue to really have handled the absence of gamechanger Robbie Hummel this well. So what happens when the Boilermakers and the Blue Devils go at it tonight?

Purdue's number could be up. Let's be honest, the Boilermakers have more than exceeded expectations in this tournament after losing Hummel (they're an impressive 5-2 since they lost him in February), especially since one of the major storylines coming into this tournament was the oft-echoed -- and as it turns out, ultimately wrong -- "Purdue's no good without Robbie Hummel." JaJuan Johnson and Chris Kramer in patricular are really stepping up. That said, they're really going to have to scale the wall to beat a Duke team that seems to have that trademark Duke NCAA Tourney luck and magic this season. Purdue shouldn't be counted out, but this may be the first game this tournament where they're gonna wish they had Hummel. How they cope with that is up to them.

Duke's stats stack the chips in their favor. Statistically, Duke is 17-1 at neutral sites over the last two seasons, and in NCAA Tourney play they're 10-4 against the Big Ten. Coach K always has his boys ready to play in the postseason, and this team was already rollin' ("stroking" as Billy Raftery might creepily say) coming in to this tournament. They're going to be a handful for the Boilermakers tonight, but this Purdue team is constantly finding ways to keep themselves on top.

This will be a classic offense vs. defense game. Just as some baseball games are hyped as "pitchers vs. hitters," so this game sits in a very black and white place. Purdue's playing great defense right now, a sense heightened by necessity after losing Hummel. But Duke's offense is a complete blitzkrieg right now. The victor of this game could come down to as simple as whichever team's doing its thing better. If Purdue's defense cracks or Duke's offense slips up, this game could change at a moment's notice.

Luke Wilson and the Ivan Brothers will, once again, wear you out. Yes, we get it. The fictional Ivan Brothers are really good -- but so unconvential! And yes, we also get that Luke Wilson's phone must not be ringing a lot these days (even with his amazing at&t plan). Every year there's something at every commercial break that you just start tuning out, and this year it's these guys.

The Bottom Line: Duke has the edge, but Purdue for some reason seems to have a lot to prove, and that's a big motivator for them right now. If their gas doesn't run out, they could give the Blue Devils a scare -- but they're going to need to be at the top of their game. 

Either way, Houston's going to be a good time tonight. Join me, won't you?
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 13, 2010 5:39 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2010 5:41 pm

The game of basketball dealt a heavy blow

John Wilkinson

11 points. 

That's all Purdue could muster in the first half, as Minnesota builds an insurmountable 37-11 halftime lead in the Big Ten semis. 

We knew the Boilers would struggle for points without Hummel, but this is an abject farce of a performance and a potentially damning blow to their seeding tomorrow. Talk about flunking the eye-test. 

Gene Keady, have you ever seen anything this ugly? 

I know I have.
Posted on: March 13, 2010 4:50 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2010 4:54 pm

Big Ten semis start with a bang

John Wilkinson

Evan Turner's 31 points and 10 rebounds propelled the top-seeded Buckeyes past Illinois in a double OT thriller. The Bucks advance to tomorrow's finals with heavy legs as 4 Ohio State starters logged over 40 minutes, and 3 stuck it out for all 50. 

Turner was fantastic yet again, though notching the tainted triple-double of 31, 10 and 10 TO's, and fouling out with a minute left in the 2nd OT. 

The Illini got 22 points out of Demetri McCamey and 18 boards from forward Mike Davis but will undoubtedly lament two wasted opportunities at the end of regulation and overtime where they ran out the clock without getting a game-winning shot in the air. Still a nice showing in Indy for Illinois as they will now rest up for the dance. 

The winner of Minnesota and Purdue, just underway, will have to like their chances to upset the Buckeyes, who really only use 6 players. However, Turner has never given us reason to doubt his pluck and the Bucks have a lot to play for with a #1 seed still on the table. 
Posted on: March 13, 2010 2:08 am
Edited on: March 13, 2010 2:11 am

Big Ten brings the madness

John Wilkinson

Semis are set in Indy after a rather unexpected upsurge of excitement that began with a miracle and ended with a Tub. 

Half-court game winning buzzer beater of the day

The heaving heroics of Evan Turner kept the Big Ten Tournament from dissolving into complete disarray, as Ohio State nipped Michigan 69-68. CBS's George Hamilton opines what we were all thinking as we watched the play unfold, what could John Beileine be thinking? Employing the prevent defense and taking your chances on a heave might work out against most foes, but Evan Turner with a clean look from 35-feet goes in 50% of the time. 

Most Outstanding Performance in the Face of the NIT

The Fighting Illini likely sealed an invitation to the dance with 58-54 win over the 4th seeded Badgers. For 36 minutes, Wisconsin was Indiana. The Badgers could only muster a paltry 20 points in the first half on 18% shooting. A too-little-too-late flurry of 3's made the score respectable, but Illinois controlled throughout, locking up at least 5 Big Ten bids. 

Iz-out, again

Score one for the Tub-ster and his Minnesota Golden Gophers who upset Michigan State in OT, 72-67. The loss prolongs the Spartan's confounding BT Tournament woes, now nine seasons removed from their last tournament title. 

Make it a round of Boilermakers...

Purdue dismissed Northwestern thanks to 28 points from guard E'Twaun Moore, and 22 from center JaJuan Johnson. Finding points is going to be an ongoing concern for the Boilers and it's good to see their studs step up in the clutch. I guess. 

Lunch pails and hard hats

-E'Twaun Moore, Purdue: 28 pts, 5 rebs
-Mike Tisdale, Illinois: 21 pts
-JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: 22 pts, 8 rebs
-Manny Harris, Michigan: 26 pts, 6 rebs
-Evan Turner, Ohio St: 18 pts, 8 assits

Big Ten Semifinals

(5) Illinois vs. (1) Ohio State 
The Buckeyes soundly swept the Illini in the regular season and it's hard to imagine they'd play as poorly as they did today. Illinois punched their ticket and fight for position but can they rebound their emotions? Turner will do what he do, and Illini guard Demtri McCamey needs to fight his stroke to help big man Mike Tisdale, who has really become a force of late. Expect a better effort from the Bucks but I expect McCamey to push this one down to the wire. 1:40

(6) Minnesota vs. (2) Purdue
Minnesota could steal another bid for the league with a trip to the finals, so expect piqued intensity in the Gopher's ball-line defense. First team to 60, ehh, 55, likely wins, and with E'Twaun Moore's ability to create, I think it'll be the Boilermakers. 4:00

And in case you've just awoke from a coma, congrats, and here's what you missed in the Big Ten today, you drama queen, you:

Posted on: March 12, 2010 10:31 am
Edited on: March 12, 2010 11:06 am

Big implications in today's Big Ten slate

John Wilkinson

A bubbly Big Ten tips-off at noon with Michigan battling arch rival Ohio State, commencing the Evan Turner Show. The POY finalist is certainly worth keeping an eye on, but some major bracket fallout is expected in the later sessions. 

At 2:00, Illinois takes on Wisconsin in a fight for NCAA Tournament salvation. It's been an up and down season for Bruce Webber's bunch, from handing Wisconsin its only home loss of the year last month to dropping five of its last six conference games to seal their fragile fate.  

If Minnesota can find some scoring and upset Michigan State in the 8:55 tip, it just might be enough to propel them to the dance, especially if Illinois is unable to beat Wisconsin. The Gophers were swept by the Spartans in the regular season, and you know what they say about trying to beat a team for the third time...which may or may not hold water statistically, I have yet to analyze the datum. Hard to believe with Izzo's Final Four prowess that Sparty hasn't won this tournament in 10 years. 

Now, let's whip out a hypothetical where both Illinois and Minnesota falter, as expected. Will the Big Ten really be just a 4-bid league? Many factors are at play here obviously, but what about Northwestern? The Wildcats are not mentioned on anyone's radar, thanks to a 7-11 conference record, but with 20 wins overall that include Notre Dame, a full-strength Purdue, and Illinois, perhaps they'll claw their way into tournament discussion if they can dispatch the wounded Boilermakers tonight at 6:30. Hey, if Georgia Tech can dance with a sub .500 conference record, then why not the Wildcats? Contrary to long-held attitudes, the ACC was hardly a juggernaut this year, certainly no tougher than the Big Ten. Come on, they've never been to the tournament people. 

It will be an exciting, borderline enchanting day in Indianapolis as the fate of its 2-3 bubble teams will have a tremendous impact on the national landscape. All that and Evan Turner. Enjoy. 
Posted on: March 11, 2010 12:07 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2010 12:26 pm

Big Ten Tournament: a preview


A three-way tie atop the regular season conference standings will be settled this weekend as the Big Ten Tournament begins today in Indianapolis. This year's edition is flush with intrigue as well as adversity, and if the regular season were any indication, expect nothing short of an evenly matched brouhaha here in the heartland. Heavy on back-doors, ball-lines, and box-outs, the Big Ten is often accused of lacking pizazz and offensive whimsy, and yet its sent four different schools to the Final Four in the last decade: Michigan State (4x), Ohio State ('07), Illinois ('05), and Indiana ('02). 



Michigan State (24-7, 14-4)

Can you even have a final 4 without first running it by Tom Izzo? Sparty has reached college basketball's penultimate playoff 5 times in the last 10 seasons, despite not winning a Big Ten Tournament since the Flinstones in 2000. Izzo is a master of motivation and seems to do his best work when his Spartan's are overlooked. Sparty's solid record speak for itself, but they've battled uncharacteristic chemistry issues all season and star guard Kaelin Lucas is just now getting over an ankle injury that is about to be heavily tested. Likewise, the team's top 3-point threat, Chris Allen, has been suspended for the tournament. 


Ohio State (24-7, 14-4)

This tournament means more to the Bucks than perhaps anyone else with that 4th #1 seed still up for grabs. It also serves as Evan Turner's final stage to make his case for National Player of the Year. The Buck's lone glaring weakness is its lack of depth. Their starting five is the best in the league but how far can you ride a 6-man rotation in a grueling tournament format? 


Purdue (26-4, 14-4)

You don't really appreciate an ACL until its been shredded. With star forward and leading scorer Robbie Hummel on crutches, Purdue's odds of winning this tournament and earning a favorable seed for a shot at an Indianapolis homecoming have been slashed. Yet, Matt Painter's squad will be playing with guile and you can bet a chip on their shoulder to prove they are more than a one-trick pony. Guards E-Tuawn Moore, Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer form a defensive minded perimeter but whether or not the Boilers can score enough points will ultimately decide their fate. 


Wisconsin (23-7, 13-5)

When are the Crew Cuts not solid? Every year they end the season at or near the top of the Big 10 with their trademark swing offense and shut-down defense. Bo Ryan has won this tournament twice in his 8 seasons in Madison, but has yet to really put his stamp on the program with a final 4 appearance. We know 'Sconsin can bring it, as they did early in the year against ACC bookends Maryland and Duke, and they beat every team in the Big Ten at least once. The return of strapping big John Leuer from injury gives Wisconsin some much needed scoring and defense on the block and could be enough to separate them from the four-way gridlock. The Badgers lead the nation with a mere 9 TO's per game, and blanketing defense is good enough for 3rd in the NCAA, which equates to one tough out. 



Illinois (18-13, 10-8)--the bubbled Illini must beat Wisconsin tomorrow to earn a spot in the big dance. Their success hinges on senior guard Demetri McCamey, who can light you up on offense or clank his team right out of contention. 


Minnesota (18-12, 9-9)--beset by suspensions and general off-court theatrics, the Gophers are an inconsistent mess but if we know anything about Tubby Smith, it's that the man thrives in the under-dog role. They should be able dispose of Penn State in the opener but are equally capable of just flat out not showing up. 


Northwestern (19-12, 7-11)--the Wildcats were a pretty tough out most of the year behind the league's most underrated talent, forward John Shurna. They also lost to Indiana to close the regular season, a flare-up of mediocrity difficult to ignore. But if anyone outside of the top 4 can steal a win or two, it's Northwestern. 



Michigan (14-16, 7-11)--John Beileine's Wolverines underwhelmed once again this year despite a solid one-two punch in guard Manny Harris and forward DeShawn Sims. There are problems with this team beyond Beileine's increasingly tired pick n' pop offense. It won't take much to get past Iowa today, but it's hard to expect anything but an early exit here in Indy. 


Indiana (10-20, 4-14)--the Hoosiers are bad, really bad. It's actually pretty shocking they managed to avoid the 11th seed in this tournament as losers of 11 of their final 12 games. I'd be shocked if Northwestern succumbs to this makeshift roster again in today's opening round, and I'm sure the folks in Bloomington are just ready to see this train wreck of a season come to an end. 


Penn State (11-19, 3-15)--a mid-season debacle featuring a 12 game conference losing steak secured a last place finish for the Nittany Lions, though two near misses agaisnt MSU and Purdue to close the season showed they might at least be capable of a win against the Gophers today. 


Iowa (10-21, 4-14)--on a given night, Iowa is certainly capable of out-sucking just about anyone they play. Except Indiana of course, the source of half of the Hawkeyes Big Ten victories. 


Why watch? 

Evan Turner alone is worth the price of admission, and Purdue's attempt to overcome the loss of Hummel will be as intriguing as any post-season storyline this weekend. It's Izzo, Bo, Thad, Turner and Lucas, all in one tangled web of bracketed mayhem. Can the Big Ten claim the last #1 seed? Can they squeeze a fifth team into the dance? Can Evan Turner really carry his team on a previously broken back? Will anyone score 80 points? 


Come on, you know you want a hit of this. 

Today's match-ups:


(8) Michigan

vs.                 2:30

(9) Iowa 


(7) Northwestern

vs.                 4:30

(10) Indiana 


(6) Minnesota 

vs.                 7:30

(11) Penn State 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com