Buzzer Beater: Bubble Weekend Review

    
March 10th, 2008
  - How about North Carolina's  Danny Green? The sixth-man extraordinaire provided a huge lift for the Heels on Saturday, totaling 18 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocks as they knocked off Duke in Cameron. Green's ability to play inside or on the perimeter gives UNC a huge advantage.  Green can play either forward spot, as well as shooting guard, meaning UNC can match-up with any type of line-up thrown at them. With Wayne Ellington gaining more confidence, Ty Lawson returning to full strength, and Tyler Hansbrough continuing to be…well...Tyler Hansbrough, the Heels are looking pretty good for a deep tournament run.

  - Also, a very classy move by the Duke fans to don blue ribbons for the game in honor of Eve Carson, the UNC student body president who was murdered last week. As Dick Vitale pointed out, Saturday's game was huge in the basketball world, but pales in comparison to what's really important in life. The Cameron Crazies can certainly be annoying and come close to crossing the sportsmanship line (witness the Speedo Guy), but they showed their true colors with this gesture.

  - Finally showing a pulse, Syracuse pulled a off a huge win over Marquette on Saturday to bolster their resume. However, with fellow bubble dwellers USC, Kentucky, Ohio State, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State also winning over the weekend, the Orange may want to win a game or two in the big East Tourney to feel comfortable about dancing.

  - Is there another dynasty brewing in college basketball?  Move over UCLA, UK and Carolina...here comes Winthrop. Okay- that may be pushing it, but the Eagles are quietly turning into the giants of the Big South Conference. With a 66-48 win over UNC-Asheville on Saturday, they clinched their 4th consecutive league crown and tournament berth.  Owning wins over Georgia Tech and Miami (Fl.), this season, the Eagles could play spoiler in the tournament again this year. Last year, they knocked of Notre Dame in the first round, and led by guard Michael Jenkins, they’re not going to back down from anyone.

 

  - They say good teams always win the close games. In that case, UCLA must be great, as they squeaked out another nail-biter against Cal on Saturday. Like their OT win over Stanford on Thursday, the Bruins again benefitted from a questionable call, as they managed to wrest the ball away from Cal's Ryan Anderson in the closing seconds with no foul call, despite enough physical contact to warrant a NC-17 rating. Then, Josh Shipp lofted a prayer over the corner of the backboard...a seemingly illegal shot that the officials allowed. The win likely secured a #1 seed in the NCAA, and the Bruins look to be ready for a third straight run to the Final Four...although they may want to be sure they have room for the officials on their team bus.

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 Kentucky may have locked up a tourney berth with a in over Florida in the "Bubble Battle" Sunday. Read that sentence again, because these are the same Cats who lost at home by 16 to Gardner-Webb and by 9 to San Diego as they struggled mightily in the non-conference portion of their schedule.  Yet they still managed 12 wins in the SEC, finally buying into Coach Billy Gillispie's defense-at-all-costs mentality. Even without star freshman Patrick Patterson, and despite a mid-February blowout loss to Vandy, the Cats have been remarkably steady in the conference, and they could be a tough out in the tourney.

 

- From that same game, Florida may have played itself out of the tournament, despite a valiant comeback in Rupp Arena on UK’s Senior Day. Down 16, the Gators battled back, but couldn’t quite make it over the hump. On the plus side, the future for Florida looks as bright as the Gainesville sunshine. Guards Jai Lucas and Nick Calathes played brilliantly at times this season, and should be even better as sophomores next year. Center Maresse Speights may not be the next coming of Al Horford or Joakim Noah, but he’s certainly capable of performing at an All-SEC level. With everyone slated to return next year, plus the addition of a great recruiting class, the Gators should be back in the national spotlight soon.

 

- Which Big Ten team could stick around the NCAA Tournament the longest? Try Purdue, who finished 15-3 in the conference and 24-7 overall. Indiana, despite the great inside-outside tandem of DJ White and Eric Gordon, has appeared shaky at best since Kelvin Sampson’s departure. Michigan State, a pre-season Final Four favorite, has hit some snags in the road, including scoring only 36 points against a bad Iowa team. The Spartans have also suffered losses to Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin since mid-February, and finished the season with a loss to Ohio State. Wisconsin has been solid all year, but they’ve struggled with smaller, athletic teams, such as Duke and Marquette. The Boilers meanwhile, have no glaring weaknesses outside of the youth. They’re balanced offensively, with six players averaging at least six points, and they’re incredibly tough defensively, allowing only six opponents to score 70 or more points.

                                                                                                                                                                                        

 - Finally, congratulations to all those who punched their dance ticket over the weekend - Belmont, Drake, Winthrop and Austin Peay. They join Cornell as the first entries in the field of 65….with an exciting week yet to come. Let the Madness begin!