Tag: East/South/Midwest/West Region

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No. 3 Creighton sloughs off UL-Lafayette, McDermott moves up NCAA scoring list

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For about fourteen minutes in the second half against Louisiana-Lafayette, Creighton’s Doug McDermott did not score a basket. It seems incredible that a player nicknamed ‘Dougie McBuckets’ would be held scoreless for that long a time-frame, but ULL decided the way to stop the Bluejays’ insanely efficient offense was to concentrate on McDermott and allow his teammates to carry the team’s offensive load. It somewhat worked — with about twelve minutes remaining in the game, ULL led 50-46 — but McDermott was able to operate within the different defensive looks engineered to stop him, finish the game with 30 points, and help Creighton win their opening round game, 76-66.

This win is significant for two reasons. One, McDermott is always options 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d on any scouting report, but UL-Lafayette attempted a strategy many others have tried (but few succeeded) against CU this season: plug the paint, shrink the halfcourt, and make the other Bluejays score. ULL began their run while McDermott was in the midst of his scoring drought, and CU struggled to find offensive rhythm among the other four players on the court.

But then Ethan Wragge erupted — the sharpshooting forward shot four of eight from beyond the arc (he made three in a row at one point in the final twenty minutes), and his scoring presence infused the other Bluejays with a sense of relief. It was noticeable how much freer the rest of the team played once Wragge began connecting from deep.

We must note that McDermott is now fifth all-time on the NCAA’s career scoring list, passing Harry ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly of Texas Southern to enter the top five. To reach the top spot, and bypass Pete Maravich, McDermott now has to average 112 points per game (and win the national title).

The second reason this first round win is crucial is that the team succeeded when their shooting was well-off. The squad made 61.2 percent of their twos and 39.1 percent of their threes — both outstanding percentages for any team not named Creighton — but there were times when CU appeared stagnant and struggled to connect, yet they somehow managed to weather ULL’s shifting defense and win.

Although his road to Arlington has been derailed, the loss gave the nation a chance to watch ULL guard Elfrid Payton, a player who was on the U19 team last summer but who is still somehow unknown. Payton’s defense on McDermott managed to slow the forward a bit, and while he was pressing to keep his team in the contest — both Shawn Long and Bryant Mbamalu were either in foul trouble (Long) or not find the bucket (Mbamalu) — he still finished with 24 points.

Creighton next takes on Baylor, a game that should be an interesting match-up for the ‘Jays. Baylor’s zone will likely be easily disassembled by the constantly moving Creighton offense, so does Scott Drew stick with zone? Or does he alternate man and zone? Another intriguing subplot is Creighton’s struggles on the defensive glass. They managed to grab 83.7 percent of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ misses, but ULL was able to secure some crucial additional possessions. Baylor is one of the nation’s best on the offensive glass, and that will likely be a focal point of their gameplan against Creighton.

No. 7 New Mexico breaks brackets again, loses to No. 10 Stanford

Chasson Randle is the Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year (AP Photo)
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Stanford is the most beguiling team in the NCAA tournament field. It is impossible to figure out Johnny Dawkins’ squad. An underwhelming Pac-12 regular season was followed by two quick wins in the league tournament until UCLA defeated the Cardinal by nearly 30 points. Paired against No. 7 New Mexico, though, and Stanford was able to score one of the tournament’s most underrated upsets, winning 58 to 53.

The game was a tutorial in cold shooting and zone defenses. Both teams were plagued by foul trouble — New Mexico’s Alex Kirk picked up two quick fouls, and Stanford’s Stefan Nastic and Josh Huestis each had four fouls (Dwight Powell fouled out) — and the two squads had to use 2-3 zones to cut down on the hacking. Stanford’s zone had a deleterious effect on the Lobos’ interior scoring; the team spent much of 2014 repairing the damage done to its two-point shooting rep last year (the team made 51.8 percent of its twos, as compared to 46 percent in ’13), but Stanford’s zone rendered both Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk ineffective. The junior Kirk scored just 3 points, and while Bairstow dropped 24 points, he failed to make a basket for about ten minutes in the second half.

New Mexico should be commended for rebounding after starting the game down 20-4, but for the second straight season, UNM lost to the higher seed in the first round (No. 14 Harvard last season). Kirk and guard Kendall Williams managed to score just six points combined (on one for twelve shooting), and for those who picked New Mexico to defeat Kansas in the second round, and then rampage through the field until the Elite Eight, this game was certainly a disappointment. Williams, in particular, struggles when UNM leaves the confines of the Mountain West and ventures into the tourney field: against Harvard and Stanford, Williams shot made only two of his fifteen field goals, a poor shooting display that includes missing all nine of his threes.

The offensive star of the game was Stanford sophomore Chasson Randle. The guard scored 23 points and has been on a roll from within the arc; over the last five games, including against UNM, Randle is making more than 58 percent of his twos.

Stanford will next face the winner of No. 2 Kansas versus No. 15 Eastern Kentucky, and the Jayhawks’ coaching staff — should they get past the Colonials — have a much clearer path to next weekend. The Lobos’ interior posed significant problems for Kansas, and since Joel Embiid will miss the first weekend of the tournament, the thought was that Bairstow and Kirk would take advantage of Kansas’ weakened interior.

Listing Duke’s worst NCAA tournament losses


Mercer’s 78-71 upset over Duke should come as little surprise — the Blue Devils’ defense has been terrible all season — but it is still shocking that Mike Krzyzewski’s squad was defeated in the first round.

For all the titles and Final Four appearances, Duke does have a puzzlingly history of dropping early round NCAA tournament games, losing seven first or second-round games since the Blue Devils became a dominant force in the college basketball landscape (following the back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992).

Click here to see the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

We present a mini-history of Duke’s worst early round exits:

  • No. 3 Duke vs. No. 6 California, Midwest, 1993: A second-round battle between the ascendant Golden Bears, led by Lamond Murray and Jason Kidd, against a team that had won consecutive titles. Though the Blue Devils still had Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill, the freshman Kidd pushed the pace and helped the squad to an 18-point lead late in the second half, and though Duke made a run, two straight three-point bricks by Hurley helped Cal with their upset.
  • No. 8 Duke vs. No. 9 Eastern Michigan, Southeast, 1996: Earl Boykins completely thrashed the Blue Devils’ backcourt, scoring ten points in the final several minutes as Duke failed to stay in front of the sub 6-foot future NBA guard. The loss was the first opening round loss for Duke since 1955.
  • No. 2 Duke vs. No. 10 Providence, Southeast, 1997: Providence dominated the offensive glass, scoring 20 points on additional possessions. The crucial play was a late leak-out from God Shammgod following a Duke made three that gave PC the ultimate lead.
  • No. 6 Duke vs. No. 11 VCU, West, 2007: VCU guard Eric Maynor showed a fair bit of Onions, taking a few dribbles to just beyond the free throw line and canning a two-point field goal.
  • No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 West Virginia, West, 2008: John Beilein had left Morgantown the year before, but Bob Huggins melded his coaching philosophy with Beilein-ball. WVU hit several key threes in the second half, and the Mountaineers dominated Duke on the glass for the second round win.
  • No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Lehigh: After being hyped up throughout his career by college hoops junkies, CJ McCollum had his breakout game nationally. The guard scored 30 points in the first round upset.
  • No. 3 Duke vs. No. 14 Mercer, Midwest, 2014: When Mercer watched Florida Gulf Coast burst through the NCAA tournament’s first weekend last year, coach Bob Hoffman felt his team could have made a similar run. He and his Bears now have that chance.