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The careers of three great Ohio State seniors have finally come to an end. David Lighty, William Buford and Jon Diebler, along with freshmen standouts Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft, helmed a Buckeye team that lost won 34 games this year, and lost only three. Unfortunately, that third loss came in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, and the national championship run of the team that has spent so many weeks atop the polls has come to an end, at the hands of the No.4 seed Kentucky Wildcats.
For as much has been said about the Big East, the Big Ten and the ACC this year, it seems as though the often derided SEC will now have two teams in the Elite Eight. Kentucky was led by its own senior tonight in Josh Harrellson who scored 17 and grabbed 10 boards to lead his team. The three Kentucky super freshmen, Terrance Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb totaled 23 points for the Wildcats and John Calipari would need every last one as UK squeaked by against OSU.
With that ends the entire Big Ten season, where seven teams made it to the tournament, five advanced to the round of 32, two to the Sweet Sixteen, but none past that. The Big Ten will have to wait yet another year for its first National Title since Michigan State in 2000.
It is a battle of two very similar teams, led by gritty seniors and highly talented freshmen, and half way through the Sweet Sixteen match of Kentucky and Ohio State, it is still a stalemate.
Ohio State is led by three seniors in the starting line up, but it is the freshman phenomenon Jared Sullinger is leading the Buckeyes so far with 10 points and 7 rebounds already, with Jon Diebler contributing 9 points of his own.
Kentucky's own freshmen stars, Doron Lamb and Brandon Knight, have so far combined for just 4 points in the first half, but their senior leader, forward Josh Harrellson is carrying the team with 12 points and 7 rebounds, against the OSU tough front line.
Whoever wins this game will be the team whose stars step up, David Lighty, and William Buford could still come alive in the second half for the Buckeyes, or the aforementioned Wildcats, Lamb and Knight could lift UK in the second half.
Given that Thad Matta's team has only shot 30% from the field and still managed to be tied with UK at half is a good sign for his team, because if the shots start falling, we already know just how many points this team could put on the board.
Wisconsin was shooting hot last weekend, beating Belmont and Kansas State in the process, nut against Butler in New Orleans, the Badgers looked much more like the team that lost to Penn State in Indianapolis.
Wisconsin was shut down in the first half, scoring just 24 points and turning the ball over eight times, and for the first several minutes of the second half couldn't find the bottom of the net. The Badgers did turn it on eventually against the Bulldogs, and put up 30 points down the stretch, but it ended up being too little and too late, they had given Butler too much of a lead to hope to come back.
For Butler, it is the second consecutive year advancing to the the Elite Eight, and their tournament experience seemed to matter quite a bit. Senior forward Matt Howard had 20 points for the Bulldogs, with 9 coming off of his ice water free throw shooting. Brad Stevens' players made 7 free throws down the stretch to hold back the late Wisconsin charge, there would be no heart attack plays tonight.
Butler is now just one game away from another trip to the Final Four, and though no one can call them a Cinderella this year, three weeks ago, the Bulldogs weren't even necessarily in the field.
Butler seems like they are well on their way to another Elite Eight, as they have stifled Wisconsin's offense up and down the court in the first half. It also certainly hasn't hurt that Butler has shot the ball very well, shooting 50% from the field and making four three pointers.
Wisconsin methodical offense is normally very good at controlling the pace, but thus far the Badgers seem to be grasping at straws, going just 8-23 in shooting and committing a very un-Wisconsin like eight first half turnovers. Notably silent thus far tonight is standout Jon Leuer, who has just 3 points on six shots.
For Brad Stevens and Butler their defense has led to plenty of easy points in the other direction. Shawn Vanzant is leading the way for the Bulldogs with a game high 9 points, while forward Matt Howard has 8 points of his own.
Wisconsin is going to have to take much better care of the ball, and show much better shot selection in the second half if it wants to spoil another miracle Butler season.
Two teams have punched their tickets to the Elite 8 and stand just one step away from the Final Four in Houston, and both of them are familiar with recent trips to the last weekend of the college basketball season.
In the West Regional semifinal between Connecticut and San Diego State the Huskies ended the Aztecs’ dream season with a 74-67 win behind 36 points from Kemba Walker and 24 from Jeremy Lamb. Walker increased his candidacy for National Player of the Year honors with a 12 for 25 night from the field and he has now scored at least 33 points in three of Connecticut’s past five games. Connecticut will now await the winner between Duke and Arizona.
In the Southeast Region semifinals Florida survived the Jimmer Fredette show, but they needed overtime to do so. Fredette scored 32 for the Cougars, but Florida dominated the extra session to win 83-74. Florida put four players in double figures, led by Alex Tyus with 19 points. Kenny Boynton had 17 for the Gators, while Erving Walker and Chandler Parsons each had 16. Florida outscored BYU 15-6 in the overtime. The Gators will now wait for Wisconsin and Butler to decide their regional final opponent.
It is too bad that only one of these two teams can move on. The Wisconsin Badgers, who always seem to be counted out before the season starts and who always put together a solid season have to go up against last year's surprise Final Four team, Butler.
Butler who came within inches of a National Title last year has managed to scrape into the Sweet Sixteen in classic Butler fashion, by eking out victories by the skin of their noses. Butler won the 8/9 game over Old Dominion on a buzzer beating put back shot, and managed a one point victory over No. 1 seeded Pitt after two crazy fouls. Butler coach Brad Stevens may be headed elsewhere after the end of this season, as he is suddenly the most sought after coach in America, but until then, he is carrying his team on another unlikely tournament run.
If Butler is the most exciting team in the Sweet Sixteen, then Wisconsin is the least so. They handled No. 12 seed Belmont without blinking, despite being the trendy upset pick. In the second round, the withstood a 38 point game from Kansas State's Jacob Pullen, to pull away with a five point win over the Wildcats. They are predictable and, if their shots are falling, very difficult to stop. Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor are both probably future NBA players, and are almost automatic in the Bo Ryan offense, throw in the motor of bench player Mike Bruesewitz and it is easy to understand why the Badgers have lost so few games this season.
It is a battle between two "tough outs" in this field, and while it will be sad to see one of them head home after tonight, it is probably going to be a great forty minutes of basketball.
For more Badgers coverage, check out the SB Nation Wisconsin Blog Bucky's 5th Quarter.
The Illini could not pull off the upset of No.1 seeded Kansas, and their season comes to an end. The Illini played the Jayhawks tough for most of the game, but in the end the size advantage of Kansas was just too much. The Illinois Blog Hail to the Orange, reflects on how it all played out.
The Illini have played their last game of the 2010/2011 season, and like 67 other teams' seasons will be, it ended with a loss in the NCAA tournament. The Illini played very hard for the full forty minutes, and for about 36 minutes, they were within striking distance of a much stronger opponent.
To a large extent, the game played out like we thought it would, with the size and power advantage of the Morris twins being the difference in this game, and a big difference at that, as the two big men totaled 41 points and 25 rebounds. It was just too much for Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis, who gave great efforts but could not quite get over the hump.
Mike & Mike did get some production by stepping back and getting some separation, with Tisdale getting 13 points and 11 rebounds and Davis getting 17 points and 7 rebounds.
Demetri McCamey was dogged all night by the Kansas defense, and while he may have had some opportunities at points in this game, the shots were not falling, as he only got 6 points and 7 assists. Brandon Paul who was stellar against UNLV had a rough game with just 6 points.
At guard though, I have to tip my hat to D.J. Richardson overcoming his slump, which must have challenged his confidence, with a 15 point game off of the bench. Deej getting his groove back in these last two games is a good sign for next year, as he will be an anchor of that starting lineup.
The Illini are trying to do the improbable tonight as they attempt to take down a No.1 seed, something they have never done in their history. After falling behind by 11 points early, the Illinois defense managed to get some key stops and swing the momentum back their way toward the end of the half.
Mike Davis, who had 22 points in the blowout Illini win over UNLV on Friday night, has 11 points already. Demetri McCamey, the other Illinois go to player has just 3 points early. For Illinois to have a shot at winning this game, they will need their senior point guard to step up in the second half.
The Morris twins have been very productive so far, totaling 15 points between the two of them.
Whoever wins this game will advance to the Sweet Sixteen to face No. 12 seed surprise Richmond.
Just a week ago, many experts and fans were wondering aloud how VCU made it into the NCAA Tournament field while teams like Colorado and Virginia Tech were left out. After beating USC on Wednesday and a win over Georgetown on Friday, the Rams are now only 20 minutes from beating No.3 seeded Purdue and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.
Purdue has been caught off guard by VCU's pacing and shooting, and have struggled to put together good shots against the Rams' defense. One badly needed offensive bright spot has been little used guard Ryne Smith who is 5-7 for 14 points, to lead the Boilermakers. JuJuan Johnson has had a solid but not amazing 9 points and 6 rebounds in the first half. Normally dependable E'Twaun Moore and Lewis Jackson have totaled just 4 points apiece.
VCU has had great play from two of their guards, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell getting 10 points each. Purdue has taken control in second halves this year, even when trailing significantly at half, so VCU is going to need to match and maybe even surpass this offensive output in the second half.
The Buckeyes have come alive and are playing their best basketball at just the right time, dominating the George Mason Patriots from nearly start to finish. Mason took an early lead in the game of 11-2, but from that point forward they were completely unable to stop Ohio State's offense.
Even the lopsided score of 98-66 does not indicate how in control of this game Ohio State was. The Bucks had reached 90 points with five minutes to play, and pulling the starters and stopping short of putting triple digits on the Patriots. Had Thad Matta not called off the dogs, OSU could have easily put up 120.
With nearly 100 points to go around, there were no shortage of stellar stat lines for the Ohio State box. David Lighty scored 25 points, going 7-7 from three point distance, and was complemented by an 18 point and 9 rebound performance from Jared Sullinger, an 18 point and 6 rebound day from William Buford, and an additional 13 points from Jon Diebler.
This is clearly one of the most dominating performances seen all weekend, and reinforced the position of Ohio State as the No.1 overall seed, and the team with the best shot at winning the national title. Ohio State will face a very talented Kentucky team next weekend in the Sweet Sixteen.
Things seem to be well in hand for the Ohio State Buckeyes in Cleveland today, who after a slow start ended the half with a 32-6 run on the George Mason Patriots.
David Lighty in particular was an imposing presence on offense for the Buckeyes, a perfect 5-5 from beyond the three point arc, and scoring 17 points. Jared Sullinger too looks like his too much for the No.8 seeded Patriots, with an impressive 19 points and 7 rebounds before the break.
Overall, the Buckeyes just can't seem to miss from the field, shooting 63% overall and 75% from deep, punctuated by Jon Diebler's three to end the half.
George Mason's second Cinderella run seems like it may be coming to an early end, they have shot a comparatively low 38%, have turned the ball over 10 points and are being out rebounded 18-10.
For George Mason to come back in this game, they will need to put together one of the greatest NCAA comebacks ever, against one of the better college teams to have come through March in some time.
The defending national champions survived, but just barely. The Duke Blue Devils struggled to stop a furious comeback by the Michigan Wolverines in their West Region 3rd round game in Charlotte on Sunday. Duke held on for a 73-71 victory over the Wolverines, who lack a senior on the roster. Darius Morris missed a tying jumper with five seconds left as the Wolverines came back from as many as 14 down in the second half.
Morris had 16 points to lead the Wolverines, who placed five players in double figures. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 15 points for Michigan, including a late 3-pointer that cut the Duke lead to one with a minute and a half to play. Kyrie Irving answered with a short jumper to put Duke back up by three, but Morris scored with 10 seconds left to make it 72-71 in favor of Duke.
Michigan’s final chance came when Nolan Smith hit one of two free throws with nine seconds left to push the lead to two. Michigan quickly brought the ball up the floor, but Morris was unable to convert and Smith corralled the rebound to run out the clock. Smith led all scorers with 24 points on the day.
The defending National Champions are not having an easy time in their third round game against a young but talented Michigan squad. The Wolverines, who appeared to be very much out of the picture when they started the Big Ten season 1-6, are giving Duke all they can handle in the first half of their West Region third round game. The Blue Devils lead 37-33 at halftime behind 10 points from Kyle Singler.
Michigan has been able to stay close thanks to 11 points from Evan Smotrycz off the bench. he has provided a spark while Darius Morris has been held to four points. Zack Novak also has nine points for Michigan, who is trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994 when they reached the Elite 8 before losing to eventual National champion Arkansas.
The Blue Devils hold the lead because of torrid near 60% shooting from the field. Duke also holds a substantial 17-8 edge on the glass, but they have six turnovers. Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith each have seven points for the defending champions.
The winner will advance to face Kentucky in the West Region semifinals, who defeated West Virginia yesterday to reach the Sweet 16.
I think the reaction from the Illinois blog Hail to the Orange says it best for the Illini's first NCAA Tournament win since 2006.
Nothing about the season matters right now. All that matters is the next game. There was a lot of talk about this being a fresh start for the Illini seniors, who have been dogged all year by expectations and disappointments, and wouldn't you know it, the Illini played like they every loss from 2010/2011 was erased and there was a chance to rewrite their legacy.
Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis, two of the players who have most personified the up and down seasons that have come with their tenure, went off on UNLV tonight. Mike Davis: 22 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists (welcome back, Mr Double-Double) Demetri McCamey: 17 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds. Without these two players playing like the seniors they were tonight, the Illini don't win tonight. They don't run out with the best first half of the season, and they sure don't survive the many second half pushes that the gritty Rebels threw at them.
I will grant that the Illini were once again outscored in the second half, 38-27, and that for the final four minutes of the half, the Illini sat on their lead. But for the other 36 minutes, this Illini team was dominant. Dominant like in Seattle against Gonzaga, dominant like against North Carolina, dominant like the win over Wisconsin.
There is a lot of good karma going right now, D.J. Richardson broke out of his slump, and nailed two key three pointers just when we thought the Illini might wilt. Crandall Head came in for great minutes, and reminded us again why his athleticism will make him lethal in the future. Meyers Leonard looked like the sophomore Meyers Leonard, the one who will play under control and with the sort of poise that brings that sweet left handed hook.
Travis Miller from Hammer & Rails has more reaction from Purdue’s win over St. Peter’s:
This was exactly what we needed.
It was far from pretty, but you can expect that when you face a strong defensive team like St. Peter’s. There defense was good, especially on everyone but JaJuan Johnson and E`Twaun Moore, but ours was much better. We didn’t get a lot out of everyone else, but we will be very successful as long as guys like Lewis Jackson, D.J. Byrd, and Terone Johnson keep up with these contributions. We’re to the point of the season where I don’t care about looking pretty. I just want to keep winning. That is all that matters.
Sure, there were still some concerns. Ryne Smith is not hitting open shots. Smooge is on a strange streak of turnovers (an ugly seven tonight). We still haven’t had a great shooting game, but we didn’t need any of those things tonight. We took advantage of the huge positives we had in our favor to dominate a weaker team. It was just business. It is not like there is a committee judging how pretty our wins are anymore. We’re alive now and, after tonight, only 32 teams will have a chance at being this year’s National Champion. We’re one of those 32 teams.
Purdue has been known all year as one of the toughest defensive teams in America, and they seem to be proving as much so far against St Peter's so far, holding the Peacocks to only 17 points in the first half, a season low.
On offense, Purdue has been operating efficiently thus far shooting 44% from the field and tallying 33 points, led by E'Twaun Moore's 9 points on eight shots. JaJuan Johnson has been holding up his end of the bargain as well, scoring 8 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in the first period.
Purdue needed a strong showing after being taken down by Michigan State last weekend, giving up over 70 points in the process. The excellent defensive showing by the Boilermakers, especially from guard Lewis Jackson, might be the most refreshing aspect of this game so far for Purdue fans.
Should Purdue hold their lead and win, they will face the winner of the Georgetown and VCU game.
The Roadrunners could not stop the Ohio State machine firing on all cylinders, nor could they overcome their defense. The No.1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament cruised over Texas San Antonio by a comfortable score of 75-46.
It was unlikely from the beginning for UTSA to pull the upset over the Buckeyes. A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No.1 seed, and OSU only has two losses all season. Nonetheless, Thad Matta's team did not take the Roadrunners lightly and and rolled up two very efficient offensive halves, and played excellent defense against the normally high scoring UTSA team.
Ohio State had a great day on offense, scoring an efficient 75 points on 51 shots, and had four players in double figures. William Buford led the Buckeyes with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and was followed closely by Jon Diebler, who was 4-8 from three and totaled 14 points.
The brightest spot for UTSA was guard Devin Gibson who had 24 points against the OSU defense, he was the only Roadrunner in double figures.
Ohio State now advances to play Sunday, against the No.8 seed George Mason Patriots
The No.1 overall seed in this year's NCAA tournament seems to be off and running, as Ohio State is making short work of No.16 Texas San Antonio 37-19 at half. Despite the fact that the Buckeyes best on ball defender and point guard Aaron Craft has been sitting on the bench for most of the first half with two fouls, the other Ohio State players are unphased.
The Buckeyes as a team are shooting very well against the Roadrunners defense draining 15 of their 23 shots from the field, and nailing six three point baskets. On defense, the Buckeyes have done decently well holding the Roadrunners to 10-22 and 1-8 from three.
Ohio State's offensive firepower was apparent early on, as senior William Buford went off for 15 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, while Jon Diebler and Jared Sullinger each contributed 9 points a piece.
The score could have been even higher for Ohio State, but UTSA surprised the Buckeyes with a slower more methodical half court offense, which is out of character for the usually uptempo Roadrunners.
If Ohio State holds on to their lead, they will face George Mason, who beat Villanova earlier today, on Sunday.
Michigan was supposed to be in a rebuilding year, a season after losing Deshawn Sims and Manny Harris, but in their blowout win over Tennessee on Friday, it seems that the young Wolverines are rebuilt and rolling.
Michigan and Tennessee played relatively closely in the first half, and at one point the Volunteers even led the Wolverines 23-17. From this point onward though Michigan outscored Tennessee 58-22. The second half was as lopsided a game as ever there has been seen in an 8/9 match up, supposedly two very matched teams.
The Wolverines shot the ball very well, making over 50% of their shots from the field, and managed to have five different players in double figures, including Zac Novak, who led the team with 14 points and 10 rebounds. In every aspect, Michigan out played the embattled Volunteers, winning the rebounding battle 35-24, doubling the number of assists, 20-10, and forcing Tennessee into 18 turnovers.
For Tennessee it is a rough end to a rough season, and the future of Bruce Pearl is now very much in jeopardy in Knoxville. A blowout loss and the NCAA violations still hanging over Pearl may have undone three Sweet Sixteen trips and last year's Elite Eight.
Michigan advances to the third round, and will likely face No.1 seed Duke on Sunday.
The Big Ten will have four teams in action today, with Purdue and Ohio State in very winnable games and Michigan and Illinois in much tougher draws. Yesterday the Big Ten ended up with one win and two losses, as Wisconsin took down an over matched Belmont and Michigan State and Penn State lost by just two points each to Temple and UCLA respectively.
Michigan tips off first today, against the Tennessee Volunteers, at 11:40 central on TruTV. The Wolverines had a solid showing in Indianapolis, beating the Fighting Illini with a big second half comeback, and staying competitive with Ohio State down to the wire in the Big Ten Tournament. Today the young team led by guard Tim Hardaway jr. with 14 points per game, and Darius Morris, who is averaging 15 points and 6 assists per game. The Wolverines have gotten this far by having a very potent offense, which can put up a lot of points with three point shooting. Tennessee has had a roller coaster year, with wins over Villanova, Pitt and Memphis, but finishing only at .500 in conference. To top it off, coach Bruce Pearl has had a cloud of NCAA violations hanging over him all season, and could very well end up losing his job today, if he loses to Michigan.
Ohio State will take on UT San Antonio today at 3:40 central, on TNT. Ohio State got the honor of being the No.1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament, and faces the winner one of the play in games from earlier this week, the UTSA Roadrunners. With Jared Sullinger, Jon Diebler, David Lighty, William Buford, and Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes are absolutely loaded, and will be far too much for the No.16 seed Roadrunners to handle. This game will likely be out of hand very quickly.
The Purdue Boilermakers will take the court in Chicago tonight at 6:20 central, against St. Peters. The Boilers are coming off of two straight losses, to Iowa and Michigan State, and as a result their seeding slipped all the way down to a No.3 seed, when a few weeks ago a No.1 seed was still a strong possibility. Nonetheless, Purdue should have no trouble dispatching the No.13 Peacocks, if E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are playing up to their normal standard of quality. Purdue did lose defensive specialist Kelsey Barlow for the tournament due to a violation of team rules, and that may come into play in later rounds, but it wont today.
The Fighting Illini will play at 8:20 central on TBS, against UNLV. Illinois seemed to have lucked into an overseeding with their No.9 seed, until they saw that their first opponent would be a quality UNLV squad coached by their former coach Lon Kruger. To further complicate matters, the Illini were placed in the same region as Kansas, who is frighteningly talented, and coached by another former coach, Bill Self. The match against UNLV is a toss up according to the gamblers, Illinois will need to be very disciplined on defense and have great leadership from their seniors in order to come away with a victory. Winning or losing, the Illini never play a boring game, and this will be no doubt a very stressful cap for the Big Ten evening.
With upsets happening all over the brackets, the Thursday went strictly by chalk for the Big Ten conference's three teams in action.
Penn State played hard right down to the wire with the No.7 seeded Temple Owls. The game was neck and neck the entire way, and with less than 20 seconds left in the game, Talor Battle, often known for his late game heroics, drained a three pointer to tie the game at 64. Coming out of the time out though, Temple's Juan Fernandez drained his own buzzer beating jump shot to give the Owls the 66-64 victory. It is a rough way to go for Talor Battle, who made his first NCAA tournament ever this year.
Wisconsin had a rather unexciting but dominating win over the Belmont Bruins.Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer once again led the Badgers with over 20 points apiece in the 72-58 Wisconsin victory. The Badgers left their scoring drought in Indianapolis, as they scored over 30 in both halves against Belmont and blew their opponents off of the boards, 29-17.
Michigan State, a team that has gone to two straight Final Fours, had to work to get into this year's NCAA Tournament, and fell behind dramatically early against the UCLA Bruins, trailing 42-24 in the first half. The second half was a flurry of runs as MSU would cut the lead to 10 points to start the half, then UCLA extended the lead to 23 at one point, before the lead was cut to four points with less than a minute to go. That the Spartans were able to pull as close as they did was a sign that a team with this much tournament experience was not going to go down without a fight. Down the stretch UCLA had plenty of opportunities to salt the game away with free throws, but could not close the deal, to the point where Michigan State was able to pull within one point off of a Kieth Appling three pointer, with just eight seconds to go. On a missed free throw Kalin Lucas had the chance to get a shot off, but traveled, and sealed the game for UCLA, 78-76
For Tom Izzo it is a disappointing end to a season with a high expectations, and a sad end to career of one of the best point guards in recent Big Ten memory Kalin Lucas. For the Big Ten overall, the day could have gone better, but only Wisconsin was favored. Tomorrow as Ohio State, and Purdue enter games where they are heavy favorites, and the Illini are involved in a toss up game, Friday could be a better result
UCLA jumped on the Spartans early on in the opening round in Tampa Bay, getting a 10-3 lead in the first three minutes, and building on their lead for the rest of the half.
Michigan State has been befuddled on both ends of the floor, struggling to find the bottom of the basket and completely unable to get stops on defense. The Spartans shot a very poor 29% from the field in the first half and have made only one of their seven three point attempts, and the 42 first-half points given up to the Bruins is very uncharacteristic for the Spartans defense.
Reeves Nelson had a great first half for UCLA, scoring 8 points and coming down with 7 rebounds, a statistic that the Bruins hold an advantage of 21-10. Forward Tyler Honeycutt too has had a productive half, with 9 points and 3 steals.
For Michigan State, the lone bright spot seems to be the play of Durrell Summers, who has 12 points off of nine shots in the first half. Former Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas, who scored 30 in the Spartans' win over Purdue hasn't scored a point thus far against UCLA
Bo Ryan has to be pleased, his Badgers dispatched the Belmont Bruins with relative ease, doubled the scoring output from their last game, and left their disappointing losses to Penn State and Ohio State far in the rear view mirror.
The Badgers were once again led by their two best players Jon Leuer, who had 22 points and seven rebounds, and Cousy Award finalist Jordan Taylor, who had 21 points and six assists.
Mike Bruesewitz, who was questionable for this game after spraining his knee in the loss to Penn State didn't seem to be bothered at all by the injury, getting 8 points and 9 rebounds off of the bench for the Badgers.
While somewhat close in the first half, in the second the Badgers took the game over, dominating every box on the stat sheet. Wisconsin out-rebounded Belmont 29-17, shot 50% from the field compared to the Bruins' 36% and drained 20 threes compared to their opponent's 16.
Wisconsin's lopsided victory may be the result of being picked to be upset by Belmont by many bracket predictors this week
Wisconsin advances to the second or "third" round of the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive season, and will face the winner of the Kansas St. and Utah State game on Saturday.
Penn State lost a heart breaker to Temple earlier today, so its up to Wisconsin to bring the first victory home for the Big Ten Conference in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament against the scrappy Belmont Bruins.
Wisconsin's slow and methodical offense doesn't seem like it has changed too much since Indianapolis, keeping Belmont from running their offense at the pace they want. The difference between the Badgers' 33 point stinker at the Big Ten Tournament and today though is that the bricks in Indy are falling in Tuscon. Jordan Taylor leads Wisconsin with 14 points and 4 assists at the break, and has been helped out by Mike Bruesewitz who was questionable today with a sprained knee, but has managed 5 points and 5 assists off of the bench for the Badgers.
Belmont is led by big man Mick Hedgepeth who has 11 points off of six shots, and as a team have managed to draw Wisconsin into an uncharacteristic 7 first half turnovers. The Bruins are going to have to defend the Badgers better from the three point line, and hope to get even more turnovers in the second half, to keep this game within reach.
Wisconsin is heading into tonight's game coming off of a 36-33 loss to Penn State at the Big Ten Tournament, and a blowout win at No. 1 Ohio State, and now must face one of the most dangerous mid majors in the NCAA field. Bo Ryan needs to get his team back on track and get his two best players, Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor back filling up the box scores.
The SB Nation Wisconsin Badgers blog Bucky's 5th quarter thinks the play of those two Badger stars are going to be what makes the difference against the Bruins.
Belmont does not have Taylor and Jon Leuer though. The Badger duo will be the best two players on the court Thursday, which gives UW a terrific chance to win. Last year Wisconsin rode Leuer to a close victory over Wofford in a similar David vs. Goliath situation. Taylor has emerged as the true heart and soul of the team. I don't foresee Wisconsin getting rattled.
The Badgers are a trendy pick for an upset, and already today No. 4 Louisville has gone down to No.13 Moorehead State and No. 5 Vanderbilt has lost to No.12 Richmond so maybe today another major conference team going down today shouldn't be a surprise.
Wisconsin tips against Belmont tonight at 6:27 on TruTV
Three of the seven Big Ten teams get underway today in the first full day of the NCAA Tournament. The Penn State Nittany Lions, Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan State Spartans all have a tough game ahead of them today, even Wisconsin who is playing No. 13 seed Belmont.
Penn State is up first in a tough match up against the Temple Owls, tipping at 1:10 central on TNT. This is the first trip to the Big Dance for PSU in a decade, and will be the first opportunity for Big Ten star Talor Battle to take his game to the national stage. Temple is not a great draw for Penn State though, as the Owls have dropped them in the last six meetings between the two. Nonetheless, the fans will hope that Talor Battle and Tim Frazier can be enough to take Penn State to a very long awaited NCAA win.
Wisconsin must try and find itself again after a terrible 36-33 loss to the aforementioned Nittany Lions. In play once for a No.2 seed, the Badgers slipped to No.4 and now must face the Belmont Bruins, who have become a trendy upset pick. Wisconsin enters the dance on a two game losing streak, and with a key contributor Mike Bruesewitz, questionable with an injury. Nonetheless, the team will go as far as their leaders Jordan Talor and Jon Leuer will take them. The two are likely headed to the NBA after this season, and probably don't want their legacy to be an opening game upset.
The Michigan State Spartans fought their way into this tournament by beating Iowa and Purdue in Indianapolis, but couldn't close the deal against Penn State. This team is loaded with experience and the Spartans are coming off of two straight trips to the Final Four, so they are not to be underestimated. Their opening round opponent, UCLA has had an up and down year, but players like Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson will make them a difficult out. Nonetheless, Tom Izzo has a long history of March magic, and it may be enough to get Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, and Draymond Green all on top of their game at once, and once again make a deep tournament run.
March madness is officially here, and SBNation has you covered with a copy of the printable bracket that also includes a list of SBNation sites for all the schools in the Big Dance. The Big Ten got seven teams into the Big Dance, including No. 1 overall seed Ohio State.
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You must be a member of SB Nation Chicago to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SB Nation Chicago. You should read them.
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