March Madness Blog – Elite 8 Sunday games

Two more games decided the final two entrants into the Final Four. What did Rick Pitino say would happen to the state of Kentucky if Louisville pulls off the upset? And why North Carolina can’t simply blame Kendall Marshall’s injury for their loss against Kansas.

Oh, and by the way, Jayne S. is now leading the Sports Spectrum bracket challenge. And guess who has crept up to number 3…that’s right, your’s truly. I was three for four in my Final Four picks, not bad. Let’s get to Sunday’s games…

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor SOUTH REGION

Final Score: 82-70 Kentucky

Observations:

- Kentucky was absolutely dominant Sunday night. After Baylor spent the first few minutes setting the pace with a 10-5 lead, Kentucky seemingly turned on a switch and couldn’t miss the entire game.

- Part of the reason Kentucky couldn’t miss was Baylor’s defense. There was a stretch in the second half where Baylor played more physical on defense and was able to slow Kentucky down for a while. Unfortunately, they didn’t play defense like that in the first half, it might have been a closer game.

- There were a few uneasy moments when Kentucky center Anthony Davis fell to the floor with an apparent knee injury. UK and Charlotte Bobcat fans were able to breathe again once he was able to walk it off and return to the game.

Key Stats:

- Kentucky went to the free throw line 44 times.

- Kentucky had nine blocks; six from Anthony Davis and three from Terrence Jones.

- Baylor senior Quincy Acy gave it all he had, scoring 22 points and bringing down eight rebounds.

Player of the Game: Anothony Davis – Davis is so disruptive down low. Baylor had many drives to the basket that would normally equal in two points, but were simply swatted away.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino on potentially beating Kentucky: “There will be people in Kentucky who will have a nervous breakdown if they lose to us,” Pitino said.

Up next for Kentucky: Louisville

The state of Kentucky is in a frenzy. Just for by reaching the Final Four, UK students were burning couches in the streets. I can’t imagine what will fans may do when either school beats their rival for the right to play in the National Championship. Why is it that people want to destroy things when their favorite team wins something?

#1 North Carolina vs. #2 Kansas MIDWEST REGION

Final Score: 80-67 Kansas

Observations:

- North Carolina looked a lot better than they did Friday night when Ohio took them to overtime. For most of the way they were confident playing without Kendall Marshall.

- Until Bill Self switched Kansas to a triangle and two zone on defense late in the second half. After that, North Carolina had trouble in their half court offense and never really figured it out.

Key Stats:

- Tyler Zeller and John Henson combined for just ten rebounds.

- James McAdoo came off the bench for the Tar Heels and led the team in scoring with 15 points.

- All of Kansas’ starters scored in double figures.

Player of the Game: Jeff Withey – Tyshawn Taylor had 22 points for Kansas, but center Jeff Withey was perfect from the field and had 15 points, eight rebounds and all three of the Jawhawks’ blocks.

@InsideCarolina tweeted this photo of Marshall's wrist last week

Missing more than Kendall Marshall: North Carolina didn’t just lose because they didn’t have Kendall Marshall. Sure, it played a role, but the game was tied at 47 at the half and was neck and neck until the last two or three minutes. Backup point guard Stillman White wasn’t bad, as he played another game without turning over the ball and had seven assists. The Tar Heels were dominated down low and out-rebounded 39-30. Zeller had just six boards after having 23 against Ohio. John Henson only had four rebounds. The Tar Heels made just two 3-point shots. And Harrison Barnes, likely a top-5 pick in this year’s NBA draft, shot just 5-14 from the field, which is not what you would expect from a guard ready to start in the NBA. And considering that North Carolina has still had four likely first-round NBA draft picks on the floor (Barnes, Henson, Zeller, McAdoo) to Kansas’ one (Thomas Robinson), it’s not like they were deficient of talent without Marshall.

Up next for Kansas: Ohio State

Kansas is one of the few teams that has the big men to bang down low with the Buckeyes Jared Sullinger. Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson will split time guarding him and Jayhawk fans hope that they can slow Sullinger down. What would stink is if either Robinson or Sullinger get on foul trouble early. You would like to see both teams best players on the court in a heavyweight matchup like this. Kansas beat Ohio State earlier this season, but Jared Sullinger sat out with back spasms. This game will be a lot different with him on the court.

Final Four

So now the Final Four is set, and we have will have a bunch of heavyweights competing for the title. All four schools have won the NCAA tournament before, and the four combined have won thirteen NCAA championships. Louisville (1980,1986) will take on in-state rival Kentucky (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998) and Ohio State (1960) will take on Kansas (1952, 1988, 2008). So if you are pulling for the team with the least amount of success, you’ll be a Buckeye fan, which seems ironic considering the amount of success they have on the football field.

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