Saturday, March 22, 2008

NCAA Day 3 -- Big East Massacre?

The second round action seemed at first to pick up pretty much where the first round had left off. With another Big East school, this time West Virginia, ending another ACC school's, this time Duke, season. The 'Eers had a good, but not great, shooting day, posting an eFG% of 43.5 and PPWS of 1.01 for the team. Those are not great numbers, but they yielded an ORtg of 103.1, enough to beat Duke. Duke's numbers (ORtg -- 94.3, eFG% -- 43.0, PPWS -- 1.03...they got to the line 32 times which offset the terrible day from the field -- 19-50!). The announcing crew does not have the luxury of looking at the numbers hours after the game is over, so it is understandable that they over reported on Joe Alexander (every bit as good as advertised, but just not today) and underreported the Huggins "second wave" of offense, namely Joe Mazzulla and Alex Ruoff. In truth Mazulla logged a season (career?) high number of minutes today, and the announcing crew did acknowledge that. But they underestimated his role in the offense. Ruoff together with Darris Nichols and Da'Sean Butler, has formed a credible second tier offense to complement Alexander, and uphold the offense when Alexander cannot get going. While Alexander was the high scorer for WVU, he was not especilly efficient at it. Today Mazulla and Ruoff picked up some of that load. And with that the Dukies go home, and the Big East-ACC record stands at 2-0, Big East so far.

I wondered when the brackets were unveiled if the Selection Committee was not, by matching Notre Dame with Washington State, engaging in a bit of early round whimsy. The Fighting Irish under HC Mike Brey have developed a reputation as one of the most potent offenses in the Big East. And one of the most generous defenses. For Wazzu it appears that defense comes first, as son Tony Bennett refined the defensive system instituted by his father Dick Bennett. Notre Dame was held to 13 made field goals on 13-53, 3-17, 10-36 shooting. That is an eFG% of 27.4, a "rock fight" type efficiency. A surprising end to Notre Dame's season.

The bad news continued when Marquette dropped an 81-80 decision to Stanford in the middle of the evening. I have not looked closely at the box score yet, but seeing Jerel McNeal with 30 points (on 25 FGAs? That's not good...) gives me a few ideas on what might have happened. True Stanford was the higher seeded team, but I believed going in the Warriors could take them.

This biggest disappointment was the last game. This is the Panther team that took Duke out back in December (when the Blue Devils still had their legs...), lost some critical members of the squad to injury, but still managed to pull together a good season. Levance Fields came back and had time to "reintegrate" with the team. Pitt was eliminated tonight by Tom Izzo's Spartan squad in a match that stayed close for about 33 minutes. After tying the score at 44 at the 9:00 minute mark the Panthers could only put 10 more points on the board. Michigan State however put up 21 and walked away with the game. Granted the teams were closely seeded (this was a #4/#5 matchup, Pitt was the #4, MSU the #5), but I thought this was a very good situation for the Panthers.

As a whole the conference was 1-3 today, 0-2 against the PAC-10 in particular. This brings the conference's 2 day record versus the PAC-10 to 1-2.

I hope tomorrow brings better results.

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