Big Ten Wonk
Saturday, March 17, 2007
See the glass as five-sixths full
The Big Ten stands at a very pleasing 5-1 and indeed would be a pundit-igniting 6-0if not for the worst eight minutes of basketball imaginable played by Illinois....

(5) Virginia Tech 54, (12) Illinois 52
For the second consecutive year the Illini left the dance floor by squandering a lead and looking frightened and inept down the stretch. (Not that the collapse didn't get some help. Coming out of a timeout with 37 seconds left and his team down by one, Warren Carter was fouled as he attempted an 18-footer. The non-call was worse than unjustit was visually odd.) This year Bruce Weber watched his team give away a 13-point lead over the final eight minutes, during which time the Illini scored just five points. Down 13 the Hokies went to a full-court press and time and time again the men in orange broke the press—and then turned the ball over. (Again, visually odd.) Virginia Tech won the way they've won all year: they took care of the ball, giving it away just nine times in a 62-possession game. The frustrating thing for Illinois, conversely, is that they found a new way to lose: this team that doesn't shoot well actually shot OK (significantly better than the Hokies, anyway) but no fewer than 21 of their possessions ended with a turnover. That number ended their season. (Box score.)

Bury my heart at Austin Peay. Before last night Illinois had won nine consecutive first-round NCAA tournament games.

(9) Purdue 72, (8) Arizona 63
Fans of Big Ten hoops, if you're looking for your paradigmatic case where an allegedly flimsy defense from another "power"-conference comes up against your hearty meat-and-potato land-grant fellows and is found wanting, look no further. After two months of slugging it out with Big Ten defenses, Purdue must have felt like they were playing a practice squad when they were on offense in this game. Specifically, a turnover-prone Boilermaker team gave the ball away just eight times in a 67-possession game. And Matt Painter's team, fair at best on the offensive boards this year, recorded 19 offensive rebounds out of 42 chances. (Credit Gordon Watt, who had seven offensive rebounds in just 23 minutes.) Carl Landry recorded a 21-13 dub-dub for the Boilers and Chris Lutz hit 4-of-6 threes for 16 points—all of the above meant David Teague's cold shooting (0-of-6 on his threes) was a moot point. For the Wildcats, Mustafa Shakur pulled off a feast-or-famine eight assists and eight turnovers. (Box score (pdf).)

Next: (1) Florida, emphatic 112-69 winners over (16) Jackson State.

(2) Wisconsin 76, (15) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 63
The Badgers trailed the Islanders by 18 after the first 15 minutes and scored just 19 points in the first half. But Bo Ryan's team righted the ship: Kammron Taylor scored all 24 of his points in the second half and Alando Tucker added 23 somewhat more evenly sequenced points. Say this for the Badgers, even when their shooting's cold, as it was in the first half, they still get shots: Wisconsin gave away just 10 turnovers in a 68-possession game. (Box score (pdf).)

Next: (7) UNLV, 67-63 winners over (10) Georgia Tech.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Today's triple-header....

(9) Xavier vs. (1) Ohio State (1:10pm ET)
Wonk 360: Ohio State in Lexington
Receiving reports, as yet unconfirmed, that Thad Matta used to coach Xavier; Musketeers like being underdogs (they have a choice?), etc.

(7) Indiana vs. (2) UCLA (8:10pm ET)
Wonk 360: Indiana in Sacramento
These Hoosiers are thoroughly modern; oracular IU observer Terry Hutchens continues to be far more interested in Lance Stemler than I am, etc.

(9) Michigan State vs. (1) North Carolina (8:20pm ET)
Wonk 360: Michigan State in Winston-Salem
Idong Ibok and Jake Hannon are getting the pub; Tom Izzo has never lost a second-round game; Spartans like being underdogs (they have a choice?), etc.

Wonk back!
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A Tar Heel's scout on the Spartans
I attended the Winston Salem sub-regional yesterday and got my first glimpse of Michigan State. (It was a close glimpse, as my seats were only 10 rows off the floor. How did that happen? I am obviously an ancient UNC alum.)

The Spartans were very impressive and I expect a good game Saturday. But Marquette baffled me. If you saw the game, can you offer an opinion as to why Marquette insisted on slowing the game, often getting no decent shot because the shot clock was winding down. The MSU defense was good, but was it good enough to keep Marquette without a 2-point basket in the first half? I don't remember one, only made threes and foul shots. Things were not much better in the second half.

It was a really boring game (I blame Marquette) and I'm glad I got a free ticket. Why do teams choose to play this way? It was obvious from the first that Marquette was going to lose using this approach.

My Heels handled the Eastern Kentucky 1-3-1 well until they went brain dead for the middle part of the game.

Jerry H.

Thanks, Jerry. I expect a good game but then I said the same thing about the UNC-MSU national semifinal in '05. We'll see.

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