Eight Teams Move On to Sweet 16

A look at how UCLA, Duke, Gonzaga, LSU, Washington, Wichita State, Boston College and Florida advanced to the Sweet 16 with wins in the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday...

OK, raise your hand if you've kind of looked at the Gonzaga Bulldogs, more or less, as a one- (Adam Morrison) or, at best, a two-man (the combination of Morrison and senior center J.P. Batista) team this season . . .

 

Yeah, that's understandable.

 

But the Bulldogs of Coach Mark Few demonstrated that quite the contrary is the case during their 90-80 second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Indiana Saturday in Salt Lake City.

 

On a day when Morrison was limited to 14 points (on five of 16 shooting from the field), Gonzaga was still able to pull away down the stretch against a team many thought was more than capable of keeping the Bulldogs out of the Sweet 16 for the fifth year in a row.

 

And that's because five of his teammates, including Batista (with 20 points), also scored in double figures.

 

UCLA, which eked out a 62-59 victory over Alabama in San Diego Saturday afternoon, will have a lot more to cope with, defensively, than strictly the John R. Wooden Award candidate Thursday night in Oakland.

 

The three most impressive teams during the eight games played Saturday were Duke (74-61 over George Washington), Florida (82-60 against Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and Boston College (69-56 over Montana).

 

At the risk of delving into the repetitive, All-Americas Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick were outstanding for the Blue Devils, who easily handled the Colonials' pressure defense and, for the most part, their transition offense.

 

But the biggest reason for Duke fans – and coaches – to rejoice was the play of 6-10 freshman Josh McRoberts (14 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and a steal).

 

If he continues to play that way throughout the rest of the tournament, and Williams and Redick stay healthy, the Blue Devils will be very, very (as in extremely) difficult for anyone to beat – Connecticut included.

 

But Florida gets the nod as being the most impressive of the Thursday/Saturday teams over both of its games.

 

The Gators, two days after smoking South Alabama by 26 points, toyed Wisconsin-Milwaukee team, winning by 22 points behind its active and exuberant sophomore frontcourt of Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford.

 

If another sophomore, point guard Taurean Green, continues to make sound decisions with the basketball, Coach Billy Donovan's team will be a load to beat, no matter who they face Friday (Ohio State or Georgetown).

 

The other team that earned a trip to Minneapolis, Boston College, overwhelmed Montana over the final 20 minutes in Salt Lake City, extending a two-point advantage at intermission to as much as 22 points before coasting.

 

Do you think forwards Craig Smith and Jared Dudley were committed to doing all they could to get extend their team's season at least one more week?

 

They combined for 42 points, 23 rebounds and seven assists.

 

There were will be at least one "Cinderella-type" story in the Sweet 16 and that is thanks to Wichita State's 80-73 victory over Tennessee in Greensboro, which is sweet justification for those who championed the Missouri Valley Conference and also for those who believed the Volunteers should have lost their claim to a No. 2 seed when they lost four of their final six games against Southeastern Conference competition.

 

P.J. Cousinard. Be prepared to read and hear a lot about the 6-4 guard leading into the Shockers' Friday night game against North Carolina or George Mason, because there's so way they would be Washington, D.C.-bound without the sophomore from Houston.

 

He scored 20 points to go with nine rebounds and five assists and was the most complete on the floor.

 

And be prepared to read and hear a lot about how Wichita State's Mark Turgeon, one of the most likeable and down-to-earth guys in his business, is being courted by several athletic directors who have finally caught on to what a solid commodity he is.

 

LSU wobbled every time it built what appeared was a workable lead against Texas A&M and fell behind, 57-55, after an Acie Law jump shot in the final minute.

 

But Darrel Mitchel was anything but shaky while knocking in a 3-pointer to rescue the Tigers in Jacksonville and send them on their way to a Thursday night game with Duke in Atlanta.

 

Don't lose sight of this, though: The Aggies will now be a threat to win a Big 12 Conference championship, and make deep NCAA Tournament runs, as long as Bill Gillispie is their coach. The guy has a clue as to how it's supposed to be done.

 

And how about Washington?

 

The Huskies built a 14-point lead in the first half then fell behind by as many as 11 points in the second half before defeating Illinois, 67-64, in the other game played in San Diego.

 

Coach Lorenzo Romar's team, which wasn't given much national respect (well, other than by Scout.com, which had the Huskies 23rd in its preseason Top 25) after losing three starters from a Sweet 16 squad of a year ago, are led by the most complete guard in college basketball in Brandon Roy, who had 21 points and seven rebounds Saturday.

 

It could be a Huskies vs. Huskies showdown in Washington, D.C. Friday if Connecticut beats Kentucky in Philadelphia Sunday.

 

Regardless of the opponent, though, one thing should be considered a given by anyone who has had the opportunity to watch him this season: Roy will be the best player in that game Friday night.

 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame last April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a column for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com


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