Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 19, 2012 at 9:32 AM
Okay, so when this wild-and-wacky NCAA Tournament first swung into action there were newspaper, internet and television reports about the stud players in this tourney such as Kentucky's Anthony Davis, Michigan State's Draymond Green, Kansas' Thomas Robinson and Marquette's Jae Crowder.
Oh, make no mistake:
All of those hard-court stars and many other key players are still around in this year's NCAA Tournament that was shaved down to a Sweet 16 late Sunday night (and whatever happened to the days of the Round of 32 Sunday games ending before 60 Minutes got on the air?) but suddenly some of the names that have become important in this "Big Dance" include Creighton's Ethan Wragge, Ohio's D.J. Cooper and Xavier's Kenny Frease -we'll explain shortly.
In a tourney that celebrated the double-digit seed teams early on -there's still three of them still standing come the second full week of the NCAA Tournament and so say hello to Ohio, N.C. State and Xavier -the storylines exiting Sunday night included a broken non-shooting wrist suffered by North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall and four teams from the state of Ohio that have really made a big-time splash ...
And can you believe this is the first time ever that four teams from one state are represented in the Sweet 16 round and that must come as quite the shock to folks in California, Texas, North Carolina and Michigan, right?
Break down the regional seeds and this is what you've got:
The East -that's #1 Syracuse, #2 Ohio State, #4 Wisconsin and #6 Cincinnati -is pretty darn formful, we must say
The Midwest -that's #1 North Carolina, #2 Kansas, #11 N.C. State and #13 Ohio -probably didn't show up on many folks' brackets but these twin-figure seeds truly earned it, trust us!
The South -that's #1 Kentucky, #3 Baylor, #4 Indiana and #10 Xavier -is a solid group with that one major shining star team heavily favored to get to the Final Four
And the West -that's #1 Michigan State, #3 Marquette, #4 Louisville and #7 Florida -sports three head coaches that have won national championships in their past as Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Rick Pitino (Louisville) and two-time national champ Billy Donovan (Florida) all have cut down the nets before and so might Marquette's Buzz Williams be feeling a tad inadequate here? Nah!
Okay, we shall get to our quick-hitter Sweet 16 team capsule summaries in a few moments but first this key chart: Let's show you how Sunday's action went on a game-by-game basis from a pointspread perspective in schedule book rotation order:
|Xavier||- 4||Lehigh||Xavier 70-58|
|North Carolina||- 9.5||Creighton||North Carolina 87-73|
|Michigan State||- 7.5||Saint Louis||Michigan State 65-61|
|Georgetown||- 4||N.C. State||N.C. State 66-63|
|Florida State||- 3||Cincinnati||Cincinnati 62-56|
|South Florida||- 2||Ohio||Ohio 62-56|
|Florida||- 14||Norfolk State||Florida 84-50|
|Kansas||- 8||Purdue||Kansas 63-60|
Note that NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites registered a 3-5 ATS (against the spread) mark this past Sunday and so that means while heading into Thursday's Sweet 16 action the NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites are a collective 25-24-2 versus the vig with one pick 'em game tossed into the mix (that's a .510 winning rate for chalk sides in this tourney).
Important reminder: We will bring you our annual NCAA Tournament Team-by-Team Pointspread Breakdown Chart in the next edition of Jim Sez, and so don't miss out.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have roared into this 2012 College Basketball post-season with NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI and CIT winners already plus there's plenty of NBA Winners on tap too when you sign up today and be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winning selections. Sign up now for the remainder of all the College Basketball and NBA campaigns.
HERE'S TO THE WINNERS -THE SWEET 16 TEAM CAPSULE SUMMARIES
Let's take a region-by-region look at who's left in this NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 field (note regional seed #s precede the team names):
SOUTH - Friday's Sweet 16 head-to-head matchups in Atlanta: It's Kentucky vs. Indiana and Xavier vs. Baylor
#1 KENTUCKY (34-2) -When it was time for the youthful UK Wildcats to put their foot down the other night against 12-point underdog Iowa State, John Calipari's guys turned to their oft-enigmatic point guard Marquis Teague to make a statement and he came through with a career-best 24 points and 7 assists and shades of John Wall and Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans (we know coach Cal remember them all well!) there was Teague stealing the headlines.
#3 BAYLOR (29-7) -The Bears are probably disappointed that #2 Duke is gonzo from this tourney because Scott Drew's crew wanted some payback from two years ago but shades of great Duke teams past this Baylor bunch has a three-point deadeye in Brady Heslip who took lots of heat off the inside guys en route to an 80-63 late-game runaway against 8-point pup Colorado. Heslip fired in nine triples en route to his dazzling 27-point game but one thing to look for in Baylor's next game is who else can score on the perimeter when/if the "X-men" get in Heslip's grill? Let's see if Mr. Drew has an answer.
#4 INDIANA (27-8) -Everyone's gonna remember that corner jumper that Hoosiers' Will Sheehey drained in last Saturday's 63-61 non-cover win against 5 ½-point dog VCU but how about some love for IU's Christian Watford who scored eight of his 16 points late in the first half when the dynamic Rams were threatening to make this their game. No doubt Watford's name -and that all-too-often-replayed shot against Kentucky this year -will be getting plenty if hype this week and so maybe Indy's Tom Crean will want to make for a media blackout till further notice.
#10 XAVIER (23-12) -Count us among the folks that thought the Musketeers were "cooked" when they got behind Lehigh by 15 points in the first half of Sunday's Round of 32 game but the kings of the double-figure comebacks did it again as burly senior C Frease poured in a career-best 25 points and also piled up 12 rebounds in the 70-58 win/cover. The 4-point favorites from Xavier did a whole lot of things right beginning with the comeback that started with less than four minutes remaining in the first half but how about the fact the Musketeers held Lehigh to 21 second-half points and 21-of-64 shooting overall? Now that's the recipe should Xavier -now amazingly in its fourth Sweet 16 in the past five years -wish to shock the world and get out of this region by Sunday night.
WEST - Thursday's Sweet 16 head-to-head matchups in Phoenix: It's Florida vs. Marquette and Louisville vs. Michigan State
#1 MICHIGAN STATE (29-7) -The stat-sheet stuffing aforementioned Mr. Green followed up his second NCAA Tournament triple-double with a more modest 16-point, 13-rebound, 6-assist performance in Sunday's scary 65-61 non-cover victory against 7-point dog Saint Louis but no doubt this Round of 32 game mostly belonged to oft-criticized PG Keith Appling who was simply brilliant: Appling's monstrous 3-point corner hoop -a shot that touched every portion of the rim -with 1:34 left was a real dagger to Rich Majerus' squad but overall the lead-guard finished with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting and he showed the guts of a burglar just in the nick of time for Sparty.
#3 MARQUETTE (27-7) -No wonder the Big East folks voted the above-mentioned Crowder as its Player of the Year as the dread-locked star of the Golden Eagles took over at crunch time against Murray State last Saturday (remember that M-State led 46-41 before Marquette rallied with Crowder dumping in 17 points to go along with 11 boards) and so let's forgive the good folks of Milwaukee for believing that there's a modern-day Al McGuire in their midst in coach Williams.
#4 LOUISVILLE (28-9) -Don't look now but the U of L Cardinals have not lost a game since March 3rd (see regular-season finale at Syracuse) and PG Peyton Siva continues to look awful for stretches of time and then he comes through at crunch time (see key assist on Gorgui Dieng's dunk with 32.3 seconds left in 59-56 win against New Mexico last Saturday night). If the 'Ville keeps holding folks below 40 percent shooting from the floor, than maybe Pitino can win this bracket and have a Final Four fling with ... you got it ... Kentucky.
#7 FLORIDA (25-10) -The 84-50 romp over Norfolk State was nothing more than a glorified practice session but no doubt the mighty Gators are happy to see PG Kenny Boynton (20 points, 8 rebs and 4 assists on Sunday) back on top of his talented game.
EAST - Thursday's Sweet 16 head-to-head matchups in Boston: It's Wisconsin vs. Syracuse and Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
#1 SYRACUSE (33-2) -If Jim Boeheim's not concerned about the fact his Fab Melo-less club allowed Kansas State to snatch down 15 offensive rebounds in Saturday's 75-59 win/cover against the 5 ½-point dog Wildcats than he ought to be! The 'Cuse received a major pick-me-up from shooting star James Southerland who drained 5-of-6 FGs while scoring 15 points but something tells us Sweet 16 opponent Wisconsin won't give the kid too many clean looks ... we'll see.
#2 OHIO STATE (29-7) -Maybe this national coming-out party for point guard Aaron Craft (see 17 points and 10 assists in 73-66 win against 7 ½-point dog Gonzaga) was just what the doctor ordered for the biggest hoops name school from the state of Ohio but one question for Buckeyes boss-man Thad Matta: Will you be able to keep your oft-chatty team from saying something stupid prior to this monster-sized Sweet 16 in-state battle against Cincinnati?
#4 WISCONSIN (26-9) -The sticky Badgers' defense held Vandy guard John Jenkins to just 3-of-13 FG shooting and the Commodores never did get untracked from beyond the arc (see 5-of-19) in that 60-57 Wisky win in Round of 32 play but now Bo Ryan's gang better plan on "muscling up" on the likes of Syracuse's Dion Waiters on Thursday night and we'll see if he fades late after getting bumped-and-banged for 30-plus minutes.
#6 CINCINNATI (26-10) -Maybe the Bearcats' 62-56 Sunday night win against 3-point fav Florida State won't go down as one of the sport's great offensive showcases but Cincy folks will prefer to remember those key late-game triples made by Sean Kilpatrick (18 points) and that clutch steal/hoop by Dion Dixon with 1:32 left in the game. What fight with Xavier, right?
MIDWEST - Friday's Sweet 16 head-to-head matchups in St. Louis: N.C. State vs. Kansas and Ohio vs. North Carolina
#1 NORTH CAROLINA (31-5) -Can anyone out there in Jim Sez land tell us why all the TV analysts didn't take Creighton to task for playing a dirty game on Sunday? The Tar Heels' 87-73 win against the 9 ½-point underdog Bluejays was marked by chippy play by the Missouri Valley Conference champs and the aforementioned Wragge was out of line for shoving Marshall on that fateful drive that caused his broken right wrist ... sure looked to us like Creighton wanted to rile up Carolina Blue and meanwhile they may well have kayoed the best point guard in the land (surgery set for Monday, say the TV insiders).
#2 KANSAS (29-6) -Don't ask us what Jayhawks head coach Bill Self was doing with all those junk defenses and his five-guard offense: The fact of the matter is Purdue blew it late with a botched play and Rock/Chalk Nation better be saying "thank you" to Kansas G Elijah Johnson who uncharacteristically led KU with 18 points and so now one can wonder if that was the "white knuckler" game this Big 12 team had to win if it's gonna cop a second national title in four years.
#11 N.C. STATE (24-12) -The words "swagger" and "confidence" kept being brought to the forefront this past weekend when the Wolfpack was busy beating San Diego State and Georgetown but how about hoop experts finally realizing that State's Lorenzo Brown -the fella with the big "Z" and big "O" tattoed on the back of his arms -is one of the more important players left in this tourney after he filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, 6 boards and 7 assists. Might Mark Gottfried's club be a team of destiny nearly 30 years after the Jimmy V. team that won it all?
#13 OHIO (29-7) -The Bobcats love to whip out that green magic marker and "fill in their bracket" after tourney wins but who thought they had it in 'em after getting behind gritty South Florida by six points at halftime? Whether the USF Bulls wilted or not (see third game in five days), the fact remains Ohio is headed to its first Sweet 16 since 1964 and head coach John Groce can likely name his job after this year's over although the post-game locker room scene seems to show the school prez really loves him!
NOTE: Tons more NCAA Tournament News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez and don't forget we'll have Sweet 16 Game Previews later in the week.