Blogging Through the NCAA Tournament (Day 4)

Blogging Through the NCAA Tournament (Day 4)
Mar 23, 2008, 02:25 pm
A short, but intense day is on tap for us in the final day of second round NCAA tournament action. Two double sessions of three games each are in store to decide the final Sweet 16 participants. Some of the more interesting matchups include Butler-Tennessee, Georgetown-Davidson, Oklahoma-Louisville and Arkansas-North Carolina. As always, we will be watching, thinking, and writing primarily about those players with NBA draft potential.

Previous Days:

Blogging Through the NCAA Tournament (Day Three)
Blogging Through the NCAA Tournament (Day Two)
Blogging Through the NCAA Tournament (Day One)

2:23- Villanova disposed of Siena fairly easily, and Scottie Reynolds had a great game with 25 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 turnovers on 7-15 shooting from the field. We’re watching Texas and Miami here until the Butler-Tennessee kicks off.

2:40- Texas is up early on Miami and D.J. Augustin looks very good. The Longhorns are winning 35-26 and Augustin has 5 points, 2 steals and 4 assists. Connor Atchley is the recipient of some of those assists, he has 12 points and two 3-pointers.

2:51- 8 minutes into the Butler-Tennessee game and we’re starting to have second thoughts, as it’s already 17-6 Tennesseee. Mike Green is playing very poorly, A.J. Graves has already missed four 3-pointers, and Tennessee seems to be spreading the ball around nicely. We’re probably going to tune into Georgetown-Davidson to see what kind of magic Stephen Curry has up his sleeve.

3:12- Early in the Georgetown-Davidson game, Roy Hibbert has already picked up his second foul, sending him to the bench, likely for the rest of the half. Stephen Curry has been pretty cold early on, and Georgetown is defending him incredibly well, so we’re checking in on Courtney Lee in the Western Kentucky game. He just had a really nice take to the rim, and seems to have started well—he has 7 points in 7 minutes. Western Kentucky is up 13-9 on San Diego.

3:25- Courtney Lee is showing his credentials as a lights out shooter by continuing to knock down long-range jumpers from all over the court. He just hit two 3-pointers in near-back to the back possessions to stretch Western Kentucky’s lead to 10, 23-13. That’s 10 points in a row for him. One of those shots was a beautiful catch and shoot jumper coming off a screen. Lee has 13 points, and is 3-4 from behind the arc in 10 minutes.

3:32- Even though he’s extremely hot and no one on this San Diego team is able to stop him, Courtney Lee continues to play within the flow of the offense, not forcing the issue trying go one on one, and instead waiting for things to come to him. He just took the ball to the basket off a handoff and hit a beautiful one-handed floater as soon as he entered the lane, giving him 15 points. This is turning into a pretty monumental performance for Lee is he continues that same aggressiveness going into the second half. He’s also playing his typical fantastic defense, as usual.

3:37- Stephen Curry has been sitting on the bench with two fouls and just two points for a while now, but with just four minutes left in the half and Davidson down 9 points, they’ve brought him back into the game to try and ensure that this one doesn’t get away from them. He’s only 1-7 and has 3 points so far…

3:47- Courtney Lee might be having the best game of his career, at the best time possible for Western Kentucky. Besides knocking down a pretty floater, he’s decided to show off his beautiful mid-range game too, taking two dribbles and creating great separation from his defender with a sharp pull-up jumper from about 17 feet--clearly an NBA move. He’s been unbelievable, 8-11 on the day so far, with 19 points at half-time. Western Kentucky is up 39-27.

4:09- Not a whole lot to report from the Tennessee-Butler game, which we’ve been watching here for the last few minutes. Tyler Smith is playing well as usual, he has 10 points with about 12 minutes to go in the game. J.P. Prince is doing a good job too, he started at PG for the Vols and is moving the ball around the floor nicely and making all kinds of plays on both ends of the court. It’s a very balanced effort from Tennessee, who can’t seem to put Butler away because of excessive turnovers. They are up by 5. Western Kentucky is coming back on.

4:33- The Texas-Miami game is coming to a close, and from what we were told, Damion James was the MVP for the Longhorns. He was super active, pulling down 16 rebounds, blocking 5 shots, and hitting three 3-pointers on his way to 16 points. D.J. Augustin contributed 11 points (on poor shooting once again) to go along with 8 assists and 3 turnovers, but oddly air-balled a free-throw with 1.8 seconds to go, which doesn’t help erase the reputation he established last March for being a guy who struggled under the spotlight. This game would have been over if not for a 12-point scoring outburst in two minutes from tough as nails Jack McClinton, who finished the game with 18 points on 5-14 shooting. A.J. Abrams had a second straight big tournament game with 26 points.

4:41- All three remaining games that are on are close, which is making things difficult on our remote control as we try to navigate through as much action as possible. Davidson-Georgetown has about 8 minutes to go, where Roy Hibbert has 4 fouls and 2 points and Stephen Curry is shooting 4-17, but the game is within one possession regardless. Butler-Tennessee is going down to the wire with 2:37 left, and San Diego has made a run to cut Western Kentucky’s lead to 2 with 7 minutes to go. Courtney Lee has again not played very well in the second half (much like Friday)—he has just one point and has missed the three shots he’s taken so far.

4:50- The Tennessee-Butler game is going to overtime—with the score tied 63-63, Mike Green seemed pretty unclutch missing a free throw and air-balling a floater late, but he redeemed himself by putting back his own miss with about 30 seconds left to tie the game. J.P. Prince made some terrible decisions down the stretch, turning the ball over on three consecutive possessions—which makes Bruce Pearl look pretty bad for inserting him into the starting lineup as his starting PG. He was benched for the overtime period. For a moment, three of the four games going on simultaneously were tied at the same exact time.

5:10- Ramar Smith was benched by Bruce Pearl in favor of J.P. Prince, but he was Tennessee’s best player in the overtime period, coming up with a big 3-pointer and two clutch free throws with 13 seconds left that proved to be crucial in the overtime win. Western Kentucky managed to squeak away with the victory over San Diego, where Courtney Lee finished with 29 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals on 9-15 shooting (4-5 3P, 7-8 FT).

In the Davidson-Georgetown game, Stephen Curry exploded for 25 second half points (after only 5 in the first half), bringing them back from the dead to knock off Georgetown in incredible fashion. He started 4-17 in this game, but finished 8-22 (and 9-10 from the line). Roy Hibbert’s stock seems to be dropping like a rock—he had 6 points, 3 turnovers and 0 rebounds, fouling out in 19 minutes, although Georgetown’s guards did him no favors by completely ignoring him underneath the hoop while he posted up players nearly a foot shorter than him. It’s unfortunate that the NCAA and CBS could not have found a way to stretch out the schedule and allow us to watch some of these games without flipping wildly between channels.

We’re on Memphis-Mississippi State now…Jarvis Varnado is locking down the paint already for the Bulldogs.

5:23- Jarvis Varnado has blocked at least 5 shots in the first five minutes of the Memphis-Mississippi State game. Chris Douglas-Roberts has been ineffective, missing all his outside shots and having his shot blocked inside—he is 0-4 from the field and scoreless. Derrick Rose just had a fantastic take to the basket, showing his terrific first step and finishing with a pretty floater. This game is incredibly good—both teams have a bunch of great athletes going right at it. The score is 11-11 twelve minutes in.

5:33- Not to be outdone by Jarvis Varnado, Joey Dorsey is having himself a big game defensively as well. He just blocked another two shots in a single possession to bring his total to four on the game. Derrick Rose and Jamont Gordon look to be the two best players on the floor early on. Mississippi State is up 18-12 twelve minutes in. Derrick Rose just knocked down another gorgeous floater in transition. Wow. His incredible athleticism has been on display throughout this game so far.

5:41- Jamont Gordon is knocking down threes, getting to the basket, and distributing the ball very effectively for his team. He looks a bit out of control at times with his ball-handling (nothing new), but is playing very effectively nonetheless. He managed to bait Shawn Taggart in the air and then leaned into him wisely to draw a foul and two free throws. Unfortunately for Mississippi State, Jarvis Varnado just picked up his second foul with five minutes to go in the first half. He remains in the game. Willie Kemp has hit three 3-pointers off the bench for Memphis, which should soften up Mississippi State’s stingy zone.

5:52- Memphis made a 21-6 run to finish off the first half, which puts the score at 36-27. Derrick Rose has 9 points on 3-8 shooting. Chris Douglas-Roberts was just 2-8 in the first half, for 5 points.

6:05- Six minutes into the first half (we’re on TIVO time), North Carolina is destroying Arkansas to the tune of 18-4. Ty Lawson has 8 early points, mostly on outside jumpers, and is doing a good job controlling the tempo of the game, knowing when to speed up and when to slow down. Tyler Hansbrough doesn’t seem to be too impressed by Steven Hill—he’s doing his typical thing inside. Wayne Ellington looks good early too. Carolina’s defense has been doing a great job pressuring Arkansas into bad shots. Sonny Weems is settling mostly for 3-pointers and hasn’t been as fortunate as he was on Friday against Indiana.

6:12- As we move forward on the tape of the UNC-Arkansas (up to around the 8 minute mark), we see that Arkansas’ Achilles heel for most of the season has been exposed here against Carolina’s terrific defense—their playmakers Gary Ervin and Patrick Beverley are making very poor decisions, and their half-court offense lacks any type of real fluidity. Danny Green has been extremely impressive for UNC with the defense he’s played and his unselfish nature. He’s made a number of fantastic passes to open teammates for easy baskets. Carolina is up 38-16 and it looks pretty safe to switch back to the Memphis game. Oklahoma-Louisville looks pretty much over as well.

6:20- Jarvis Varnado is making some nice contributions on the offensive end as well here in the 2nd half of the Mississippi State-Memphis game, banking in a wild 18-footer, drawing Joey Dorsey’s third foul, plus the basket, and then getting to the free throw line again by drawing Shawn Taggart’s fourth foul just few four minutes in. He scored 7 straight points during that stretch. Memphis is now leading just 42-36 with 16 minutes to go, thanks to a few nice baskets by Chris Douglas-Roberts, as well as a lot of rebounding and defense from Joey Dorsey.

6:37- Jamont Gordon has 16 points now with 12 minutes to go, to go along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. He’s creating his own shot beautifully, pulling up off the dribble from behind the arc (he has three 3-pointers), and playing incredibly aggressive basketball, as usual. He’s only turned the ball once so far this game, which is excellent for him considering how ball-dominant he is. Mississippi State has cut this to a 3 point lead, down 48-45. Derrick Rose has slowed down a bit now, he has 11 points on 4-12 shooting from the field, while Joey Dorsey is working on a triple double with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 6 blocks.

6:57- Chris Douglas-Roberts has heated up here in the second half. He’s not finishing all of his moves, but he’s forcing Mississippi State to react by putting the ball on the deck and getting to the basket time after time. He already has 14 points here. On the other end, Charles Rhodes is being extremely aggressive as well—he has 10 points, 6 rebounds. Memphis is up 66-59 with about 4 minutes to go. Derrick Rose has hit some extremely difficult pull-up jumpers from various ranges as well, which has helped keep the Bulldogs at bay.

7:14- Memphis has survived a very good challenge from Mississippi State, coming out on top in the end 77-74. Chris Douglas-Roberts was their go-to guy down the stretch, taking most of their big shots and ending up being their top performer as well, scoring 17 points on 6-16 shooting, and being semi-reliable from the free throw line as well at 5-7. He did a terrific job defensively too, adding 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers. Derrick Rose showed a lot of sparks of potential, but also showed his youth on numerous occasions, finishing up with 17 points himself, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 1 turnovers on 6-15 from the field and 4-8 from the free throw line. Jamont Gordon put the good and bad parts of his game on full display, making plenty of big plays, but also showing his poor decision making skills with some very costly turnovers down the stretch.

8:00-We just went back and rewatched the rest of the North Carolina-Arkansas bloodbath (which finished 108-77). Ty Lawson definitely looks like he’s back—he did a great job running his team’s offense and getting everyone involved, finishing the game with 7 assists and zero turnovers. He’s still yet to commit a single turnover in the tournament actually. Lawson had one phenomenal play to kick off the second half that really showed his excellent court vision—hitting Tyler Hansbrough with a fantastic alleyoop lob with perfect timing and pinpoint accuracy. Hansbrough continued to show his improving range, knocking down a 20 foot jump-shot . Sonny Weems did not shoot the ball well at 8-20 from the field and 1-6 from behind the arc, but he still made a few athletic plays that really showed a lot of potential, coming off screens or cutting to the basket. He’s a guy we need to take a closer look at.

Final Summary: Day Four

Stock Up:

Stephen Curry (Davidson)
Damion James (Texas)
Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky)
Ty Lawson (North Carolina)
Derrick Rose (Memphis)
Wayne Ellington (North Carolina)
Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State)
Joey Dorsey (Memphis)
Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)
Jason Richards (Davidson)
Deon Thompson (North Carolina)
A.J. Abrams (Texas)

Stock Neutral:

Jamont Gordon (Mississippi State)
Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina)
Sonny Weems (Arkansas)
Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)
Earl Clark (Louisville)
Darian Townes (Arkansas)
Jack McClinton (Miami)
D.J. Augustin (Texas)
Tyler Smith (Tennessee)

Stock Down:

Roy Hibbert (Georgetown)
DaJuan Summers (Georgetown)
Mike Green (Butler)
A.J. Graves (Butler)
Chris Lofton (Tennessee)
J.P. Prince (Tennessee)

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