Baylor only Texas team in sweet sixteen
When the dust had settled after last week’s action in the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Baylor Bears were the sole Lone Star State’s representative still standing as the huge field of 68 teams was whittled down to what is fondly referred to as the “Sweet Sixteen.”
There were only three teams from Texas and none from Louisiana that even qualified for basketball’s March Madness this season, and two of those—the Lamar Cardinals and the Texas Longhorns– were quickly sent home after horrible starts against their first opponents.
The No. 3-seeded Baylor Bears didn’t exactly set the world on fire in their initial game against No. 14 South Dakota State last Thursday and struggled to a 68-60 opening-round victory.
Many Lamar Cardinal followers were kind of peeved when the NCAA selection committee seeded them in the bottom eight of the entire tournament which played in the first round Tuesday and Wednesday for a spot in one of the four 16-team regions.
Although the Southland Conference champion Lamar Cardinals were an early three-point favorite over Vermont, the runner-up team from the America East Conference, the points had dropped to 1½ by tip-off time Wednesday evening.
And the Catamounts took it to the Cardinals before the game was 10 minutes old, jumping out to a lead that Lamar was unable to overcome. Vermont shot better than 50 per cent from the floor while the Cards countered with a paltry 27 per cent, which led to a convincing 71-59 trouncing and a trip back to their Beaumont campus.
The Texas Longhorns were the 11th seeded team in the East Region and faced sixth-seeded Cincinnati Friday morning in Nashville. The ‘Horns got out of the gate very slowly, got behind early, caught up but then fell short at the final buzzer 65-59.
Texas trailed 16-2 with just eight minutes left in the first half and 31-17 at the intermission. In losing on the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend for the fourth consecutive year, the Longhorns missed 14 of their first 15 shots and then rallied from a 19-point deficit to tie the score with less than four minutes left. Then they went cold again.
“It was sorta kinda the way our season has been,” UT Coach Rick Barnes told the Houston Chronicle after the game. “We put ourselves back in position to win the game, and we didn’t.”
Friday’s defeat marked the ninth time this season the Longhorns lost a game decided by six points or fewer (they won just two such contests).
However, Barnes did not sound like the coach of a program on the decline. He told the Chronicle that he is proud of the position the Longhorns are in. He even said he expects to win a national championship.
One of the big keys to the future is the status of junior Golden Triangle star guard J’Covan Brown and freshman guard Myck Kobongo, who may both declare early for the NBA draft. Brown led the Big 12 in scoring and Kobongo was a McDonald’s All-American, who battled inconsistency throughout the regular season.
Baylor was headed for a second mediocre performance in Saturday’s third round against former Big 12 member Colorado when shooting guard Brady Heslip showed exactly why he is the Bears’ shooting guard by pouring through nine-of-12 three-pointers for a career-high 27 points to help defeat the 11th-seeded Buffs 80-63 and advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
“We want to prove everybody wrong when we get to the national championship game,” Baylor center Perry Jones III told the Waco Tribune after the game. “It feels good to make the Sweet 16. I’m glad Brady was out there feeling it and was on his game.”
Baylor (29-7) set a school record for wins and will face 10th-seeded Xavier Friday in Atlanta. “I was very proud of the way we played in the second half and especially how we clamped down on defense,” Baylor coach Scott Drew chortled.
Xavier advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five years by knocking off upset-minded Lehigh 70-58 Sunday. Lehigh, which stunned No. 2 seed Duke on Friday, was looking to become the first No. 15 seed in NCAA history to make it to the tournament’s second weekend.
While two No. 2 seeds—Duke and Missouri—fell to No. 15’s Lehigh and Norfolk State on a history-making day Friday, all four No. 1’s got through the first week safely—the first time that has happened since 2009.
All but two of the 16 teams in the regional semifinals come from power conferences with Xavier and Ohio University the lone exceptions. This will be the first time since 2003 that 14 teams from the six major conferences have made the Sweet 16.
Besides the Baylor-Xavier matchup, the South Region also will feature No. 1 Kentucky taking on No. 4 Indiana. No. 1 Syracuse locks horns with No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State meets No. 6 Cincinnati in the East on Thursday.
The No. 1 overall team in the tourney North Carolina plays No. 13 Ohio and No. 2 Kansas prepares for No. 11 North Carolina State Friday in the Midwest Region. In the West Region it’s No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville and No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 7 Florida Thursday.
In this year’s Sweet 16 field there are a combined 71 Final Four appearances and 26 national titles among them.
KWICKIES…The Houston Astros are still playing a little better than .500 ball in games through Sunday as Opening Day is within two weeks away. Don’t be surprised if only one or two regulars from last year’s April team start this year’s season.
It looks on Monday that the Denver Broncos will win the Peyton Manning Sweepstakes after team president John Elway was satisfied with the way Manning throws the football after recovering from three neck surgeries. The Seattle Seahawks signed Green Bay’s career backup quarterback Matt Flynn to a three-year contract in an effort to solidify Seattle’s quarterback position. On Saturday the San Francisco 49ers signed former New York Giants’ receiver Mario Manningham.
Vin Scully will call the LA Dodgers baseball games for his 63rd season with the major league team. The 84-year-old Hall of Famer will scale back his workload and will broadcast all home and road games in California and Arizona, but not Colorado this season. Scully, the longest tenured broadcaster in sports, still will work more than 100 games for the 2012 season.
Golfer Luke Donald won last weekend’s PGA Transitions Championship in a four-man sudden-death playoff with a birdie on the first extra hole and re-claimed his No. 1 ranking in the world from Rory McIlroy. Donald, who shot a five-under-par 66 on Sunday’s final day, finished in a tie with veteran Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and Bae Sang –Moon and collected a check for $990,000. It was the fifth win in his last 31 starts around the world. Donald will remain No. 1 until he gets to Augusta National and tries to capture his first major championship.
The Lamar Cardinals won their first Southland Conference game Sunday and avoided a second straight three-game sweep by scoring the winning run on a walk-off single by former Lumberton star freshman Wayne Stanley in the bottom of the ninth inning. The 4-3 win over UT-Arlington averted a 0-6 SLC start by the Redbirds, who were swept by Central Arkansas last weekend. It was a blessing in disguise that Head Coach Jim Gilligan got ejected from the game in the top of the ninth inning for vociferously arguing a call because he said if he were managing in the bottom of the ninth inning, he probably would have pinch-hit for Stanley.
JUST BETWEEN US…Because of the lack of entries (only two teams), the event following Saturday morning’s regular Men’s Golf Association meeting at Sunset Grove Country Club was canceled. So my partner Craig Couvillion and I challenged former DERA members John Hanes, the new MGA president, and Ed Keegan to a best-ball match on the front and back nines and the overall score. Keegan fired birdies on No. 5, No. 6 and No. 8 and Hanes played his usual steady game as Craig and I got our plows cleaned in all three categories. And we shot a best-ball 36 on the front side.