Archive for March, 2011
The popular saying states that there are at least two sides to every story worth telling. Well, this one is no exception. On the one side we have the actions and the facts. Spaniard David Ferrer was getting ready to serve a shot in his match against American Mardy Fish. They were playing for the quarterfinals of the Sony Erickson Open. That’s when the sound of a brawling child filled the tennis stadium court.
Ferrer stop there for a second, but regardless of the noise he decided to play the point. On the one side Ferrer wasn’t having his best day ever as a pro and was certainly loosing the game to Fish. Ferrer lost the point. Seconds later he lost his temper and lobbed the ball into the crowd in sheer frustration.
He really couldn’t get back from that. He lost in the next four straight games and ultimately fell to the 14th ranked Fish by 5-7, 2-6. He didn’t hit the crying baby nor he hit anyone else on the stands, but you can clearly see where he was going with it. It’s got to be frustrating to be in a stadium filled with the noise of a crying infant.
Now, that’s for Fish. On the other hand, one can’t help but to wonder why would someone take an infant to a professional tennis match. There are a couple of places where little children shouldn’t be at: bars, opera houses and tennis stadiums. That’s that. Sure, Ferrer shouldn’t have reacted like he did, but heck, that parent shouldn’t have exposed his kid to such an environment where silence is so greatly appreciated.
Yes, it was plainly wrong to throw the ball into the stands. On the other hand we have to recognize that it was quite an effective way to silence the kid. He didn’t make another noise for the rest of the game.
If you are fond of Cinderella Stories you are probably fond of the NCAA Tournament. There is one very simple reason why the tourney is called March Madness: anything can (and will) happen. And there is just a terrific beauty behind this fact, and the fact that your bracket is probably useless by this point. At leas ours is, we haven’t miss this many picks in a long-long while. Last year it was Butler who surprised everyone moving up the tournament and into the Championship Game against Duke. Now, there is an even sweeter story: Virginia Commonwealth.
VCU Stuns Kansas and advances to the Final Four
Rumor has it that exactly two weeks ago, during selection Sunday, the VCU Rams had so little faith in making it into the NCAA Tourney that they went out to a local ice cream parlor and stayed at home watching Cartoon Network instead of the nationally televise selection show.
Now, the VCU Rams have silenced all the doubters that had questioned not only whether they belonged in the Tourney but also have showed them that they might even have exactly what it takes to win it: a formidable game, a top-notch squad and a solid base founded on its impeccable teamwork. That formula was exactly good enough to bring down the last standing No.1 seed Kansas Jayhawks 71-61.
Jamie Skeen led VCU with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Point Guard Joey Rodriguez had 5 assists and 2 steals and guided the Rams over a fast paced first half that stun the Jayhawks to a 41-27 deficit against a team that had never trailed by more than two points during the whole tournament. It really seems that neither head coach Bill Self nor his group of talented players knew exactly what hit them. By the time they figured it out, Skeen was on the free throw line, ready to blow out the final seconds by tossing the ball over the opposite backboard and into the stands.
Now, this is not a sporadic performance from VCU. Truth is that from the First Four to the Final Four Virginia Commonwealth has had to push their limits and play with all their heart. To get to the school’s first ever Final Four, and the Colonial Athletic Association’s second: the first team was George Mason who also shocked everyone in the 2006 tourney.
VCU played five teams from all over the country to get where they are. The Rams toppled the Pac-10′s Southern California, the Big East’s Georgetown, the Big 10′s Purdue, the ACC’s Florida State and now the Big 12′s Kansas. Perhaps proving once again that the whole story behind big teams and little teams are not that much of an issue and that this years committee made some rough choices when picking its seeds. As a matter of fact, for the third time since the NCAA began its seeding system has not a single No.1 seed made it to the Final Four.
The Jayhawks stars, the Morris twins, could keep up with the absolutely brilliant performance from the Rams who scored 9 of their 12 three-pointers in the first half. Sure, Marcus Morris had 20 points and 16 boards for the Jayhawks while his brother Markief Morris had 13 points and 12 rebounds, but sure that wasn’t enough to keep the Rams from taking on a 17-point advantage with 5 minutes to play in the first half. And the Jayhawks never even got close again.
The VCU Rams will now have to face Butler in the Final Four. Actually, this final is so unexpected that this is by far the highest combined seeds of any Final Four game. No. 11 VCU playing No.8 Butler definitely outnumbers No.11 George Mason vs Florida in 2006 and No.8 UCLA vs No.6 Purdue in 1980. Florida and Purdue made it to their respective championship games. Will the Rams do so too?
Kentucky moves on to the Final Four after upsetting North Carolina
The Kentucky Wildcats are the NCAA Basketball’s winningest program ever, and yet somehow, they had managed during 13 seasons consecutive seasons to see from the sideline as other schools kept on moving to the Final Four. To put this into the right perspective we must consider that in most other schools that isn’t that bad of a record. But when you are among the sports elite, 13 years is –oh- but so much more than just 13 years.
So when the timer ran out and head coach John Calipari turned around to celebrate with his players, the squad was more then happy of beating the North Carolina Tar Heels. They were trilled of having Kentucky back in the Final Four for the first time since their 1998 National Title.
Kentucky’s talented freshman Brandon Knight scored 22 points and 7 boards, including a game changing 3-pointer that broke a 67-67 tie with three minutes to play in the second half. DeAndre Liggins added 12, including a 3-pointer from the corner with 37 seconds to go that buried the Tar Heels last remains of hope. So this is quite a comeback for a team that last season, despite holding one of the best squads in the league, were already out of the tournament by the Elite Eight round. Still, this is the Wildcats’ 14th appearance in the National Semifinal.
It was a good sign for Kentucky, who had lost its last three matchups against the North Carolina Tar Heels. John Calipari is only on his second season as the head coach of the Wildcats, but he has made good his promise of one day returning the Wildcats to its glory. He sure has done just that, and one could say that much more faster than most would have expected him to.
The Wildcats had a very complicated way of getting there. Kentucky had to outplay the No.1 favorite on the NCAA betting odds, Ohio State on the final eight. They played and survived Princeton after Brandon Knight took the last shot that put them ahead 59-57 with just seconds left. They then went ton to defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers in the round of 32 by an ample 71-63 margin. But they sure enough had some trouble facing the Buckeyes and the Tar Heels. Still, they will now have to get ready to play UConn on April 2nd, for the National Semifinals. It will be quite something else should Calipari pull of yet another win and take Kentucky into the National Championship game.
Butler goes into OT to defeat Florida and earn a ticket to the Final Four
Had it not been this dramatic, it probably wouldn’t have been a Butler win. Because that seems to be the way the Butler Bulldogs roll once the NCAA Championship kick in. Shelvin Mack was the guy in charge of leading the Bulldogs offensive with 27 points, that is, including 5 vital points in overtime to reach its second consecutive Final Four after outlasting the Florida Gators 74-71 this weekend.
And it is just that Butler’s talent to pull of upset over higher seeded teams is quite a strong force. Butler comes from the Horizon League, it is its current champion. On its way to the Final Four, the Bulldogs have outplayed top-seeded Pittsburgh in the round of 64, it then went on to beat the Wisconsin Badgers in the Sweet 16 before pushing the second-seeded Gators back to Florida in the Elite Eight. And yes, all of those games have been amusing, dramatic and filled with that special ingredient that makes us all fall for the March Madness.
Butler completed a come from behind win after catching up with the Gators late in the second half to push it into overtime. Once there, the Bulldogs hit a clutch-time 3-pointer that pushed them pass a very competitive Florida Gators squad. And it was not an easy quest. With a little over nine minutes to play the Bulldogs had to get out of an 11-point deficit if they were hoping to at least match their last season’s performance. But they proved why the team that wasn’t looking that great just a little over 2 months ago has got its guys back in top shape to keep their flawless winning streak since February 3rd.
Kyle Marshall added 10 points for the Bulldogs but it was Matt Howard and his 14 points who made a bigger difference. He was responsible for completing the 3 pointer with 1:21 to play in overtime that gave Butler the lead after it was trailing 72-70. And the Bulldogs never looked back. The Bulldogs are 9-1 in their last 10 NCAA Tournament games, including six games with a winning margin of three or fewer points. Not only that but, whit this win the Butler Bulldogs have become the first team that is not part of any of the six power conferences to reach consecutive Final Fours since the University of Northern Las Vegas completed the feat back in exactly twenty years ago.
Before the Gators reached the Elite Eight this season, Florida hadn’t won a single NCAA tournament game since winning its second straight national title. Florida’s Erving Walker could had change the game, as he went for a long three-pointer with only 10.6 seconds to go. But Walker wasn’t going to complete that shot. As a matter of fact Walkers was 0 for 8 from the field. Strangely enough, Vernon Macklin who had shot 11 for 14 and had 25 points was out on sitting on the bench.
UConn defeats Arizona for a ticket to the Final Four
Arizona took down the defending champion with an out of this world second half. That said, Duke never saw what hit them in the Elite Eight. Arizona had the motivation and the talent but it wasn’t enough to slow down the Connecticut Huskies who outplayed them in a 63-65 heart stopping epic battle. I really hoped you didn’t miss on this game, because it was just a phenomenal showcase of why it is that the NCAA Tournament attracts so many viewers each year.
Arizona had the last possession of the game. The score was 63-65 and the last 20 seconds of the game where been played. Derrick Williams was the man to go for on clutch time. A three-pointer would have given the Arizona Wildcats a ticket into the final four. Walker got a clear shot from the middle and he went for it. The ball bounced off the rim and after a bit of a scramble Arizona had the ball again.
This time they were coming from the right side. Jamelle Horne was given the last chance to hit the winner. He took his shot. UConn’s head coach Jim Calhoun couldn’t even look. The ball left Horne’s hands and made its way to the basket. If Horne makes this basket there would be literally no time for a comeback from the Huskies. But the ball bounced off the back of the rim and UConn survived Arizona’s frenetic come-from-behind effort.
The Wildcats have had one heck of a journey this season. First they defeated Memphis 75-77 in the second round. Then they played Texas and on a brilliant last second play outplayed the Texas Longhorns 70-69. They kept on their tempo to defeat Duke 93-77 in a marvelous display by Derrick Williams. But it wasn’t enough to survive the Huskies who managed to put a halt to the Wildcats amazing season.
UConn finished with a .500 season in the Big East, but they haven’t lost since. In the last 19 days, UConn has managed to surpass all of its rivals, winning 5 games in 5 days during the NCAA Tournament and then keeping up the pace in the NCAA Tourney. First they crushed the Bucknell Bison 81-52. They kept on their good pace and brought down Cinncinatti 68-69. Then they held on strong to make it pass San Diego State in the Sweet 16 with an easy 74-67 win. So yes, UConn had yet to be tested like this, but they stand strong against and managed to slip by Arizona.
The Huskies are the last team standing from the Big East’s 11 NCAA tournament entrants. And truth is we really never saw this one coming. UConn had gone 9-9 in regular-season conference play, so unless you consider their bright run in the conference tourney, it is quite a surprise that they are still here. But perhaps it is the only argument the Selection Committee could have next year for brining such a high number of teams from the Big East.
The Final Four matchups
This is it. The best four college basketball teams in the nation are taking a go at the National Championship. On April 4th, 2011 the Virginia Commonwealth Rams will be playing Butler for a ticket to the National Championship game, at 6:09 Eastern Time. As of press time, Butler is a 2½ point favorite on the spread. It’s laying -145 on the money line, if you rather take them to win. The total has been set at 133½ either way.
The second game of the Final four will be played that same night at 8:45 Eastern Time, as the University of Kentucky plays the University of Connecticut for the last ticket into the National Championship game. As of press time, Kentucky is a -2 point favorite on the spread. The money line sits right at -140 in case you don’t care much about covering the spread. The total is set to 140 flat.
Derrick Williams was in charge of keeping the Arizona Wildcats alive throughout the first half of a very complicated game against the defending champions, the Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tourney. Williams scored 25 of his career-high 32 points in the first half, recorded 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals and 1 block and guided the Wildcats into their first Elite Eight round since 2005. But that wasn’t really all.
If Williams was the man of the hour in the first half, the rest of the team was simply brilliant in the rest of the game. The Wildcats outscored the Blue Devils 55-33 in the second half and we a solid defense and an aggressive and swiftly paced offensive caught up with Duke with for the first time with 15:18 left in the second half to establish a 54-53 advantage that would only grow bigger as the game got closer to an end.
It was a magical 19-2 run that seemingly came out of nowhere. Five Wildcats where in charge of putting together this impeccable comeback, as Williams scored only 2 points during the run. Solomon Hill chipped in with 13 points for the Wildcats. Arizona shot for 54 percent and made 9 of 15 shots from the 3-point range, including five by Williams who proved he can not only shot from outside the perimeter but dunk like a pro.
The Blue Devils (32-5) were sent packing from a regional semifinal for the second time in three years. It really seems as if been the No. 1 seed is not the best thing to happen to Duke. As a matter of fact, no other team has lost more games in the Sweet 16 while been the No.1 seeded team in the tourney. This is Duke’s 5th losing game under those circumstances.
Duke brought in their A-team, but it wasn’t enough. Kyrie Irving scored 28 points after missing 26 games with a toe injury. Kyle Singler added 18 points, but got in foul trouble very early in the second half. And the Wildcats made a phenomenal job slowing down the talented Nolan Smith who only chipped in for eight points, quite a subpar performance considering he has a 21-point per game average.
LeBron James is not going to win this year’s MVP. Yes, he had been the dominant force in the NBA for a while, but ever since he made his move to the Miami Heat and joined Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, James is certainly not even close on the fight for the MVP. If anyone could win it other then the Derrick Rose, that would probably be Dwight Howard, of the Orlando Magic.
But should Rose win the MVP this would certainly be a nice change. For starters, Rose is a different breed of star. He is the most valuable player in the league who happens to play for a team where there is no player more valuable then the other. The Chicago Bulls are really doing something spectacular. Despite an irregular start of the season, it seems like the Bulls are going to beat the Boston Celtics for the No.1 spot in the NBA Easter Conference.
And if you even go out further and take a close look at the Chicago Bulls, you might even agree with many other writers who certainly believe that the Bulls are the best team in the league. But could they win down the stretch, when it matters most, once the postseason kicks in and the Bulls have a chance to go back to its better years?
Rose is averaging 25 points and 8 assists per game, and in his third year as a pro, he has significantly improved his game, and guided the Bulls into such an efficient game that we hadn’t seen since Michael Jordan’s era. Should he win the MVP award, or not, the Bulls are well focused on one thing: winning another championship ring. The Bulls haven’t won a National Championship since 1998. They had Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson on their side. With Rose playing like he has been playing, they’ve never had a better chance since then.