Tag: march madness
There were only a couple seconds left on the clock. Lucas Oil Stadium was packed to its last seat. This was the Big Game. Butler’s Gordon Hayward moved quickly to the sideline, made his jump, aimed and shot. Oh, no matter who you cheer for, if you love this sport, you know it was beautiful. The ball arching over the field. All eyes upon the ball’s trajectory as it hit the glass and bounced off the rim. This shot alone could have made this Butler-Duke game the most intense and dramatic game in the NCAA’s modern era. Yet the ball bounced off and it was just as if David’s shot just barely missed Goliath.
You have to give it up for Butler though. Sure enough, Duke deserved to win. But it would have been a much better story had Butler –the little school that dreamed high– win the National Championship. But that’s that, and this Cinderella Story ended up as an epic tale of the strong dominant team that silently and without much media coverage led its way up to win on March Madness.
We were all expecting this to happen. Duke was meant to take it all at the end. But, we weren’t expecting such a tight game. Unless you took the Blue Devils on the MoneyLine, when it comes to wagering, Duke probably just disappointed you. They were a 7 or 8 point favorite, depending on when you placed your wager. So Butler certainly lived to its expectations.
This is Duke’s 4th National Title. On the other hand this is Butlers first shot at a National Championship. Butler is a small 4,200 enrolled student university in Indianapolis on a modest budget, but played like at its very best. No one had this bracket. That’s for sure. I believe that not even Butler fans thought it was going to be this close of a match. The Butler Bulldogs have not lost a game since December, and Duke had to go into overdrive to keep barely win this match 61-59.
This was an incredible and insanely mad march. All the Big Names were left behind, one by one. Be it Kansas, Syracuse, Kentucky, they all failed miserably at one point or another. This seemed like a good tournament to give the dogs a try. Butler seemed very tempting as a 7 point dog. And many players went for it. This might be a good game on the long haul. It might be one to remember for those mid major schools that following Butler’s example could make it farther then they have ever had.
They might have not been the smartest kids on the court Thursday night, but they can sure play basketball. Kentucky schooled Cornell last night in their 62-45 win in the Sweet 16. This comfortable victory over the Ivy League school earned them a chance to go from Sweet to Elite. Now they have to face West Virginia in the Regional Final this afternoon.
Let’s face it, Cornell had a great season. They left behind Temple and Wisconsin behind on the first to rounds of the Tournament. They were a 3 point underdog against Temple, and a 4½ point dog against Wisconsin. So for a team that gives no scholarships for its players, and comes from one of the least competitive conferences in the college hoops world, Cornell did an amazing job.
But Kentucky is no Wisconsin or Temple. Sure, Cornell’s is got a player that can solve a Rubik’s cube in little less than 3 minutes and who can speak five languages. But as Kentucky’s Freshman DeMarcus Cousins said before the game: “This ain’t a spelling be”. And it wasn’t; this competition was as far from a spelling bee as it gets. Sure, the bright young students from Cornell are used to being schooled, but not quite like this. Kentucky is a training school for the NBA; Cornell help forge those brilliant minds that could later on afford season tickets in the Madison Square Garden.
Now Kentucky has to face West Virginia in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats have covered their spread in each of their games of the Tournament. Actually in their last 10 games Kentucky is 6-4 ATS and 9-1 straight up. Interesting enough, West Virginia arrives to the Elite Eight with a 5-5 ATS and 9-1 SU record. So if we look at the numbers it seems that it’s deemed to be a close game. As of press time the Wildcats are a -4 point favorite at BetIAS.com with a -200ML. It’s going to be a good game, that’s for sure.
I really hope Kentucky can keep on with the pressure, because every other team handicapped as the favorite by the Sportsbook Industry (that is Kansas and Syracuse) are now officially out of the tournament. The Orange had a very hard time dealing with this defeat. In the second half, the Butler Bulldogs were able to hold them off as they chased The Orange down and kept them scoreless for almost five minutes. It was a great game. Specially if you are into underdog stories.
Syracuse had 18 turnovers. And that was just not enough to catch up with the 10 point deficit that the Bulldogs had put on them by halftime. To say this was not Syracuse’s best night of the season is quite an understatement. It all went south. They couldn’t keep control of the ball; they only completed 3 more field goals then turnovers.
The team filled up with great players couldn’t get it together. If you look at the numbers, even their star players, such as Wes Johnson (17 points and 9 rebounds) and Scoop Jardine (14 points and five assists) were just a bit below their usual average. And playing just a bit below their usual average was just exactly what Butler needed to send the second No.1 seed of the Tournament home.
Butler was just 6-24 from outside the arc. But those 21 points, specially the last 6, really made a difference on the long run. They percentage was not good. But Baylor kept trying to shot from outside the arc, and that insistence brought good results.
The Jayhawks are out of the big picture, and rumor has it, the Blue Devils are going to have a hard time as the Big Dance gets close to its end. So who is left, which are the favorites to win it all? Well, no other then Kentucky and Syracuse. As of press time, the Kentucky Wildcats are the favorite to take it all at BetIAS.com with a ML+125. The next strongest team in the Odds to win the NCAA Tournament is Syracuse. At +400 the Orange is expected to make a strong statement in their way to Indianapolis.
Both Syracuse and Kentucky had really good games in the Second Round. For instance, Syracuse made it look easy as they just crushed Gonzaga in this fast paced game. And we shouldn’t forget that the Orange was playing without their injured power-forward Arinze Onuaku. There was a lot of guessing and speculating over his injury and how it would affect the team. Bottom line: they didn’t seem to need him anyway.
The Orange relied on the powerful game of Wesley Johnson who finished the game with 31 points and 14 rebounds. A strong performance that, if duplicated against Butler, could secure the Orange a spot in the Elite Eight.
Kentucky, on the other hand, finished 30 points ahead of Wake Forrest. Sure enough, now they have to face Ivy League Cornell. The Wildcats are a -8½ point spread favorite, but if only Cornell could play this game with the stamina and keep up the momentum of their 2 previous games, it might be a closer game then the handicappers expect it to be. The Big Red comes from a league that is not exactly the most competitive in the nation. Ok, The Ivy League is one of the weakest in the nation, but heck, the boys from Cornell have risen to the occasion with clear victories over Temple and Wisconsin.
Kansas State is ML+900 to win the Tournament. But I would keep an eye out for those guys too. They were able to keep BYU so far behind that the Cougars were really never able to even take a clear shot at a win. Now, they have been playing very strong. But that is not all. You have to consider that no other team received so many direct benefits from Northern Iowa’s amazing performance against Kansas.
The Wildcats had not been able to find a way to defeat the Jayhawks in any of their 3 previous games this season. So they were not looking forward for their possible matchup in the national semifinals. Sure, it’s still a long shot. If the bracket behaves as expected they still need to get over Xavier and then Syracuse, which is not an easy task by any means. But I would like to believe it’s a little extra push for KSU’s morale.