Kansas won the Big 12 final by getting to the foul line. They outscored Kansas State 24-8 from the line and won by eight. It was a balanced attack from the Jayhawks, but power forward Marcus Morris’ 18 points and 8 rebounds was first among equals. Most noteworthy was the absence of production from K-State’s Dominique Sutton, with only three points. The Wildcat backcourt of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente wasn’t bad, but nor were they spectacular. Given the no-show from Sutton and the caliber of their opponent, that wasn’t going to be enough.
On the west coast, Washington upset Cal to capture the Pac-10 event. The Huskies shot 52 percent from the floor and in an evenly played 79-75 game, a big difference-maker was the play of Vernoy Overton who came off the bench to chip in 10 points, outscoring the entire Cal bench by himself. I think Washington was in the NCAA’s anyway, but this eliminates all doubt and is a nice step toward redeeming what was mostly a disappointing year.
The SEC, Big Ten and ACC all wrap it up today. Undaunted by having gone 0-3 on yesterday’s final games, I’m ready to make a few picks today. Let’s take a look…
ACC: Duke-Georgia Tech (1, ESPN)
The Blue Devils are poised to win this tournament again in about the most underwhelming fashion possible. They’ve struggled to beat #9 seed Virginia and #12 seed Miami, and now get #7 seed Georgia Tech in the final. The one difference is that the Yellow Jackets have the talent to win this one if Duke sleepwalks for a third straight day. Interior combination of Ganai Lawal and Derrick Favors combined for 29 points and 18 rebounds in a win over N.C. State. What Duke does have going for them is Kyle Singler, who went off for 27 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists yesterday and can take over a game. I’ll stick with Singler and the Dookies to complete their anticlimactic tourney run today.
SEC: Kentucky-Mississippi State
(1 EST, ABC)
I guess DeMarcus Couisins must read the Notebook and taken it a little personally when I noted his late-season fade. He came out hunting for bear yesterday against Tennessee with a 19-point/15-rebound game. The UK backcourt of Wall and Bledsoe was dominant. In yesterday’s preview, I noted Wayne Chism’s problems against good teams. The Tennessee post man had eight points and three rebounds. There was no area of play the Vols excelled in, and the result was a 74-45 win.
Vanderbilt is slumping at exactly the wrong time. The dumped their last home game of the regular season to South Carolina and they lose in the semis as conference tournament host. They are getting no production from the two-guard spot and center A.J. Oglivy had a poor tournament. He was dominated by Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado yesterday, who blocked six shots. Can’t see the Bulldogs beating Kentucky today, but if they do sneak into the field (Joe Lunardi at ESPN.com has them squarely on the bubble) they have the talent to be a dark horse, between Varnado and underrated point guard Dee Bost.
BIG TEN: Ohio State-Minnesota (3:30 EST, CBS)
Minnesota held Purdue to 11 points in the first half and outrebounded them 45-20. Boiler guard E’Twaun Moore was 1-for-14 from the field for two points. The ESPN Gameday commentators believe the Gophers are now in the field no matter what, but I’m not so certain. I think they probably need to win this one. The extra win over a good team would probably be enough anyway, and of course winning the tournament renders it all moot. And I like their chances to do it against Ohio State today. The Buckeyes won a double-overtime battle against Illinois, a turnover-laden 88-81 affair. Evan Turner had 31 points and 10 rebounds, but also turned it over ten times. Demetri McCamey had six turnovers for Illinois. The Illini may now be NIT-bound, but the ESPN commentators think they are in the field. Although watching them, I think the Dick Vitale mindset has thoroughly sunk in, and they’ve got about 85 teams marked for an NCAA slot.
Be back tonight to briefly recap these three games and offer some early thoughts on the NCAA field.