2011 NCAA Tournament Championship Set: UConn Defeats Butler To Win National Title

California has only one school left in San Diego State, while the Pac-10 remains alive with Arizona. Will either school survive through the Sweet 16? We'll be here with bracket predictions, updates, and results.

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2011 NCAA Tournament Championship Results: UConn Captures Title Over Butler

Connecticut Huskies 53, Butler Bulldogs 41

Man, that game sucked. I'm sure The UConn Blog will take it, but man, for anyone who wasn't a Husky fan, that game SUCKED.

At first I thought it was great defense in the first half. And some of it was. Butler's rotations were sound in holding UConn to 19 points, and UConn's length truly bothered Butler to the point their bigs could barely breathe in the paint.

But as time went by, it became a little simpler than that. You see, literally every open shot Butler took in and out, and every other shot was off. They shot 3 for 31 from the field on their two pointers, perhaps the most incredible basketball stat I'll ever type. At one point, the Bulldogs made one of 22 shots--Chase Stigall hit a three at the start of the second half--and then managed three points for the next thirteen minutes as Connecticut scored 22 to put it away.

Really though, as much as I'd like to talk about Connecticut going out there and winning this one, the story is Butler's horrendous shooting. 9 for 33 on threes to go along with that horrendous two point production. Matt Howard 1 for 13, Shelvin Mack 4 for 15, Shawn Vanzant 2 for 10, Chase Stigall 3 for 11, Andrew Smith 2 for 9. Add in six missed free throws and the Bulldogs will look back at this one as a lost opportunity. Up 25-19 at the start of the second half, all the momentum on their side ... and they couldn't get that ball to bury its way through the basket. They were closer to the title last year, but they had plenty of chances to take this one if they could make a couple of shots.

UConn's stats are hardly anything to write home about, but in a game where baskets meant everything, they got them.  Kemba Walker did not have the greatest game offensively (5 for 19, although he did hit six free throws and grab nine rebounds), but it didn't matter, because Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi were the difference-makers. Lamb was impossible to stop in the second half one-on-one, as the Bulldogs actually had to play zone (something they never ever do) to try and stop him. He scored 11 of his 12 points during that early UConn second half run. And the overlooked Oriakhi was the only ultra efficient player on the floor, taking six shots and making five of them, pacing his way to a double-double.

Thus concludes one of the most remarkable runs in college basketball history, a Connecticut team that totally devalued the meaning of the regular season by going .500 in conference, only to go undefeated in non-conference games and never lose a single tournament game (Maui, The Big East & March Madness).


2011 NCAA Tournament Championship: Utah Jazz Forward Gordon Hayward Talks Butler Bulldogs

Following yesterday's 106-96 loss to the Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward shared some thoughts on his alma mater's second straight trip to the national championship game.

It's been an up-and-down first-year in the NBA for Hayward.  After playing sparingly to start the season, Hayward has recently emerged as a fixture in Utah's rotation.  With the Jazz out of the Playoff picture, he made his 13th start of the season and poured in a career-high 19 points against the Kings.  However, it wasn't enough to keep Utah from suffering its eighth-straight defeat.  Hayward admits losing has been tough to swallow following the success he had at the collegiate level with Butler. Falling 61 to 59, Hayward and his Bulldogs were just one shot away from winning last year's national championship against the Duke Blue Devils. The rookie forward missed what would have been the game-winning basket at the final buzzer.  He's hoping things turn out differently for the Bulldogs this year.


2011 NCAA Tournament Final Four Results: Kentucky Can't Shoot, Falls To UConn

Connecticut Huskies 56, Kentucky Wildcats 55

Basketball can be a pretty complex sport. There's ball movement, off-the-ball movement, pick and rolls, pick and pops, screen and rolls, defensive rotations, off-ball and help defense, 2-3, 1-3-1, 3-2 and matchup zones ... lots of stuff goes into planning and scheming for an opponent, and all of that is pretty essential to winning the game.

But sometimes, it can just be distilled down to its most basic element: Putting the ball in the basket. That was something UConn was better at for forty minutes over UK, and that was pretty much all they needed.

Connecticut shot 47% from the field, Kentucky 34%. Connecticut made 9 of 11 of their free throws, Kentucky an appalling 4 of 12. If it wasn't for Kentucky nailing nine threes, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and committing five turnovers less than their opponent, UConn would've run away from this.

Kemba Walker stroked his usual 18 points on 6 of 15 shooting, Jeremy Lamb added 12 points and 9 rebounds, and the usually offensively quiet Alex Oriakhi put in 8 points and 10 rebounds to lead UConn. For Kentucky, Brandon Knight, supposed blue chip NBA Draft point guard prospect, took an un-point guard-like 23 shots and made six of them (17 points). Doron Lamb chipped in 13 points, and Terrence Jones notched 11 points on five of eight shooting while grabbing 15 rebounds, but missed ALL of his five free throws. It was that kind of night for Kentucky, who finally saw their freshman jitters catch up with them.

UConn now faces the Butler Bulldogs (who beat VCU) in the NCAA Tournament Championship game Monday night.


2011 NCAA Tournament Final Four Results: Butler Beats VCU For Another Chance At A Title

Butler Bulldogs 70, Va. Commonwealth Rams 62

Should we really be surprised?

I mean, yeah, it's a little crazy that Butler is back here again, but look at how they had to get here. Butler inherited the weakest of the four brackets--everyone who watched the Selection Show knew that the Southeast Regional wasn't that great, and it was anyone's guess who would come out of it.

But was it a surprise that in close games, it was the Bulldogs, the team that's already made one run to a championship, a team that never panics and always executes, that came up with the big play game after game?

Of course they needed some late game luck. Remember, it was Matt Howard with his putback at the buzzer that even got them to the second round. It was a bizarro ending against the Panthers that still doesn't make much sense two weeks later that punched their ticket to the Sweet 16. But down the stretch of close games, it was always their opponents (aside from that horrid foul late against Pitt) that seemed to self-destruct, while Butler stayed true to who they are--great defense, solid rebounding.

Against VCU, the same formula applied.

Plus-14 boards for Butler, including plus-9 offensive rebounds. Butler's shot wasn't falling (only 36% shooting from the field), so they got themselves to the free throw line (26 attempts, double that of VCU, and 20 makes), particularly Howard, who swished 11 of 12. And Shelvin Mack, the only Butler player who could get his shot going, keyed the critical run in the second half, knocking down five of six threes and eight of 11 shots en route to 24 points. Shawn Vanzant chipped in 11 points, but it was team rebounding by guys like Khyle Marshall (eight), Andrew Smith (seven), Ronald Nored (six) and Vanzant (five) that really was the biggest difference in this conference.

That was all they needed, even though the Rams still fought them tooth and nail until the final minutes. Jamie Skeen (27 points, 6 rebounds) and Bradford Burgess (15 points, 9 rebounds) were exceptional for VCU. But Joey Rodriguez shot 1 for 9 (although he distributed 7 assists) and Ed Nixon went 1 for 5. It was an extraordinary run by the Rams, but this time they just didn't have enough to finish it off. Their turn as Cinderella is over.

Butler? They can still smell that glass shoe from last year. This time they want it to fit.

Butler will play UConn (who beat Kentucky) in the title game.


2011 NCAA Tournament Final Four Odds: Butler, Kentucky Slight Favorites

The 2011 NCAA basketball tournament Final Four is set, which means the odds have been released for each of the games. The Butler Bulldogs and Kentucky Wildcats have each opened as early slim favorites in their respective games against Virginia Commonwealth and Connecticut.

The Butler Bulldogs face the VCU Rams this Saturday April 2 at 3:09pm pacific time on CBS. Butler is currently a 2 1/2 point favorite against VCU. Both teams have been quite hot, and it’s hard to tell which Cinderella will continue their run. VCU has been more consistently dominant, but Butler has faced a tougher run to the Final Four, defeating a 1, 2, 4 and 9 seed. VCU has defeated 1, 3, 6, 10 and co-11 seed. Butler has had higher seeds while VCU has had an extra game. They say stick with the streak when betting, but both teams are streaking. I’d say stick with VCU, but it’s really a toss-up at this point.

The Kentucky Wildcats face the Connecticut Huskies this Saturday April 2 at 5:49pm pacific time on CBS. The Wildcats are the worse seed (4 vs. 3) but are also a 2 1/2 point favorite. Both teams are playing quite well, but UConn is as hot as anybody in the country. You’d think they would eventually run out of gas, but adrenaline and Kemba Walker has carried them quite well. I think UConn wins this won and actually I think they win the whole thing. As I mentioned at some other point, there’s a Carmelo Anthony/Syracuse vibe to this team.


2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket Results: Kentucky Back In Final Four After Beating North Carolina

Kentucky Wildcats 76, North Carolina Tar Heels 69

For the second time on Sunday, an NCAA Tournament game was decided by the three point shot. And finally, one game went according to plan (you know, according to me).

North Carolina finally succumbed to their biggest foe, as their awful three point shooting did them in. Despite shooting fairly well from the free throw line (12 of 15, compared to 10 of 16 for UK), the Tar Heels had nothing to show from outside, clanging thirteen triples and going 3 for 16 overall, offsetting their excellent two point offense (24 for 46). Harrison Barnes has had an excellent tournament, but he shot 2 for 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points on 19 shots. Kendall Marshall went 1 for 5, and Leslie McDonald missed his two attempts. 98.3 points per 100 possessions indicates it was Kentucky's defense, not UNC's, that dictated the tempo of this game.

Still, it would've been ok if they'd contained Kentucky on the other side of the court from behind the arc. Which they didn't come close to doing. Brandon Knight nailed five of 11 threes, DeAndre Liggins put in two of four, Doron Lamb put in his only two, Darius Miller had two, and Terrance Jones added his own triple. Sometimes basketball is just about making shots, and Kentucky's excellent three point offense totally blasted North Carolina's poor three point offense out of the water in this one.

It negated the advantage UNC enjoyed in the paint with Tyler Zeller (9 for 12 shooting, 21 points, 9 rebounds). John Henson (despite nine boards) was in foul trouble and never was much of a factor like he had been in the first three Tar Heel tournament games. Josh Harrellson continued his solid tournament in the paint, contributing 12 points and 8 rebounds. Jones and Knight backed up their senior big with seven boards apiece.

Kentucky moves on to face UConn in the Final Four.


2011 NCAA Tournament Results: VCU Rams Rains Threes, Shock Kansas Jayhawks, Will Play Butler In Final 4

Va. Commonwealth Rams 71, Kansas Jayhawks 61

This game made no sense. Which is why it made perfect sense.

Again, nothing went according to script in a game involving Shaka Smart's Rams. Kansas, one of the best three point offenses in the country, shot 2 for 21 from downtown. And it wasn't like VCU's defense was out there contesting them. A lot of those shots were wide open. The space between shooter and defender was gaping as the Rams often collapsed onto the big guys.

And the Jayhawks kept on clanking away, sometimes completely missing the rim. Marcus Morris, 0 for 3. Josh Selby, 0 for 3. Tyshawn Taylor, 0 for 2. Tyrel Reed, 1 for 7. Sometimes Kansas was settling instead of working it inside, but when you miss that many triples, that is a total lemon performance.

Kansas's other nemesis also did them in. The Jayhawks missed free throw after free throw. Taylor went 2 for 5, the Morris twins combined to go 6 for 12. Free throw shooting was probably going to do in Kansas in a close game--no one imagined it'd be here, against these Rams.

But these Rams couldn't miss in the first half, as their speed shockingly overwhelmed Kansas on defense. VCU shot 12 for 25 overall from the three point line against one of the best three point defenses in the country. Jamie Skeen was 4 for 7; Brandon Rozzell, 3 for 6; Bradford Burgess, 2 for 3; Joey Rodriguez, 2 for 6. So despite making only one of their 17 two point jumpers, the incredible 30 point advantage VCU enjoyed from beyond the arc pushed them over the top.

26 points and 10 rebounds from Skeen. Rodriguez and Burgess combined for 18 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, and Rozzell added 12 points.

Kansas won the rebounding battle, got more blocked shots, and forced more turnovers. But their atrocious shooting did them in. 89.4 points per 100 possessions won't win you games against North Texas, much less an Elite 8 contest.

In a single elimination tournament like March Madness, for an upset to happen, you only need to be perfect once, and your opponent has to be imperfect. And VCU was flawless for 15 minutes to build up a 17 point lead. They staved off the inevitable Kansas rally, then made big basket after big basket to hold on as the Jayhawks couldn't make their shots from outside when the Rams conceded them over and over. 

Then again, the Rams have won five games like this in the tournament. It's not looking like it's just luck anymore. VCU can play. They can win it all too, with just two more Ws.

VCU faces Butler (who upset Florida yesterday) in the Final Four on Saturday. For reaction from Kansas fans, go to Rock Chalk Talk.


2011 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Bracket & Picks: North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Kentucky Wildcats

Our final Elite 8 matchup is probably the most highly anticipated, as two of the most storied franchises in college basketball square off for the right to go to the Final Four in the East Regional final in Newark. Let's take a look at the two matchups.

#2 North Carolina Tar Heels

Ken Pomeroy says ... 39th best offense and 5th best defense, playing at a furious pace, one of the fastest in college basketabll. UNC is an excellent rebounding team and good at keeping opponents off the line, all while being able to hold onto the ball. They also enjoy strong field goal defense, and are excellent at getting blocked shots and not getting their shots blocked.

The weaknesses for North Carolina are shooting the basketball. Due partly to the volume of shots they take, they're a poor three point and free throw shooting team. In addition, the Heels get a lot of their passes picked off while struggling to force turnovers of their own.

#4 Kentucky Wildcats

Ken Pomeroy says ... 7th best offense, 20th best defense, average tempo (208th). Great shooting offense (particularly with the three point shot) and great shooting defense (particularly with the two point shot). Pretty good rebounding on both sides. Excellent at holding onto the ball, excellent three point shooting offense and strong two point shooting defense. Good at getting blocks.

The biggest weakness with Kentucky is they're an average rebounding squad, which could cause them trouble against big and strong teams. 

Prediction: Before the tournament, it was looking like the reliance on freshmen would not be enough to put John Calipari's squad over the top, but Kentucky has gotten quality production from their veterans, who gave them enough to beat Ohio State.

But now they meet a team that can match their athleticism and the pace of the game. In their regular season matchup, Kentucky had a better shooting game from outside, but could not do anything in the paint, got out rebounded, and shot way fewer free throws.

I look for Kentucky to win the rematch on a neutral court, as they probably will avoid being at a huge free throw disadvantage and will try to slow the game down defensively, forcing North Carolina's poor shooting to the front of the stage. If they can avoid getting dominated on the boards, they should be able to squeak this one out.


2011 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Bracket & Picks: Kansas Jayhawks vs. VCU Rams

And thus today ends one of the worst regionals ever constructed by the NCAA Selection Committee, a bracket where the third seed and sixth seeds were blown out of the tournament by a team no one believe should have been picked, where the fourth and fifth seeds bowed out in the first round, where the second seed couldn't put up any points in the second round. It's one thing to have upsets in March Madness, it's quite another to have one regional stacked up with almost all of them.

And one team is poised to take total advantage of their good fortune and head back to the Final Four. Well, at least you'd think they would be.

#1 Kansas Jayhawks

Ken Pomeroy says ... 4th best offense and 7th best defense. One of the fastest tempos in college basketball. The best shooting team in the country (tops on twos, great on threes). Excellent three point shooting defense and solid two point defense. Great rebounding team, particularly on the defensive boards. Good at keeping teams off the free throw line.

The weaknesses for Kansas are pedestrian free throw shooting and average ball-handling. They turn the ball over a bit and they don't force as many turnovers as expected, although they're good at steals and blocks.

#11 Va. Commonwealth Rams

Ken Pomeroy says ... 30th best offense in the nation, 106th best defense, slow tempo (206th). They're great at ball handling and forcing turnovers, as well as forcing teams off the line. Also a good three point and free throw shooting team.

The weaknesses of VCU are ... defense and rebounding. They have one of the worst two point defenses in the country. Poor offensive rebounding squad, worse defensive rebounding team. Also prone to getting shots blocked.

Prediction: This seems like a Kansas victory all the way, although the turnover-prone nature of the Jayhawks could have trouble with the VCU press. But it would be a total shocker if Kansas isn't able to break this press with their ability to move at a quick tempo. Or use their superior size. Or get twenty to thirty more shots. Or not totally shut down the Rams on defense. Or be better than Kansas.

(Then again, we've said that for almost every game VCU has played in this tournament...)

Nevertheless, Jayhawks to the Final Four.


2011 NCAA Tournament Results: Arizona Falls To Connecticut In Elite 8

Connecticut Huskies 65, Arizona Wildcats 63

Arizona didn't play a bad game on Saturday afternoon, but they inevitably dropped off from the level of incredible play they exhibited against Duke. They went all-in to beat #1 on Thursday night, and it's not too surprising the team fell off in its production and efficiency against UConn.

The Wildcats returned to Earth with regards to their shooting stroke. One of the best three point shooting teams in the country, Arizona did shoot 50% inside managed to shoot only 4 of 21 from downtown, and it was fitting their final two three point attempts by Derrick Williams and Jamelle Horne to go for the win rather than the tie came up just a little long and just a little short.

(via JoshSchachter)

Arizona experienced a harsh regression to the mean Saturday, and it ended their national championship aspirations.

Still, Arizona did keep themselves in the game by managing to win the rebounding game as expected (42 to 31 advantage on total boards, 19 to 11 advantage on offensive boards) and again relying on Williams to carry the brunt (20 points, 5 of 13 shooting, 9 of 12 from the free throw line, 5 boards). Jesse Perry provided a nice spark at the start of the second half to finish with 14 points and 7 rebounds, Kyle Fogg and Lamont Jones contributed 11 and 8 points respectively, but Horne, Kevin Parrom, Jordon Mayes and Solomon Hill combined to go 4 for 21 from the field (although they did grab 22 combined rebounds as well). UConn's defense bothered the Wildcats enough on both the perimeter and the inside that even all of Arizona's depth was negated.



As for UConn, Arizona's defense (not the greatest ever) was surprisingly solid itself for most of the game. The Huskies only shot 29% on their threes and 41% overall. Kemba Walker did hit his customary selection of big shots, but he was only an average 7 for 17 shooting in putting up 20 points (he did distribute seven assists). Jeremy Lamb had some huge plays down the stretch, but he also shot only 7 for 19 for 19 points. If it weren't for Connecticut getting some early and unexpected success at getting to the free throw line off of hasty Arizona fouls, they might not have pulled this one off.

The Huskies will move onto face the winner of North Carolina/Ohio State in the Final Four. For reaction from Wildcats fans, go to Arizona Desert Swarm. For reaction from Husky fans, go to The UConn Blog.


2011 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Results: Baffling Decisions By Florida Send Butler To The Final Four

Butler Bulldogs 74, Florida Gators 71 (Overtime)

Now this is a true Cinderella team. 

Not to take anything away from last year's Butler squad. In fact it's a compliment--last year's Bulldogs were tenaciously tough on defense and really forced all their opponents into slow-paced low possession games that favored their style of play. They were a team that definitely had a good shot to win the national championship, and they came oh so close to doing so.

This year, not the case. Butler has struggled. They let teams get to the bucket too frequently. Their defense has sagged off from last year's levels. What has improved is their offense, but all too often it was the defense letting them down through the season. And in their Elite 8 matchup against Florida, all those kinks were on display as they got pounded inside, couldn't force turnovers, shot way too many threes instead of going for twos, and missed their free throws.

Yet for some reason, the Gators left the Bulldogs off the hook late, and (most shockingly of all) couldn't get the rebounds when it mattered (Florida's biggest advantage was supposed to be their size and rebounding). And as a result, Butler is going back to the Final Four.

Shelvin Mack didn't have his greatest game, but 27 points, 4 assists, and the "go ahead for good" three was good enough. Matt Howard pitched in with 14 points, although he too was on shaky ground. But it wasn't just Mack and Howard doing the work. Freshman Khyle Marshall wasn't doing damage in March last year, but he grabbed all seven of his rebounds on the offensive end to give Butler the extra possessions they needed. 10 big points too, a lot of them courtesy of his tenacity on the glass. 8 rebounds for Andrew Smith, 7 rebounds for Shawn Vanzant, 5 for Howard, and Butler got the extra chances they needed to stay in it and eventually get up on it. 16 offensive rebounds for the Bulldogs, leading to the few extra possessions they needed.

Florida will only have themselves to blame for this loss. After seemingly dominating the paint all the game to the tune of 10 of 17 shooting on layups and dunks, the Gators regressed to taking bad, contested three point shots late in the game when Butler made it close. Florida was 22 for 43 on twos and a terrible 3 for 14 on threes. Erving Walker was the main culprit, taking seven triples and clanging six of them (including tough contested 30-35 footers); Chandler Parsons was not much better, shooting 2 for 9. This negated excellent efforts by Vernon Macklin (25 points on 14 shots, 5 rebounds), Alex Tyus (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Kenny Boynton (17 points).

Butler moves onto Houston to take on the winner of Kansas/VCU next Saturday.


2011 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Printable Bracket, Schedule, Odds: Saturday Predictions For The Money

After two lopsided games and two battles to the wire, the 2011 NCAA Tournament has reached the Elite Eight round. SB Nation has put together an updated NCAA Tournament printable bracket for your viewing pleasure. At the very least you can print it out and burn it to reflect the destruction of your bracket to date. Well, except the people who picked Kansas.

We start the Elite Eight round with Butler versus Florida at 1:30pm pacific and Connecticut versus Arizona at 4:05pm pacific. Logic would dictate taking the Gators and the Huskies, but this tournament has been fairly devoid of logic to date. We’re down to a single number one seed that could conceivably get to the national title game without playing anything higher than an eight seed. It requires a special brand of thinking for this kind of insanity.

According to Odds Shark Florida opened as a three point favorite and has seen the line move to -4 or -4 1/2. I really don’t know what to expect from Butler. After squeaking by in the first two rounds, they handled the Wisconsin Badgers with relative ease. I think Florida puts an end to the Bulldogs dream but I am rooting for Butler to continue its magical run. My money is on Florida covering, but I don’t like it.

Connecticut opened as a two point favorite over Arizona, but has seen that line move to three points. Arizona is coming off a dominant upset of Duke, while UConn is as hot as any team in the country. I liken this Connecticut team to the Carmelo Anthony led the Syracuse Orangemen to the national title. Both teams have other players, but Kemba Walker is sort of the Carmelo of this team. I think UConn wins and covers this game.


2011 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Odds: Kansas Jayhawks Overwhelming National Championship Favorite

It's not a surprise that with two more top seeds bowing out of the tournament, one favorite has shot up as the team to beat. Let's examine each of the team odds and what would be the best value bets to make.

Kansas Jayhawks, 7 to 5 odds ($5 to win $7): All in all, things could not have gone more swimmingly for Jayhawk nation with the departure of all three number one seeds. And there's a half-decent chance they could go to the title game without facing a team better than an EIGHT seed if Butler beats Florida.

All in all, this isn't a terrible value pick. Grab it now before the Final Four, because their odds are going to plummet to pretty chalky territory if they win.

Kentucky Wildcats, 19 to 4 odds ($4 to win $19): These odds are fair, and it makes sense. Kentucky is going to have much tougher bracket matchups to get to the title game, and then they'll probably have to beat someone like Kansas. Good luck with that.

Connecticut Huskies, 5 to 1 odds ($1 to win $5):  Overinflated line due to the Kemba Walker factor. UConn is good, but they're not good enough to be laying 5 to 1. Don't expect to be making many value bets with this team.

North Carolina Tar Heels, 13 to 2 odds ($2 to win $13): These are not great odds, considering North Carolina has to go through Kentucky and the UConn-Arizona winner. Far harder road than those 13 to 2 odds are laying.

Florida Gators, 15 to 2 odds ($2 to win $15): All of a sudden, Florida's odds don't look so bad. They'd still have to likely march through the Kansas juggernaut, but after that game all they'd have to do is handle one of the four teams on the other side of the bracket.

Arizona Wildcats, 10 to 1 odds ($1 to win $10): Note to gamblers--knocking off Duke after one perfect half of basketball does not mean you should be hitching your wagon to UofA as the best team. 10 to 1 is probably the worst bet of all these futures, considering the Wildcats are probably underdogs in all their remaining tournament games.

Butler Bulldogs, 14 to 1 odds ($1 to win $14): Again, awful odds. Butler will not only likely be an underdog in their remaining games, they should be HEAVY underdogs in a couple of them. There's not much value in Butler after they nearly won it all last year, so stay wary of national championship odds when it comes to them.

Va. Commonwealth Rams, 35 to 1 odds ($1 to win $35): An 11 seed from Virginia making an improbable run to the Final Four? It's happened before, hasn't it? Might be worth a small action bet on VCU (this isn't the greatest tournament field, and an upset of Kansas will send these odds plummeting), but nothing more.

Best pick? Go with Kansas, now, before it's too late. Kentucky also has some spark to it, as does Florida and maybe VCU. Avoid UConn, UNC, Arizona and Butler.


2011 NCAA Tournament Results: FSU Defense Falls Apart, VCU Elite 8 Bound

Va. Commonwealth Rams 72, Florida St. Seminoles 71 (overtime)

If the Ohio State-Kentucky game was high dramatics, VCU-Florida State looked a lot more like a basketball mudfight. The Rams and the Seminoles combined for 33 turnovers and plenty of sloppy play throughout the 45 minutes of gametime. FSU didn't have as much trouble with breaking VCU's press as they did simply dribbling the ball in their halfcourt sets. VCU struggled to make their free throws when they looked like they could break away. Florida State had 30 seconds to set up a game-winning play, didn't call timeout...and ended up with a fadeaway heave dribbling away from the basket at the buzzer.

It figures this ugly but dramatic game was decided on an open backdoor layup.

(via mocksessioncom2)

Based on most of the numbers, Florida State should have owned the game. They pummeled the Rams for a +15 rebound advantage, including an astonishing 21 offensive rebounds which led to nearly 20 more possessions. They knocked down 37% of their threes, decently above their average, and it should have been enough to surmount their

But just like Kentucky's defense stepped up to beat, the top-ranked Seminoles defense betrayed them. VCU only put up 101.4 points per 100 possessions, but that's way above the averages Florida State has been giving up all year. Even more damaging was the 46% three point shooting by VCU, as the Rams garnered 36 crucial points from the outside when FSU put on the clamps inside. With Bradford Burgess knocking down every shot he could get from outside (9 for 15 from the field, an unbelievable 6 of 7 from beyond the arc, plus the game winning layup) to finish with 26 points, and Brandon Rozzell (16 points, three three pointers), Jamie Skeen (11 points, 8 rebounds) and Joey Rodriguez (5 points, 10 assists) providing great support, the Rams did just enough to eek out of the victory.

Florida State's offense was its usual stuttering self. Derwin Kitchen had 23 points and 12 rebounds, but he made some curious decisions in the final seconds of regulation and overtime. Chris Singleton added 16 points (but on 18 shots) and Michael Snaer finished with 12.

The Rams move on to face Kansas (who smacked Richmond) in the Elite 8 final. For more reaction from Seminoles fans, check out Tomahawk Nation.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Results: Kentucky Defense Stops Ohio State's Unstoppable Offense, Onto Elite 8

Kentucky Wildcats 62, Ohio St. Buckeyes 60

(via mocksessioncom2)

What a game.

Way before this March Madness classic unfolded, I thought that Kentucky would have to do one of two things--outscore Ohio State, or wear them down. On the offensive end, they didn't really do much of either--the Buckeyes crashed the boards better, they got to the free throw line more, they held on to the ball better. On paper, it looked like another conventional Buckeye victory.

But it wasn't really Kentucky's offense (which was average) that won them the game in Newark. Surprise, surprise, it was Kentucky's defense that carried them to the Elite 8.

Josh Harrellson led the Wildcats with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting,11 rebounds (including 5 on the offensive glass), and 3 blocks, but it was his defense on Jared Sullinger that allowed Kentucky to play effective man-to-man defense for most of the game. Sullinger tossed up 21 points and 16 rebounds, but he needed to work for his points against Harrellson and account for him on the defensive end. The talented frosh Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb took a backseat offensively and defensively to Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins (who put up 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks),  and Darius Miller (7 points, four assists, two blocks, two steals), but they had their moments. And after the upperclassmen did all they could to get the win, it was Knight again who nailed the game-winner on a tough jumper with seconds remaining.

Ohio State, one of the best shooting offenses in the country, was held completely in check. The Buckeyes made only six of their threes (four courtesy of Jon Diebler, including one that tied the game to set up Knight's heroics), and shot even worse on their twos, going 13 for 42 (30%) after shooting 53% all season from inside. David Lighty had an ok 5 for 12 performance, but Aaron Craft and William Buford, two of the most efficient shooters in the country, combined for 11 points in an appalling 2 for 21 shooting display. Buford's performance was particularly atrocious, as he took some pretty horrid shots down the stretch when it was clear he didn't have his shot.

The Buckeyes ended up with 103.8 points per 100 possessions for a team that averaged 125.6 pts/100 poss this season. It was a virtuous performance by the Wildcats defensively, as they now stand on the doorstep of the Final Four.

Kentucky will play North Carolina (who waxed Marquette, click here for our recap) in the Elite 8. For reaction from Wildcats fans, head to A Sea of Blue; for Buckeye reaction, check out Along the Olentangy.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Results: Kansas Dominates Richmond

Kansas Jayhawks 77, Richmond Spiders 57

Kansas has to be laughing right now at the NCAA Tournament seeding committee. They inherited a fairly easy bracket to get to the Final Four (although that sort of competitive value hardly helped Pitt), and now they won't even have to face any team from their bracket higher than a NINE seed. #12 Richmond was the latest victim, and they were thoroughly dominated from beginning to end.

It couldn't have gone more swimmingly for Kansas, who dominated one of their biggest strengths while shutting down Richmond on the other side. The best two point offense in the country actually didn't shoot all that great inside, as Richmond's interior defense held them down to only 47% shooting. It was the outside that killed them; the Spiders had to zone up to ensure minimal damage for Kansas from the inside, and the Jayhawks stroked nine threes that eventually made all the difference offensively. Combine that with Kansas's excellent three point defense shutting down Richmond's three point offense (only 4 for 26), and that was the big difference in this one.

Brady Morningstar put up 18 points and knocked down four triples, Tyshawn Taylor distributed 7 assists, and Thomas Robinson picked up the slack for the Morris brothers offensively (who were the focus of Richmond's defensive efforts most of the night) with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris still managed to get 9 offensive boards and 13 rebounds.  Justin Harper managed 22 points and 9 rebounds to lead Richmond, but Kevin Anderson only put up 13 points on 5 of 17 shooting.

Kansas moves onto face VCU (who beat Florida State in overtime) in the Elite 8. For more reaction from Jayhawk fans, head over to Rock Chalk Talk.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Results: Tyler Zeller, North Carolina Pummel Marquette

North Carolina Tar Heels 81, Marquette Golden Eagles 63

Well, I did expect a North Carolina victory. I sure didn't expect it like this.

As expected, the Tar Heels didn't shoot well from three point land (5 for 16). They missed seven free throws. But all of that was irrelevant, because UNC went up early, dictated the pace, and forced Marquette to play catch up.

And for ten minutes, the Eagles couldn't put the bunny in the bird's nest. The end.

Tied at 10-10, Marquette's offense and defense totally fell apart, and North Carolina went on a 30-5 run that essentially ended the game. In the second half the margin widened to 31 points, and the outcome was never in doubt from that point on.

Generally one of the best shooting offenses in the country, Marquette could not make a bucket against North Carolina's athletic defenders. They scored 88.7 points per 100 possessions, an awful number against any foe. They were 23 for 63 from the field and an even more atrocious 2 for 16 from downtown, and those numbers looked much worse before their mini-flurry near the end (6 for 30 to start the game!). Darius Johnson-Odom shot 2 for 9 from the field, committed four turnovers, and did not play much near the end of the game. Davante Gardner did come on late and provide Marquette an offensive boost with 16 points, and Jimmy Butler had 14 points.

North Carolina, by contrast, played their game and ended up with a typical Tar Heel victory. Harrison Barnes had 16 points (although he needed 16 shots to get them) and 9 boards, John Henson chipped in 14 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks, and Tyler Zeller led the way with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Zeller and Barnes grabbed 7 offensive rebounds apiece as they chipped away at Marquette's ineffective zone.

But the story was the Tar Heel defense, which showed that when it's at its best, North Carolina can beat anyone, and quite convincingly too.

UNC moves onto face Kentucky (who beat Ohio State in a thriller) in the Elite 8 Regional Final. Should be a dandy.

For more reaction from Tar Heel fans, head over to Carolina March.


NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Bracket & Picks: Florida Gators vs. Butler Bulldogs

And now it's anyone's game.  Both teams in tonight's Southeast Regional Final contest weren't well-regarded in a fairlly weak bracket, but now they stand one win away from the Final Four, and anything can happen. Let's take a look at both teams.

#2 Florida Gators

Ken Pomeroy says ... 16th best team. 15th best offense, 29th best defense. Very slow tempo. Pretty great offense and pretty good defense that plays at a very slow tempo; great two point offense and good three point offense to go along with solid three point defense. Good at forcing jump shots and keeping teams off the line. Florida gets a lot of rebounds (particularly offensive boards).

The weaknesses for Florida are they don't shoot many free throws, and when they do, they don't shoot them very well (which might not be that  much of a weakness if you think about it enough). They are a pretty good jump shooting team, but if they're in a close game late, this could be an Achilles heel.

#8 Butler Bulldogs

Ken Pomeroy says ... 46th best team. 37th best offense, 62nd best defense. Slow tempo, but not as slow as Florida's. They're good at handling the ball, they're a solid shooting team, good free throw shooting team, don't get many of their shots blocked or stolen. They're also a strong defensive rebounding team.

The weaknesses of Butler is that they let teams get to the line. They also don't force many turnovers.

Prediction: This Butler team has been making a habit of making me look foolish. They turned the tables on Wisconsin's offense by forcing them into one of their coldest streaks of the season. They somehow turned terrible luck into terrific luck against Pitt in an unbelievable final two seconds.

Well, here we go again. Florida. I know this is a fairly weak bracket, but I don't see Butler beating three of the top four teams in their region, and the Gators are the most complete team they'll play. Winning the rebounding battle on both sides should be a big advantage, they should get some looks at the line (for better or for worse), and they should be able to shut down the three point shot.

(In other words, be prepared to bet the bank on Butler.)


NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Bracket & Picks: Arizona Wildcats vs. UConn Huskies

The West bracket was forecasted as one of the toughest regions for even the best teams to escape from, and both of the top seeds fell in the Sweet 16. Now Arizona (who beat Duke) and UConn (who held off San Diego State) will matchup in a classic of two traditional powers in their respective conferences.

#3 Connecticut Huskies

Ken Pomeroy says ... ranked 11th overall. 11th best offense, 28th best defense. 209th fastest pace. Excellent free throw shooting team. Great field goal defense, particularly on twos. Good at forcing opponents to jumpers and keeping them off the foul line. Great at gathering offensive rebounds. Good ball handling squad. Also can serve up blocks.

The weaknesses with UConn is rebounding. They're generally a poor defensive rebounding squad. Their shooting is merely average, and they can't get to the line enough to take advantage of their great execution at the stripe. They also don't force turnovers. 

#5 Arizona Wildcats

Ken Pomeroy says ... ranked 23rd overall. 10th best offense, 69th best defense. Great shooting team, particularly from downtown, but also efficient inside; solid on twos and free throws. Excellent three point defense. Solid at grabbing defensive rebounds

The weaknesses with Arizona is their interior defense. They're 281st in two point defense. Yesterday's game against Texas aside, Arizona also isn't typically good at forcing turnovers.

Prediction: Arizona really couldn't have hoped for a better Elite 8 matchup. Although UConn's defense is good, Arizona is equipped to make tough shotsTheir team can stretch the floor with Derrick Williams and force UConn to defend the three point line, and their excellent perimeter defense should limit Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb to inside makes. Expect the Wildcats depth to wear down UConn and to take advantage of the rebounding battle to help Arizona go back to the Final Four for the first time since 2001.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bracket Odds, Schedule: Friday Predictions For The Money

The second half of the Sweet 16 kicks off in the next hour as the 2011 NCAA Tournament continues to resemble nothing more than chaos. Just when it seemed like some of the big dogs were preparing to handle their business yesterday, we saw Duke get absolutely hammered in the second half by Arizona and Butler continue its repeat Cinderella run with a defensive shutdown of Wisconsin. Any chance at winning money yesterday went by the wayside as oddsmakers were left scratching their heads. I was successful with Butler and Florida, but saw San Diego State and Duke go by the wayside.

As we look at today's odds, I'd imagine gamblers are going to be a bit cautious in their wagers. I took a look through Odds Shark today and I feel like some traps are being laid. The oddsmakers have North Carolina sitting as a four to five point favorite over Marquette. UNC has been wildly inconsistent this year and it seems like only a fool would wager either way in this one. If I had to pick (purely for entertainment purposes) I'd almost feel obligated to go with Marquette given the run of Cinderellas. However, I'd end up going with North Carolina thinking my brain was winning out.

Kansas is sitting at -10 1/2 against Richmond. A one seed has never lost to a twelve seed, but I'm not finding the stats on whether twelves have covered against ones. My thought on this game is that Richmond wins or losses a tight one OR they get blown out. This won't be a seven point Kansas win. I see a game very close or a 15+ point victory. I'm going with Kansas to roll the big victory.

Ohio State is a 6 1/2 point favorite over Kentucky and I'd likely take the Buckeyes. I think reality is going to set back in after yesterday's insanity, with Ohio State leading the charge. Kentucky is very talented but I think Ohio State will be able to push them around with relative ease. I'm rooting for Kentucky, but I'd be betting for Ohio State.

Finally, we've got the battle of upstarts as No. 10 Florida State faces No. 11 VCU, with the Seminoles sitting as a 4 1/2 point favorite. I think VCU is playing as well as anybody in their region right now and I think they're going to follow the George Mason model to at least the Elite Eight. I don't know if they can also beat Kansas, but they're playing as well as anybody right now with a monstrous chip on their shoulder.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Results: Mystical Butler Defense Eliminates Wisconsin

Last year, Butler's run to a national championship made sense. They were a top 5 defense, they slowed the pace of the game down, they forced teams to play their game. They made it hard on them. This year? Less so. Other than being a great defensive rebounding team, they aren't a top team in any major category. They lost four of five to teams like Wright State, Wisconsin Milwaukee, Valparaiso and Youngstown State in the regular season. This wasn't a great team, and they wouldn't have been here without winning the Horizon League tourney.

But nevertheless, it's March, and they're giant-killers again. First they knock off Pitt in one of the most bizarre endings you'll ever see, now they take out the Badgers. It was Butler's defense again that dashed the surprisingly upbeat hopes of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is one of the most offensively efficient teams in the country, but they're surprisingly not that great a shooting team. Tonight they were horrid, as the Bulldogs held them to 37% on twos and 24% on threes. Their biggest strength is the free throw line, where they're one of the best college basketball teams ever. But they have troubles getting there, and they persisted tonight as Butler shot five more freebies (and they're not very good at getting to the line either). Worse, when they got there, they missed SIX of them, and it turned out to be a huge difference in the final margin.

Matt Howard seems to be very good at winning basketball games. Howard piled up 20 points and 12 rebounds in another workmanlike performance. Shelvin Mack didn't have a great shooting night, but he did have 13 points and nailed the huge jumper to stave off a furious Wisconsin rally late.  Jordan Taylor scored 22 points for the Badgers, but needed 6 of 19 shooting to get there and got little offensive help from his teammates.

Butler moves onto face Florida, who beat BYU in overtime (check out SBN Bay Area's recap of the Gators-Cougars game here).


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Results: Alex Tyus Carries Florida Over Jimmer Fredette & BYU

Florida Gators 83, BYU Cougars 74 (OT), New Orleans Regional

Florida is in the Elite 8, and I still don't really feel the least bit contrite about them not deserving that #2 seed in the Southeast Region. Even after three wins in the NCAA Tournament, Florida is still ranked 16th in Pomeroy, worst of all the two seeds and still placed behind ALL of the three and four seeds. They're in the Elite Eight because no one else in their half of the regional bracket has been good enough to wrest victory away from them, even though UCLA and now BYU both had their chances.

Still, this was quite a win. It dissolved into a chaotic matchup involving 71 three pointers and FIFTY MISSES, but it was quite the win.

Based on our preview, this one went pretty much to script. Florida dominated the interior by getting the baskets inside, but nearly undid themselves with over relying on the three pointer (34 three point attempts to 31 two point attempts?) and getting all sweaty palms on their free throws (UF was 10 for 22 from the line; BYU went 14 for 16). Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the national championship aspirations of the Gators.

But while the offense nearly threw away the game, the defense of the Gators came through huge. Jimmer Fredette might have made Gus Johnson and Reggie Miller giddy with that crazy thirty footer, but he did not have his best night, nailing only an additional two out of 15 threes and needing 29 points to score 32. For the good of the team, Fredette has been dogged with poor shot selection his entire career, and it caught up with him tonight.

Despite that inefficient production, Jimmer was still the best option. The rest of his teammates shot 14 for 42, and could not do anything inside or outside (35% on twos, 32% on threes) as none of Fredette's teammates could get into double digit scoring.

Florida, by contrast, relied on a balanced attack to eventually put away BYU in an extra session. Alex Tyus led the way with a career night: 19 points, 17 rebounds, 2 assists, and a blocked shot, yowzers. Kenny Boynton didn't have a great shooting night from downtown, but piled up 15 points and 5 assists. Ditto Chandler Parsons and Erving Walker, who both managed to get 16 points apiece.

Florida moves onto take on Butler in the Elite 8. For more reaction from Florida fans, head over to Alligator Army; for BYU reaction, head over to Vanquish the Foe.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Results: San Diego State Can't Execute, Fall To Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, UConn

Connecticut Huskies 74, San Diego St. Aztecs 67, Anaheim Regional

What a difference the three pointer makes in the NCAA Tournament. When you can light it up from outside, you're almost bound to win any game you play, and this was true for Kemba Walker (4 for 8 on threes) and Jeremy Lamb (nailing all three of his triples, including the biggest one of the game with under two minutes left). San Diego State's perimeter defense seemed to sag away to focus on the inside, and Walker and Lamb made them pay with 50% shooting from the outside against the 33rd best three point defense in the country.

The Aztecs, by contrast, were 7 for 22 from beyond the stripe, as too many of their possessions devolved into one-on-one isolations. D.J. Gay hit four of the three pointers, but the usually reliable Chase Tapley went one for seven and Kawhi Leonard (a poor three point shooter) about matched his career three point percentage by going one for four. His decision to launch a triple to try and give SDSU the lead with under two minutes left was ill-advised.

San Diego State also went 6 for 13 from the line, as Malcolm Thomas missed three freebies, Billy White two, Gay and Tapley one each. UConn was 12 for 15, Walker nailing 8 of his 10. Despite SDSU grabbing 15 offensive rebounds, they allowed UConn to get nine of their own and couldn't nail enough shots to take control of the game. Give credit to Connecticut's defense, but the Aztecs inflicted as much damage on themselves offensively with their inability to move the ball and get better looks inside.

For UConn, Walker finished with 36, but Lamb was just as important with 24 on only 11 shots from the field.  Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith combined for 17 of UConn's 35 rebounds.  The Aztecs had four scorers in double digits: Gay (16 points), White (14 points), Thomas (13 points, 8 rebounds), Leonard (12 points, 9 rebounds).

UConn moves onto face Arizona (who upset Duke; click here for SBN Bay Area's recap) in the West Regional final on Saturday. For further reaction from Huskies fans, go to The UConn Blog.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Results: Arizona Wildcats Erupt In Second Half To Beat Duke Blue Devils

Arizona Wildcats 93, Duke Blue Devils 77, Anaheim Regional

This is one of those games where everyone outside the losing locker room starts pointing at the people inside as the cause for the loss. Nolan Smith had a bad night in his final game as a Blue Devil guard. Kyrie Irving screwed up the chemistry of the team with his presence, playing very efficiently from the field while not distributing the ball as the primary point guard. Kyle Singler cuts his elbow and Seth Curry injures his hip. Coach Mike Krzyzewski made a poor decision in inserting Irving progressively into the lineup pre-tournament, disrupting the team's hustle and flow.

But while many of those reasons seemed to sum up Duke's struggles down the stretch, it was Arizona who took this game. The Wildcats team everyone feared to see all season finally emerged, and in a glorious hour of basketball, they toppled the champs.

They took this by making shot after shot. Derrick Williams kept them afloat with an incredible 25 point first half, and the team provided him with plenty of support by playing what was essentially a perfect second half, outscoring Duke 55-33. In an incredible twelve minute stretch from 18:59 to 7:03 left in the second half, the Wildcats unleashed a hellacious barrage of points, scoring on 18 of 21 possessions, erasing an 8 point deficit to go up 15. Duke was held to mostly jump shots during that stretch, as one of the league's most efficient offenses and defenses saw their championship repeat aspirations go up in smoke in that timespan.

Arizona won two critical matchups--from our preview, one of those advantages was expected, the other a little surprising. Arizona was hitting on 60% of their threes (half of them courtesy of Williams, who continues to light it up from beyond with 5 of 6), compared to 36% for Duke, and they pounded the boards (16 offensive rebounds for the Wildcats, 9 for the Blue Devils; 24 defensive boards for the Wildcats, 18 for the Blue Devils).  Those were the big advantages Arizona won to advance to the Elite 8.

Well, that and Williams. 32 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block. Lamont Jones (16 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds), Solomon Hill (13 points, 5 rebounds) provided the necessary support to push Arizona over the top.

Arizona moves onto face UConn (who beat San Diego State; check out the SB Nation Bay Area recap) in the Elite 8. For further reaction from the Wildcats, go to Arizona Desert Swarm.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Schedule, Betting Odds: Thursday Predictions For The Money

We’re approximately six hours away from tip off of the Sweet 16 round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got a host of exciting matchups tonight and tomorrow, and naturally we want to make them more exciting with a few wagers (only for entertainment purposes). The betting odds haven’t changed much since Monday and we’ve had some time to think this over.

At this point I’d have to take San Diego State (1), Florida (-3), Duke (-8.5), and Butler (4.5). I’ve got SDSU running the table so that was a simply option to take. Duke struggled late against Michigan but they’ve got the talent to lay waste to Arizona. I say go with the safe choice in this case.

The real questions for me surround Florida vs. BYU and Butler vs. Wisconsin. I think Florida has Final Four talent, and BYU is too much of a one-trick pony. Jimmer Fredette is a great one trick, but if he doesn’t get help, the Cougars are in trouble. I think they run into that trouble tonight.

As for Butler, they’ve played several close games and even if they’re due for a tough loss, I still think they cover tonight. They’re getting all the breaks so maybe they’re due for a fall, but I’m going to stick with the streaking team.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen Bracket Odds: Kansas Jayhawks Likely Final Four Pick From Southwest Region

Click here for the East regional Final 4 odds, and why you should make a bet on Kentucky over Ohio State to make it.

Click here for the West regional Final 4 odds, and why you should make a bet on San Diego State over Duke.

Click here for the Southeast regional Final 4 odds, and why Wisconsin or BYU is the play to make.

It's Sweet 16 time. Action kicks off in a few hours; although we'll be waiting on the Southwest until tomorrow, we figured it'd be a good time to look ahead to tomorrow's matchups between Kansas and Richmond, FSU and VCU. We also try to figure out what the best Final Four bet for you to make would be based on value. These odds are courtesy of BoDog.

Southwest Regional
#1 Kansas Jayhawks, 1 to 3 odds ($3 to win $1)

Things are very much looking up for Rock Chalk Jayhawk supporters, so you'd think this would be the safest bet. However, 1 to 3 odds  presumes you believe Kansas has a 75% shot at getting to the Final Four.  Even with this bracket, those are still very steep odds--you'd have to think they'd win each of their next two games over 85% of the time, which is about  par for the course for a non-conference home game at Allen Fieldhouse. Tread cautiously before putting your money on KU.

#10 Florida St. Seminoles, 7 to 2 odds ($2 to win $7)

Again, it's a bit strange FSU has such favorable odds as opposed to the other two teams in the bracket. They might be the more recognizable name, but there's a reason they're a tenth seed. If their futures had been around the same value as the other two teams, I'd be definitely interested in this as a value pick.

#11 Va. Commonwealth Rams, 9 to 1 odds ($1 to win $9) & #12 Richmond Spiders, 10 to 1 odds ($1 to win $10)

Just like in the East bracket, it's really strange that VCU and Richmond have almost the same futures. I guess the only thing is that Richmond is guaranteed to play Kansas--VCU could get lucky and see Richmond in the Final 4. The Spiders have been considered a good team for awhile though, and I'd have to like their chances over the Rams (who are still a team many believe shouldn't even be here) in winning two more games.

If you had to bet money, where would you put it?

Not really high on any of these. Small action on Richmond or Kansas if anything.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen Bracket Odds: Wisconsin Or BYU A Good Final Four Pick From Southeast Region

Click here for the East regional Final 4 odds, and why you should make a bet on Kentucky over Ohio State to make it. Click here for the West regional Final 4 odds, and why you should make a play on San Diego State.

The Southeast Regional now looks wide open with the elimination of the Pitt Panthers, (who weren't that great a one seed to begin with, but it does level the playing field), and all four teams have a decent shot to move onto the Elite 8 and Final 4. Here, we try to figure out what the best Final Four bet for you to make would be based on value. These odds are courtesy of BoDog.

 #2 Florida Gators, 7 to 4 odds ($4 to win $7)
I wouldn't touch these odds. Depending on where you look, Florida is probably underdogs in their next two games. They are not a team to be trusted, especially after how much they struggled to win in a home site against BYU.

#3 BYU Cougars, 7 to 2 odds ($2 to win $7)
This is pretty decent value even for the Jimmer machine. With Pitt gone, BYU has a good 50-50 shot to win either of their two tournament games. This is a line worth considering if you're big on taking a pick that guarantees good return on investment.

#4 Wisconsin Badgers, 17 to 10 odds ($10 to win $17)

Love these odds. It's a bit silly that Wisky is drawing even with Florida at BoDog, considering Wisconsin has the easier Sweet 16 draw and will only have to face one of the other two teams. Gotta be nice being a four seed drawing a one seed's side of the Sweet 16.

#8 Butler Bulldogs, 5 to 1 odds ($1 to win $5)
You can be the biggest Butler homer in the world, and this still would be a horrible bet. Beating a one seed is one thing. Beating three of the top four teams in your regional (even one as horrid as the Southeast) is something else altogether. Certainly not enough to believe they have a 10%+ shot at getting back to the FInal Four.

If you had to bet money, where would you put it?
Really like Wisconsin's odds here, with a small sidebet on BYU in case things go horribly wrong.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen Bracket Odds: Duke Odds-On Final Four Favorite From West Regional

So as we approach the second weekend of March Madness, we try and figure out who has the best chances of making it to the next round--and more importantly for you, what the best bet is for you to make. After covering the East Bracket and Ohio State's potential Final Four bid, we turn our attention to the West. All the odds found here are courtesy of BoDog.

#1 Duke Blue Devils: 2 to 3 odds (bet $3 to win $2).  Unless you really believe Duke is going to run over the rest of these teams in a West Coast bracket where it's possible both of their games will be played against western opponents (meaning the Blue Devils could have to essentially play two road games to get to Houston), I would not take anything better than even odds on the Dukies, even if they were the best team in the nation.

#2 San Diego St. Aztecs, #3 Connecticut Huskies: 13 to 4 odds (bet $4 to win $13). It's baffling that UConn is getting the same odds as San Diego State, considering the Aztecs are playing in Anaheim, only a highway drive away from their campus. Both of these games will be semi-home events, and Connecticut is definitely not a better team than San Diego State. Degenerates must still be really sipping that Big East Kool-Aid and the Kemba Walker factor.

#5 Arizona Wildcats: 9 to 1 odds (bet $1 to win $9). The overachievers of this group, Arizona will only have their outstanding traveling fanbase to perk them up, as they figure to be big underdogs in each of their games. If you're big on Derrick Williams and U of A, I'd just pick them straight on their lines.

If you want to make a Final Four futures pick that shows real value, go with San Diego State.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Odds: Ohio State Buckeyes Favorites To Win East Region

So the odds have been released for who will win which region in March Madness, with these numbers coming courtesy of BoDog. Let's take a look at what the best bet would be for making the Final Four.

#1 seed Ohio St. Buckeyes, 5 to 7 odds: They are the odds-on favorites after winning their first two games via total thrashings. Ohio State is such a tough team to beat because of how impossibly efficient they are offensively. You need a lockdown defense that grinds games out to shut them down.

#2 seed North Carolina Tar Heels, 11 to 4 odds: Come on, this is a sucker line. Did you see how close UNC came to losing to Washington on what was essentially home court? Did you see them give up 87 points to Long Island? You trust this team with your money that plays run and gun? No way is there good value on this bet at 11 to 4.

#4 seed Kentucky Wildcats, 7 to 2 odds: This is actually a pretty solid bet. Kentucky does have a solid shot at knocking off OSU (it's not a great one, but as presented in our preview, they can do that), and they'll probably be favored in their Elite 8 matchup. Kentucky's odds are definitely better than North Carolina's, that's for sure.

#11 seed Marquette Golden Eagles, 11 to 1 odds: Bleh. No. While they can probably upset UNC, they have a small shot at winning two games in a row, and those odds need to be higher for you to take a chance on the Eagles.


2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen Bracket: Early Betting Odds, Predictions For The Sweet 16

We’re a few days from the start of the Sweet 16 bracket of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which means the odds for the Sweet Sixteen are officially out and beginning to move. Most of the lines are still at where they opened but a couple have seen the slightest of movement downwards. I thought I’d take a look at the odds, courtesy of Odds Shark, and make some early predictions on where the lines might head as we move closer.

No. 2 San Diego State vs. No. 3 Connecticut – The Aztecs opened as one point favorites, but the line has since swung to Connecticut. The Huskies are now 1 to 1 1/2-point favorites. I’m not surprised by this given SDSU’s escape against Temple and UConn’s ease of victory against Cincinnati and Bucknell. The Huskies have been rolling and momentum is on their side, so most people bet on the streak. I think the line could swing another point or two by tipoff. My money is on SDSU to win it all, so needless to say I won’t be betting on UConn.

No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 BYU – Florida opened as a 2 1/2 point favorite and the line has stuck at that thus far. The Cougars have ridden the Jimmer-train thus far and I’m curious to see if folks throw a few more bucks down on this one-man team. I think Florida is easily over-looked but a little more hype could bring this line down a little bit.

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 5 Arizona – Duke opened as a nine point favorite and it’s mostly stuck to that, although it’s down to 8 1/2 at Sports Interaction. Duke almost blew their game with Michigan after destroying Hampton. I still think this Duke team is one of the favorites but it’s really hard to get in the mind of gamblers for this game. It’s easy to bet one Duke, but I don’t know how much that Michigan game scared people.

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 8 Butler – Wisconsin opened as a 4 1/2-point favorite and the line has come down to 4 points. I’m not surprised people are putting money on everybody’s favorite Cinderella from last year. The Bulldogs have won both their games courtesy of late game insanity. Although they may not win this, people seem ready to think they’ll hang close again. I could see the line coming down maybe another point. If you’re looking to get in on this game I’d recommend sooner rather than later.

No. 2 UNC vs. No. 11 MarquetteUNC opened as a 5-point favorite and the line has since dropped to 4 1/2. I don’t think anybody really knows what to make of the 2010-2011 UNC Tarheels. They’ve got a ton of talent but they’re relatively young, which can make for an inconsistent team. I think people sense that and are willing to drop a few bucks on Marquette to cover, if not win.

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 12 Richmond – The Jayhawks opened as 10 1/2 point favorites and the line remains the same today. The Spiders snuck by Vanderbilt and dominated Morehead State, which doesn’t really tell us much about their upcoming matchup with Kansas. KU has cruised to victory thus far and I’d honestly think people would follow that, but Richmond remains a tempting pick. I actually think the line goes up to maybe 11-ish in the coming days.

No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Kentucky – Ohio State opened as a five point favorite and is inching up into 5 1/2 points at several sports books. I think this line is only going to go up as more people let the decimation of George Mason sink in.

No. 10 Florida State vs. No. 11 VCU – Florida State is a 4-point favorite in this game, but what kind of prediction can you really make with a pair of double digit seeds? What’s interesting to note is VCU may be in line for the George Mason path to the final four thanks to FSU’s beatdown of Notre Dame. I actually think this line comes down a point or two as more people bet on VCU.


Did The Syracuse Orange Get Hosed On The Over And Back Call? Yes ... And No.

So, just like the controversial Texas-Arizona finish, another officiating decision regarding inbounding rules seemed to have a huge impact on the conclusion of the Marquette Eagles vs. Syracuse Orange finish. Dion Waiters threw an inbounds pass back to halfcourt to Scoop Jardine. Jardine tip-toed the line when he caught it, and the official closest to the ball called him for an over-and-back violation.

Well, that was a bad call by the refs. Both Ken Pomeroy and John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus pointed out that it is legal to actually catch the ball on the inbounds with only one foot when you haven't established yourself in the frontcourt.

So bad officiating decision. Syracuse got hosed.

Well, except for one thing. Jardine travelled. Check out the replays of the call.

Syracuse Loses on Blown Over and Back Call (via Vcize)

NCAA traveling rules are stated as follows when a player is catching the ball on the move (you can download the rulebook by clicking here, traveling rules are on page 86).

Art. 3. A player who catches the ball while moving or dribbling may stop and
establish a pivot foot as follows:
a.  When both feet are off the playing court and the player lands:
1.  Simultaneously on both feet, either may be the pivot foot;
2.  On one foot followed by the other, the first foot to touch shall be the
pivot foot;
3.  On one foot, the player may jump off that foot and simultaneously
land on both; neither foot can be the pivot foot.

Jardine caught the ball in the air, landed on his right foot, making it the pivot. Then he landed on his left foot and moved his right foot. Traveling. The result is the same as before, Syracuse turnover.

So the NCAA officials technically got a call right (a turnover by Syracuse) for all the wrong reasons (over and back, which did not happen, but traveling, which DID happen). Based on all the things that have happened this weekend in the tournament, I get a feeling the refs slept peacefully tonight.


NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bracket & Predictions: Florida State Seminoles vs. VCU Rams

Two of the underdogs of this tournament are headed for a Sweet 16 collision after huge upsets of the second-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers. FSU and VCU will face off in San Antonio in the final matchup of the weekday games at 6:57 PM PT/9:57 PM ET, called by Marv Albert and Steve Kerr with Craig Sager patrolling the sidelines. Click here for the full Sweet Sixteen schedule.

#10 Florida St. Seminoles

Ken Pomeroy says ... top ranked defense in the nation, 126th best offense, all while playing at a surprisingly fast pace (70th in tempo). As expected, all their incredible stats come on the defensive end. Tenth best three point defense, best two point defense, third best blocking team, 19th best team in steals. Solid offensive rebounding team. Average at getting to the line and keeping teams off of it. In addition, FSU boasts a very tall team

The weaknesses of FSU are ... they turnover the ball a lot. With only one really decent ball handler, the Seminoles offense can often get mired in mud. They're not a good three point shooting team and they're even worse shooting at the free throw line. The Seminoles are going to test the maxim of "defense wins championships" to the limit.

#11 Va. Commonwealth Rams

Ken Pomeroy says ... 31st best offense in the nation, 111th best defense, slow tempo (201st). Great at ball handling and forcing turnovers, good at forcing teams off the line. Good three point and free throw shooting team.

The weaknesses of VCU are ... defense and rebounding. They have one of the worst two point defenses in the country. Poor offensive rebounding squad, worse defensive rebounding team. Also prone to getting shots blocked.

Prediction: Normally, you'd pick Florida State 99 out of 100 times (on paper, they're the better team), but it's hard to explain exactly how VCU routed a superior Purdue team (strong at both offense and defense) in every facet of the game, all this coming off dominant performances over USC and Georgetown. VCU will need to take an early lead and force FSU to work from behind early, and will need to force turnovers.

Oh well, I'll do it again and go against the Cinderella Rams. Florida State and their defense should rule the night and send them to the Southwest Regional Final, unless they have a disaster with regards to ball handling (which could very well happen). If not, Noles.


NCAA Tournament Bracket 2011: Printable Sweet 16 Bracket For March Madness

The fine folks here at SB Nation continue producing updated printable brackets for the 2011 NCAA Tournament. As of 3am pacific, 6am eastern they will have a 2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 printable bracket for your viewing pleasure. This could be particularly useful if you are getting involved in any second chance brackets. While paying an entry fee for a bracket pool is frowned upon at this establishment, you might have cause to put together a new bracket this week.

The first week of the NCAA tournament was filled with some sizable upsets, leaving brackets fairly scrambled. Some people have even changed their Facebook profile page to now feature a picture of them burning their bracket. Ahhh modern social media. Whatever the case, I'd imagine most folks went through enough stomach churning and paper-crinkling that their original paper bracket is worthy of the trash at this point. So you might as well print out a Sweet 16 bracket.

The layout of the field of Sweet 16 teams is fairly remarkable. After getting eleven teams into the NCAA tournament field of 68, the Big East finds itself down to just UConn and Marquette. On the other hand, the Mountain West Conference got three teams into the field and advanced two into the second weekend for the first time in conference history. The CAA (VCU) and Horizon League (Butler) have as many teams representing them as do the Pac-10 (Arizona) and Big 12 (Kansas).

This final sixteen group of teams includes a mix of Cinderellas and Goliaths. A favorite still may cut down the nets in two weeks, but given how the last few days have gone, it's no guarantee.


NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bracket & Predictions: Kansas Jayhawks vs. Richmond Spiders

After Kansas survived a tough test against Illinois in the Round of 32, they must not avoid being eliminated for the second straight year by a Cinderella opponent. This year it's Richmond, in San Antonio in the Southwest Regional semifinal--the game will be broadcast on TBS at 4:27 PM PT/7:27 PM ET (click here for the full schedule) with Marv Albert and Steve Kerr commentating and Craig Sager patrolling the sidelines.

Here's our quickie look at both teams.

#1 Kansas Jayhawks

Ken Pomeroy says ... 5th best offense and 9th best defense. One of the fastest tempos in college basketball. The best shooting team in the country (particularly on twos, although they're excellent on threes too). Great three point shooting defense and solid two point defense. Great rebounding team, particularly on the defensive boards. Good at keeping teams off the free throw line.

The weaknesses for Kansas are pedestrian free throw shooting and average ball-handling. They turn the ball over a bit and they don't force as many turnovers as expected, although they're good at steals and blocks.

#12 Richmond Spiders

Ken Pomeroy says ... 40th best offense and 48th best defense. One of the slowest tempos in college basketball.  Great shooting offense and defense, particularly on three pointers (although they're no slouches at two pointers). Also good at holding onto the ball.

The biggest weakness with Richmond is rebounding. One of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the country (although some of that probably has to do with their excellent shooting), not that much better at defensive boards, and even worse at getting to the free throw line (some of that probably has to do with their reliance on three point shots).

Prediction: If Kansas was meeting Richmond a round earlier, I'd think the Spiders would have a chance, but with a week to prepare for a potential upset, the Jayhawks will probably have the right idea here--pound it inside with their excellent two point offense, and if they miss, force Richmond to grab rebounds against Kansas's imposing frontline. The only thing that could really trip up Kansas is if they rush things and not work their offense, and they get impatient trying to be methodical against Richmond's defense. If they do that, the Spiders stand a chance.

If you don't think they can, Rock Chalk, and pick Kansas to send Cinderella home before midnight.


NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bracket Picks: North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Marquette Golden Eagles

After Marquette knocked off Syracuse and North Carolina survived a crazy game against Washington, they'll have a very intriguing matchup in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in the East Regional in Newark. The game will be telecast on CBS at 4:15 PM PT/7:15 PM ET, with Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Tracy Wolfson your announcing and sideline team (click here for the full Sweet 16 TV schedule).

#2 North Carolina Tar Heels

Ken Pomeroy says ... 39th best offense and 8th best defense playing at one of the fastest paces in college basketball. Excellent rebounding team and good at keeping opponents off the line. Good at holding onto the ball. Strong field goal defense. Excellent at getting blocked shots and not getting their shots blocked.

The weaknesses for North Carolina are shooting the basketball. Due partly to the volume of shots they take, they're a poor three point and free throw shooting team. In addition, the Heels get a lot of their passes picked off while struggling to force turnovers of their own.

#11 Marquette Golden Eagles

Ken Pomeroy says ... 22nd best offense and 55th best defense playing at a modest pace. Solid shooting team (particularly on twos, decent on threes), good offensive rebounding team. Excellent at getting to the line while forcing the opposition off of it. Not too bad at forcing turnovers.

The weaknesses for Marquette are poor field goal defense, particularly on three pointers. Sadly, it doesn't seem to help UNC since they're not that great a three point offense.

Prediction: Marquette couldn't have asked for a more ideal matchup in the Sweet 16. If they can slow UNC down to their pace, get some turnovers and get just enough offensive rebounds, they might be able to pull this one off. The Eagles tend to play very narrow games against top competition, and this game should be no different.

Unfortunately, these narrow games usually end up in the "L" column for Marquette. I'll take North Carolina, but just barely.


NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Bracket & Predictions: Duke Blue Devils vs. Arizona Wildcats

This is the third Thursday game to be broadcast on CBS at 6:45 PM PT/9:45 PM ET by Verne Lundquist and Lesley Visser (sideline reporter). Click here for the full Sweet 16 schedule. Duke and Arizona survived close matchups with their opponents on Sunday. Who will come out on top in this matchup?

Let's take a look at both sides.

#1 Duke Blue Devils

Ken Pomeroy says ... 4th best offense, 3rd best defense. Runs one of the fastest tempos in the country. Great shooting team on both offense and defense (inside, outside, free throw line, you name it). Good at forcing teams into jump shots and holding onto the basketball. Decent at forcing steals.

The weaknesses with Duke are rebounding, particularly on the place they have to clean up as they struggle to get defensive rebounds. They also don't get to the free throw line a lot, although some of that may have to due with the number of blowouts they've been involved in this year.

#5 Arizona Wildcats

Ken Pomeroy says ... 18th best offense, 71st best defense, average tempo. Great shooting team, particularly from downtown, but also efficient inside. Excellent three point defense.

The weaknesses with Arizona is their interior defense. They're 281st in two point defense, which is likely to cause problems against a Duke team that can score from anywhere. Yesterday's game against Texas aside, Arizona also isn't typically good at forcing turnovers.

Prediction: They'll never admit it, but Duke has to be very happy with this draw rather than grabbing Texas. The Longhorns had the defense and athleticism to defend Duke; Arizona does not. The Wildcats are not a great rebounding team, the only potential advantage that could possibly be exploited against these Blue Devils. And Duke should be able to adjust to what happened to Texas, force the Wildcats off the three point line and funnel them inside to try and make twos. Even with the semi-away crowd they should face in Anaheim, Duke should be able to advance to the Elite 8.


March Madness Sweet 16 TV Schedule & Announcers: Reggie Miller To Join Gus Johnson

As much as I enjoyed Reggie Miller on the court, I cannot stand him on TV, particularly calling the NBA. He is slow and halting, generally seems to like to talk down about players on the court, and worst of all (the criminal sin of an analyst), he talks over his play-by-play man. Reggie Miller's like that hanger-on at the party who whines and moans to you about not getting his drinks or the bad music the DJ is spinning, and by ninety minutes you want to strangle him unconscious and lock him in the closet.

So you can imagine my dismay when I found out he was teamed up with the excellent Gus Johnson/Len Elmore combo for the Sweet 16/Elite 8 action. Everything good about March Madness teamed up with everything bad. It's like they're trying to find a way to increase Gus's degree of difficulty on these broadcasts. If Johnson can make Miller get into it though, maybe this will all be worth it.


Anyway, here are your announcer pairings, TV schedules and previews courtesy of the Turner Newsroom. You can also watch March Madness online on MMOD.

Thursday, March 24

Anaheim, West Regional
#2 San Diego St. Aztecs vs. #3 Connecticut Huskies, 4:15 PM PT/7:15 PM ET on CBS

Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Lesley Visser (sideline)
SB Nation Bay Area early preview: Click here

New Orleans, Southwest Regional
#2 Florida Gators vs. #3 BYU Cougars, 4:27 PM PT/7:27 PM ET on TBS

Announcers: Gus Johnson, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Marty Snider (sideline)
SB Nation Bay Area early preview: Click here

Anaheim, West Regional
#1 Duke Blue Devils vs. #5 Arizona Wildcats, 6:45 PM PT/9:45 PM ET on CBS

Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery, Lesley Visser (sideline)
SB Nation Bay Area early preview: Click here

New Orleans, Southwest Regional
#4 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #8 Butler Bulldogs, 6:57 PM PT/9:57 PM ET on TBS
Announcers: Gus Johnson, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller, Marty Snider (sideline)
SB Nation Bay Area early preview: Click here

Friday, March 25
Newark, East Regional
#2 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. #11 Marquette Golden Eagles
, 4:15 PM PT/7:15 PM ET on CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
SB Nation Bay Area early preview: Click here

San Antonio, Southwest Regional
#1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #12 Richmond Spiders, 4:27 PM PT/7:27 PM ET on TBS
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager (sideline)
SB Nation Bay Area early preview: Click here

Newark, East Regional
#1 Ohio St. Buckeyes vs. #4 Kentucky Wildcats
, 6:45 PM PT/9:45 PM ET on CBS
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
SB Nation Bay Area early preview: Click here

San Antonio, Southwest Regional
#10 Florida St. Seminoles. #11 Va. Commonwealth Rams, 6:57 PM PT/9:57 PM ET on TBS
Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, Craig Sager (sideline)
SB Nation Bay Area early preview: Click here

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