2015 NCAA Tournament Observations

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, March 28th, 2015


By Bo Carter
Special Contributor

Black Thursday Morphs into Sweet 16 for Area team

College basketball in the Lone Star State and Big 12 Conference footprint went from Black Thursday to Wonderful Sunday-Monday, March 22-23, with a late run by four Big 12 men’s and women’s hoops’ squads into the Sweet 16 of the 2015 NCAA Basketball Championships.
While all five Texas teams fell in the Thursday, March 19, openers of the NCAA men’s first and second rounds, the Baylor and Texas women and Oklahoma and West Virginia men carried conference colors into the pre-quarterfinals of the NCAA joust – just two wins away from advancing to the respective Final Fours.
Now it’s fifth-seeded WVU (25-9 overall) challenging No. 1 Kentucky (36-0 and bidding to become the first undefeated NCAA Division I men’s team since 32-0 Indiana in 1975-76 under coach Bob Knight at 8:45 p.m. (CDT) Thursday in Cleveland, Ohio, and No. 3 seed Oklahoma (24-10) challenging No. 7 seed Michigan State (25-11) Friday at 9:07 p.m. (CDT) in Syracuse, N.Y., at he Carrier Dome (which has no air conditioning, incidentally).
On the women’s side No. 2 seed Baylor (32-3, probably a No. 1 seed in many experts’ opinions) tangles with No. 3 seed Iowa (26-7) in Oklahoma City at 6:30 p.m. before upstart No. 5 seed Texas (24-10) meets pre-2015 NCAA favorite and top-seeded Connecticut (34-1) Saturday at 11 a.m. in Albany, N.Y.
The Kansas men, Big 12 regular-season champs and a No. 2 seed, almost made the Sweet 16 as a third entry before falling to intrastate rival Wichita State 78-65 in Omaha, Neb., in the second round.
WVU advanced to Cleveland with NCAA wins over Buffalo 68-62 and 69-59 over highly-regarded Maryland before moving into the role of giant killer against the U-Kats. Ironically, Mountaineers’ coach and WVU grad Bob Huggins is 8-2 in head-to-head meetings with Kentucky coach John Calipari during their previous tenures at Cincinnati, Kansas State, Memphis, and UMass. That undefeated “500-pound gorilla” on UK’s back may be getting a little heavier for an unbeaten squad against an athletic and quick Mountaineer crew.
Oklahoma and cagey coach Lon Kruger have been in this position before and would love to play spoiler as the 1988 Sooners under then-head coach Billy Tubbs did all the way to the NCAA finals against then-Kansas (now SMU) head coach Larry Brown at Kemper Arena in Kansas City.
Though no Sooner on the 2014-15 squad was born in ’88, there probably have been a few highlight tapes of that dream year (OU’s closet run to the NCAA men’s basketball crown) during Oklahoma’s first two NCAA triumphs in 2015 over Albany 69-60 and play-in tourney member Dayton 72-66. The defensive-tested Sooners might be playing their best basketball of the year after a narrow, 67-65 loss in the Phillips 66 Big 12 tourney semifinals to eventual Iowa State.
Coach Kim Mulkey of BU proved prophetic when she opined about Big 12 women’s potential after winning the conference’s postseason joust at America Airlines Center in Dallas.
“Don’t be surprised if some of our Big 12 teams don’t go pretty deep into the NCAA tournament,” she said with a smile. “This conference is tough, and we have been in a dogfight all year.”

That’s why numerous sages see BU heading to the women’s Final Four at Tampa, Fla., after the Lady Bears raced past Northwestern State 77-36 and Arkansas 73-44 in the NCAA first and second rounds at Waco, Texas. BU must down the road-tested Hawkeyes and then upend the winner of the Stanford-Notre Dame regional semifinal for another shot at BU’s third NCAA women’s crown since 2005 under Mulkey.
Texas under coach Karen Aston with solid backing from Hall of Fame Longhorns’ retired head coach and Aston mentor Jody Conradt has proven to be equally-tourney-tough with initial NCAA wins over Western Kentucky 66-64 (coming from 14 points down at one point) and homestanding California 73-70 and joins No. 3 Louisville and No. 7 seed Dayton in the Albany showdown. The Lady Longhorns had their dream season in 1985-86 when Conradt led the Horns to a 35-0 record, title win over USC and the first undefeated season in NCAA Division I women’s hoops’ history.
Leading the way for their respective teams Thursday-Saturday are WVU’s Juwan Staten with 14.2 points per game and OU’s Isaiah Cousins with 11.9 ppg while Baylor’s Nina Davis continues to lead Big 12 women with a 20.9 scoring average. Pacing the balanced Longhorns is 6-5 center Kelsey Lang with a 10.7 norm.
And Scattershooting Around the NCAA Sweet 16 (with notable apologies to Blackie Sherrod):

While the five Texas teams – Baylor, SMU, Stephen F. Austin, Texas, and Texas Southern – all fell on opening day of March Madness, the state also was represented by Texas A&M women (lost to UALR) in the NCAA and NIT competitor Texas A&M (fell in second round to Louisiana Tech of Conference USA) while 18-15 TCU was under consideration for the College Basketball Insider Tourney…After a 0-3 start (which included a 60-59 shocker by UAB over Big 12 tourney champ Iowa State), Big 12 men’s teams have gone 5-2 prior to the Sweet 16…Big 12 men’s crews also are 110-27 (.803 winning percentage) against outside opposition. This includes a 13-8 composite mark against Southeastern Conference schools and 5-4 mark against the Big Ten in 2015-16…Big 12 women’s squads are 103-26 (.798) against non-circuit foes and 5-3 in the 2015 NCAA meet. Baylor and UT are 4-0 in women’s March Madness…Coach Bob “Skillet” Marlin of Louisiana-Lafayette won a historic College Invitation Tournament game at Sam Houston State 71-70 last week. Marlin guided the SHSU Bearkats program from 1998-2010 before moving to ULL in 2014-15. He has taken four of his last six teams at Sam Houston and Louisiana to postseason play and has won at least 22 games three times since 2010…SMU enjoyed its first NCAA postseason appearance since 1993 when the Mustangs swept Southwest Conference titles. Brown’s Mustangs also downed defending NCAA champion Connecticut twice in three meetings and closed 27-7 for the second-most wins in a season in SMU annals with the 27-10 squad – NIT runnerup to Minnesota.   Brown is one of five active college coaches who also are in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The others are Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Rick Pitino of Louisville, and Roy Williams of North Carolina.


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