In Saturday's tournament action, Kentucky, Indiana, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Baylor, Ohio State, Louisville and Marquette all advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
Kentucky had little trouble with Iowa State and Indiana's dramatic win over VCU set up a rematch with Kentucky.Â Don't think they won't be prepared for that.
Syracuse beat K-State with more ease than we expected, winning 75-59, and will play Wisconsin. That's an interesting meeting of distinctive programs: Syracuse is famous for the 2-3 zone, while Wisconsin traditionally builds around tall frontcourts and a deliberate pace. That's a very interesting matchup.
Baylor won the Big 12 grudge match with former Big 12 team Colorado with relative ease and awaits the winner of Xavier-Lehigh. A lot of people will instinctively go with Xavier, but Lehigh has better chemistry and that counts a lot, as Duke found out.
Ohio State had a spot of bother with Gonzaga but ultimately prevailed, 73-66.
Marquette took out Murray State, which the winner of Florida-Norfolk State will be grateful, although Marquette is no day at the beach.
Louisville knocked off New Mexico, barely, but that still counts, while Kansas survived St. Mary's, 72-69.
Sunday is the day for the remaining ACC teams to take the stage.Â Florida State gets Cincinnati. It's not Bob Huggins' team anymore, but the Bearcats still revel in a tough image. Well, FSU revels in their defensive image, and when they are at their best, it's a real load. They can just break teams, and for teams that haven't seen it, it's a lot to get used to.
State gets Georgetown, and the stereotype will be cerebral Georgetown vs...what...reckless? impulsive? How will they categorize State? Somehow it will be the opposite of cerebral. Maybe they'll just call them athletic.
Thing is, when State plays well - and smart - they're really effective. They have a tight rotation, true, but at times Richard Howell, CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown have been hugely effective. Leslie has spent his college career learning how to play basketball, as opposed to being a freak athlete on a basketball team, and it's starting to pay off. He still needs to play more passionate defense, but who doesn't? Not many people.
Of concern: CJ Williams tweaked his ankle at the end of the San Diego State game. He's not a great guard, but he's good enough, and they're thin. They'll need him.
As UNC matches up with Creighton, an interesting game within a game as Harrison Barnes reunites with his high school teammate Doug McDermott, who followed his dad to Creighton (he had been at Iowa State).
McDermott was an understudy in almost every sense - he says he was Barnes's main form of transportation as he drove him all over town - but he's not now.
In fact, and this is not really subject to argument, his college career has been more impressive and he has grown far more than has Barnes.
Our beef with Barnes isn't just that he has basically settled for being a jumpshooter, it's how that's expressed. When you watch UNC carefully, you'll notice something weird: Barnes is almost always the second one there. When there's a loose ball, he gets there, but not first. When there's a fast break, if he's not at the front, well, he'll catch up. Eventually.
Twice this season, when UNC's had very tough, close games, we've seen him - how to put this - expect the shot rather than work for the points.
Against Kentucky, when John Henson attempted the last shot, Barnes waited with hands open, then stomped his feet and yelled at Henson.
Meanwhile, with enough time left to change things, the ball went downcourt.
And against Florida State, while it would have been much more difficult after PJ Hairston took the shot, Barnes waited on the perimeter. It would have been a miracle, but you can't make that happen unless you actually try.
That's what we dislike about his game. It's prima donna-ish.
We don't like UNC as is the case with most Duke fans, but from time to time they have players we admire. This year they have three: Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson. Henson is still uncertain after his injury in the ACC Tournament.
Here's the thing about this game: UNC has never defended the three very well. Creighton shoots it exceedingly well. That's potentially big trouble. And Vermont outrebounded them? That's just passion. UNC could use a bit, starting with Barnes diving on the floor once in awhile or scrapping for a rebound.
Duke Basketball Blue Book
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