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Home - NCAA Tournament Week 2 Recap

  NCAA Tournament Week 2 Recap

The Sweet 16 resumed with several low seeds having the possibility of reaching the Final Four. The East bracket had two of those with (11) Washington meeting (2) West Virginia and (12) Cornell facing (1) Kentucky. However, both lower seeds appeared to be overmatched. Cornell jumped out to a 10-2 lead, giving fans hope of a mammoth upset. By halftime Kentucky not only took the lead, but was dominating the game with a 32-16 lead. The Wildcats would go on to win 62-45. West Virginia struggled a bit more with Washington, trailing 29-27 at the half. However with 14:14 left in the 2nd half Kevin Jones would hit a 3-pointer that would give them the lead for good, winning the game 69-56. The regional final on Saturday would be the only part of the bracket where a 1-seed would face a 2-seed. In the game, Kentucky flat out couldn’t shoot. They were only 55.2% from the free throw line and an appalling 4 for 32 (12.5%) from 3-point range. West Virginia’s defense has been given a lot of credit for holding Kentucky to such a low field goal percentage, however if the Wildcats had hit their free throws this game could have had a different outcome. Kentucky coach John Calipari got criticized in 2008 when his team’s poor free throw shooting cost him the title game, now it appears it may have cost him again. West Virginia won the game 73-66 and will represent the Eastern Regional in the Final Four.

The South regional went according to form with favorites winning all the matches. It seemed like (10) St. Mary’s might be able to hang with (3) Baylor coming off of their victory over Villanova, however Baylor dominated the game winning 72-49. Baylor led 46-17 at the half and St. Mary’s was never really in the game. (1) Duke would struggle with injury ravaged (4) Purdue. The game was tied 35-35 with 13:25 left, but Duke would pull away and win 70-57. In the Regional Final Duke got another hard earned win beating Baylor 78-71. Duke trailed by three at the half, but surged in the 2nd half led by Nolan Smith’s 29-point performance. The win ended Duke’s five-year Final Four drought.

The Midwest region had more lower seeds advancing to the Sweet 16 than any other region. (2) Ohio State was the only team in this region to be favored in their first two games and win them both. However, Ohio State was upset by (6) Tennessee 76-73 to ensure that a surprising winner would come out of this region. The largest lead in the game was only seven points and there were several lead changes throughout the game. Ohio State had to have been confident coming into the weekend only facing a 6-seed and the winner of a 5-seed vs. 9-seed match up, but they couldn’t take advantage of their opportunity. (9) Northern Iowa looked to be unstoppable coming off of their upset of (1) Kansas. Against (5) Michigan State, Northern Iowa would jump out to a 7-point lead by halftime, but their lead wouldn’t grow any bigger. Michigan State gutted out a very defensive game to win in the 2nd half 59-52. Tennessee and Michigan State would face in the regional final and neither team could pull away. The largest lead for either team was eight. In the end, the last team with the ball would win as Raymar Morgan hit a free throw with two seconds left to give Michigan State a 70-69 win. This victory put Michigan State and their head coach Tom Izzo in some elite company as he became only the 3rd coach to take teams to the Final Four is six our of twelve years.

The most exciting action of the weekend came out of the West region where things got started on Thursday with (5) Butler defeating (1) Syracuse 63-59. Defensively Butler vastly outperformed Syracuse, winning the turnover battle 18-7. Later in the day (2) Kansas State needed two overtimes to defeat (6) Xavier 101-96. In the game, Kansas State blew a 15-point lead, but would manage to narrowly hold on. Jordan Crawford would score 32 points for Xavier and Jacob Pullen led the way with 28 points for Kansas State. Many assumed that Kansas State would be too physical for Butler to handle, but the Bulldogs persevered. Butler won the Regional Final 63-56 to become only the 2nd mid-major conference team in the past 19 years to make it to the Final Four. Butler led most of the way, with their biggest lead being 11, but things got dicey in the 2nd half when Kansas State made a run. Kansas State took their first lead with 4:51 left in the game, 52-51. However, from that point on Butler would seize control again. Butler out shot Kansas State 45.7% to 38.6% on field goals, 46.7% to 33.3% on 3-pointers, and 70% to 50% on free throws. It can’t really be called an upset that Butler made it to the Final Four, since they were ranked #10 in the nation in the preseason polls. However, they remain a feel good story for how much work it has taken them to get to this point. Butler has made the tournament in 9 of the last 14 years and won at least one tournament game in five of those trips. It is really a 15-year achievement to build up a program capable of making a run to the Final Four for them.

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