Favorites Advance (barely) to Elite 8
Greg Oden
Scout.com
Posted Mar 23, 2007


It was almost an-all Tennessee battle with an Final Four berth on the line except for one big problem. Greg Oden.

There's a reason why Greg Oden is going to be the top overall pick (no disrespect to Kevin Durant). Just ask Ramar Smith.

Oden's block of Smith as the buzzer sounded helped Ohio State survive — just one of four games that each had a chance to go either way on Thursday night.

Kansas and UCLA both advanced out in San Jose in a pair of closely contested, low-scoring, half-court battles. OK, ugly games. Memphis and the Buckeyes did it differently — in an exciting up-tempo style.

Self-made tune-up

It was exactly the preliminary bout that Bill Self's team needed.

Kansas went 10 rounds — or 40 minutes — with arguably the toughest defensive team in the Big Dance.

The Jayhawks, who average just shy of 80 points per game, knocked off Southern Illinois despite putting up just 61.

If KU can score 61 against UCLA — also known for its defense prowess — the Jayhawks will likely advance to their first Final Four since a pair of consecutive appearances in 2002 and 2003 when Roy Williams was at the helm.

Not only is the monkey off Self's back, but you can put it in the cage for good.

The Kansas head coach endured plenty of criticism coming into this tournament after a pair of first-round losses. However, he's one win away from heading to Atlanta with as good a chance as anyone of cutting down the nets there as well.

The Jayhawks didn't even play all that well and still managed to advance. They have been unable to survive and advance in the past.

Tigers roar

One thing that Memphis isn't: Intimidated.

The Tigers went into Texas and found a way to knock off "Captain Clutch" and the Texas A&M Aggies.

The craziest thing is that they did it at the line.

The Tigers, who were absolutely abysmal for most of the season from the charity stripe, got a pair of free throws with 3.1 seconds left from sophomore guard Antonio Anderson — who was shooting just 64 percent from the line this season.

Memphis coach John Calipari basically shut down the team from practicing free throws in the postseason and it's worked. He's told his players to visualize making foul shots.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, who suffered a sprained left ankle in the second-round victory over Nevada — a game in which he sat out the final eight minutes — scored 15 points and gave the Tigers a huge lift.

The Tigers also found a way to slow down Acie Law IV (aka Captain Clutch), who finished with 13 points and missed 11 of his 17 shots from the field — including a layup with less than a minute remaining.

Now Memphis has won 25 games in a row (23 against non-NCAA tournament competition) and is one victory away from going to its first Final Four since the Keith Lee days back in 1985.

Howland wins first round

Ben Howland took the first round against his best friend, Jamie Dixon.

Howland, who built the Pittsburgh program along with his top assistant, Dixon, before leaving for UCLA, earned bragging rights after the Bruins came out on top, 64-55.

UCLA made 23-of-26 from the line and Pittsburgh missed plenty of easy shots.

Greg Oden blocked this shot by Ramar Smith as time expired to seal Ohio State's victory. (Eric Gay / Associated Press)

"It continued through the whole game," Panthers senior big man Aaron Gray said. "We got great looks, but it was just one of those days. We had a hard time putting it in the hole."

Pittsburgh fell short once again in its quest to get past the Sweet 16. The Panthers are 0-5 in regional semifinals.

UCLA got 45 of its 64 points from the perimeter trio of Arron Afflalo (17), Josh Shipp (16) and Darren Collison (12), but it was hardly a three-man show. Big man Lorenzo Mata did an admirable job on Gray, who finished with 10 points and a half-dozen rebounds, and freshman James Keefe gave Howland 10 key first-half minutes because Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was in foul trouble.

Bucking back

Who really knew that Ohio State had the ability to turn it on — a la North Carolina or Florida.

The Buckeyes proved it with a 19-5 run that got them back into the game after trailing by 20 points with less than a minute left in the first half.

It's nearly impossible to showcase their explosive offensive firepower in the rough and physical Big Ten. However, Thad Matta's club got into a track meet with Tennessee and the Buckeyes ended up with their 20th straight victory.

Greg Oden was mortal for nearly the entire game. He got into foul trouble and had just nine points and three rebounds. Hardly numbers worthy of the top overall pick, right?

Wrong.

The number that counted was the blocked shot as time expired to send Ohio State into the Elite Eight and a matchup with Memphis.



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