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Dick Jerardi: Spinning the Madness

By Dick Jerardi, Philadelphia Daily News –

After an historic first night when one team (Western Kentucky) overcame the largest last five-minute deficit (16 points) and another (Brigham Young) came back from the largest deficit (25 points) to win, followed by a Friday that included the unprecedented exacta of 15 over two that took out Missouri and Duke, rationality returned to the NCAA Tournament Saturday and Sunday.

By the time Sunday night’s games ended, the Sweet 16 included 14 teams from five of the power conferences and along with the Atlantic 10’s Xavier, a team that finally got it right after a season of getting it wrong and Ohio, a team from the long forgotten Mid-American Conference

The Big Ten dominated, getting four through with a record of 9-2. The Big East is 11-5 after Cincinnati topped Florida State, 62-56. The champions of the two leagues (Michigan State and Louisville) are still playing along with Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio State, Marquette and Syracuse.

The other power teams are Kentucky (what seed would they get in the NBA’s Eastern Conference?), North Carolina, Baylor, North Carolina State, Florida, Kansas and Cincinnati.

The SEC is 5-2 and the ACC fell to 5-3 after Cincinnati beat Florida State.

BEST TEAM

Still, Kentucky.

Did you see that 10-minute run against Iowa State in Louisville? It was 42-42. Then, UK scored 36 points in the next 10 minutes and won comfortably. It was devastating. If this team makes jump shots, nobody has a chance.

In two games, UK is 61-for-110 (55.4 percent) from the field. If that keeps up, it is over.

UNLUCKIEST TEAM

Has to be Missouri.

Since the three-point shot came to the tournament in 1987, every team that has shot 50 percent or more, made 10 threes and had fewer than 10 turnovers has won — until Mizzou did that in its 86-84 loss to Norfolk State, a 21 ½-point underdog.

The key play down the stretch was a Norfolk State airball that resulted in a three-point play. Norfolk State, a 31 percent three-point shooting team, was 10-for-19 from the arc.

Norfolk State, which did not even win the MEAC regular season and lost, 68-36, at Illinois State on Dec. 18 while shooting 21.7 percent, absolutely deserved to win. The Spartans played a beautiful game with great heart, but you have to feel a little sorry for Mizzou, a team that got caught up in something that was unprecedented.

MOST IRRITATING TEAM

Has to be Wisconsin.

The Badgers drove Vanderbilt crazy in a three-point win, taking charges, running the shot clock down, taking 33 threes, chasing down the misses and refusing to let the Commodores get any offensive rhythm. The only team Bo Ryan probably does not want to play is his alma mater, Chester (Pa.) High, which has won 56 straight. Instead, the Badgers get an easy one Thursday in Boston against No. 1 seed Syracuse.

BEST PLAYERS NOT STILL PLAYING

Drew Gordon (New Mexico) had 39 points and 27 rebounds. He was valiant in a close loss to Louisville.

Royce White (Iowa State) took on the entire Kentucky front line and actually had them backing up. He had 38 points and 22 boards in his two games.

C.J. McCollum (Lehigh) should start next season on many All-America teams. He won’t get to 3,000 points, but he will get close.

Doug McDermott (Creighton) reminds Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli of Larry Bird.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY

When you take the court and you have to beat a 12 and then 13 seed to get to the Sweet 16 and that 12 (South Florida) misses 22 consecutive first-half shots, you really need to be playing in Saint Louis on Friday.

Instead, Temple was uninspired, unrecognizable and lethargic in a very ugly, 58-44, loss to USF on Friday. I would like to be able to explain what I saw, but I can’t.

I get that USF plays good defense and slows the game down, but this still made no sense. Senior guards Ramone Moore (2-for-10) and Juan Fernandez (0-for-2) combined for six points. Temple scored 32 points below its average and 20 points below its previous low total of the season.

The Owls were actually outscored 31-6 over a 14-minute period extending through halftime. That really should be impossible

I get that everybody wants to point to Fran Dunphy’s NCAA record. With a few exceptions, his Penn teams played far better than their seeds and had several noble losses. They were never favorites.

Temple has now played six NCAA games under Dunphy. The Owls played well twice and poorly four times, losing twice as favorites. The common theme? The teams looked a step or two slow, with looks that suggested their confidence had been left in Philadelphia. This was another unsatisfying ending to another terrific season on North Broad.

THE SON OR THE JOB

Mike Sheehey is senior vice president of college content for Comcast/NBCU. Working out of the Comcast Center, he recently negotiated a TV deal with the Colonial Athletic Association.

He was in Portland over the weekend with CAA commissioner Tom Yaeger. The commissioner was there to see VCU. Sheehey was there for that and to see his son.

Yes, (ital) that (end ital) Will Sheehey of Indiana, who knocked VCU and the CAA out of the tournament with his baseline game winner.

Mike played at Syracuse before transferring to St. Bonaventure in the early 1980s. He was a very good player for the Bonnies and obviously had rooting interests everywhere in this tournament.

LANE VIOLATIONS

I don’t ever remember seeing that exact violation called until I saw it twice in less than 36 hours — first against UNC Asheville while Syracuse was shooting a free throw and then on Notre Dame while the Irish were shooting to tie the game in the final seconds against Xavier.

The players in the lane area can go into the lane when the ball is released. The rest of the players can’t go inside the three-point line until the ball hits the rim. That was the violation and both were clear, but …

When Scoop Jardine missed, it did give Asheville an advantage. So, I understand how that could have been called. The ND player made the free throw so there was no advantage. I would suggest adopting the international rule. When the shot is made, any violation is waved off.

BY THE NUMBERS

—Syracuse’s bench outscored Kansas State’s, 33-0. The Philly guys (Jardine, Dion Waiters, Rakeem Christmas) all played great, scoring a combined 42 points. Christmas did a very good Fab Melo imitation with eight points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

—Michigan State’s Draymond Green (40 points, 25 rebounds, 16 assists) has been brilliant, especially down the stretch against Saint Louis Sunday.

—In two games, Marquette’s Jae Crowder has 42 points, 29 rebounds, six assists and seven steals.

—What is about the city of Richmond? Since 1985, VCU and Richmond have combined for 13 wins as an 11 or higher seed.

—Iowa State’s Chris Allen (who played three seasons at Michigan State) finished his career with 16 NCAA games played.

—Half of the 15-seed winners through the years are from the MEAC (Coppin State, Hampton and Norfolk State). Temple played two others (Richmond in 1991 and Santa Clara in 1993) in the second round.

—UNC is now 31-1 in NCAA games played in North Carolina. The lone loss? To Penn in 1979 on what they still call “Black Sunday” in the state. Duke lost to St. John’s on the same day.

—The Duke Blue Devils were 28-0 against seeds 12 or higher until Lehigh and C.J. McCollum got them. It was no fluke. All season, Duke’s defenders could not keep anybody in front of them. It was no different against Lehigh.

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