Five Thoughts: Illinois vs. Ohio State, Kentucky’s freshmen ‘woes’

3 Comments

League standings have nothing to do with NCAA tournament seeding: I spent 16 hours over the course of two days last week locked in a room with 19 other writers as we traversed our way through the NCAA tournament selection process. And one thing that I can tell you with utter certainty is that league records don’t mean a single thing to the committee. It’s not just that we don’t mention what the record for a team is in conference play, it’s not even available on the nitty gritty profiles used to compare teams.

Illinois and Ohio State are a perfect example of this. The Illini currently trail the Buckeyes by two games in the Big Ten standings, but if the season were to end today, Illinois may actually have a higher seed in the NCAA tournament than Ohio State.

Why?

Well, Ohio State’s resume is bolstered by the simple fact they have played a lot of good teams. They did beat Michigan and they do have a win over Wisconsin at home, but their best road win is at Nebraska. Illinois has won at Gonzaga and won at Minnesota. They beat Indiana at home and they have wins over Butler and Ohio State, the latter of which was a 19 point victory to kick off Big Ten play.

Sure, those losses to Northwestern and Purdue are ugly, but is that really enough to outweigh the fact they have four wins over the RPI top 20, three of which were away from home? It’s worth arguing, but I’d probably seed Illinois higher.

Kentucky’s struggles should only emphasize just how impressive last year’s team was: This is what a team filled with freshmen and newcomers is supposed to do. They’re supposed to struggle to find their roles and they’re supposed to have issues with leadership and playing consistently. The transition from high school and AAU ball to playing at the highest level of collegiate hoops isn’t supposed to be easy.

And just because it was for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis last season doesn’t mean it will be for any other crop of freshmen that John Calipari brings in.

All things considered, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress have had decent freshmen seasons. If they were on any other team or in any other programs, they wouldn’t be considered failures as much as they would be thought of as freshmen that are being freshmen. So Goodwin shoots to much and has a bit of a temper. So Poythress struggles with consistency and gets overwhelmed by the moment. So Willie Cauley-Stein is raw. They’re supposed to be.

Don’t let the fact that Coach Cal landed a series of players that never should have set foot on a college campus blind you to the fact that this year’s freshman class looks an awful lot like what freshmen are supposed to look like.

Eli Carter fractured his fibula, and came away lucky: The Rutgers guard will be out the rest of the season after fracturing his right fibula in an ugly fall against DePaul on Saturday. He isn’t expected to need surgery — and he even tried to convince the Scarlet Knight medical staff to let him back into the game — but the sophomore won’t be suiting up again this season.

But watch how he fell:

source:

He’s lucky that his leg is still attached. That could have been so much worse.

(GIF via @bubbaprog)

NC State played it right, but got robbed by the refs: Up by three with just eight seconds left, NC State decided to foul Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green. Green made the first free throw and missed the second, and Jarell Eddie was there to tip-in the miss and send the game to overtime.

NC State made the right call, because if the officials had made the right call, the game never would have made it to overtime. Watch Eddie’s feet:

He’s well past the three point line before the ball hits the rim. That’s a clear violation. The basket should have been waived off.

The bigger issue is that this was the third last-second bucket that was scored on NC State because of the lack of a box out. It cost them against Maryland, when Richard Howell and CJ Leslie both tried to block Pe’Shon Howard’s shot and no one boxed out Alex Len. It cost them against Miami, when Richard Howell missed a box-out on Reggie Johnson. Luckily for Wolfpack fans, all this shot did was force overtime.

Johnathon Loyd has played well of late: Oregon lost three games in a row because of their point guard play. We noted that fact. So we should also not that that point guard has played much better of late. With Dominic Artis out with a foot injury,  Loyd struggled in his first couple of games running the show. But in the last three, he’s scored 22 points, handed out 11 assists, and, most importantly, turned the ball over just four times. It’s no surprise that Oregon won games at Washington and Washington State this week.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

Leave a comment

Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

Leave a comment

UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

Leave a comment

Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
4 Comments

NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

Rob Carr/Getty Images
1 Comment

Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: