The familiar theme of the tournament continued tonight with the underdogs taking the early lead, followed by the favorites coming back to earn the victory. It happened (again) with Florida and continued throughout the evening with Georgetown and North Carolina overcoming double-digit deficits.
Butler vs. Florida
The hot shooting of the Bulldogs saw them earn a nine point lead, but Butler had to do better than 7-19 from long range to beat the reigning champs. Florida proved that they can play any tempo, wear down the opposition and come away with the victory once again. The lack of hunger and emotion has been an issue with Florida in the early going of their first two games and it happened again here. Against Jackson State, Purdue and Butler, the Gators can get away with it, but it could prove to be a problem in the next round.
Yet, even without the early determination, Florida had four scorers in double-digits and shot 42% from long range, even despite an off night for sharp shooter Lee Humphrey. Along with the solid fundamentals everywhere on the court, Florida is tough to beat when they shoot like that.
UNLV vs. Oregon
Little Tajuan Porter was the difference in this game. After scoring 22 points in his first two NCAA Tournament games, the 5-6 Detroit native exploded for 33 points sparked by his 8-12 shooting from beyond the arc. Kevin Kruger wrapped up his career with 15 points, but shot just 5-16 from the floor and 2-11 from long range.
The Rebels hung around despite a dismal shooting night by getting on the offensive glass and keeping the turnovers down, but in the end Porter and the Ducks were too athletic and shot too well for UNLV to pull off the upset.
Vanderbilt vs. Georgetown
Jeff Green’s game winning shot after what appeared to be a traveling violation that went uncalled will go down in NCAA Tournament history. Without getting too much into the officiating, it was a bad no call. Vanderbilt fans will not let this one go for a long, long time. Derrick Byars, Shane Foster and Dan Cage had solid nights for the Commodores, with little to show for it in the end. One cannot help but feel bad for Vandy, but it was still a nice run for a team that many did not expect to even make the NCAAs…for whatever that is worth.
Vandy did a good job defensively, hung in there shot for shot with the Hoyas, but it was the rebounding that put G’town in the position to win the game in the end. Vanderbilt was outrebounded 35 to 20 and 15 to 6 on the offensive end. Those numbers are not surprising considering the size and strength advantage of Georgetown, but Vandy needed to keep it a little closer to pull off the upset.
USC vs. North Carolina
Last year, three #1 seeds were in the Elite Eight, with the other losing in the Sweet Sixteen. Of course, none of the #1 seeds advanced to the Final Four. I briefly thought that only three #1 seeds advancing to the Elite Eight would happen again this year. However, I quickly remembered the theme of this year’s tournament…the favorites always come back to win.
North Carolina was down 16 points early in the second half, brackets were shattered and people who picked UNC to win it all went to bed disappointed. After an 18-0 run by UNC, the momentum switched and it was pretty much all over. And whatever doubt was left that this was Roy William’s night ended with 48 seconds left when the best interior presence for USC, Taj Gibson, committed his fifth foul and Coach Tim Floyd picked up a bad technical. The look on the faces of his team on the bench told the whole story while those pieces of paper were flying out of Coach Floyd’s hands and onto the floor. Marcus Ginyard provided the spark for UNC on both ends of the floor and CBS showed that replay of his lay-up followed by painful, yet happy, yell way too many times.