Oregon leads all four regional semifinal games decided by double digits
SPECIAL NOTE: This blog is dedicated to one of the great comedians of our time, Garry Shandling who passed away at age 66 on Thursday. An amazing talent with a true flair of coming up with the right words at the right times, his talk show was on during a period where people were not afraid to take chances and have fun doing it when those camera lights came on. If you check out some of his shows on YouTube, you will get a firm idea of why he will forever be one of the greats in this or any era going forward.
We had four teams that mostly shot lights out (Villanova) and performed stout defense (Oregon and Kansas). Yet also, the game’s current enigmatic player was mostly a decoy and let someone else take on the spotlight (Oklahoma).
SOUTH REGIONAL at KFC-Yum! Center in Louisville
Game one had Villanova shoot 63 percent for the game (32 of 51), while going 10 of 15 from three-point land and hitting 18 of 19 free throws. Although Miami made ten threes and shot 53 percent, Villanova used their defense to throw Angel Rodriguez completely off balance as the Wildcats rolled to an easy 92-69 win. Kris Jenkins provided the explanation point at the first half buzzer when he launched a 35 foot shot that saw nothing but nylon.
Their regional final opponent will be the top seed of Kansas, who broke open a 43 all tie 2 1/2 minutes into the second half by outscoring the Terrapins 9-0 en route to a convincing 79-63 victory. Perry Ellis led the charge again with 27 points, while Wayne Selden chipped in with 19. For Maryland, Melo Tremble had 17, but finished hitting only 5 of 16 attempts from the field (one shot did go in from three). As a team, Maryland shot 40 percent for the game. The former Duke star Rasheed Sulaimon led the Terps with 18 points.
Speaking of Duke, they finally ran out of options at the West Regional.
WEST REGIONAL at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA
A crowd led by notable celebrities from the likes of Kobe Bryant, Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Nike CEO Phil Knight, Oregon ended the run of Duke as national champions with a decisive 82-68 victory late on Thursday night. The Ducks mostly led by double digits thanks to a 22 point effort by Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook had 16 points and nine rebounds.
Brandon Ingram tried to keep the Blue Devils close in the first half, but it was not enough thanks to each of their starters getting two fouls by the second TV time out in the second half. Marshall Plumlee scored only six points in his final college game, while Grayson Allen (the Most Outstanding Player at the 2015 Final Four) scored 12 of his 15 points during the second half. Oregon mainly won thanks to the three-point shot from the likes of Brooks, along with Casey Benson and Chris Boucher. Even their inside game got some major highlight dunks from Jordan Bell as well as Elgin Cook.
This will be Oregon’s third Elite Eight appearance since 2002. The last time they reached this far, they lost to Florida in 2007. Their final opponent on Saturday evening will be the second seed of Oklahoma, who used a 22 point effort from Jordan Woodward as the Aggies could not shoot straight all night and ended up getting blown out by a 77-63 count.
As for Buddy Hield, he had his first double-double of the season compiling 17 points and 10 rebounds. Personally, it was nice for him to play the role of decoy–similar to what the late, great NFL Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears in Walter Payton did to throw New England’s defensive backs completely off balance early and often in Chicago’s demolishing of the Patriots way back in Super Bowl XX in 1986.
Oklahoma finished the game hitting on 11 of 25 shots from long distance and held Texas A&M to a meager 22 of 64 for 34.4 percent. The Aggies were led by Tyler Davis who had 17 and Danuel House who helped key the greatest comeback in NCAA Tournament history this past Sunday had only ten points.
As for the Sooners, they had a balanced attack as all five starters finished in double figures. Christian James added 12 points on 4 of 8 shooting coming off the bench, while Ryan Spangler and Khadeem Lattin each chipped in with ten points.
It may be chilly in Chicago and rainy in Philadelphia, but the action will hopefully be more competitive
Even current Chicago Bulls coach and former Iowa State Head Coach Fred Hoiberg will be watching in Orlando as his former team in the Cyclones will take on the top seed of Virginia inside the United Center, aka “The Lavish Mansion on Madison”.
The nightcap for CBS will be a double digit seed showdown as Syracuse will try to use their vaunted zone defense against high scoring Gonzaga.
In the East Regional at Philadelphia, the last hopes for the basketball crazy state that is Indiana will be on full display for those watching on TBS. First up will be Mike Brey’s group of “destiny” (as he put it in the locker room at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after their last second close-shave win over a gutsy and determined group from Stephen F. Austin) as his Fighting Irish will play the final school still alive from playing in the 2015 Final Four with a new look Wisconsin Badgers group standing in their way.
The late game has the makings of a classic, as Indiana and North Carolina again will lock horns. Way back when in 1981 and 1984, the Tar Heels were favored when Roy Williams was then an assistant under legendary head coach Dean Smith. But both times, the likes of Isaiah Thomas and Dan Dakich swung the momentum in the Big Red’s favor. The big question for all fans in and around Bloomington, Columbus, and most parts of Southern Indiana is a simple one–will the real Yogi Ferrell show up and score at least 20 points? For North Carolina to rewrite history on their end, Brice Johnson will have to come up huge–especially on the defensive end as Indiana enjoys catching teams napping all the time with their changing offensive schemes.
At least, all I can say is whomever wins it will certainly end up as a really Good Friday in terms of hopefully a better quality of play than what we saw on Thursday evening. Please have a good night and I will see most of you again tomorrow night.