The Sweet 16 got off to a great start Thursday night. Another of the number 1 seeds fell, there was an overtime game, last year’s Cinderella continued their ride, and the Big east sent a team to the Elite 8. Let’s take a closer look…
Connecticut, and Kemba Walker, knocked off the number 2 seed San Diego State to advance to the Elite 8. This was a fantastic game that was a see saw affair. Connecticut was ahead 36-27 at half, led by Walker’s 14 points. San Diego State battled back and took a 53-49 lead with 9:19 to play. Kemba Walker took over from here, scoring 12 straight points and putting the Huskies ahead 65-56 with 4:52 to play. San Diego State made another run and got the score to 65-64 with 2:57 to play, but Jeremy Lamb, who finished with 24 points, scored 7 of Connecticut’s last 9 points to put the game away. KembaWalker’s finished the game with 36 points, with 22 coming in the second half. This is a kid who should be the National Player of the Year, although Jimmer Fredette will probably get it. My argument is that he wasn’t even named Big East Player of the Year. Ben Hansbrough was, and he wasn’t even the most important player on his team. Walker plays with 3 freshman and a sophomore. Hansbrough winning the award was a joke, Kemba was the best player in the Big East and maybe the country. Connecticut now gets a regional final matchup with….Arizona???
Yes, Arizona pounded Duke in every phase of the game as they upset the number 1 seeded Blue Devils. Derrick Williams was the best player on the floor, and he single handedly kept Arizona in the game in the first half with 25 points, including 5 of 6 from 3 point range. Duke played well in the first half, but Williams hit a three at the buzzer to cut Duke’s lead to 44-38. The Wildcats came out in the 2nd half and ran Duke out of the gym. They were more athletic, and physically and mentally tougher than Duke. The Plumlee brothers and Kyle Singler should be embarrassed by their performance. They got beat up and showed how soft they are against other good big men. Derrick Williams finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, while fellow sophomore Lamont Jones chipped in with 16 points and 6 assists. Kyrie Irving led Duke with 28 points, but at the expense of Nolan Smith, who finished with 8 points and 6 turnovers. Arizona and Connecticut should be a heck of a matchup.
Butler continued their magic ride as they easily beat Wisconsin 61-54, and the game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score. They were ahead by 12 to 20 points for much of the 2nd half. Butler coach Brad Stevens deserves a lot of the credit as his team has been fantastic defensively and efficient on the offensive end. Matt Howard again led the offense with 20 points and 12 rebounds and Shelvin Mack pitched in with 13 points. They held Wisconsin to 30% shooting for the game. They will meet Florida in the Southeast Final.
Florida put an end to Jimmer Fredette and BYU’s run in the NCAA tournament. Fredette shot 11 of 29 to get his 32 points, and was 3 for 15 on 3 point attempts, and scored no points in the overtime. Florida was clearly the more talented team and tried to give the game away by taking 34 threes. No other player on BYU was in double figures other than Fredette, so when he needed his teammates to bail him out, they were no where to be found. Florida had 4 players in double figures, led by Alex Tyus who had 19 points and 17 rebounds, and SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons, who had 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. It should be fun to see if Butler can make it back to the Final Four. I’ll be back tomorrow to give my thoughts on tonight’s matchups….