March Madness Highlights: Top Teams Heading Into the Sweet 16
48 games in less than 96 hours. I think everyone could use some time to catch their collective breath before next Thursday. Here is a rundown of today's games which included a 15-seed and a 13-seed making the Sweet 16, and a number of top teams took the full 40-minutes to get by. Here is a look at everything that happened today:
Iowa State takes another top-10 team to its absolute limit, but Aaron Craft saved the day once again for Ohio State, en route to a 78-75 win. Former Michigan State point guard Korie Lucious paced the Cyclones with 19 points. Down 69-56 with 6 minutes to play, the Cyclones mounted a furious charge, capped off by a 3-point play to tie the score by Lucious. But at the end of the day, it was Craft who hit the big shots. Craft, who scored 18, scored the Buckeyes final seven points. They take on Arizona in the Sweet 16.
In the next game of the day, behind 20 first-half points from Khalif Wyatt, Temple led the Hoosiers at the half 29-26. But the age-old mantra "defense wins championships" comes into play as all-world defender Victor Oladipo held Wyatt to only 13 points (a tall order as he scored 31 in each of their two tournament games). The Hoosiers escape Dayton with a 58-52 win. Three Hoosiers scored double-figures, including Oladipo, who in addition to his taking Wyatt out of the picture for long-stretches on the defensive side of the ball, hit a three as the shot-clock wound down with 15 seconds left on the game clock to put the Hoosiers up by four. The Hoosiers survive and advance and take on the Syracuse Orange in Washington D.C. next week.
Down nine at the half, the Jayhawks must have heard something from either Bill Self or the hometown crowd, and played like the top-line team they are. The Jayhawks win 70-58 behind 22 from Travis Releford, and 16 points and 16 rebounds from Jeff Withey. The Jayhawks were able to win despite an 0-9 shooting performance from Ben McLemore.
Up 21 at the half, the Florida Gators defeated the Minnesota Gophers 78-64. But a mere 14 point margin doesn't tell the whole story. The Gators have had trouble all year closing out tight games, going 0-6 in single-digit games. It took Florida more than 8 minutes to make their second field goal of the half while the Gophers trimmed a 21 point deficit down to 7. But the talent of the Gators took over and behind 25 from Mike Rosario, the Gators move on to the Sweet 16.
The slipper fits for Florida Gulf Coast as they coast on to an 81-71 victory over San Diego State. Led by a balanced and high-flying attack, Brett Corner picked the right time to rack-up a career high 14 assists while tallying 10 points as well. This little engine that could takes on in-state foe, the Florida Gators in the Sweet 16 in a game which is sure to feature some offensive fireworks.
In a match-up of double-digit seeds, La Salle outlasts Ole Miss 76-74 to advance to the Sweet 16. The West Region has been replete with upsets in the first two rounds, as seven of the first twelve games have been won by the lower seeds, and five of the first six in the top-half of the bracket going to the lower seed. Marshall Henderson was held to 4-15 shooting from three and poor free-throw shooting did the Rebels in. The Explorers got 21 points from Ramon Galloway, who played all but one minute, and 17 more from Tyrone Garland off the bench. La Salle faces off against Wichita State, who defeated the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs Saturday night.
Questionable calls at the end of the game will shroud Miami's gritty 63-59 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini. Brandon Paul scored 18, but for all of his efforts slowing down the combination of Durand Scott and Shane Larkin (held to a combined 7-20 from the field), D.J. Richardson shot 1-11 from the field including 1-10 from three. Rion Brown, who averaged only 6 points per game coming in, scored 21 off the bench to give the Hurricanes a boost when their starting back-court couldn't get it going. Survive and advance is the motto of the tournament, and for a team heavy on experience but light on tournament experience, this was an important win for them. They move on to take on the Marquette Golden Eagles, a team who is all-too familiar with close games this tournament, in the Sweet 16.
In the final game of the round, Duke handled Creighton 66-50. Duke's trio of big-men--Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Josh Hairston--were in foul trouble throughout the night with Plumlee and Hairston fouling out; however, a big performance out of freshmen Rasheed Sulaimon helped carry the Blue Devils to victory. After making their first one, the Bluejays went almost 35 game minutes and 13 shots before making another three. For a team that relies so heavily on the three-point shot, the adage "those that live by the three, die by the three" holds considerable weight here. The Blue Devils take on the Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16.
Now it is time for some time off, but stay tuned for detailed predictions and analysis for each of the Sweet 16 games throughout the week, as well as a look back at the most memorable moments from the opening weekend.