Team of the Week: Ohio State
The Buckeyes certainly weren’t concerned with the number of people questioning whether or not they deserved to be mentioned as a contender in the Big Ten, and they did just about all that they could to prove to the country that they deserve to be mentioned alongside Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. After going into Mackey Arena and beating a Purdue fairly soundly during the week, Ohio State put on one of the more impressive defensive performances that we’ve seen this season as they handed Michigan their first loss of the season on Sunday.
There were a lot of teams that did some impressive things this week, but I don’t think any of it was as valuable as what the Buckeyes were able to do. The Big Ten is absolutely loaded at the top of the league, and I think most have accepted the fact that Indiana and Michigan are the two most likely teams to win the conference. But the same way that Minnesota stated their case for relevancy by blowing out Illinois and storming back against the Hoosiers on the road, Ohio State did the same with their wins.
Five Teams Deserving a Shoutout
- Oregon: Oregon is in the same boat as Ohio State. After beating then-undefeated Arizona at home on Thursday night, the Ducks knocked off Arizona State late on Sunday night. Oregon is now 3-0 in the Pac-12 and just a half-game behind UCLA, who they play on Saturday night in Pauley Pavilion. That one should be fun.
- Miami: Playing without starting center Reggie Johnson, the Hurricanes went into the Dean Dome and knocked off North Carolina, following that up with a win at home over Maryland. They are now tied with NC State for first place in the ACC. And they’ve spent about a month of the season playing at 100%. This team is for real.
- Butler: I’m not sure that the Bulldogs could have imagined kicking off their tenure in the Atlantic 10 in a better way. On Wednesday, the Bulldogs went into Philly and knocked off St. Joe’s 72-66 on the strength of 28 points from Rotnei Clarke. They followed that up on Saturday with a win at Dayton in which Clarke suffered a scary neck injury and had to be taken off the court on a stretcher. That’s impressive.
- Boise State: Playing without four players — including leading scorer Derrick Marks, Boise State went to Wyoming and handed the Cowboys their first loss of the season in utterly thrilling fashion. After blowing a seven-point lead in the final two minutes, Jeff Elorriaga buried a three at the buzzer for the win. The Mountain West is going to be awesome this year.
- NC State: It doesn’t matter that Ryan Kelly was sitting out and Seth Curry spent the end of the game dealing with yet another injury. NC State still beat Duke in a game that they absolutely needed to: a) help bolster their tournament profile, and b) put them in the driver’s seat for an ACC regular season title. CJ Leslie had 25 points in the win while Richard Howell went for 16 points and 18 boards.
The Best of the Rest: Evansville, Indiana, Long Beach State, Northeastern, Ole Miss, Stephen F. Austin, UCLA, Wisconsin.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
National Semifinals– Saturday, April 1
6:09 p.m. EST, CBS, Glendale
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)
Approximately 40 minutes after conclusion of first game, CBS, Glendale
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 3 Oregon (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)
North Carolina and Kentucky ended in legendary fashion on Sunday.
After freshman Malik Monk buried a heavily-contested three-pointer to tie the game at 73-all for Kentucky with under 10 seconds left the Tar Heels didn’t use a timeout as Theo Pinson found forward Luke Maye for the game-winning jumper.
These 10 seconds will go down as one of the greatest finishes in NCAA Tournament history.
North Carolina advanced to the Final Four for the second consecutive season and 20th time overall as the No. 1 seed Tar Heels outlasted No. 2 seed Kentucky, 75-73, during Sunday’s South Regional final in Memphis.
Reserve forward Luke Maye knocked in the game-winning jumper for the Tar Heels with 0.3 seconds left to break a 73-all tie after Kentucky’s Malik Monk tied the game with a three-pointer on the previous possession.
The Tar Heels (31-7) overcame an ankle issue from junior point guard Joel Berry as North Carolina was led by Justin Jackson’s 19 points.
Maye also stepped up with a big game for North Carolina as he continued his strong March with 17 points. Berry added 11 points, as he went to the locker room during the first half to get his ankle looked at before returning to play later in the half.
Kentucky (32-6) won the regular-season matchup of these teams, 103-100, in Las Vegas in December as their freshmen guards struggled to perform on Sunday. After De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined for 71 points in that previous win over the Tar Heels, the two freshmen studs couldn’t get going.
Both of them dealt with first-half foul trouble as Fox finished with 13 points while Monk was held to 12 points. Also battling foul trouble in the first half, freshman Bam Adebayo added 13 points for the Wildcats.
With Fox and Monk struggling to generate consistent offense, the Wildcats were able to stay in the game thanks to great performances from reserves like Isaac Humphries (career-high 12 points) and senior Dominique Hawkins (10 points.
North Carolina advances to face No. 3 seed Oregon in next weekend’s Final Four.
South Carolina earned its first trip to the Final Four with its win over SEC-rival Florida on Sunday.
The Gamecocks made sure to celebrate properly when head coach Frank Martin hit the locker room after the game by dousing him in water before Martin gave another speech.
Darius Rucker, the former front man of Hootie and the Blowfish and a current star in the country music world, is a lifelong South Carolina Gamecocks fan.
This isn’t really a secret.
Hell, on Friday night at a concert he was playing, Rucker set up TVs so that he would be able to watch South Carolina take on Baylor:
You probably didn’t realize just how big of a fan he actually is until you saw him, sitting second row at the regional final in New York City on Sunday afternoon, tearing up as the Gamecocks advanced to the Final Four:
Let ’em cry, Darius, if the tears fall down like rain.