Big Ten Wonk
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Batting .500
The Big Ten is 3-3 after the first round--and that's not a promising sign. True, the conference was 3-2 after the first round last year. But we had a couple aces up the proverbial sleeve--aces on their way to St. Louis. Is the same true this year?...

(14) Northwestern State 64, (3) Iowa 63
Though I was of course disappointed with the outcome, I have to admit to being thankful that I witnessed this game's climactic moment where it should have been witnessed: in a sports bar. Some patrons were wearing Hawkeye colors; others were openly rooting against the men from Iowa City. When Greg Brunner made the first of two free throw attempts with 15 seconds left to put Iowa up by two, the Hawkeyes seemed on relatively solid footing. Timeout, Northwestern State. Then Brunner, with a chance to at least insure OT, was short on the second free throw....

And you know the rest. At the precise instant when Jermaine Wallace's shot cleared the net there was a sudden eruption of absolute chaos in the bar. Some who were there were angry. Some were amused. All of us were stunned and, maybe, delighted that we'd taken in a moment that March is supposed to deliver.

Iowa led this game 54-37 but their defense, arguably the nation's best this year, allowed the Demons to score 27 points over the last eight minutes. Incredible. The Hawkeyes also gave the ball to their opponent 19 times in a 63-possession game--Erek Hansen alone had five turnovers in just 19 minutes. (Box score.)

Greg Brunner says he should have hit the second free throw: "A senior should hit that shot, and I didn't." Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler says it wasn't just Brunner's miss that lost this game: "It's over because little Northwestern State—enrollment 9,847—just couldn't take a hint."...Jeff Horner says fatigue wasn't a factor in the Hawkeye collapse: "We didn't wear down; we just didn't make plays." (Valedictory salute to Horner and Brunner here.)...Steve Alford says it's too soon to talk about his plans for next year--but he at least said it more diplomatically than did Roy Williams in 2003.

(8) Arizona 94, (9) Wisconsin 75
Where did this come from? Did I anticipate the 240th-best shooting team in the country posting an effective FG percentage of 63.6 against a usually tough Badger D? No way. Hassan Adams led the Wildcats with 21 points and Ivan Radenovic added 18. Mustafa Shakur recorded 17 points and nine assists. (Box score.)

Lute Olson sounds just as surprised as I am: "I think we played offensively about as well as we played all year long." Bo Ryan says the thing he feared most came to pass: "We're not athletic enough or quick enough to be able to play from behind....That was our worst nightmare." Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates says Wisconsin "suffered a complete defensive meltdown."...Valedictory salute to departing senior Ray Nixon here. Latest in a series of salutes to hard-working junior Alando Tucker here.

(2) Ohio State 70, (15) Davidson 62
The Buckeyes' woes from the outside continued (5-of-22) but dub-dubs by Terence Dials (19-13) and J.J. Sullinger (13-13) were enough in Dayton for a team from Columbus to get past a 15-seed by eight. (Box score.)

Next: (7) Georgetown. Read more! Wonk 360: Ohio State in Dayton.

Thad Matta says he blames himself for his team's relatively lackluster--though ultimately successful--performance: "I didn’t do a very good job of getting these guys ready to go, to understand just what it took." Sullinger says the Buckeyes' many seniors didn't want their careers to end here: "We said we don’t want this to be the last time this team is together." Columbus Dispatch columnist Bob Hunter says Ron Lewis bailed out his teammates with two timely threes and a couple assists in the second half....Davidson guard Matt McKillop apparently won't be text-messaging good-luck wishes to Jamar Butler anytime soon.

(11) George Mason 75, (6) Michigan State 65
A surprisingly docile effort from the Spartans. The Patriots, even minus their second-leading scorer (suspended for this game by coach Jim Larranaga), were clearly the better team on this night. (George Mason was just 12-of-26 from the line--normal free throw shooting would have made the final score 80-something to 65.) The nominal underdogs from the CAA shot like power-conference favorites, registering an effective FG percentage of 64.3. They were led by guard Folarin Campbell, who hit all eight of his attempts and scored 21 points. Worse, State was beaten senseless on the boards (Will Thomas posted an 18-14 dub-dub), allowing the Patriots offensive and defensive rebounding percentages of roughly 36 and 83, respectively. Mo Ager scored 27 for the Spartans but the problem last night was where it has been most of the year--on D. Since the beginning of the conference season, Michigan State at no point put together three consecutive games where they allowed the opponent less than a point per possession. And now their season is done, having given the Patriots a generous 1.14 PPP. (Box score.)

Tom Izzo says what bothers him is how his team lost: "This is one of the more disappointing evenings I’ve had in this job....They took it at us early, kicked our butts inside....They were the tougher team tonight." Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp says Izzo needs to go back to the well of old-school toughness: "Izzo is nothing if he isn't true to himself." And Lansing State Journal columnist Todd Schulz says defense and rebounding--the lack thereof--ended State's season....Drew Neitzel called out some of his teammates, sort of: "Not everyone gave maximum effort and I'm not going to name names." Shannon Brown still says he's coming back next year. And there are still a lot of us who aren't so sure.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Two games today:

(4) Illinois vs. (5) Washington, San Diego (5:30pm ET)
Wonk 360: Illinois in San Diego

(6) Indiana vs. (3) Gonzaga, Salt Lake City (8:10pm ET)
Wonk 360: Indiana in Salt Lake
Is Adam Morrison an AWG? Tune in today and declare your verdict!

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