Lonzo Ball flirted with a triple-double, but settled for 18 points, nine assists (one turnover) and seven rebounds, guiding No. 3 seed UCLA to the Sweet 16 following a 79-67 victory over No. 6 seed Cincinnati in the second round of the South Region from Sacramento.
The Bearcats led 33-30 at the half. Their defense help UCLA’s explosive offense to 38 percent from the field and 29 percent from three. But the Bruins had strung together some quality possessions before heading into the locker room. That was an omen for things to come for Cincinnati.
Cincinnati had an improved offense to go along with its hard-nosed defense this season. The Bearcats were never going to go shot for shot with the Bruins. Going shot for shot with the bar regular is how you wind up waking up in an alley. Their defense did a commendable job of controlling the pace in the first half, but UCLA’s offense was just too much to contain for 40 minutes. The Bearcats started the half by missing 5-of-6 shots. The Bruins used that to wrestle away the lead and momentum. Cincinnati would counter to take a brief lead, but Ball rattled back-to-back 3-pointers to put the UCLA offense in a second gear.
UCLA put up 49 second half points. Many of which came right at the rim. After not allowing a point in transition, the Bruins got out and running off each Cincinnati miss. Those fast breaks were only made more effective by Cincinnati sending multiple guys to crash the glass.
The Bruins advanced to the third Sweet 16 under head coach Steve Alford. They advance to play No. 2 Kentucky. It’ll be a rematch of the instant classic they had on Dec. 3 in Rupp Arena. UCLA won, 97-92.
The rematch is set for Friday night in Memphis.
NCAA tourney chair addresses non-conference strength of schedule and quadrant system
“Non-conference SOS is not a predominant tool in selections.
In fact, each year that I have been on the committee, we have discussed why you have to look beyond the number to evaluate a team’s non-conference strength of schedule, and even with this qualifier, non-conference schedule ranks well behind other factors such as how you did against other tournament caliber teams, did you win the games you were supposed to win, and how did you do away from home since winning away from home is difficult and the tournament games are all games away from home.
“I have argued each year that I have been on the committee that non-conference SOS should be taken off the team sheet, but until we develop a new metric it is staying. However, understand that the committee understands its fallacies (as we also recognize other weaknesses in the current RPI formula) and it is not a prominent factor in decisions.”
Rasmussen also examined the quadrant system being used:
“Many think that the first and second quadrants are silos and that every win in the first quadrant or every win in the second quadrant is treated equally. I think it is important that while we refer to first and second quadrant wins, we also better communicate that this is only a sorting mechanism and each game in these quadrants is looked at differently. They don’t have the same value.”
So while it’s fair to question NCAA selection committee’s decisions and the way in which they make them, it’s clear there is an extensive amount of well-intentioned thought put into the process.
College Basketball Coaches Poll: Michigan State moves atop the Top 25
Much has been made of Bob Huggins’ ejection on Saturday evening, as West Virginia blew yet another double-digit lead at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas picked up a critical, 77-69 win.
The ejection was hilarious, and everything that I want to remember Huggy Bear by: Cussing out all three refs as he earns his second technical and an ejection while needing to hold up his pants with his hands:
Huggs is a national treasure.
The more interesting conversation, however, centered around why Huggins was tossed. Kansas shot 35 free throws on Saturday. West Virginia shot just two, which is an absolutely staggering number.
And I thought this was deserving of further scrutiny.
Let’s start with the obvious: West Virginia fouls a lot, enough that it’s not an exaggeration to say that a foul could probably be called on every possession. Part of the strategy of playing the way that Press Virginia does is that they are betting that officials are not going to call a foul on every possession, because they won’t. West Virginia is also a jump-shooting team this season, as nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Their free throw rate both offensively and defensively is dead last in the Big 12.
Put another way, the Mountaineers are always going to be outshot from the free throw line.
Then you have to combine that with the Kansas stats. The Jayhawks are second in the Big 12 on offensive free throw rate and third in defensive free throw rate. Throw in the home court advantage that comes with playing in the Phog, and the safest bet in the world would have been Kansas outshooting West Virginia from the charity stripe.
It also needs to be noted that the 35-2 advantage was 27-2 before West Virginia started fouling intentionally and before Kansas went to the line for those two late Huggins’ technical fouls.
But that didn’t stop Huggins from going off in the press conference after the game:
“We blew the game last year,” Huggins said. “We should have won the game. We had the game. They did a great job, they made shots, we threw it around, we missed free throws, we did everything humanly possible to lose the game. That was us.”
“I’ve been doing this 40 years. I don’t I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity 35-2. I’ve never been in a game like that.”
But perhaps his most telling line was this, when asked what his message to his team was:
“It wasn’t their fault.”
It’s pretty clear that Huggins believed his team was hosed on the road.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
West Virginia is normally going to shoot fewer free throws than their opponents. Kansas is normally going to shoot more free throws that their opponents. Studies have proven that home environments in college basketball have an impact referee decisions as much as any sport in the world, including English soccer. That’s part of having a home court advantage, and it’s part of the advantage of having a rowdy, raucous and loud crowd. It’s why places like Phog Allen, and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Koch Arena, and the McKale Center, and anywhere else with a big and loud fan base.
But 35-2 is 35-2, and it will take quite a bit of video evidence to proof to me that Kansas did not get a significant benefit from playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.
So did the referees cost West Virginia the game?
Debatable. I’d argue that Jevon Carter missing some shots and Daxter Miles’ insistence on passing up open threes to try and pass the ball to players going for a rebound played a pretty big role, as did the fact that Kansas is a really good team that made some big shots down the stretch.
But the whistles played some kind of a role.
Just like they always do in the Phog.
College Basketball AP Poll: Virginia, Michigan State, Villanova top the Top 25
Here’s the funny part to me: This game wasn’t played at Cincinnati. It wasn’t played at Wichita State. It was played at Northern Kentucky, where the Bearcats are playing their home games while they wait for the renovations on their arena to be completed.
Which means that some poor NKU employee that had nothing to do with either of these two programs had to spend the time cleaning up this mess.