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