Oakland's league record over the last two seasons: 34-2, and in the tournament they enjoyed a lead of at least 20 points in each of the three contests. "It is a team of runs and this team can score," said Kampe when asked of the difference between this year's team and last year's. "We averaged 92 points a game in three games and 86 a game this season which is second in the nation. When you think about our schedule and who we played and we finish second in the nation in scoring, that is quite an accomplishment." To say the least the Golden Grizzlies will be a team few will be excited to face given their talent and versatility, and there's another familiar face who is guaranteed a spot in the field of 68.
Brad Stevens' Butler Bulldogs used a stifling brand of defense to grab their seat, limiting Milwaukee to 30% shooting from the field and forcing 16 turnovers in the 59-44 win in the Horizon League title game. Matt Howard led the way offensively and Shelvin Mack chipped in with 14 but it was their determination on the defensive end that put the game away. Rob Jeter's Panthers went into the game averaging an offensive efficiency of 102.4 on the season. Their number on Tuesday night: 78.6. And when your opponent finishes with a far higher efficiency (105.4) and an effective field goal percentage of 50% (to your 35%) more than likely the end result is a loss.
The Bulldogs are a different team than last, with the absences of Gordon Hayward, Avery Jukes and Willie Veasley being tough to adjust to early in the season. But now that Butler is defending well and fully understands their strengths, look out. While it would be unfair to assume another Final Four run is in the card, it isn't unreasonable to think that Butler could win at least one game next week.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Arkansas-Little Rock completes a wild run with a game-winning three to knock off North Texas in the Sun Belt final.
For anyone who wondered how a player whose team finished fifth in the West Division could be chosen as Sun Belt Player of the Year, UALR guard Solomon Bozeman provided one more dramatic piece of evidence in his favor on Tuesday night. His three with 1.5 seconds remaining completed a dramatic comeback for the Trojans, who trailed by seven points with 1:42 remaining only to win 64-63. And while there's still at least one game to be played the shot was a fitting finish for a team that won just nine games a season ago and was expected by few to make this four-game run. The last time UALR heard their name called was all the way back in 1990, a streak that will come to an end on Sunday evening. And they've got Solomon Bozeman to thank for it.
2. Villanova heading into the NCAA Tournament in the wrong condition while Marquette advances in New York.
There are some, well many actually, who believe that Jay Wright's Villanova Wildcats are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. They're not missing the Big Dance, not with the terrible softness of the bottom of the bubble and their six Top 50 wins that outweigh what a lot of teams have to date. But they aren't Marquette, who took care of Providence 87-66, who has a far better grasp of what's at stake this time of the year. The Golden Eagles will fight you every single possession, something that starts with head coach Buzz Williams and senior wing JImmy Butler. Butler finished two assists short of a triple-double as the Golden Eagles jumped the Friars early (17-0 to start the game) and even though Providence would work their way back into the game Marquette's refusal to settle for perimeter shots (paint touches are a big deal in their program) eventually put the game out of reach for good.
Who steps up for Villanova? They've got capable scorers but they're banged up physically (Corey Stokes' turf toe and Mouphtaou Yarou took a nasty fall in the first half that sidelined him for the game), and one would have to hope that they aren't irreparable mentally. Anthony Crater's driving layup to give USF the 70-69 win featured little in the way of help defense (a two was just as bad as a three there) but the game was lost in their attempt to get the game to the end and win on the "scorecards" with an ineffective replica of Notre Dame's "burn" offense. As Oscar De La Hoya found out in his loss to Felix Trinidad in 1999 there's little benefit to going down without swinging. Villanova kept the Bulls alive with an offense that was little more than drain the clock and hope that either Wayns or Corey Fisher could make a tough shot at the end of the shot clock. And keeping them alive left them open to a staggering blow. Whether or not this loss puts them down for the count remains to be seen but it doesn't look good right now.
3. Princeton wins at Penn to force a playoff with Harvard on Saturday.
Harvard was 40 minutes away from making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1946. The problem for the Crimson? Their season was over, meaning that they needed a Princeton loss to Penn on Tuesday to punch their ticket. But Sydney Johnson's Tigers refused to oblige, beating the Quakers 70-58 to force a playoff between Princeton and Harvard on Saturday at Yale. Kareem Maddox scored 23 points while also accounting for five rebounds and five assists off the bench and the Tigers out-rebounded Penn 32-22 on the night. The rebounding edge will be tough to duplicate against the likes of Kyle Casey and Keith Wright on Saturday but at least Princeton get another shot at the Crimson, who beat them in Cambridge last weekend. Both teams won at home during the regular season, so it's only right that there's a tiebreaker.
Venoy Overton suspended for the Pac-10 Tournament
Top Three Games
1. Arkansas-Little Rock 64, North Texas 63
2. La Salle 75, St. Bonaventure 73 (2OT)
Steve Weingarten's three-pointer with 32 seconds remaining gave the Explorers the lead for good to advance to the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals on Friday. Jerrell Williams scored 19 points to lead La Salle while St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson dropped 30 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in a losing effort.
3. Maryland-Eastern Shore 87, Florida A&M 85 (2OT)
Kevin White may have led the Hawks with 22 points but it was Hillary Haley who made the big shots in overtime. Haley sent the game into a second overtime with a three with 17 seconds left in the first overtime, and his layup with 1:06 left in double OT gave UMES the lead for good. Avery Moore led FAMU with 21 points but it's the Hawks who go on to face two-seed Hampton in the MEAC quarters.
Three Notable Performances
1. C Keith Benson (Oakland)
28 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in the Golden Grizzlies' 90-76 win over Oral Roberts to win the Summit League Tournament title.
2. F Jimmy Butler (Marquette)
19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the Golden Eagles' 88-67 win over Marquette in the first round of the Big East Championship.
3. G Kemba Walker (Connecticut)
26 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the Huskies' 97-71 win over DePaul in the first round of the Big East Championship.