Hello, Good morning, afternoon or evening and yes, we are slowly wrapping up the month of March, but for all of those who are still experiencing the cold and nasty weather in New England, we’re indeed sorry, but want to at least deliver today’s Daily Noontime, so enjoy!
All right, let’s all admit it, excluding Connecticut, who truly had Virginia Commonwealth, Kentucky or Butler advancing to Final Four?
Clearly, I did not, but really, did anyone choose these three squads?
Of course, there were those who said, “I was rooting for North Carolina and UConn,” as well as other fans that stated, “I knew all along that Butler and VCU were going to meet for a date with destiny in Houston, Texas,” which is totally false.
However, the second to last weekend of men’s college basketball, which featured 16 teams has now been narrowed down to just four and once again, who could have predicted that these four schools would have earned this opportunity?
Virginia Commonwealth 71 – Kansas 61:
Virginia Commonwealth tallied 41 first half points and then added an additional 30 points during the second half en route to yet another tournament victory.
Not only did the Rams outplay the Jayhawks, but also had a member of their team that scored 26 points and his name is Jamie Skeen. Skeen made sure Kansas knew which number he was wearing, as the senior pulled down 10 rebounds, (four on offense and six on defense) and recorded two steals. Skeen also didn’t record a single foul through forty minutes of basketball, which in all honesty is quite impressive, right?
Although, despite Skeen’s impressive performance, Kansas maintained the momentum in the second half, as they limited the Rams offensive series, but also, came within striking distance to retain the lead. The Jayhawks led the Rams during the opening minutes of the first half, but Virginia Commonwealth slowly took their time and eventually stole the lead away from Kansas for good.
Kansas finished the game with three players who recorded 13 points or more, but again, their first half effort was clearly what slowed them down and allowed the Rams to easily escape with a victory.
Marcus Morris finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds, while Tyshawn Taylor added an additional 14 points, three assists and two rebounds.
The Rams run toward a NCAA championship has been exciting, but next Saturday, April 2, they’ll face a team that similar to them, still continues to struggle for respect. The Butler Bulldogs are gritty, tough, physical, as well as play true team basketball, but that can also be said about the Rams, who similar to them, have upset some impressive teams too.
Kentucky 76 – North Carolina 69:
The Tar Heels led once during the entire contest, but that was just 4-2. After falling behind by only two points, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats took off and never surrendered the lead.
Brandon Knight scored a team high 22 points, as well as recorded seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Clearly, North Carolina had no idea of how to defend the freshman guard, but despite heading into halftime with an eight point deficit, the Tar Heels rallied in the second half, as well as came within one point of earning their second lead of the game.
Harrison Barnes played tremendous, especially down the stretch when North Carolina was attempting to do everything in their power to either tie the game or force overtime, but Kentucky’s free throw shooting proved to also be the difference during the closing minutes. As a team, the Wildcats converted [10-16] free throws, but North Carolina won the battle at the line, as they sank [12-15].
The Tar Heels clearly seemed to be baffled by the Wildcats fast break offense, yet, North Carolina’s defense played extremely well at times, as well as limited Kentucky to just seven offensive rebounds.
If one were to have looked at the box score, clearly, the single piece of paper doesn’t measure up to the actual performance, but similar to the style of Butler, Kentucky maneuvered themselves past another admirable opponent in order to reach their 13th Final Four in school history.
The Wildcats have won seven national championships and will look to earn banner number eight on April 4, but first, they’ll have to take down another top team, University of Connecticut, which certainly will be the game to watch on April 2, but in the meantime, Kentucky can celebrate like champions because they did indeed win their portion of the Eastern bracket.
Thursday was obviously a true “March Madness day.” A few brackets have been busted, some fans have dropped tears like the Miami Heat and others, such as those down in New Jersey who attend Princeton University are still shocked by the Wildcats beating their Tigers men’s basketball team, but hey, life goes on.
Any who, let us take a look back on the day’s action, as well as get everyone set for Friday’s 16-game slate, which should feature some enticing matchups that could clearly bust a few more brackets.
Game of the Day: It has to go to Butler-Old Dominion and while this may have not been the most well executed contest of them all, it clearly had that dramatic ending with the cherry on top. The Bulldogs seemed to pick up where they had left off last year during the tournament, as Butler somehow maneuvered themselves toward a NCAA title game against Duke in Indianapolis, but the end result to their fairy tale run was a loss
However, with the game on the line and Old Dominion trying to force overtime after hitting two critical free-throws, Butler senior forward Matt Howard recorded his second offensive rebound of the day and immediately scored at the buzzer to solidify the win for the Bulldogs.
Again, this may not have been the most well put together victory by the Bulldogs, but Butler will certainly need to regroup fast before their “date with destiny” against Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Upset of the Day: It seemed obvious that the true upset of the day belongs to Morehead State, as the Eagles flew past Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals, 62-61. Yet, what made this upset so special was certainly the final play by Morehead State’s senior guard, Demonte Harper, who knocked down the game winning shot with less than 10 seconds remaining in the second half.
Louisville entered the tournament on a down note, as they lost to University of Connecticut during the Big East conference tournament, which seemed to carry over to Thursday’s contest against the Eagles. At times the Cardinals displayed their flaws and showed that they weren’t quite a strong enough team, especially since Louisville was unable to extend their leads during the first and second half.
The Cardinals defense appeared lackluster at times and even seemed out of sync on offense. Louisville took on the role that a majority top-seeded teams does against a weaker opponent, shoot from outside the paint. The constant misses added up and eventually coast them a chance to advance to the next round against Richmond. Instead, the Eagles live another day and certainly will have to play at their best against a talented Richmond team that was able to sneak by Vanderbilt for their first win of the tournament.
Statistic of the Day: Clearly, the “stat of the day” belongs to Kentucky’s freshman guard, Brandon Knight who may missed his first seven shots of the game, but was the hero when the Wildcats needed a score. Sure, other players throughout the day may have recorded 15, 20 or 25 points, but how many of them began the tournament [0-7]? Knight’s special moment will clearly be remembered, but the only way it will be glorified is if the Wildcats can maneuver a way to win the East bracket, as well as eventually win the National Championship too.
Don’t consider Kentucky a favorite to knock out Ohio State, Xavier, University of North Carolina or Syracuse, but again, Knight will want to built off of his heroic moment, as well as knock down shots to begin their next game against an up and down West Virginia team.
Looking Ahead to Friday: Indeed, the opening day of the tournament was exciting, but Friday promises to be even more enjoyable.
Games to watch: Michigan vs. Tennessee, Akron vs. Notre Dame, Villanova vs. George Mason, Georgetown vs. VCU and believe it or not, Kansas vs. Boston University.
While it is certainly is a long shot, one other game to certainly watch out for will be University North Carolina vs. Long Island, which could be a possible #15 vs. #2 upset, but most likely, the Tar Heels will win, so don’t get too excited Blackbird fans.
Good afternoon and welcome to yet another exciting March Madness tournament. We’ll be providing various updates on the critical games from the first day of the March Madness tournament, enjoy and make sure to follow us on Twitter (@NoontimeSports) for quick thoughts too.
#4 Kentucky 59 – #13 Princeton 57: For moments, especially in the second half, it seemed as if the Tigers were going to go on a run similar to Cornell University in 2010, but less than 30-seconds remaining and the ball in the hand of Kentucky’s freshman guard Brandon Knight scored a beautiful right hand lay up, leaving the Tigers with just two seconds to respond.
Excluding various fouls that were recorded, Princeton took control, as well as recorded various leads throughout the second half, as both squads seesawed back and fourth. Yet, the Wildcats relied on some clutch three-pointers by freshman forward Terrence Jones and junior guard DeAndre Liggins.
The Tigers went [3-6] during the final three minutes from the field, but also, appeared unable to fend off the Wildcats.
Princeton was led by senior guard Dan Mavraides who scored 14 points, while junior guard Darius Miller led Kentucky with 17 points.
#13 Morehead State 62 – #4 Louisville 61: Morehead State’s senior guard, Demonte Harper may have hit the biggest shot in his career, as his three-pointer with seven seconds remaining in the second half secured an Eagles upset against Rick Pitino‘s Louisville Cardinals.
Harper, who finished the game with eight points, assisted his team by securing three rebounds and assists, but the biggest player in this game had to be Morehead State senior forward Kenneth Faried who recorded a team high 17 rebounds.
While both teams were tied at halftime, Louisville eventually jumped out to a slim second half lead, but continued to struggle at times against the Eagles defense, which constantly forced only one shot on offense during their multiple series. However, Cardinals junior forward Terrence Jennings successful was able to record a slam dunk with a little over a minute remaining the second half, which gave Louisville a four point lead.
After Jennings basket, the Cardinals were held scoreless for the final 80-seconds, as the Eagles senior forward Kenneth Faried knocked down two important free-throws and then blocked the game winning shot to secure the victory.
Morehead State was indeed the first true “March Madness upset,” but certainly, keep an eye on the Eagles, as they will soar into their next game against the winner of Vanderbilt-Richmond.
#8 Butler 60 – #9 Old Dominion 58: Despite tallying four fouls, senior forward Matt Howard quickly collected a loose ball and scored an easy lay-up to push the Bulldogs past Old Dominion for their first tournament victory.
Both teams constantly seesawed and traded leads throughout the first half, but after the Bulldogs committed a “silly” foul during the closing minutes, Howard would save his team from going to overtime with his heroic rebound and quick basket during the closing seconds.
Butler may have not dominated the stat chart, but their ugly and inconsistent play ended up working, as the Bulldogs move onto the next round where they will face the winner of Pittsburgh-UNC Asheville.
Old Dominion was led by senior forward Frank Hassell led his team with 20 points and collected six rebounds.
#5 West Virginia vs. #12 Clemson 76: The Mountaineers overcame a 16-6 first half deficit and rallied during the second half to get past the Tigers in round one. Junior guard Darryl Bryant led West Virginia with 19 points, as well as finished three rebounds and two assists. He finished [8-9] from the free throw.
West Virginia was clutch from the line, as the entire squad finished [25-31], while Clemson finished [21-26].
Despite trailing for a majority of the first half, West Virginia grabbed the lead during the opening minutes of the second half. The Mountaineers displayed great defense, especially toward the end of the game when sophomore guard Dalton Pepper stole the ball away twice.
Clemson’s junior guard Andre Young led the team with a team high 22 points, while sophomore forward Devin Booker led the Tigers with eight rebounds.
West Virginia has advanced to the next round and will face the winner of Kentucky-Princeton.