Duke's game with Butler in the Meadowlands (it was erroneously noted here on Friday that the game was Durham) was another display of backcourt excellence by the Blue Devils. Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith combined for 45 points--by comparison, the Bulldogs' top three guards and their top two reserves only got 26. Coach K's team also enjoyed another substantial advantage in free throw scoring, 24-10. That alone spelled the difference in the 82-70 final.
North Carolina got a win it really had to have in nipping Kentucky 75-73. Though the Tar Heels' woeful backcourt production didn't improve, guards Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland took much better care of the ball and from there the forwards took over. Tyler Zeller delivered 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. John Henson chipped in 13 and hauled in 12 boards. Kentucky's not getting much from their only key returnee, Darius Miller. The bright spot for John Calipari was Doron Lambo, who came off the bench to hit 24.
In the Big Ten, three-point shooting was the key for both Purdue and Illinois. In the Boilermakers case, it was Alabama's inability to hit the trey. The Tide were 0-for-9 behind the arc in the 66-47 Boilermaker win. E'Twaun Moore led the way with 23 points and crashing the boards for nine rebounds from his point guard position JaJuan Johnson scored 17 down low.
Illinois was hot from downtown on their visit to Seattle to play Gonzaga. They buried twelve treys, with all five starters scoring double figures and five players hitting multiple three-point shots. The hot shooting helped the Illini overcome poor rebounding, as the Zags won the glass 35-24 thanks to center Robert Sacre. This is an area that Bruce Weber can't take lightly. His team had a good week, following up a Tuesday night win over North Carolina with this one, but if they're going to contend for the Big Ten title, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale have to a better job of getting after it on the glass.
Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football , game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.