Friday, March 29, 2013

Grading the Sweet 16 (second day/overall): Instant classic with a side of interesting matchup

The first half of the night had me on my feet, but it caught me off guard.

South No. 4 Michigan looked to be down for the count against No. 1 Kansas, and I was hanging with some friends, half-paying attention.

Then I noticed a few plays and realized Michigan was cutting into the lead a little bit. Then I watched as it made one of the better comebacks of the season and forced the first overtime of the entire tournament.

That game was fun to watch, and it sets the tone for what I think will be a great weekend of games in the Elite Eight.

We also can’t forget the South No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast story. It ended, but it still had a chance late into the game.

Overall, it was an average Sweet 16 with a great game and sets up a great round of games Saturday and Sunday.

Here are my grades for the day:


No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Michigan – A+

The first overtime game of the tournament looked to be over with four minutes left in the second half. That was before sophomore guard Trey Burke took over late to lead No. 4 Michigan to an 87-85 win over No. 1 Kansas.

Burke not only hit the a game-tying 3-pointer from 30 feet with four seconds left, but he also shot the lights out in overtime, finishing with 23 points and 10 assists.

Michigan came back from an 11-point deficit in the final minutes, and it kept the momentum in the overtime, forcing turnovers and hitting four of seven shots from the field.

But still, Kansas still had a chance to win in the waning seconds. They just didn’t execute in the end.

The chaos and switch at the end, and the drama of the lower seed making an improbable comeback and upset made this game an instant classic.

No. 3 Florida (W) vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast – C+

Florida Gulf Coast burst out and grabbed a quick 11-point lead, knocking down 3-pointers and alley-oops in the process.

But then Florida settled down, played its game and took advantage of its superior rebounding and ball handling.

The game started and looked like a shocker, but in the end, it was all Florida. Florida Gulf Coast stopped making shots, and Florida was getting second-, third- and fourth-chance opportunities.

It wasn’t the best game in terms of excitement, but it deserves a nod for that brief time six minutes into the game that probably had everyone who isn’t an Eagles fan  saying, “Is this really happening?”

Florida Gulf Coast also made a little run at the end that still had me believing they could pull off another big upset.  The Eagles just fell a little short.

SOUTH grade – B+

The opener in this bracket was a great one, and the latter had its moments. Now there is a Florida/Michigan battle awaiting in the Elite Eight.

SOUTH overall grade (through Sweet 16) – B+

There have been huge upsets, good games and a variety of matchups we wouldn’t normally see. This bracket is with the West bracket in terms of the best of the tournament.


No. 1 Louisville (W) vs. No. 12 Oregon  – C

Louisville shows why it is the overall No. 1 seed with a 77-69 win over No. 12 Oregon, and it never really was in trouble in this game.

I expected Oregon’s speed to present a problem, but Louisville equalized that with 28-for-52 shooting (53 percent) from the field, led by junior guard Russ Smith’s 31 points.

Oregon really didn’t play bad (27-for-61, 44 percent), but its speed wasn’t an advantage on defense.

The Ducks made a nice run in the second half, but this game was not all that riveting.

No. 2 Duke (W) vs. No. 3 Michigan State  – C

What started as a really close game turned out to be a Duke defensive show in a 71-61 loss.

Both teams were seven for their first 13 shots, and both teams finished with a 40-percent scoring average. However, Duke forced Michigan State into foul trouble and lit them up on the free-throw line.

Michigan State had four players with three fouls and two more with four, and Duke was 24-for-26 from the charity stripe.

That slowed the end of the game, and allowed a brief advantage for Duke to remain, making a seven-point deficit seem like 15.

Overall, it was a game that had potential, but Duke was able to force Michigan State to play its game.

MIDWEST grade – C

Once again we had average games in this bracket. But A No. 1 Louisville/No. 2 Duke matchup is one that should be good. The coaches are experienced and always come up with great game plans, while the teams’ are both high skilled.

However, that is how the Duke/Michigan State game was supposed to be.

MIDWEST overall grade (through Sweet 16) – C -

In terms of brackets, this one is filled with average games. It definitely was the easiest for the higher seeds. It is the only bracket with a No. 1 vs. No. 2 Elite Eight.

SWEET 16 Day 2 grade – B

It was a much better day than the first part of the Sweet 16, and there were some incredible moments in the Michigan/Kansas game.

Plus, we had the interesting matchup of Florida/Florida Gulf Coast with a few moments.

SWEET 16 overall grade – B -

The second half of the round helped this grade, but I am not complaining. The Elite-Eight matchups created after this group of games looks to be memorable.

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