This will be different compared to my past two NCAA tournament reviews. Since there were only three games left, the format will be changed. I’ll be recapping the Final Four games separately, along with the national title game. Then I’ll do a few top five lists to recap the tournament as a whole.
Compared to last year, this was a very enjoyable tournament. Some years can be hit and miss, but the unpredictability has really helped. There were a few days that had some blowouts, especially the Elite Eight. Still the final four and the national championship game were very exciting that had me on the edge of my seat.
I didn’t see the Final Four live due to going to the WWE Hall Of Fame, which was an amazing experience. The strange part is that I got to sit near a TV at the event, so I got to watch glimpses of the Michigan versus Syracuse game, along with the end of Wichita State versus Louisville.
Despite watching some of each game, I wanted to re-watch because clearly I wanted to see the speeches. There weren’t many Donald Trump moments, where my interest was minimal. So I re-watched the games to make sure to have actual proper analysis. The national title game I managed to see live, so there wasn’t any problem with that.
Wichita State vs. Louisville
This was expected to be pretty one-sided but very scrappy. Instead it ended up being very intense and both teams had to really work for every basket. Wichita State was surprisingly scoring at will at times despite shooting poorly from three-point range. It seemed like that if they didn’t shoot well from three-point range, then Louisville would pull away.
That wasn’t the case with Wichita State matching Louisville’s fast pace and showing no fear in driving to the basket. Cleanthony Early looked like a first round pick by scoring 24 points and seemed up to the challenge against Louisville’s physical front court.
Another thing that really impressed me was how Wichita State only committed ten turnovers. Other than a few phases in the second half, they really handled Louisville’s press well. They just didn’t shoot well and Louisville made that one major second half run. With Russ Smith struggling, Luke Hancock stepped up by scoring 20 points on 6-9 shooting.
It went down to the wire for Louisville for the first time in the tournament but they managed to make just enough plays. They held star point guard Malcolm Armstead to just 1-10 shooting, which played a significant part in their comeback. Wichita State showed a lot of fire and heart during their underdog run, but Louisville was just too talented and was more efficient in the last five minutes of the game.
Michigan vs. Syracuse
This was another scrappy game, where it was tough to get easy baskets. When they did get easy baskets, they missed them with neither team shooting over 65 percent from the free throw line. It came down to crunch time once again and Michigan made more stops.
I’ve been saying all tournament how Michigan’s depth of quality scorers would bail them out of scrappy games. The emergence of Mitch McGary played a huge role in this win. McGary only scored 10 points, but he had 12 rebounds and six assists. He is a breakout star that has given Michigan a down-low presence that they lacked for most of the regular season.
Syracuse’s offense has lived and died on three-point shooting this season. When they are hitting threes, they are almost impossible to beat. When they shoot 3 for 14 like they did against Michigan, the offense isn’t the same. Michael Carter-Williams struggled all night with 5 turnovers and shot 1-6 from the field.
Other than C.J Fair, nobody on Syracuse stepped up. James Southerland struggled all night, while Brandon Triche was mostly limited. Michigan’s dynamic guard duo of Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke shot a combined 5- 22, which would make you immediately think Michigan would likely lose. They ended up getting 22 bench points by Michigan and making enough stops defensively to earn a trip to the national title game.
Michigan vs. Louisville
The championship matchup was getting a lot of buzz and had the makings of being one of the best championship games from recent memory. It lived up to expectations with both teams going back and forth. The game featured bench players that stepped up and shined in the first half. The first half performance of Spike Albrecht gave Michigan a major lift, especially with Albrecht being confident to shoot and drive to the hoop. He’s always been a solid backup, but never really attempted many shots.
When Trey Burke went to the bench in the first half with two fouls, it seemed like the perfect time for Louisville to go on a 10-0 run. Michigan had major success offensively and had success offensively for most of the first half. Similar to the Kansas game though, Michigan was out-rebounded and allowed too many points in the paint. The lack of size hurt especially when Peyton Siva brought Mitch McGary outside the paint.
The game continued to go back and forth, but everyone saw the tide turning. Michigan was starting to play Louisville’s style of fast paced transition basketball, which caught up to them. On more than one occasion, Michigan failed to convert on scoring in transition. Siva had four steals, while Gorgui Dieng had three blocks to frustrate them.
Burke did his best to carry Michigan’s offense in the end, but they couldn’t get enough stops. Even with Russ Smith shooting 3 for 16, the second chance opportunities and Luke Hancock’s performance was the main reason to win the championship despite allowing Michigan to shoot 52 percent. This game will always be remembered for years to come, minus the terrible officiating. Sadly, the refs didn’t read my first NCAA tournament review from two weeks ago and didn’t improve.
Top Five Performances
Here are the five top performances of the tournament. The rankings will actually be listed in numbered order. This is based off of every game from the tournament.
1. Trey Burke, Michigan
Stats: 23 points, 9-of-21 shooting (42.9 percent), and 10 assists
After not scoring a single point in the first half against Kansas, Burke hit the biggest shot of the night when he knocked down a deep three-pointer with just seconds remaining to bring the game in overtime. Burke was on fire through most of the second half and led Michigan to an improbable comeback. With that performance, he put everyone on notice that he’s the best point guard in college basketball.
2. Russ Smith, Louisville
Stats: 31 points, 9-of-16 shooting (56.3 percent), two rebounds, and three assists
With star guard Peyton Siva in foul trouble in the first half against Oregon, Smith took over the game for Louisville. His game-high 31 points elevated the Cardinals to a 77-69 victory over the Ducks, despite a late push by Oregon. Smith used his quickness to get a few easy transition buckets, while handling ball-handling responsibilities when Siva was out. He had a productive tournament, but this was his best game.
3. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Stats: 24 points, 9-of-19 shooting (47.4 percent), six rebounds, and four steals
Carter-Williams stole the show for the Orange, who dominated at both sides of the floor in a 61-50 victory over Indiana. Carter-Williams has struggled at times this season, while being considered to be a possible lottery pick for this year’s draft. Since he is a 6’6 point guard and is very athletic, it didn’t surprise to see him dominate Indiana’s set of undersized guards.
4. Seth Curry, Duke
The Stats: 27 points, 8-of-16 shooting (50 percent), 6-of-9 3-point field goals
The Story: Seth Curry had the hot hand for the Blue Devils against Michigan State. Everyone knows how difficult Michigan State is defensively, yet Curry had his way with them. This performance falls under the radar, since Florida Gulf Coast was playing at the same time. Still this was an amazing performance and Curry led Duke to the Elite Eight.
5. Vander Blue, Marquette
The Stats: 29 points, 9-of-15 shooting (60.0 percent), and four steals.
The Story: Vander Blue had a great first weekend of the tournament. After hitting a buzzer-beater layup against Davidson, Blue had another memorable performance against Butler. With Marquette struggling to score, Blue carried the offense against Butler. His mid –range jump shot was on all night and he made some major threes in the second half. This was another performance that was under the radar, but this was a special game.
Top Ten Draft List
We won’t know what the draft order is until the NBA lottery comes out. I’m still going to make a top ten list for the 2013 draft based on talent and who I expect to see in the draft. In my ten years of watching college basketball, this is easily the worst draft class. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed the tournament, but nobody in this draft has any superstar potential.
1. Marcus Smart- This may be a stretch, but Smart makes it over Otto Porter. Even though Oklahoma State was eliminated in the first round, he was one of the best scorers in the country and showed he can be on the best shooters in the country.
2. Otto Porter- Porter is the most versatile player in the country. He is an all-around playmaker from his shooting, passing, and on ball defending. The one knock on Porter is that he tends to pass up too many shots. He needs to learn to take over more, because he is extremely talented.
3. Ben McLemore- He is another talented freshman that can do it all. His shooting improved as the season went on, which was always a major knock on him. His athleticism could wow teams and may earn him the first pick of the draft. Similar to Porter, he needs to learn how to take over games especially in crunch time.
4. Nerlens Noel- Noel drops off due to his torn ACL injury. Some teams may shy away from that, but he can be an enforcer in the paint. His rebounding and shot blocking could push him to a top three pick as well. The injury will scare people off, even though he could be a big star.
5. Anthony Bennett- His NCAA tournament performance was disappointing considering UNLV had a favorable matchup. Bennett is still a dynamic player that is very physical for being six foot seven. His ball-handling and post-play impressed me for someone that is as big as him.
6. Trey Burke- He may be low to some people, but the lack of a consistent jump shot hurts Burke. He is an explosive point guard that has proven can take over games. The issue is that he can get frustrated at times and starts taking unnecessary jump shots. Still, it’ll shock me if he isn’t picked in the top ten.
7. Shabazz Muhammad- Despite playing in the Pac 12, this shouldn’t be any surprise. He was the best freshman coming in this year and played up to expectations. UCLA was a disappointment this season due to injuries and a lack of size, not because of Muhammad.
8. Victor Oladipo- He could return next year to Indiana, which would be a huge move for them and their championship hopes for next season. For me, he is one of the most NBA-ready players in college basketball and should enter the draft. He’s drawn comparisons to Dwayne Wade and could very well be that, if he improves his mid-range jump shot.
9. Kelly Olynyk- Nobody can deny their concerns of him defensively, but teams will be savoring over his size and shooting ability. Olynyk is the classic pick and pop player, who will benefit playing with a great point guard.
10. Michael Carter-Williams- He was inconsistent this season and struggled with turnovers, but his tournament performance boosted his stock. His ability to dribble and force turnovers with his height advantage as a point guard will get scouts excited.
I’m going to work on a mock draft come June, when every player makes a commitment to entering the draft or going back to college. Until then, it was an entertaining tournament that will have two memorable games. Kansas versus Michigan in the Sweet 16 will be remembered for years to come along with the national championship game. Thanks for reading.