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The Kentucky Wildcats beat North Carolina 76-69 Sunday afternoon to claim the final ticket to Houston next weekend for the 2011 Final Four. No. 4 Kentucky will take on No. 3 seed Connecticut, and this year marks the first time that the Final Four will be without a single No. 1 or No. 2 seed.
The two traditional powerhouses put together a very entertaining, up-tempo game on Sunday. North Carolina was led by Tyler Zeller who posted 21 points off of the bench. Freshman Harrison Barnes had 18 points, including eight straight for the Tar Heels late that got them back into the game. Forward John Henson picked up his third foul 6:39 before halftime, and subsequently missed much of the early action in the second half.
Kentucky featured a balanced scoring attack all night. The Wildcats had five scorers reach double figures led by Brandon Knight's 22 points. Coach John Calipari joins Rick Pitino as the only college coaches to reach the Final Four with three separate programs. Calipari previously made it in 1996 with Massachusetts and in 2008 with Memphis.
Despite being favored, the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils got blown out by the No. 5 Arizona Wildcats 93-77 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament's West region, sending Arizona on to face No. 3 UConn Saturday night. The winner of that Elite Eight game will be off to Houston to play in the Final Four.
Glad to see nobody's acting surprised this year to see private school kids crumpling in the Sweet 16 when faced with a hostile road crowd and an NBA-ready behemoth named Derrick Williams. Williams dropped 32 points, 13 rebounds, and three steals on the Blue Devils as Kyle Singler damn-near fouled out and Kyrie Irving scored 28.
The ACC is down to two March Madness teams with chances at the Elite Eight -- North Carolina gets Marquette and FSU takes on VCU Friday night. Pretty sure at least one of those can get it done.
The No. 10 Florida State Seminoles and No. 11 VCU Rams both had to produce multiple upsets to reach the 2011 NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 round, with FSU knocking off No. 7 Texas A&M and blasting No. 2 Notre Dame as VCU downed USC before blowing out No. 6 Georgetown and No. 3 Purdue.
Noles players "shocked the world," while Rams players somehow feel still like nobody's impressed. A football school vs. a mid-major school ... guys, everybody realizes one of you will reach the Elite Eight. Craving disrespect is a great way to generate momentum, but how much more outrage can these squads possibly talk themselves into? VCU has the bigger chip-on-shoulder claim, I guess, with FSU favored by four points.
This is going to be a fun game either way, with Florida State's physical style matching up curiously with VCU's rampant athleticism. Tomahawk Nation is happy to debunk a couple misconceptions about VCU, the first being that they play especially fast basketball, but this will still be one to watch. They are all one to watch at this point. Thank you.
The No. 1 Duke Blue Devils are favored to beat the No. 5 Arizona Wildcats by a wider margin than any other game in the 2011 NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 round, save Kansas vs. Richmond. After Duke needed everything it could muster to beat No. 8 Michigan over the weekend, what makes us so sure they'll breeze past Zona?
Granted, the Wildcats had some assistance in downing Texas. But they're a slightly better scoring team than Michigan was -- among the beat in the nation, in fact. If Duke's perimeter offense can't get going, as it sometimes fails to, the Wildcats could jump out to a surprising lead in a hurry.
However, with Kyrie Irving back in albeit-limited business, don't expect Duke to be held to just one mode of putting up points. He's been great all year at generating (and hitting) free throws, and not just because he plays for Duke.
Duke Basketball Report, SB Nation's Duke blog, likes the feistiness Arizona players are showing the matchup, while Arizona Desert Swarm looks forward to the 2001 National Championship game rematch.
For more on this game, Duke fans should read Duke Basketball Report as they already were anyway, and Wildcats fans should join Arizona Desert Swarm and SB Nation Arizona. For more March Madness, visit SB Nation's NCAA Basketball hub
The ratio of teams from each conference still alive in the 2011 NCAA Tournament may be old news for fans of Big East teams, but fans of ACC basketball are not quite satisfied with the matter just yet. A Sweet 16 win by the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels over the No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles, while obviously not the product of an evenly matched fight, would inspire even more crowing from Tobacco Roaders, especially if UConn loses to San Diego State.
No pressure, Marquette.
The Heels are favored by only five, with a trip to play either Ohio State or Kentucky in Newark for a shot at the Final Four on the line. They’ve upset Syracuse (on a controversial call) and Xavier (with no particular controversy) to make it this far, so don’t expect them to go down without swinging.
Anonymous Eagle, SB Nation’s Marquette blog, doesn’t seem all that scared, while Carolina March is happy the Tar Heels won’t have to deal with Cuse’s zone defense.
The 2011 NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen round will feature three ACC teams -- Duke, North Carolina, and Florida State -- after No. 10 FSU pounded No. 2 Notre Dame 71-57 Sunday night in San Antonio's Southwest region. FSU also ensured the ACC would send more teams to the round than any other conference by limiting the Big East to two.
Here's a complete, updated 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket.
This is the first Sweet Sixteen for Florida State since 1993, back in Charlie Ward's day. Most impressive thing about their win over the Irish? They did it with a still-gimpy Chris Singleton.
FSU will get CAA upset machine VCU, which took down Purdue after rocking Georgetown and beating USC. Can the Noles avoid completely embarrassing themselves against the athletic, fearless Rams on Friday? It'll be an interesting matchup, as Florida State is known for playing physical defense and VCU looks like a tough team to contain.
For more on this game, FSU fans should visit Tomahawk Nation, and Notre Dame fans should head to Rakes Of Mallow and SB Nation Indiana. Visit SB Nation's NCAA Basketball hub for more March Madness coverage.
The Duke Blue Devils became the second ACC team and fourth Southeastern team to make the 2011 NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen, topping the Michigan Wolverines 73-71. Earlier in the day, the North Carolina Tar Heels made it in by beating the Washington Huskies, and yesterday Kentucky and Florida punched tickets of their own.
So much for that down-year-for-the-ACC thing, especially with FSU still up.
Michigan closed to one point with about a minute left after trailing by double digits. Nolan Smith led Duke with 24 points, as Kyle Singler contributed 13 points and eight rebounds and Kyrie Irving added 11 — with all but two of those coming on free throws. #eyebrowarch
Duke will get either Arizona or Texas in the West region. That matchup will be decided shortly and played on Thursday in Anaheim, where the Blue Devils will be unlikely to find officiating as kind as today’s Charlotte crew was. Come on now, you know I ain’t lying.
The No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels became the first ACC team to make the 2011 NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen, outlasting the No. 7 Washington Huskies 86-83 in a controversial finish. After Venoy Overton heaved a long three with plenty of time left on the clock, John Henson leapt to let the ball slip between his hands as it sailed out of bounds. It hit paint with 1.1 seconds left, but Washington was only given .5.
Nobody seemed to care. The extra time would’ve allowed Isaiah Thomas to shoot an actual three as time ran out, rather than a fallaway, very deep two. Henson leapt to try and tip the ball away as the buzzer sounded for some hare-brained reason, nearly achieving a goaltend that still wouldn’t have changed the game.
UNC will advance to get either Marquette or Syracuse in the next round of play.
Florida State, sparked by the return of Chris Singleton, downed Texas A&M Friday afternoon to win their first tournament game in 13 years.
The game saw the return of Chris Singleton who suffered a broken foot in February and missed six games. The Seminoles 3-3 in his absence. Against the Aggies, the six-foot-nine forward tallied five points, two rebounds, and one block in 16 minutes of play.
Just under 13 minutes into the game, the score was 12-12 and neither team could get anything going offensively in the first half. The Florida State defense was stifling all night, forcing Texas A&M to shoot tough shots and holding them to 31.4% from the field.
The Seminoles were led by Derwin Kitchen with 15 points. Khris Middleton had a game-high 16 points off of the bench for the Aggies.
Florida State advances to the third round and will take on No. 2 Notre Dame on Sunday.
The Duke Blue Devils easily dispatched of Hampton Friday afternoon in their second round game of the 2011 tournament. Kyrie Irving led the way for Duke in his return from injury, scoring 14 points and had four rebounds in Duke' 87-45 win.
Irving shot 4-for-8 from the field and 2-for-2 from behind the arc in 20 minutes of game action. He looked rusty and out of sync early, but was able to get more playing time than expected which will be beneficial when the games get closer.
Mason and Miles Plumlee had solid games inside the paint for Duke. Miles had eight points and a season-high 13 boards, and Mason had six rebounds and 12 points. A total of 10 different players scored for the Blue Devils.
Duke shot 53.3% from the field and 47.4% from three. It is hard to judge a game like this, but Duke looked ready for a long tournament run.
For more on Duke Basketball, head to Duke Basketball Report.
The West Virginia Mountaineers overcame a double-digit first half deficit en route to an 84-76 win over the Clemson Tigers in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. The Tigers, coming off short rest, played like the fresher team for the first 18 minutes of the game and built up a 39-29 lead, but West Virginia went on an 11-1 run before the half to tie the game.
Clemson had four players get to double digits in scoring led by Andre Young's 22 points. Demontez Stitt, Jerai Grant, and Devin Booker had 16, 13, and 13 points respectively. The Tigers launched 21 3-pointers and shot just 23.8% from behind the arc.
West Virginia's Dalton Pepper, who has averaged 3.8 points per game this season, came up big down the stretch for the Mountaineers. With the Tigers threatening down just five points at 76-71 with 1:35 remaining, Pepper had three steals on three straight Clemson possessions and had four points off the turnovers. Kevin Jones had a game-high nine rebounds and Darryl Bryant had 19 points.
The Mountaineers advance to the third round to face the winner of the Kentucky and Princeton game on Saturday.
According to FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman, Duke's Kyrie Irving will play Friday in the opening game for the Blue Devils:
It is too late to make any changes to your bracket, but Irving's return will definitely be a huge factor in Duke's performance in this year's tournament. The freshman only played eight games before his injury but was one of the best new players in the country. The six-foot-two guard from New Jersey averaged 17.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game in 28.9 minutes of play.
The No. 1 Blue Devils take on No. 16 Hampton at 3:10 p.m. on Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina. The game can seen on truTV.
For more on Duke basketball, head to Duke Basketball Report.
The Tigers, coached by first year head coach Brad Brownell, already have one tournament win under their belt. Sokol's, Massey's, Pomeroy's and Sagarin's rating systems all predict a West Virginia win on Thursday. Worst case scenario for the Tigers is a trip home after a loss on Thursday with the consolation of their first tournament win in 14 years. Best case scenario is a surprise win over the Mountaineers only to fall to Kentucky in the regional semifinals. The dream scenario would be two more wins and then a loss to Ohio State.
SB Nation Atlanta's Prediction: The Tigers head home early after a loss to West Virginia.
Florida State Seminoles (21-10, 11-5)
The Seminoles struggled down the stretch without future NBA star Chris Singleton. Their leading scorer fractured his right foot in mid-February and is still questionable for the game. Massey, Sagarin, and Pomeroy all see a first round loss for the Seminoles, while Sokol's ratings predict a win on Friday but then a loss in the second round. Worst case scenario is a loss without Singleton in their first game, while the reasonable best case would be a win on Friday. The dream scenario for the Noles would be Singleton's return sparking a Sweet 16 run.
SB Nation Atlanta's Prediction: More bad news for the ACC as FSU loses on Friday.
North Carolina (26-7, 14-2)
The ACC's regular season champion and tournament runner-up earned a No. 2 seed and gets Long Island University in the first round. The predicted results for the Tar Heels are fairly spread out from the rankings: Massey has an Elite 8 appearance, Sagarin and Pomeroy predict a Sweet 16 appearance, and Sokol has them losing in the second round. Worst case scenario for the Heels is a loss in the second round to Washington. The reasonable best case is an Elite 8 loss to Ohio State, while the dream would be a run to the Final Four.
SB Nation Atlanta's Prediction: Jason Kirk foresees a loss for the Tar Heels to Washington in the second round. I have them going one round further before a loss to Syracuse in the Sweet 16.
Duke Blue Devils (30-4, 13-3)
The Duke Blue Devils are a very interesting case in my opinion. All of the pre-tournament talk has centered around Ohio State and Kansas, and somehow Duke, coming in as defending national champions and a number one seed with 30 wins, is seemingly under the radar. Duke returns five of the eight players that beat Butler for the national championship less than one year ago. I would feel comfortable putting them through to the Final Four as it stands now, but the impending return of Kyrie Irving will be huge for a long tournament run. Three of the rankings predict a Final Four run for Duke and Massey's numbers predict a loss to San Diego State in the Elite 8. The worst case for the Blue Devils would be an early upset in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8, while the best case would be Duke cutting down the nets in Houston.
SB Nation Atlanta's Prediction: Kirk predicts a title game loss to Kansas for the Blue Devils, while my bracket rides on Duke winning it all and taking home their second consecutive national championship.
The Clemson Tigers face off in the "second round" against the West Virginia Mountaineers Thursday at 12:15 in Tampa, Florida, a mere 36 hours after winning their play-in game over UAB on Tuesday. Jerai Grant led the Tigers to their first tournament win in 14 years with a career night in the win over the Blazers.
Every single ranking system that I use for bracket help picks the Mountaineers, but this will be an interesting case study in the tournament's new format. Clemson could be tired and lose as expected, or they could be much crisper and more ready to go than West Virginia.
The two teams do have a few common opponents this year in Miami and Seton Hall. Both teams beat Seton Hall, while Clemson swept the series with the Hurricanes and West Virginia lost in early December at Miami.
SB Nation Atlanta's Prediction: Clemson is better than people might give them credit for, but their tough travel schedule will be the difference as West Virginia pulls ahead for good in the second half.
Clemson got the ACC off to a good start in the tournament Tuesday night behind a career night from Jerai Grant beating UAB 70-52. The win was the first in the tournament in 14 years for the Tigers who move on to face West Virginia in Tampa, Florida a mere 36 hours after finishing the game in Dayton, Ohio.
Grant posted 22 points and seven rebounds, helping the Tigers jumped out to an early double-digit lead which they held for the rest of the game. Milton Jennings had 11 points off of the bench and Devin Booker and Tanner Smith added 10 points apiece. The Blazers were led by Jamarr Sanders with 19 points.
The Clemson defense was stifling all night, coming up with 10 steals while forcing 19 turnovers. The Tigers shot 52% from the field while connecting on 14-of-16 from the free throw line.
The Tigers return to action on the short turnaround on Thursday at 12:15 p.m. against West Virginia at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Kyrie Irving is expected to play in the first round fo the 2011 NCAA Tournament, though the man himself says "there's still no guarantee." The Duke freshman has been out since early December with a toe injury, and had been thought to be out for the season, but Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski started hinting earlier this week that Irving could return, all the while cautioning the decision was "far away."
By Tuesday night's press conference that got upgraded to "There is a chance he could play" after Irving successfully practiced with the team. Then ESPN's Jay Williams tweeted that Coach K had "confirmed" Irving's participation before backtracking to "clarify" that he'd only been referencing the original press conference quote.
It's indicative of the effect Irving would have on this bracket -- not to mention your bracket -- that ESPN personalities are fumbling over themselves in hopes of his return. We'll find out for sure by Friday, when Duke takes on Hampton. Before his injury, Irving was leading Duke in assists and all freshmen in scoring.
For more on Irving and Duke basketball, visit SB Nation's Duke Basketball Report.
The Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels are on the same side of the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket, but few are predicting a fourth meeting between the two this season. While Duke is largely expected by experts and computers alike to reach the Final Four, UNC isn’t expected to get past No. 1 Ohio State in the East region.
And while the humans have no idea what to make of No. 3 Syracuse, the computers love them. An upset at the hands of the Orange — or even No. 7 Washington, a team poised for a UConn-esque oh-now-they’re-not-underachieving-any-more thing — wouldn’t be a shocker either.
Duke’s road features a tough Texas team, an overlooked Arizona squad, and the feel-good hit of the spring, San Diego State. Kenneth Massey’s system gives Duke the toughest road to the Final Four, while Joel Sokol’s thinks San Diego State is significantly better than No. 1 seed Pitt.
The No. 10 Florida St. Seminoles get the No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies at about 4 pm on March 18 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament‘s Southwest region. We’ll have a post up in just a little bit running down the computer predictions and projections for March Madness, but let me put it this way — the machines really like FSU in this game.
So why didn’t FSU earn a higher seed? Well, they lost to Auburn. It’s more complicated than that, and they had some good wins and close losses, but they lost to Auburn. You can throw all the math at me you want, but it’s pretty hard to pick a team that lost to Auburn.
And the Aggies don’t really have any bad losses other than their three-time flattening beneath the hooves of Texas and maybe a home overtime loss to Baylor. I picked FSU in my own bracket, but it’s hard not to wonder about the computers here.
The 2011 NCAA Tournament kicks off tonight when UNC-Asheville and Arkansas Little Rock square off at 6:30 on truTV, which used to be called Court TV. Clemson and UAB battle to get the East's No. 12 seed at 9 p.m., also on truTV. Both games are being played in Dayton, Ohio.
Clemson (21-11, 9-7 ACC) averages 68.3 points and 34.9 rebounds per game. The Tigers have three double-digit scorers led by Demontez Stitt with 14.7 points per game. Jerai Grant and Andre Young also pose scoring threats. The team has a ton of experience with four seniors and four juniors compared to only four underclassmen. Clemson does not have a single win over a ranked team and went 0-3 against the top 25. Notable games against tournament participants include a one point loss in November to Old Dominion, an eight point loss to Michigan, and a big win over FSU in late January.
UAB (22-8, 12-4 C-USA) puts up 68.9 points and 36 rebounds per game, remarkably similar to Clemson's numbers. Their two-headed duo of Jamarr Sanders and Cameron Moore combine to score 31 points per game. Sanders is a tall six-foot-five guard that brings a ton of experience as a senior. Moore, standing six-foot-ten, will be a challenge for Clemson's frontcourt. The Blazers have wins at Arkansas (OT) and against VCU. Notable losses include a two point decision at Georgia and a 21 point loss at then No. 1 Duke.
SB Nation's Chris Dobbertean has Clemson winning this game because "the Tigers have a bit more of a reason for being here." Our friends at OddsShark list Clemson as a 4½ point favorite with an over/under somewhere in the 121-point range, depending on who you ask.
For the previews of ACC games we are going to include two of the more successful ranking systems, Ken Pomeroy's, Kenneth Massey's, and Joel Sokol's. All three ratings systems pick Clemson as the better team, with the Tigers coming in ranked at 24, 39, and 39 respectively, compared to 56, 54, and 65 for UAB.
SB Nation Atlanta's prediction: UAB has heard for two days how much three or more teams deserve to be there instead of the Blazers and will put a fight early, but Clemson has too much battle-tested firepower and will get the victory.
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