Big Ten Wonk
Saturday, March 24, 2007
The year of Lawrence Welk
In three of the four regional finals: and a 1 and a 2. (In the fourth region? A 1 and a 3. That hoops-ignorant weenie in your office pool that just picks the four 1-seeds every year has never been more smug than right now.)

(1) Florida 65, (5) Butler 57
The Gators have the template down. Come out slowly, cough up a lot of turnovers (six in the first eight minutes), give your opponent hope, and then win anyway. Not with complete dominance but with something, from your overmatched opponent's standpoint, much more frustrating: the minimum required. (My NBA simile for this team looks better and better.) Butler did an outstanding job limiting Florida's two-point shots (there were just 15 such by the Gators all night), forcing the defending national champs to either go to the line or shoot threes. But, unfortunately for Bulldog fans, Billy Donovan's men were hitting their shots from both spots, going 23-of-28 from the line (Joakim Noah and Al Horford were a combined 17-of-21) and 8-of-19 on their threes (Taurean Green hit 5-of-8 from outside and led all scorers with 17 points). The night's oddest result? The Bulldogs actually outperformed the Gators on the boards, getting to 70 percent of Florida's misses and 34 percent of their own. It helped them hang around on a night when A.J. Graves and Mike Green were a combined 8-of-25 from the field.

Next up for Florida....

(3) Oregon 76, (7) UNLV 72
Fact: Tajuan Porter is a 5-6 freshman. Fact: Porter hit 8-of-12 threes and scored 33 points in a Sweet 16 game for Oregon. Conclusion: In a tournament with precisely zero underdogs left standing, get ready to hear a lot about Porter. At one point in the first half the Detroit product scored 17 straight points for the Ducks. (That loud gnashing sound you hear is canonical blogger Brian Cook cursing Tommy Amaker for not giving Porter a scholarship. True, 71 other "power"-conference coaches passed on him, too.) Thanks in large part to Porter, Oregon led by 17 with a little more than five minutes left. But the Rebels made things interesting down the stretch, hitting three threes in the last 80 seconds, before Bryce Taylor's two free throws with 0.9 seconds left put this one away.

(2) Georgetown 66, (6) Vanderbilt 65
Jeff Green drained a bank shot with 2.5 seconds remaining to win this one for the Hoyas. (Replays show a pivot foot being dragged. Replays don't blow whistles. There you are.) I thought the Hoyas' machine-like offense would blow away Vandy's Oregon-like flimsy defense in this one. I thought wrong. For while it's true that Georgetown scoring 66 points in a 58-possession game is par for the course, the Commodores were meanwhile doing just as well on offense. Anyone who's seen a Northwestern game lately saw some familiar-looking offensive sets from Vandy: no one in the low post, an uncomfortable opposing big (in this case Roy Hibbert) forced to play out top on D, and plenty of room for wicked back-cuts. It worked, particularly in the first half, as Vanderbilt led by as many as 13. But the Hoyas were able to come back, thanks mostly to total domination on the boards, where John Thompson's men chased down 75 percent of Vandy's misses and 47 percent of their own. (See the excellent breakdown of this game at Yet Another Basketball Blog, a good blog with a misleading name.)

Georgetown now gets....

(1) North Carolina 74, (5) USC 64
The Heels were down 10 with 11 minutes to go, at which point they unreeled an 18-0 run. Look at the play-by-play here: not a single three-point attempt in that run, just lots of "GOOD! TIP-IN" and "GOOD! LAYUP." Both pieces of typography should be emblazoned across Carolina '07 commemorative T's, for such is how this team wins. Brandan Wright notwithstanding (21 points on 15 shots), Roy Williams' team couldn't shoot worth a lick in this game but they held on to the ball and took care of business on the glass. Taj Gibson, Nick Young, and Lodrick Stewart, conversely, scored a combined 46 points for SC but also committed a combined 12 turnovers, three more than the entire UNC team.

In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
We'll know at 9:30 ET tonight if it's permitted in the 2007 tournament for a 1-seed to (gulp) lose a game....

(2) Memphis vs. (1) Ohio State (4:40pm ET)
Buckeyes contractually mandated to take game to final seconds.

(2) UCLA vs. (1) Kansas (7:05pm ET)
The Jayhawks had the best defense in the country this year. The Bruins have had the best defense in the tournament. Enjoy.

Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!

Quick! Someone send Thad this link!
Longtime listener, first-time writer, love the show, etc....

Yesterday was the first time this season I watched Ohio State play while rooting for them. I'm a Badger fan but during tourney time I'm a Big Ten fan.

Now I know why the Buckeyes didn't beat Wisconsin as badly as I thought they would this season. It seems they have no idea (or no interest) in working the ball to that low-post guy, whatshisname. I counted the number of times they actually worked the ball around with the "intention" of getting it inside. I didn't use a lot of fingers.

If Oden had played for the Badgers this year, I'm convinced he'd have averaged 30 a game. Sure he was in foul trouble but, even when he was in there, they ignored him.

Jeez, how hard is this? Doesn't coach Matta read Big Ten Wonk?

Ohio State won't win it all this year. I'd love it if they did, but they won't.

Philip C.

Indeed, Philip. Here's hoping Thad's poring over his Big Ten Wonk right now (I'm sure he has nothing better to do today).

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