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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Things You May Have Missed: Observations From VCU-Kansas & Kentucky-UNC

Patrick Crawley, Dave Dulberg, Victor Marticorena, Jovan Buha |
March 27, 2011 | 7:41 p.m. PDT

It's a mad, mad world we're living in, folks, and it looks like Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens are running it.

Smart's VCU Rams joined Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs in the Final Four Sunday with a stunning upset win over No. 1 Kansas, putting a No. 11 seed in the semifinals for the first time since 2006 and guaranteeing that either VCU or Butler will be in the championship game.

Exciting stuff.

Kentucky did work as well, beating North Carolina in a battle of historic Tournament heavyweights.

How did VCU and Kentucky make it to the Final Four?

Neon Tommy breaks down Day 2 of the Elite Eight:

VCU 71, Kansas 61

I haven’t seen twins cry that much since Lindsay Lohan in the Parent Trap.

- Dave Dulberg

VCU shot 12-of-30 (40 percent) from the field in the first half, but that is not what shocked me. The Rams shot great from downtown, going 9-of-17 (52.9 percent), but from inside the 3-point line they only shot 3-of-13 (23.0 percent). Clearly the Rams’ guard play was the key to their great first half.

- Victor Marticorena

It’s only been 24 hours, but I’m already having Gus Johnson withdrawals (aside from those well-placed Buffalo Wild Wings commercials). With all due respect to Hall of Famer Marv Albert, couldn’t you just imagine a final call with Gus? BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA!

- Dulberg

How great was Jamie Skeen in this game? 26 points, 10 rebounds and too many big threes to count. He shot just 6-of-17 overall, but 4-of-7 from downtown and 10-of-12 from the line. His inside-outside game killed Kansas. It doesn't hurt that he's a dead ringer for Cutty from The Wire either.

- Patrick Crawley

VCU becomes only the third 11-seed to make the Final Four, the other two being George Mason in 2005 and LSU in 1986. That is the highest seed to ever make the Final Four.

- Marticorena

Great win for VCU. Despite choking and almost blowing the game, they hit big shots down the stretch and got big defensive stops. We will now have VCU vs. Butler to decide who goes to championship game… #marchmadness.

- Jovan Buha

I give the Colonial Athletic Association my Rodney Dangerfield “No Respect” Conference award. In the last six years, the CAA has sent more teams to the Final Four (two: George Mason and VCU) than the Big 12 (Kansas, 2009), and as many as the Pac-10 (UCLA, '06 and '07).

- Dulberg

Statistically, Joey Rodriguez has to be one of the worst Final Four starting point guards in Tournament history (9 points on 2-of-8 shooting with 5 assists and 4 turnovers in this game), but there's something about him that sparks this VCU team. From a physical standpoint he's about as nondescript as they come, but his scrappiness is one of those intangible qualities that can't be measured. He deserves credit for leading this team as far as they've come.

- Crawley

This marks only the third time since they started ranking teams in the tournament (1979) that no No. 1 seeds are in the Final Four. The other two times this has happened was in 1980 and 2006. Kansas can take solace in knowing that it was the only No. 1-seed to make the Elite Eight this year.

- Marticorena

Luckily I picked the winner of the USC/VCU play-in game to make it to the Final Four. Call me a homer all you want but it looks like my bracket is still intact.

- Dulberg

I’ve seen many signs so far during the tournament, but the best one has got to be three individual signs combined: Shaka Flocka Flame.

- Marticorena

Kentucky 76, North Carolina 69

If I could sum up the Wildcats in one word, what would I pick? CLUTCH. After being tied at 67 with three minutes left in the game, Kentucky scored nine points off 3-pointers and free throws, while holding the Tar Heels to just two points on a tip-in by Tyler Zeller. Two huge blocks from the Wildcats' defense sealed UNC’s fate.

- Marticorena

Outside of Harrison Barnes' 8-0 run down the stretch, Brandon Knight was the best player on the Prudential Center floor. How big was Knight’s impact on Kentucky’s win Sunday? In last year’s 71-63 Elite Eight loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers, the Wildcats hit just 4-of-32 shot from 3-point range. Against the Tar Heels, the freshman sensation hit five shots from downtown by himself. He finished with a game-high 22 points.

- Dulberg

I really like Brandon Knight’s game. He isn’t super-athletic or quick, but he has a versatile game, isn’t afraid of the big moment and has underrated toughness. If anyone’s stock has risen more throughout this tournament, let me know.

- Buha

I was really put off by John Henson's reaction to foul trouble in this game. He was whistled for his fourth foul with over 16 minutes to go in the second half and immediately went to the bench and put a towel over his head. He wasn't moping, but he wasn't exactly inspiring confidence either. That's a red flag for me, draft-wise. I expected more leadership out of him.

- Crawley

John Henson has a load of potential. He just has one fatal flaw that long, athletic shot-blockers tend to have. He jumps at every pump fake. While this may lead to highlight blocks, this also leads to stupid fouls, as evidence by his fourth foul early in the second half. For him to succeed defensively at the next level, he will have to become a smarter defender.  

- Buha

John Henson’s length and athleticism may be enough to make him an attractive lottery pick to NBA general managers, but if he doesn’t improve his strength and basketball acumen, he’s bound to join several former Tar Heels on an unsavory list of “The Bona Fide Busts from Chapel Hill.”

- Dulberg

Despite an inconsistent season, Harrison Barnes took over down the stretch for the Tar Heels. He showed why people were labeling him as the No. 1 pick heading into the draft. He won’t go No. 1 (maybe not even top 5), but he’s one heck of a player.

- Buha

In a Final Four that won’t feature a No. 1 or No. 2 seed for the first time since 1979, the Kentucky Wildcats and Connecticut Huskies are no strangers to each other heading into next Saturday’s matchup. Of UK’s eight losses this year, seven of them have been by a combined 2.86 points. The only loss John Calipari’s squad suffered by double digits this season? An 84-67 drubbing at the hands of Kemba Walker and Co. in the Maui Invitational final.

- Dulberg

We've all heard the stat by now. John Calipari is just the second coach in NCAA history to lead three different teams to the Final Four. Is there a more polarizing coach in college basketball right now? It's hard to argue no. If he's your coach, you love him. If he's not, chances are you hate him. Personally, I appreciate Coach Cal. He makes evaluating talent easy. Pick a kid he's coached in college and odds are that guy's going to be a star NBA player. Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins. He's a human divining rod. Congratulations, Cal. You may look like a grown up version of The Situation but you're one great talent scout.

- Crawley

I thought Craig Kellogg was annoying on NBA 2K11, but boy that was nothing compared to this game. I never realized that someone was allowed to make up words during a basketball broadcast and still keep his job, much less be considered one of the top color analysts to cover the Elite Eight. I only thought he would use “spurtability “ in the video game, but to my surprise he used it in real time during the UNC-UK broadcast. As if that wasn’t enough, he then used the word “underknown” to describe Kentucky forward Josh Harrelson’s outside shooting ability. Really?

- Marticorena

I love the way Josh Harrelson plays. He’s put up surprising numbers against future lottery picks in Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller through his effort, intensity and craftiness. He’s also a tough guy, always looking for a fight and staring his opponents down. He reminds me of me when I played.

- Buha

Kentucky’s appearance in the Final Four could potentially be one of the worst signs for American fashion. Wildcats’ center Josh Harrellson said he plans to celebrate his team’s run by bringing back the jorts he sported on his initial recruiting trip to Lexington.

- Dulberg


Check back with us next weekend as coverage of the NCAA Tournament continues.



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