Daily Dribble: Saturday Elite Eight Thoughts

March 25th, 2007

- Yesterday's UCLA-Kansas game went just as planned. The Bruins were able to shut down Kansas' offense just like SIU did.. but unlike the Salukis, UCLA had a hot Arron Afflalo coming off two subpar games which enabled them to pull away. The only thing that's gone more according to plan is this tournament in general. I don't see Oregon or Georgetown ending that trend unforutnately..

- Ben Howland is arguably the best coach in all of college basketball.. and the Bruins dominant defense in the past two tournaments has been nothing short of amazing. Last year.. UCLA held its opponents to 44, 59, 71, 45, 45, and 73. This year its been an even more impressive 42, 49, 55, and 55. That's only 50.1 ppg!

The only two teams that have broken 60 in this stretch are Adam Morrison's Gonzaga Bulldogs (but there's no one left who can score like that in this year's NCAA) and the national champion Florida Gators. UCLA might be looking at a rematch with the Gators in the Final Four.. and unfortunately the Gators might once again be the only team that can score on them.

- Kansas might end up being the only #1 seed not to make the Final Four. But this wouldn't be a surprise according to the RPI. All along, the RPI had the Jayhawks in the 10-15 range (they're 11th right now), which seems about right considering they only have 5 top 50 wins all year. UCLA for comparison, is 10-1 against Top 50 squads. Going by the RPI, Georgetown (9th) has a much better chance to upset UNC (3rd), than the 21st ranked Oregon Ducks do of upsetting Florida (6th).

- Even though Kansas lost, I was glad to finally see Brandon Rush get a bunch of shots off. His 16 attempts were 1 off his season high (he took 17 in the Big 12 Championship game against Texas). He hit 7 of those 16 shots, and had 18 points and 5 boards.. a fine effort against such a good UCLA defense. Kansas' downfall was the point guard position, Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins combine to average 21 ppg on the season.. but they combined for 2 points on 1-12 shooting last night.

- Surprised to see Ohio state actually pull away from a team last night, I've become accustomed to comeback heroics.

- ESPN headline goes to Greg Oden.. and the Buckeyes did outscore Memphis by 27 points with him on the floor.. but the story once again was Ron Lewis and Mike Conley.

Conley ended up with 19 and seems to be playing the best ball of his life. The past three games he's averaging 19 ppg and doing a great job getting into the lane. Before the Tennessee win, Conley had never been to the FT line more than 7 times in a game, but he had 14 against the Vols and 10 last night. Its always a good sign when your point guard is aggressively getting into the paint.

Lewis meanwhile continued his MVP-like run with 22 points.. and is averaging a smidge under 25 ppg the last three rounds. Beyond the fact he's helping the team win, Lewis is definitely helping his NBA Draft chances and professional future.

Going back to the big man for a second. He did his thing on offense, 17 and 9 in just 24 minutes, and more importantly shut down Joey Dorsey who ended up with no points (the first time he's gone scoreless all year). Still, I tend to find OSU's style of play much more pleasing when the big man is sitting cause the game really opens up..

- Lost in OSU's win was an impressive 26 points from Jeremy Hunt. The Memphis sixth-man has been lighting it up all season from long range. The senior averages 14 points in 24 mpg on the season. That's an impressive .583 points per minute. For example, that's higher than Afflalo (.508), Rush (.425), Jeff Green (.432), Aaron Brooks (.474) and Al Horford (.486).., ie, Hunt scores at a better clip than just about anyone in the country on a top team. The lone exception is Tyler Hansbrough, who at 18 ppg in 30 mins, scores at a .601 per minute clip.