After Thursday's games we're down to twelve teams with a shot at being the final scene in CBS' "One Shining Moment" montage. In Charlotte, North Carolina and Louisville took care of business in defeating Washington State and Tennessee respectively. Out in Phoenix, there was more suspense but in the end it was UCLA and Xavier winning to move on to Saturday's regional final. Here are some honors for Thursday's action.
Team of the Night: #1 North Carolina
Result: Defeated #4 Washington State 68-47 in Charlotte.
The only bone to pick (by some pundits) with the Heels after their dominating weekend in Raleigh was the fact that they'd given up more than seventy points to both Mount St. Mary's and Arkansas. Well, how about limiting the Cougars to forty-seven points, forcing them into a 31.6% shooting night? Tyler Hansbrough led the Heels with eighteen points, and next up is Louisville. Can they put together the same defensive effort? Maybe, maybe not. But I'd advise people to pay more attention to the field goal percentage defensive category than simply the points allowed. Their pace dictates allowing points, so if they can limit their opponent's quality shots then they'll be in good shape.
Player of the Night: Kevin Love (UCLA)
Numbers: 29 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists in an 88-78 win over Western Kentucky.
Love is one of the most fundamentally sound players to hit the college basketball scene in some time, and his effort against the Hilltoppers was just one more example of such. Be it through a key basket, rebound or outlet pass to spark a break, he was one of the main reasons why the Bruins were able to hold off that hard-charging WKU squad. UCLA's guards were mediocre for a good portion of the second half, but it was Love (he had help, which I'll get to a little later) and the frontcourt that got this one home.
Josh Duncan (Xavier)
The senior forward went for 26 points in the Musketeers' overtime win against West Virginia. He's been their most consistent scorer in the Tournament, something that isn't really a surprise since he led the team in scoring in the regular season.
Tyrone Brazelton (Western Kentucky)
In a losing effort, Brazelton closed out his collegiate career with a thirty-one point night. Without his outside shooting in the second half, there's no way WKU gets that game to within four points late.
Earl Clark (Louisville)
A starter for most of the season, Clark has adjusted quite well to coming off the bench. In the Cardinals' 79-60 win over Tennessee, he went for a solid 17 points and 12 boards.
Unsung Hero of the Night: James Keefe (UCLA)
Numbers: 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Before tonight's game, the season high in points for the sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita was eight (against Stanford in the Pac-10 Tournament final). But with limited production from the struggling backcourt, it was Keefe who put up highs in both points and rebounds to help pull out the win. It's performances like this that helps crown champions when it's all said and done, and the more that Coach Howland can get out of Keefe the better.
Midwest Regional (Detroit)
#10 Davidson vs. #3 Wisconsin (7:10 PM EST)
#12 Villanova vs. #1 Kansas (to start 25-30 min. following completion of first game)
South Regional (Houston)
#3 Stanford vs. #2 Texas (7:27 PM EST)
#5 Michigan St. vs. #1 Memphis (to start 25-30 min. following completion of first game)