NCAA TOURNAMENT REPORT: Higher seeds take care of business
There will be at least two 1-2 matchups in the regional finals, the first time that has happened since 2002.
In the West, top-seeded Kansas will face No. 2 UCLA for a berth in the Final Four, while in the South, No. 1 Ohio State will play Memphis.
There could be a third 1-2 meeting as No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Georgetown both play Friday night in the East Regional semifinals.
Top-seeded Florida is still alive in the Midwest, but No. 2 Wisconsin lost in the second round.
Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 there has never been three 1-2 matchups in the regional finals.
There was one 1-2 matchup in 2003, 2004 and last year (Memphis-UCLA in the West). There were no such matchups in 2005.
FREE THROWS: The box score showed the difference in the game plans of Ohio State and Tennessee.
The Buckeyes wanted to take advantage of their size inside and they did, going 23-for-35 from the free throw line in their 85-84 victory.
Tennessee stayed outside, hitting twice as many 3-pointers as free throws. The Volunteers were 16-for-31 from beyond the arc and were just 8-for-17 from the line.
The Volunteers were 9-for-15 on 3s in building a 17-point halftime lead, but that didn’t fall off much as the Buckeyes made their winning run for their second straight comeback win.
FELLOW POWER: Kansas coach Bill Self has to be happy the Jayhawks get to face a fellow power conference member in the West Regional final.
The top-ranked Jayhawks advanced to the round of eight with a to-the-wire 61-58 victory over Southern Illinois on Thursday night. It shouldn’t have been a surprise the Big 12 regular season and tournament champions struggled against a team from the Missouri Valley Conference, one of the leagues that lives under the shadow of the label “mid-major.”
The last two NCAA tournaments ended with first-round losses for Kansas. Last year, the Jayhawks lost 77-73 to Bradley, also of the Missouri Valley Conference. In 2005, Kansas lost 64-63 to Bucknell of the Patriot League.
The Jayhawks have to be happy that their opponent on Saturday will be UCLA of the Pac-10.
OFF ARRON: UCLA junior guard Arron Afflalo just hasn’t been himself in the last two rounds of the NCAA tournament even though the Bruins have reached the regional finals for a second straight year.
Afflalo, who averages 16.7 points on 46.2 percent shooting, including 37.9 percent from 3-point range, had normal numbers in the opening-round win over Weber State. He had 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting and was 3-for-5 on 3s.
But in the second-round win over Indiana, he was 2-for-11 from the field and missed all three of his 3-point attempts, finishing with 10 points.
In the regional semifinal win over Pittsburgh, he had 22 points but was 2-for-11 from the field, including 1-for-5 from 3-point range.
WHAT INJURY: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis’ leading scorer, turned his left ankle with eight minutes left in the Tigers’ second-round victory over Nevada.
His status for the regional semifinal was uncertain right up until game time. What was certain was that he came up big in the 65-64 victory over Texas A&M.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore guard had 15 points, just off his 15.4 average. He was 5-for-8 from the field with the most spectacular of the baskets a dunk on an alley-oop pass in the first half.
“It’s pretty healthy. Honestly, it really didn’t matter how I was going to feel coming into this game, because I was playing,” Douglas-Roberts said. “I worked around the clock to get it healthy as it is. Honestly, it didn’t matter. But it’s feeling real good right now.”
The 65 points were the third-lowest for the Tigers in their 25-game winning streak. They had fewer points in road wins over East Carolina (61-44) and SMU (64-61).
BALANCED ATTACK: Kansas may have been held well below its season average of 79.5 points per game in the win over Southern Illinois, but the Jayhawks kept up their balanced attack.
Five players averaged between 13.8 and 9.8 points per game for Kansas entering the regional semifinals. Against the Salukis, only Brandon Rush managed to break double digits with 12 points, but three others finished with nine, one had eight and another had seven.
It was the second-lowest point total of the season for the Jayhawks behind the 57 in a seven-point loss to DePaul early in the season. It was only the 11th time this season Kansas failed to break the 70-point mark.
The Jayhawks averaged 97.5 in their first two wins in this tournament.
“Whoever plays Southern isn’t going to look good offensively,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It just isn’t going to happen. ... I was disappointed how some guys handled the heat, but when the game was on the line, we handled it pretty well.”
NO VALLEY: Southern Illinois’ loss in the regional semifinal extended the Missouri Valley Conference’s run without a team reaching the final eight.
The last team from the Missouri Valley to play in a regional final was Wichita State in 1981.
Last year, Bradley and Wichita State both reached the third round, but they lost to Memphis and George Mason, respectively.
SHOOTING GALLERY: Texas A&M and Memphis entered their game third and sixth in the nation, respectively, in field goal percentage defense. They ruined each others numbers Thursday night.
Memphis was 23-for-54 from the field (42.6 percent), while Texas A&M shot 47.5 percent (28-for-59). Texas A&M came into the game allowing opponents to shoot 37.3 percent, while the Tigers allowed teams to shoot 38.4 percent.
MENTOR SWEEP: UCLA’s victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night made the mentors 3-0 against former assistants.
Ben Howland of UCLA was succeeded at Pittsburgh by Jamie Dixon and the regional semifinal was their first meeting as head coaches.
“It’s emotional for me,” Howland said. “I’ve got a lot of good friends over there. I hope we never have to play again.”
In the first round, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo beat Marquette and Tom Crean, his former assistant. In the second round, Thad Matta of Ohio State beat Sean Miller, who succeeded him at Xavier.