Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 29, 2015 at 8:00 PM
And then there were four! An entertaining weekend of Sweet 16 and Elite 8 action has winnowed the 2015 NCAA tournament brackets down to four regional survivors. Let’s see how each of those four teams headed to Indianapolis survived this past weekend. We’ll run through the key stats in the order the games were played...
Wisconsin 85, Arizona 78
Shooting Pct: Arizona 56%, Wisconsin 56%
Three-Pointers: Arizona 2/6, Wisconsin 12/18
Free Throws: Arizona 28/30, Wisconsin 23/31
Rebounds: Arizona 22, Wisconsin 21
Turnovers: Arizona 10, Wisconsin 9
Las Vegas Line: Arizona by 1.5, total of 137
This was all about three-pointers for Wisconsin…where they were an astonishing +30 on the scoreboard in a game they only won by seven…and free throws for Arizona…as they marched to the line to convert an astonishing 28 of 30 tries. Actually, BOTH teams marched to the line in a depressingly whistle-happy afternoon. But, in fairness, there was so much clutching and grabbing that overwhelmed defenders seemed happier to hack shooters rather than give away dunks or layups.
Ultimately, the fact that Wiscy couldn’t miss from long range in the second half ruled the day. That gives them a chance to shoot over the height of Kentucky in the next round. But, can the Badgers COUNT on staying that hot? Not likely. Their own defensive woes will loom large if the treys aren’t falling.
Kentucky 68, Notre Dame 66
Shooting Pct: Notre Dame 46%, Kentucky 53%
Three-Pointers: Notre Dame 4/14, Kentucky 4/8
Free Throws: Notre Dame 10/13, Kentucky 14/20
Rebounds: Notre Dame 28, Kentucky 29
Turnovers: Notre Dame 7, Kentucky 11
Las Vegas Line: Kentucky by 11, total of 138
Almost one of the biggest tournament shockers ever. Kentucky has one of the best teams in history. But, they can be had if an opponent keeps making shots and doesn’t blink. It’s a credit to the Irish that they hung so close on a day where they weren’t making a bunch of treys. If Kentucky hadn’t made EVERY field goal attempt in the final fourth of the game…the stunner would have occurred.
Kentucky had some issues with turnovers, and will need to force more to create easy points if they want to coast past Wisconsin. The Badgers have a lot in common with Notre Dame…which will give another underdog a fighting chance. Can Wiscy keep sinking treys? That may be the single biggest factor in the pending semifinal matchup.
Michigan State 76, Louisville 70 (in overtime)
Shooting Pct: Michigan State 43%, Louisville 36%
Three-Pointers: Michigan State 9/23, Louisville 4/11
Free Throws: Michigan State 15/20, Louisville 20/29
Rebounds: Michigan State 41, Louisville 41
Turnovers: Michigan State 12, Louisville 9
Las Vegas Line: Michigan State by 2, total of 128
Michigan State is always going to be there in a playoff style showdown. You have to BEAT them. Louisville had its chances, and probably would have won if Terry Rozier wasn’t 6 of 23 shooting. But, that’s the point. Michigan State knows who to focus on defensively, and they dare everyone else to get the job done. Not enough other Cards stepped up. Sparty shot better and made more treys. That helped make up for a few extra turnovers and fewer free throw opportunities. A scandal that Michigan State was a #7 seed in this event. Do seeds even matter with them? Nice run for a Louisville team that looked pretty hopeless in the ACC tournament and even late in the second half of their Dance opener. The same cream keeps rising year-after-year in the NCAA tournament.
Duke 66, Gonzaga 52
Shooting Pct: Gonzaga 44%, Duke 38%
Three-Pointers: Gonzaga 2/10, Duke 8/19
Free Throws: Gonzaga 6/9, Duke 16/19
Rebounds: Gonzaga 35, Duke 31
Turnovers: Gonzaga 13, Duke 3
Las Vegas Line: Duke by 2.5, total of 144
It’s tough to win by double digits when you get out shot and outrebounded. But, Duke did a fantastic job of avoiding turnovers…earning 10 extra scoring opportunities. And, they did a better job from long range (+18 points on treys) and free throws (+10 in makes helped by some friendly officiating) to make up for what wasn’t happening in the paint. If you hate Duke, you feel like Gonzaga got robbed a little. But, Duke really did a lot of things well, and has a chance to beat Michigan State and scare the heck out of Kentucky next weekend.
The dome looked to be a large influence on scoring again. Make a note of that because the Final Four will be here next year (as it was when UCONN beat Butler in a horrible Dance finale). This one stayed Under by more than 25 points. Shooters in the 8-10 foot range had particular troubles with depth perception, which was compounded by hard rims.
Congrats to Wisconsin, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Duke!
The NCAA Tournament resumes Saturday with the Final Four. We’ll run expanded previews Friday and Saturday here in the NOTEBOOK for those matchups. In the meantime, keep piling up the profits with game day BEST BETS in the smaller conference tournaments and the NBA!
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Back with you tomorrow to preview the Miami/Temple opener in the NIT Final Four, the semifinal with the most marquee value. The whole week looks like this…
Tuesday: NIT Final Four Preview…Miami vs. Temple
Wednesday: NBA Report Card heading into April
Thursday: NIT Championship Preview!
Friday: NCAA Final Four Early Look…Kentucky vs. Wisconsin
Saturday: NCAA Final Four Preview…Duke vs. Michigan State
Sunday: NBA Preview…Golden State vs. San Antonio (both have been on fire!)
Monday: NCAA Championship Preview
Tuesday April 7: MLB Preview…Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners (hello Baseball!)
Wow…championship week in college basketball hands off to Major League Baseball…and the NBA provides quite an appetizer for the coming playoffs! Read the NOTEBOOK every day for great handicapping tips…and link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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