Blogging Through the Sweet 16 (Part One)

Blogging Through the Sweet 16 (Part One)
Mar 27, 2008, 07:09 pm
Four games are on tap tonight on the first evening of the Sweet 16. The Charlotte venue, featuring Washington State-North Carolina and Louisville-Tennessee seems to be where most of the scouts have congregated tonight, and will also hold most of our interest. West Virginia-Xavier and UCLA-Western Kentucky will also get long hard looks, especially after the game if there are any really interesting standouts.

7:10- The West Virginia-Xavier game is about to kick off...Let’s see if Joe Alexander can continue to move up draft boards with his performance here. He matches up with one of the hottest players in the NCAA at the moment, Josh Duncan, who has raised a few eyebrows with his play in March as well.

7:15- Xavier starts off on an 8-0 run, and West Virginia is forced to call a time out. They look very confused on their pick and roll defense. Twice they’ve left Xavier’s big men Josh Duncan and Derrick Brown wide open on the perimeter for 3-pointers.

7:35- West Virginia looks very sloppy to start off—their players are obviously nervous and they’ve fallen behind 21-8 early. Joe Alexander has been wrapped up by Derrick Brown so far for the most part, he’s denying him in the post and contesting everything with his length. He picked up his second foul 10 minutes into the game, which is not a good sign for the Mountaineers.

We’re switching over to the UNC-Washington State game, which is off to a slow, jittery start as well. It will be interesting to see what tempo this game is played at—UNC’s and Wazzu’s. Carolina will have to hit their threes and defend for 35 seconds, Ty Lawson will have to be patient in the half-court, and Tyler Hansbrough will have to pass out of double teams—all things that haven’t always happened this season. Washington State is taking a lot of shots early in the offense so far, which is uncharacteristic of them. We’ll see whose will is stronger over the next 35 minutes.

7:45- Tyler Hansbrough is off to a very slow start, with three misses (some being forced) and one turnover early. Washington State would be in great shape here if they could grab some rebounds…they’ve given up three offensive rebounds already. The score is tied at 10 eight minutes in.

8:10- The tempo of the UNC-Wazzu game most certainly favors Washington State early on, but they are uncharacteristically committing too many turnovers, which is terrible for them considering how few possessions they will see with their slow paced offense. That combined with their poor defensive rebounding has them behind 27-18, although we must give credit to UNC’s excellent defense. That’s despite the fact that Tyler Hansbrough is playing extremely poorly early on, turning the ball over three times and missing all five of his field goal attempts, and both free throw tries. He’s scoreless 18 minutes in. He’s seeing a steady diet of double teams with and without the ball, and is struggling to handle the extra attention. Danny Green has been outstanding for North Carolina, hitting big shots, playing excellent defense, showing plenty of poise and leadership and doing all the little things in typical fashion. He has 10 points in 10 minutes with two minutes to go in this half.

8:15- Ty Lawson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Carolina to the lockerroom at half time with a 32-21 lead. He had a quiet half all in all.

8:22- Joe Alexander might be wishing that the NBA draft was held yesterday. He just had an extremely poor half, going 1-4 from the field for 3 points to go along with 3 turnovers and two fouls. West Virginia was down by 18 points, but rallied back to make the score 32-25. The second half is about to kick off.

8:46- Tyler Hansbrough is off to a much better start here in the second half. UNC is doing a better job getting him in motion instead of just forcing him to pound inside on the extremely big and strong Aron Baynes. He has three quick field goals in the first five minutes of the second half. Washington State is down 16 already and appears to be on the ropes. It would be pretty shocking to see UNC blow them out.

9:00- Carolina is up 23 and this game definitely looks over. We’re switching over to West Virginia-Xavier. Ty Lawson and Hansbrough had much better second halves. Score is 55-32.

9:09- Joe Alexander might not be having his best game, but he is definitely showing his upside here. His athleticism, pretty shooting stroke, constant hustle, and versatility are all pretty evident here, even if his shots weren’t always falling. His mid-range jumper looked terrific in the second half, though. He is playing extremely hard as always, skying for rebounds, and even taking a charge from a guard, showing slightly better lateral quickness than we might have given him credit for. This game will go down to the wire most likely. It’s 59-59 with 4 minutes to go. Alexander has been terrific in the second half.

9:24- Joe Alexander would not be denied down the stretch. He took almost all of their big shots late, and came up with a gorgeous turn-around jumper off the glass with 14 seconds to go, and even got the foul for a potential 3-point play. Unfortunately he missed the free throw (despite being an 82% FT shooter), and this game is going to overtime!

9:30- Great high-low pass by Alexander into the post to kick off overtime. Great call by Huggins—Xavier was not expecting that. Alexander is obviously more than just a scorer. He unfortunately just fouled out, though. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds on the night, overcoming a slow 1-4 start in the first half to finish 8-17.

After his third straight terrific game here in the tournament, it’s pretty obvious that we need to give Josh Duncan a thorough look this week…We were urged to after the first game already by our good friend David Thorpe, and did not take his advice, and then got another nudge from his former teammate Brian Thornton via email…Needless to say, Duncan has been extremely impressive with his offensive versatility. We were just notified today that he has been invited to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament starting April 9th, and has indeed accepted his invite, along with fellow Xavier teammates Stanley Burrell and Drew Lavender.

West Virginia is up by 4 points 69-65 with 4 minutes left in overtime. This game is obviously not over.

9:47- B.J. Raymond didn’t score a single point in regulation, but he hit two huge 3-pointers in overtime to give Xavier enough of a cushion to come away with the win. Bob Huggins showed some of his stripes by calling out his player in the ensuing timeout for leaving him wide open—even when it was pretty obvious that he already knew his mistake and obviously felt terrible about it.

9:55- Since we talked about Portsmouth earlier… in case you were wondering, here are the players who have “officially” accepted their invites. We’ve heard of some even bigger names that the committee is still holding close to the vest until we get closer to the tournament:

Gavin Grant of NC State, Will Thomas of George Mason, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell of Xavier, Jason Richards of Davidson, A.J. Graves of Butler, Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing Jr. and Jonathan Wallace, Clemson’s James Mays, Reggie Williams of VMI, Shaun Pruitt of Illinois; Josh Duncan of Xavier, Kyle Hines of UNC-Greensboro; Rob Kurz of Notre Dame; and Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley of Kentucky.

Louisville-Tennessee is about to kick off…

10:15- David Padgett seems to be the steadiest player on the court so far, in what has been a very fast, sloppy game. The players need to settle down and start playing the way that got them here. Similar to the previous two games, the kids look way too jacked up and are all trying to win the game before it even started. Louisville has 7 turnovers in 5 minutes so far. Tennessee is jacking up wild shots from all over the court and nothing is falling. It’s 11-8 five minutes in.

10:29- Tennessee missed 8 shots in a row and didn’t score for about eight minutes straight. The score is 24-8 with 9 minutes to go. That might be a sign for us to switch over to UCLA-Western Kentucky… It looks like Ben Howland is going to be posting up Kevin Love inside all night long. He’ll be using every body part he has to fend players off and establish position inside—his specialty. Darren Collison is putting tremendous pressure on Tyrone Brazelton, and really seems to be bothering him. UCLA has Russell Westbrook on Courtney Lee—which is going to make things extremely difficult on Lee to get shots off tonight, even if he did come off a screen nicely for a smooth jumper. The score is 7-4 five minutes in.

10:40- Courtney Lee is the only one that can keep Western Kentucky in this game. He just hit a 3-pointer, is hitting the glass, and is playing excellent defense on Russell Westbrook. As usual, he’s not forcing anything. There is very little doubt that he could easily be on the opposite side of the floor wearing a UCLA jersey and contributing heavily right now. Kevin Love is doing everything for UCLA so far, except for hitting his outside shots. He’s been great on the glass, has made a number of fantastic passes, and is doing yeomen’s work inside, with 9 points so far. Western Kentucky is holding on, though…the score is tied 15-13 UCLA with 12 minutes to go in the first half.

10:49- The lack of point guard play is highly evident in the Tennessee-Louisville game. There have been 21 turnovers so far, and the level has been pretty awful from what we’ve seen. Tyler Smith has been phenomenal defensively, and also has 10 points, mostly off his extremely aggressive play. Louisville is up 33-28 with two minutes to go in the half.

11:00- Courtney Lee has had some good looks around the basket tonight, but they’ve bounced around the rim and out on numerous occasions. It seems like he’s rushing his shot a bit, even though UCLA doesn’t really have a weak-side shot-blocker inside. He’s also not getting his legs underneath him the way he typically does on his mid-range jumper—he just airballed one, which is very uncharacteristic of him. He is now 2-8 on the night. The score was 12-12 not too long ago, but UCLA has since gone on a 16-3 run.

11:43- Western Kentucky is pretty much toast—down by 20 points with 18 minutes to go. Courtney Lee is struggling badly—shooting 2/13 from the field. Getting shots against this tremendous UCLA team defense is never easy, and he hasn’t done himself any favors by missing some of the easier looks he’s had. Kevin Love is once again playing phenomenal basketball, and Russell Westbrook has been very good in support.

In the other game, it’s a lot more competitive, as Louisville is up by 8 points with 11 minutes to go. Earl Clark is having an excellent game so far with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists, Terrence Williams is showing his tremendous athleticism on both ends of the floor, and David Padgett has been the glue that holds everything together, as usual. Louisville’s defense has been incredible so far. Tyler Smith recently picked up his fourth foul, which is a huge blow for Tennessee.

12:09- We may have been too quick to write off Western Kentucky…they’ve come storming back and have cut the lead to 6, thanks to the their full-court press and excellent half-court defense. Courtney Lee and Tyrone Brazelton have come up with timely steals and big shots, and UCLA (especially Darren Collison) has looked a little bit nervous with the ball, with 11 turnovers in this half so far. We have a ball game again.

In the meantime, Louisville has stretched out their lead to 14.

12:15- Darren Collison just picked up his 5th foul with under 6 minutes to go—meaning UCLA is left without their lone point guard and best ball-handler. Can Russell Westbrook handle the inevitable ball-pressure that will be coming? Courtney Lee picked up 3 free throws on the play, and cut the lead to 4.

12:22- A questionable timeout by Western Kentucky’s Darrin Horn, followed by some ill-advised half-court sets that resulted in bad shots gave UCLA a chance to storm back and regain momentum of the game. Russell Westbrook has been excellent distributing the ball at the point guard position, as well as picking up a steal and getting his team out in transition, and UCLA’s lead is back up to 12 with three minutes to go.

12:45- UCLA survives…again, coming away with the victory 88-78. Western Kentucky did a fantastic job coming back from being down 21 points at the half, but just didn’t have the firepower in the end to get the job done. They have a lot to be proud of for making the Sweet 16 and causing possibly the best team in college basketball to sweat profusely to beat them. Tyrone Brazelton was amazing with 31 points, while Courtney Lee definitely went out firing…scoring 18 points on 7-29 shooting. He also had 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocks. Kevin Love finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks on 10-14 shooting. James Keefe added 18, and Russell Westbrook and Josh Shipp both scored 14. Westbrook also had 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 turnovers, but shot just 3-15 from the field.

Sweet 16 Day One Final Recap:

Stock Up:

Danny Green (North Carolina)
Earl Clark (Louisville)
Terrence Williams (Louisville)
David Padgett (Louisville)
Joe Alexander (West Virginia)
Ty Lawson (North Carolina)
Josh Duncan (Xavier)
Tyrone Brazelton (Western Kentucky)

Stock Neutral:

Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina)
Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky)
Russell Westbrook (UCLA)

Stock Down:

Darren Collison (UCLA)
Kyle Weaver (Washington State)
Tyler Smith (Tennessee)
Chris Lofton (Tennessee)

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