Things You May Have Missed: Analyzing Day 2 of the Sweet 16
Friday's action was more of the same. UNC-Marquette and KU-Richmond were full-on blowouts. Both were settled, for all intent and purposes, by halftime.
Then the night games almost gave us a heart attack: Kentucky beat the No. 1 overall seed (Ohio State) on a sweet game-winner from Brandon Knight and VCU continued its unexpected march to the Elite Eight with a win over FSU.
It was a great day of basketball.
Neon Tommy breaks down Day 2 of the Sweet 16:
North Carolina 81, Marquette 63
Marquette had zero assists in the first half. That's right, zero. Combine that with 12 turnovers and it's no wonder they were down 25 points at the half (40-25). UNC's defense didn't let up in the second half. The Golden Eagles finished with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 8-to-18 and lost by 18 points.
- Patrick Crawley
John Henson is the real deal Holyfield. Not only is the 6-foot-10 sophomore a bear on defense (his 3.2 blocks per game prompted an ACC Defensive Player of the Year nod), his pterodactyl wingspan (88 inches) makes him nearly impossible to guard in the post. He's like Blake Griffin that way. Throw the ball anywhere near the hoop and he's gonna go get it.
Henson's mid-range game needs a lot of work, but he has a good basketball IQ and his defensive potential is unmatched among power forward prospects. Teammate Harrison Barnes is slated higher in NBA mock drafts, but don't be surprised to see Henson go top 10 when all is said and done. He's the kind of "4" NBA scouts drool over.
Kansas 77, Richmond 57
Tough draw for Richmond. They're arguably a better team than their Virginia counterparts (VCU), but they drew No. 1-seed Kansas while VCU got Florida State. (No doubt some strange Shaka Smart voodoo was involved.) This game was never close. The talent gap was just too much for the Spiders to overcome. With that said, I liked the effort from Justin Harper (22 points, 9 rebounds). The senior is a projected first round pick in the 2011 draft. Hopefully his next team is luckier than Richmond was.
Halfway through this game I decided it would be a good time to take a nap. I see now that that was a good decision.
- Jessica Benson
The keys to Kentucky's upset: Staying out of foul trouble in the second half and shutting down Jared Sullinger in the final minute of the game. In the first half, it seemed everyone on UK was in foul trouble. But the Wildcats buckled down and played great individual defense in the second 20 minutes, allowing Josh Harrellson (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Terrence Jones (8 points, 8 rebounds) to stay in the game and make an impact.
Harrellson's post defense on Sullinger (21 points, 16 rebounds) on OSU's third-to-last possession was phenomenal. He refused to give the wide-bodied freshman an easy look, resulting in a missed shot and ultimately an increase in the Wildcats' lead by two points. Harrellson finished with three blocks in the game. Kentucky had 11 overall.
Kentucky was able to do something most teams couldn’t do against the Buckeyes: run them off the 3-point line and contain their potent offense. Jared Sullinger, Jon Diebler and David Lighty got theirs, but literally no one else was effective for the Buckeyes. The Wildcats were able to dominate the paint too, blocking 11 shots and holding the Buckeyes to 32.8 percent shooting.
- Jovan Buha
He may have hit yet another game winner, but I'm not buying Brandon Knight as an NBA point guard. Not yet anyway. He's a good playmaker, but for himself, not his teammates. In comparison to other John Calipari one-and-done freshmen, he's closer to Tyreke Evans than John Wall. His court vision is just average. He doesn't have that point guard gene. He is a helluva stop-and-pop shooter, though.
Brandon Knight may not be the most talented guard in the upcoming NBA Draft, but he definitely has one asset in his game that is hard to develop – the clutch gene (see video above). Knight hit his second game-winner of the tournament, knocking out No. 1-seeded Ohio State. He is not a household name, but Knight is definitely boosting his draft stock and may even end up going in the top 10.
The Buckeyes may have lost, but this game won't hurt Jared Sullinger's draft stock much. He finished with a 21-point, 16-rebound double double and had his way, for the most part, with Kentucky's big men. As big as he is (280 pounds, conservatively), Sullinger's an extremely quick leaper and an excellent offensive rebounder. He may not be an immediate difference-maker at the next level, but he'll have an impact before his career is over as long as he keeps his weight down.
In most cases, the more talented and experienced team wins in the NCAA tournament. That was not the case in this game. Despite having a battle-tested team led by a potential Player of the Year in Sullinger, Ohio State could not get past the youth and athleticism of Kentucky.
It is time for me to pretend I never filled out a bracket for this year’s tournament. My roommate who knows nothing about college basketball picked Kentucky in this game. She is currently beating me 650-430 in the ESPN Bracket Challenge. Just like Ohio State I feel like I will never live this down.
VCU 72, Florida State 71
I hope when someone writes a book about this VCU team, they call it From 'First Four' to the Brink of The Final Four: How Bout Them Apples, Jay Bilas?
- Dave Dulberg
Is there a better coach in college basketball right now than Shaka Smart? VCU lacks talent so obviously even Kim Kardashian wonders what they're doing on TV. But Smart has them playing smart and physical enough to make the Elite Eight. Down one point in overtime with 7.9 seconds left, Smart drew up a perfect out of bounds play, freeing leading scorer Brad Burgess for the open layup that eventually won the game. Like Anthony Grant before him, Smart is a coach on the rise. Don't be surprised to see him at a bigger program within the next two years.
I am officially hopping on the VCU bandwagon and pretending I have been a fan of Bradford Burgess my entire life.
This game left me with one mind-numbing question: What had more views between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. PST on Friday night? Rebecca Black’s YouTube ode to her favorite day of the week or VCU-Florida State? Now that would be a Nielsen ratings I’d pay attention to.
Bernard James from FSU is an absolute beast on defense. Anything near him is likely to get returned to sender. It felt like he had 10 blocks in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime. Incredible.
- Shotgun Spratling
Exhibit No. 426 that Robert Sarver really is an awful man to work for: Former Suns general manager Steve Kerr was forced to grin and bear Friday night’s battle of No. 10 and No. 11 seeds from the CBS broadcast booth. Yet it’s the happiest I’ve heard him sound in years. He even went so far as to say the overtime contest was one of the best games he has seen the entire tournament. My bottle of Pepto Bismol would disagree. (Compelling? Yes. Quality basketball? No.) But I guess it beats having to deal with a misguided, foam finger-waving owner, right?
Check back tomorrow for more comprehensive NCAA coverage.
Shout out to @jose3030 for the Shaka Smart-Craig Sager photo up top.