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NCAA Tournament – Welcome to the Final Four

by on Mar.28, 2011, under Basketball, Sports News

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.

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NCAA Tournament – A quick look into the East 3rd round

by on Mar.22, 2011, under Basketball, Sports News

The NCAA East is corner of your bracket is probably looking fairly nice by this point of the season. At least it sure enough looks a lot prettier then the top right corner since the Southwest has been nothing short of a bracket buster. But things here have rolled as planned. Perhaps with the early exception of Marquette, the talented team the pulled off the 66-55 upset against Xavier, and then kept up their spectacular pace by breaking down the No.3 seed the Syracuse Orange. Other then that, Ohio State and Kentucky have won its respective legs and the North Carolina Tar Heels have done their part as well. Stick Around as we take you thru all the NCAA Basketball Action of this weekend.

Kentucky dances its way into the sweet 16

Well considering that on his last game he only scored one point, scoring 30 on his second NCAA Tournament game is quite a way to for Brandon Knight to make his statement: I’m good. Perhaps it wouldn’t be such a shocking news if you considered that Knight’s only basket in the earlier game was the winning point, that decisive shot that pushed Kentucky past Princeton in a heart stopping 59-57 win.

Kentucky was facing the West Virginia Mountaineers in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Just 48-hours after he pushed Kentucky past the Ivy League team, Knight began an 11-0 run at the beginning of the second half to lift off the Wildcats into the next round. As if that was not enough, Knight was also in charge of completing 6 free throws in the last 5 minutes of the game, just as West Virginia was closing down the gap to only 2-point with 5:23 to play. But that was as close as the Mountaineers would get for the rest of the game. At the end, Kentucky pushed its pieces and managed to bring in a 71-63 win over WVU.

It has been a year of serious rebuilding for both Kentucky and West Virginia. Da’Sean Butler was the star of West Virginia’s Final Four team last season and Kentucky is getting back in shape after having five players -four freshmen- picked in in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft. That is including the No. 1 overall pick John Wall.

But they have sure enough made a heck of a job rebuilding. But they certainly don’t have an easy game ahead of them. Kentucky will face for the third time in the program history a number one seed in the Sweet 16. The two previous times the Wildcats played on this scenario, they lost by double-digits. As if that wasn’t enough of a bleak omen Kentucky is 0-5 all-time vs Ohio State in the Men’s Basketball Championship.

The trio of talented freshman  kept on giving Kentucky good results despite a couple drawbacks. Knight scored 14 of his the Wildcats’ first 21 points, and seemed to be in decent shape at the halftime break despite not getting much help from it’s other two freshmen starters Terrance Jones, Doron Lamb, and the Junior, Darius Miller. Despite his slow start, Jones finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Marquette stuns Syracuse and strolls into the Sweet 16

The Marquette Golden Eagles are proving that what they did to Xavier was nothing out of the ordinary. Guided by the spirited head coach Brent Williams, who’s post-game celebrations are quite a show, the Eagles keep on proving to be a menace to the big schools.

With a flawless performance on Sunday by Darius Johnson-Odom who recorded 17 points, 4 assists and 3 steals, the Marquette Golden Eagles are moving into the round of 16 for the first time since 2003. That time they had Dwayne Wade to guide them into the Final Four. This time around it seems that if someone is going to do this, it would be Johnson-Odom who could guide the Golden Eagles past the North Carolina Tar Heels.

The last time Marquette played North Carolina in the NCAA was back in 1977. But it was a very different scenario as they were playing for the 1977 championship game. Marquette won the national title. And we can assure you that every Golden Eagle knows the 77’ team.

Once again the Syracuse Orange had trouble advancing to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season.  Four different times has the Orange set itself in place to earn a 4th consecutive ticket into the Sweet 16 dance, and they have failed to do so in each of them.

Odom hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 27 seconds left to play that pushed Marquette to a 66-62 win over the Syracuse Orange. It was a typical Big East game, and had all the ingredients that make these games such an amazing show. Now they’ll have a very rough time facing No.2 North Carolina on March 25th, but there are plenty of arguments to believe that they could pull off yet another upset.

The North Carolina Tar Heels survive the Washington Huskies

It was a fast paced, energetic and close game. The Washington Huskies were fighting for a chance to play in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in their past five tournament appearances. But the North Carolina Tar Heels proved exactly why they are always a menace once the madness of March begins.

The Huskies are a strong team. They are really making a good impression in the last few years. But it is hard to play against a team with the legacy and the talent of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Just to really give you an impression of how these two teams compare with 18 wins in the NCAA Tournament, Washington is just now matching the number of appearances the Tar Heels have made in the Final Four.

Still, you have to give it up for the Huskies. As one of their players put it, what they lack in tournament experience and legacy, they make up with heart. Terrence Ross scored 19 points and Matthew Bryan-Amaning added 14 for the seventh-seeded Huskies. They sure enough had a chance. North Carolina’s star guard Isaiah Thomas wasn’t having his best game ever and the hostile crowd was certainly on their favor. It was a good try, but it wasn’t good enough.

Tyler Zeller scored 23 points, Harrison Barnes added 22 for North Carolina who survived the last 60 seconds of an impressive game that were filled with questionable calls and have now earned its record-breaking 22nd chance to play the round of 16 in the NCAA.

Ohio State is still the team to beat

The Buckeyes were facing the George Mason Patriots in the round of 32, and they didn’t really seem to have much trouble proving that they have exactly what it takes to win their first national championship since 1960. George Mason took on an early lead of 11-2 enjoying that sort of cold late start suffered by most every player in Ohio State. The Patriots bench even went on to mock freshman Jared Sullinger, who was clearly frustrated with the Buckeyes subpar first 5 minutes.

But Sullinger had no need to get so upset. In a matter of minutes the Buckeyes got ahead in the scoreboard and with impeccable shooting from outside the perimeter left absolutely no chances for George Mason to pull off an upset. At the end, the Ohio State Buckeyes pulled a very fine 98-66 whooping of the George Mason Patriots.

Truth is, the Ohio State Buckeyes were flawless. Yes they weren’t playing a top-ranked team but they just made it all look too easy. Just take a look at these stats: David Lighty made all seven of his 3-pointers and scored 25 points. Sullinger got pass his initial anger and with William Buford added 18 points apiece. Ohio State had no mercy makings 16 baskets from outside the 3-point line while again showing that they are the No.1 favorite to win the NCAA Tourney.

The Ohio State Buckeyes’ next game is sure going to be something. They will meet the Kentucky Wildcats in what promises to be an epic battle on Friday night. Ohio State is 5-0 against the Wildcats in NCAA Tournament matchups, but they shouldn’t take too much risks, as Kentucky has proved to be a solid all-around team. 

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NCAA Tournament – Richmond upsets Vanderbilt in the last second

by on Mar.18, 2011, under Basketball, Sports News

Richmond holds quite an impressive record in the NCAA Tournament, and truth be said, they just made this one better as the Spiders were able to pull-off a last second shot to take a 66-69 win. This was the second upset of the day as Morehead State was capable of stunning Louisville, but contrary to that other game, Richmond knew they had a chance all along.

Heck, even the US President, Barack Obama, saw it coming. He missed out on Louisville, though. Obama had Louisville reaching the regional semifinals when he filled in the presidential bracket just a couple of days ago. But he sure enough hit a good pick when he went for 12th seeded Richmond to win over the 5th seeded Vanderbilt.
President Barack Obama lost another valuable pick with Michigan State, which fell to UCLA later on that night. But let’s get back to the Richmond Spiders game against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Ok, it is not that Richmond is one of the big teams in College Basketball. We are very far away from making that statement. On the other hand Richmond beat an Auburn team led by Charles Barkley during the 1984 NCAA tournament and defeated the second-seeded Syracuse Orange in 1991. So yes, this is not the first time they’ve done something like this. But its sure has been the first time in quite a while.

To be more precise this is actually the Richmond Spiders’ first NCAA tournament win since they knocked out South Carolina in 1998 as a No. 14 seed.

Looking for the man of the hour, well look no further, it was Kevin Anderson. He guided the spiders scoring 16 of his 25 points in the second half, including a beautiful floater with 18.7 seconds remaining that helped seal the game for Richmond.

The No. 12 seed, the Richmond Spider will now play the 13th seed, the Morehead State tomorrow, to earn a ticket to the Sweet 16 dance. Stick around for more coverage on all the madness of the NCAA Tournament.

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NCAA Basketball – Barack Obama makes his picks for the Presidential Bracket

by on Mar.16, 2011, under Basketball, Sports News

This time around, President Barack Obama didn’t take that many chances and even though he is the most renowned advocate of change and the change we can believe in, he certainly goes for the safe route when taking on the NCAA Bracket. This time around President Obama is not taking too many risks as he had chosen the 4 top seeded teams to waltz their way pass the Sweet 16 dance and overpower their rivals in the Elite Eight and straight into the Final Four.

The US President says that the Duke Blue Devils, the Kansas Jayhawks, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Pittsburgh Panthers are all expected to not only follow what the Selection Committee said where the favorite teams but also what the sportsbook-world handicappers are saying would be the strongest teams of the bracket.

Once again, Obama went for the Kansas Jayhawks to be win the Big Game. Obama’s national Champion would face the Ohio State Buckeyes, the No. 1 overall seed of the 68-team tournament, on the final. Barack Obama holds a 1-1 record when it comes to picking the National Championship. He was right on in 2009 when he went with the North Carolina Tar Heels for to win it. Last year, he wasn’t that accurate, as he picked the Jayhawks. They were a bit of a disappointment and it was the Duke Blue Devils guided by Coach K. who would go on to win the NCAA Tournament.

This year again, Obama is holding strong to the Jayhawks and putting his faith on the Morris brothers. According to Barack Obama those two could guide Kansas into great things. In his own words, those twins have depth and experience. One thing is for certain, Obama might be one of holds one of the most privileged and complicated offices in the world, but he seems to still find time to know who is who in college basketball.

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