Today I’m going to go over the games in order, and just give you a brief recap and some final thoughts on each team, their fans and the tournament in general.
Purdue v. DePaul (Fifth place game)
Purdue 81, DePaul 73
The Boilers led the entire way in this one and were even up by 24 in the first half. As with most of the games in the tournament, the team leading at halftime had a huge letdown after the break and DePaul almost clawed their way back into it. Purdue shot a mind-boggling 69% in the first half and hit five straight three’s at one point. They let DePaul back in the game by hitting 18 of 32 shots in the second half, and playing better defense. It was pretty funny watching Purdue coach Matt Painter – who looks decidedly like Shane McMahon – implore his team to execute. This was an interesting matchup to me because both teams were on my flight from Chicago out here last Saturday.
In my opinion, Carl Landry was the best player in this tournament. Though not as physically impressive as Thaddeus Young from Georgia Tech, or as skilled as Arron Afflalo, he knows his limits, uses his body well, and gets good position in the post. The senior forward finished with 22 points, 10 boards and shot 10-12 from the free throw line. You can’t ask for much more than that. Oh and for your daily Majerus update, he must be reading this blog because he stopped going for the none-too-flattering bright flowered shirts and went with a black top – my girlfriend tells me black is supposed to have a slimming effect. Yeah that worked real well Rick.
#22 Kentucky v. #11 Memphis (Third place game)
Memphis 80, Kentucky 63
Memphis finally lived up to their billing in the second half of this one. They utterly dominated Kentucky, who looked physically drained after a tough, late loss to UCLA. The Wildcats kept this one close in the first half, as they trailed by three at the break, but couldn’t keep up after intermission.
Sophomore Chris Douglas-Roberts (13 points today) was the Memphis player who impressed me the most this week. He won’t knock you over with his talent but he’s quick, is a great finisher around the hoop, can step back and hit a three and took twice as much punishment as anybody in the tournament. I really think this could be his year to break out. Another guy I liked was junior point guard Andre Allen. He doesn’t start (because John Calipari loves his freshmen) but he always provides a spark when he’s in the game. Listed at 5’10 (probably closer to 5’8) he has great court vision and seems to always find the open guy. He’s also not afraid to drive in amongst the big guys and finish.
Some things you might not have seen on TV:
-When Kentucky junior guard Joe Crawford hit a three midway through the first half a Kentucky fan behind me yelled, “You’ve got mail bitch!” What does that even mean? I literally spend the next five minutes and all of the halftime break trying to figure it out. Does Crawford have large amounts of AOL stock? Is it because Joe Crawford always delivers? Maybe he just really likes Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? I’m still puzzled, someone help me out here.
-Calipari asked everybody’s favorite referee, Ed Hightower, “Are you actually watching the game right now? How many bad calls are you going to make?” Trust me John, you don’t want to know the answer to that question.
-Kentucky’s cheerleaders? Surprisingly unattractive. What’s with that? The SEC is usually so reliable in that respect.
-I hadn’t noticed until now but Memphis’ 6’8 sophomore Robert Dozier (he of the 7’3 wingspan) has hideously long arms. It’s a wonder he doesn’t trip over those things.
Oklahoma v. Chaminade (Seventh place game)
Oklahoma 72, Chaminade 57
Do I really have to tell you what happened in this one? Alright fine. Chaminade never led but kept it closer than it should have been. They lost, putting their all-time record in the tournament at 4-63. Oklahoma was led by 6’11 junior (and owner of the best name in the tournament) Longar Longar, who had 24 points and 14 rebounds. The native of Sudan was 12-13 from the field as he dominated a team my high school squad would have smoked. So Oklahoma comes away with a seventh place finish in Jeff Capel’s first tournament as head coach, hopefully they finish better than that in the Big XII.
#19 Georgia Tech v. #5 UCLA (Championship game)
UCLA 88, Georgia Tech 73
Basically what I learned from watching this game is that UCLA is good, really good. Ben Howland has found a formula that works: play good defense, convert easy baskets and run good offense when you don’t have anything on the break. The Bruins do all of those things, and they do them well. I really like Darren Collison, he’s only a sophomore and he can really run the point but he was not who I would have picked for tournament MVP. I think Luc Richard Mbah A Moute should have been the pick, and no, not just because I wanted the trophy engraver to be working all night. He just seems to be the guy that makes everything work for UCLA. He ended tonight with 14 points and 10 boards and he’s always in the right place at the right time. He is what makes them a dangerous team.
If I was a Bruin fan only one thing would worry me: The team’s lack of a real low-post scoring threat. When March rolls around and your guards start to wear down, you need easy buckets in the post. Look at every team that has won a title over the last decade, they all had at least a passable post player.
By the way, if you think UCLA’s Lorenzo Mata is scary looking on TV, imagine seeing him in person. The guy is frightening. I was afraid to look right at him for fear he might attempt to possess my soul. He might be the ugliest player in NCAA history. Where did they find this guy?
I’ll have a final post tomorrow wrapping up the week from Maui, until then Happy Thanksgiving everybody.