Why they won……and why they lost
The game is layered and there’s always a lot going on. On any given day, anything can happen.
On this day, a lot happened.
The Hurricanes came out fairly flat and never recovered. Their game has been built on solid-to-tight D and the ability to play above less athletic teams. Their streaky shooters can often keep opposing defenses honest enough to open up lanes for cutters and lobs. The problem tonight is they ran into a Nova team with the right blend of athletic ability and hot shooting. The ‘Cats aren’t great on defense (though some make them out to be because they can block shots). They can outscore and out rebound some of the best teams around…..and that’s what they did to Miami.
Oklahoma was not ‘on’ tonight. Buddy Hield wasn’t raining threes, but he didn’t have to against an A&M team that struggles to put points up. The Aggies have been fortunate to operate in a conference devoid of competition and in particular a division (the West) that was the worst in a bad league. When they were able to slow it down and go inside to their big freshman they had success. Unfortunately, those moments were few and far between. A&M seemed unable to stick to a successful game plan while the Sooners continued to move the ball and find open shots and cutters. Oklahoma is a far more balanced team than the analysts would have you believe. Spangler, Cousins and the rest of the crew have been able to step up whenever they run into a defense who makes life hard for Buddy. And tonight Woodard was the Big Dog with Buddy throwing in 10 rebounds.
Kansas started a little flat tonight, too. Maryland was able to get the ball moving in transition and also had success inside with Diamond Stone. Some early foul trouble forced Stone to sit and that seemed to affect Maryland in a major way. The Terps got stops on defense and were extremely competitive with the Jayhawk guards, but lost confidence in their offense. And once again, Melo Trimble was inconsistent and failed to put this team on his shoulders. On the flip side, upperclassmen Perry Ellis (the best-dressed man in college basketball) and Wayne Selden pushed the issue for Kansas. With Graham and Mason struggling at times, the front court was too athletic for Maryland which led to the foul trouble. The leadership of the upperclassmen coupled with Maryland’s lack thereof created a no-win situation. On a side note, Diamond Stone has talent but he lacks court awareness and plays solely on instinct. If he works on his upper body and learns another position he’ll be a beast.
(Perry Ellis has the skills to be a good-to-very-good NBA player)
The final game of the night pulled back the curtain on 2 teams with more image than reality. Duke (full disclosure: my team since childhood) benefitted from the Baylor upset and almost didn’t make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Oregon won a league that we’ve all seen is last of the Big 5 conferences.
The Blue Devils seemed to hang around, much like the first UNC game, by hitting jump shots and riding Brandon Ingram’s coattails down each side of the lane. They had no answer for the athleticism or defensive intensity of Oregon. And the foul shooting killed them almost as bad as it did Texas A&M. Oregon, on the other hand had an outrageously good shooting night. They were a full 10% higher from 3pt range than their season average and doubled their assist average. The Ducks brought out their top offensive game and patrolled the paint and protected the rim, which isn’t hard to do against a Duke team with only one true big man. Grayson Allen having an off night and Duke not shooting well as a team showed they were the most exhausted team in the field. When Oregon gets a lead, they feed off the energy and it shows on the defensive end.