NCAA Tournament 2013 Scores: Analyzing Saturday's Early Blowouts
Saturday evening provided plenty of March Madness for college basketball fans, but the day's earlier third-round 2013 NCAA tournament action consisted of complete blowouts.
The No. 1 overall seed Louisville Cardinals showed why they garnered that distinction from the selection committee, while Big Ten titans Michigan and Michigan State proved why their conference is widely considered the nation's best.
Harvard was one of the biggest surprise winners in the Round of 64, but its dreams of a Sweet 16 berth were smashed by a suddenly dangerous Arizona Wildcats squad.
Here is a breakdown of each matchup involving the aforementioned squads, which have to be considered among the favorites to reach the Final Four in Atlanta.
Michigan 78, Virginia Commonwealth 53
The third round kicked off with a tantalizing clash between two potent offenses, and should have been close considering the havoc-wreaking nature of the Rams' defense.
Apparently no one told the Wolverines that Shaka Smart's full-court press was supposed to be troublesome.
Although star point guard Trey Burke did have seven turnovers, it was Michigan's size on the inside that made the huge difference. Talented freshman big man Mitch McGary took advantage of a rare starting opportunity to lead Michigan with 21 points and a whopping 14 rebounds.
McGary missed just one shot from the field, and set several bone-crushing screens that opened up valuable perimeter looks for his teammates.
Since Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and versatile forward Glenn Robinson III are all capable ball-handlers for the Wolverines, the Rams ultimately couldn't produce desirable results when they pressed—particularly in the final 20 minutes.
It also didn't help that VCU's typically high-octane offense couldn't knock down perimeter shots. Troy Daniels struggled most, hitting just 1-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Michigan's defense is often criticized, but it came to play against a very dangerous team—and the result was nothing short of phenomenal. A matchup with the South's top seed in Kansas likely looms, which promises to be another defensive challenge.
Michigan State 70, Memphis 48
Guard play is critical in March, and that's a big reason why the Spartans and Tom Izzo have been so successful for years.
Freshman sensation Gary Harris proved that to be true against the Tigers, and ESPN Stats & Info highlighted what was ultimately a historic afternoon:
Gary Harris scored 23 points, the most points ever by a Michigan State freshman under Tom Izzo in the NCAA Tournament.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 23, 2013
Harris lit up the scoreboard for 16 points in the first half to give Michigan State a slim lead at the break. From there, Sparty's characteristically suffocating defense held Memphis to 19 points in the second half.
As ESPN notes, 31 of the Tigers' 64 field goal attempts came after one pass or fewer. That lack of ball movement is a testament to how strong Michigan State's perimeter defense was, keyed by Harris and Keith Appling.
But the Spartan's tandem of big men, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix, also bullied the Tigers' smaller lineup on both ends of the court, combining for 27 points, 18 rebounds and six steals, while Payne also swatted away five shots.
Memphis shot under 30 percent for the game, marking a disappointing end to the season for the Conference USA champions.
The Spartans move on to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in six years, slated to face the victor of Sunday's probable high-scoring affair between No. 2 seed Duke and No. 7 seed Creighton.
Louisville 82, Colorado State 56
There isn't much to say about this one except that the Cardinals looked like the best team in the country, putting together a second consecutive dominant performance.
Typically known for head coach Rick Pitino's patented swarming defense, Louisville notched 45 points in the first half to jump out to a 14-point lead. Unfortunately for the Rams, they couldn't even begin to fathom a rally.
Russ Smith had 27 points for the Cardinals, which compelled Miami Heat star LeBron James to give him a shout-out on Twitter.
The lil homie Russ Smith putting on a show right now! #onfire— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 23, 2013
Colorado State's Pierce Hornung averaged nine rebounds entering this game, but snagged only one in this contest. The Rams had a strong shooting performance in stroking it at 47. 5 percent, but were overwhelmed by the Cardinals' pressure, coughing up a season-worst 20 turnovers.
If Louisville continues this form at both ends, the path to the national semifinals should not provide too much resistance from the Midwest region until a prospective Elite Eight encounter with Michigan State.
Since No. 12 seed Oregon pulled off consecutive upsets this weekend, that is who the Cardinals will face on March 29 in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Arizona 74, Harvard 51
Any notions that an upset was coming again for the shocking Crimson were quickly dismissed by the Wildcats, who opened the game on a 30-9 run and never looked back.
Harvard never got it going from the field, bricking its first 13 field goal attempts. Tommy Amaker's upstart bunch shot 27.6 percent for the game and center Kenyatta Smith was the only one to reach double-figures with 10 points.
Meanwhile, Mark Lyons was on absolute fire for the Wildcats. He drained 12-of-17 shots from the floor and wound up with a game-high 27 points. Athletic forward Solomon Hill was solid, notching a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The length of Arizona front line was too much for Harvard's Wesley Saunders to handle.
After keying the Crimson's stunning upset over New Mexico with 18 points, Saunders hit just 1-of-12 field goal attempts.
Pac-12 Digital senior correspondent Bryan Fischer brought up a good point after the Wildcats' decisive triumph:
If there was ever a year for Arizona to make a surprise run to the Final Four, they certainly got the bracket to do it.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) March 24, 2013
Sean Miller maintained a respectable program at Xavier, and he is now getting it done at the historic Arizona program in Tucson, keyed by a Musketeer transfer in Lyons. This marks the Wildcats' 15th appearance in the Sweet 16, where they will meet the winner of Ohio State and Iowa State.
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