NCAA Tournament 2013: Winners, Losers, Heroes and Goats of Day 5

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 24, 2013

NCAA Tournament 2013: Winners, Losers, Heroes and Goats of Day 5

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    Eight games on Saturday means eight teams advance to the Sweet 16 while another eight head back home wondering what could have been.

    However, there were far more than just eight winners and losers—especially if you had Gonzaga or Saint Louis going to the Final Four.

    Here are the 20 biggest winners and losers from another day of March Madness.

Hero: Spike Albrecht

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    You could make a case for any Wolverine starter aside from Nik Stauskas in this hero spot, but Spike Albrecht single-handedly sucked the life out of VCU’s comeback attempt.

    With 13:54 remaining, Juvonte Reddic hit a lay-up to cut Michigan’s lead to 14 just 10 seconds after Trey Burke committed a charge for his seventh turnover of the game. It just felt like VCU was about to go on one of those runs.

    Albrecht either didn’t sense it or didn’t care.

    He came right back down the court and drained a three-pointer, following it up with some scrappy defense and a rebound on VCU’s subsequent possession. He then made the pass of the tournament, threading a bouncing needle from half court to Glenn Robinson III for a breakaway dunk.

    In the span of 28 seconds, the freshman exceeded his season average in both points and assists and effectively put the final nail in VCU’s coffin.

Loser: Shaka Smart

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    Amid other completely absurd anecdotes, Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery talked about Shaka Smart taking his Rams to nearby Richmond to train with Navy SEALs before the season, where they got in ice boats at five in the morning to allegedly train for the intensity of the NCAA tournament.

    Perhaps they should have been working on three-point shooting or general half-court offense instead.

    The message is out on how to beat the Rams. Like the Wildcat offense in football, Havoc is a “gimmick” that works when opposing teams are unprepared for it or not athletic enough to beat it. The best teams can figure out how to deal with it after a practice or two.

    When your offense relies so heavily upon a defense that can ultimately be beaten, sometimes, you get blown out of the ice water.

Winner: The State of Michigan

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    It’s certainly no surprise when a No. 3 seed or No. 4 seed makes it to the Sweet 16.

    Michigan and Michigan State did it with style in Auburn Hills, each winning its Round of 32 game by more than 20 points.

    No offense to Valparaiso or Memphis, but most people expected the Spartans to get this far with ease.

    The Wolverines’ journey was at least a little more in doubt.

    VCU was a popular sleeper pick for the Final Four up until the beating that Trey Burke and Mitch McGary laid down on Saturday. Because of how it played over the final six weeks of the season—including famously losing to Penn State—the former No. 1 team in the nation was perhaps overlooked in many brackets.

    No matter. Michigan will represent 12.5 percent of the Sweet 16 next week.

Hero: Adreian Payne

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    This has nothing to do with his 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks against Memphis.

    In the 25 minutes of pregame build-up between the Michigan and Michigan State games, CBS ran a piece about Payne’s “little sister” Lacey Holsworth, a seven-year old girl diagnosed with Neuroblastoma.

    Kentucky’s head coach John Calipari is fairly well-known in the Lexington area for his philanthropy. It seems Michigan State’s head coach Tom Izzo isn’t much different.

    It’s not uncommon for a coach to insist that his players do some community service, but it’s obvious that Payne took it seriously and still keeps in touch with “Lil Lacey” to this day.

    In one of those stories that instantly tugs at your heartstrings, Adreian Payne became one of the biggest heroes in the tournament field and made it maybe one percent more difficult for opposing fans to root against him.

Goat: Chris Crawford

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    Chris Crawford has been Memphis’ primary long-range shooter in each of the past two seasons, hitting 41 percent of his 173 attempts this season and 19-of-35 during the Conference USA tournament.

    However, he was helpless against Michigan State’s defense on Saturday afternoon.

    In 29 minutes of action, Crawford hit just two of his 13 shots and went 0-for-5 from three-point range. He also committed three turnovers and had just one assist in the game. Just as painful, he was helpless on defense, allowing Gary Harris to score 16 first-half points.

    On both ends of the court, Crawford contributed pretty significantly to Memphis’ demise.

Winner: D.J. Stephens

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    I’m man enough to admit that I was blissfully unaware of what D.J. Stephens was up to in his senior season until the conference tournament.

    Chances are I’m not alone, as Stephens still isn’t in Chad Ford’s Top 100 draft prospects despite a “kiss the rim” vertical leap.

    Stephens had eight blocks on Thursday against Saint Mary’s and another four on Saturday against Michigan State. He still hasn’t figured out the whole scoring thing, but that’s much more teachable than how to out-jump Tigger.

    Has he shown NBA scouts enough to get drafted this June? It's hard to tell.

    Is his stock higher than it was a month ago? Without question.

    Would I be thrilled if my favorite NBA team took a second-round flyer on him? You betcha.

Loser: Colorado State's Guard Play

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    During the regular season, Colorado State was one of the best teams at avoiding turnovers. At 10.76 turnovers per game, the Rams ranked 12th in the country.

    They were near the bottom of the nation in steals, but still averaged 4.88 per game.

    They committed 19 turnovers against Louisville without creating a single steal of their own.

    Assists are a fairly subjective statistic, but the Rams had 13 per game during the regular season and just four against the Cardinals.

    No matter how you slice it, they were destroyed by the tournament favorites. Even their best statistic (rebounding) failed them on Saturday, as they were out-rebounded by Louisville too.

    Perhaps the loser isn’t so much Colorado State as it is anyone who didn’t pick Louisville to win it all in their bracket pool. No one has any chance against that team right now.

Hero: Russ Smith

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    Russ Smith was one of the 25 midseason candidates for the Wooden Award, but was not one of the 15 finalists announced on March 9.

    That was all the motivation Russ-diculous needed.

    Smith has scored at least 20 points in four of the five games since March 9, including a phenomenal 27-point effort against Colorado State in the Round of 32.

    Smith drained a three-pointer just 28 seconds into the game, yet Louisville trailed by two points at the under-12 media timeout. Over the final 11:30 of the first half, Smith scored 13 points in leading the Cardinals on a 31-15 run to effectively end the game before the intermission.

    He also added three rebounds, two assists and two steals in the 26-point victory.

    One of the announcers asked the other if Russ Smith reminds him of the 2011 version of Kemba Walker.

    Imagine if Walker had Smith’s supporting cast.

Goat: Kevin Parrom

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    A goat from a team that won by 23 points? That doesn’t seem right.

    Well, Kevin Parrom was pretty worthless in the victory.

    After committing four fouls in the season opener, Parrom was whistled more than three times just once in the next 34 games. However, he only lasted 14 minutes before fouling out against Harvard.

    In those 14 minutes, he was fairly ineffective, hitting the only shot that he took, grabbing two rebounds and registering one assist—all significantly below his season average.

    Good thing they didn’t need him, because he was pretty committed to watching the bulk of the game from the bench. Can you blame him, though? Seems like a great seat to soak in your favorite team winning a blowout to reach the Sweet 16.

Hero: Mark Lyons

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    Mark Lyons has been playing Hero Ball for most of the season, so this only seems appropriate.

    Against a Harvard team that baffled the life out of New Mexico, Lyons tied a career-high 27 points in shooting 12-of-17 from the field.

    The peripheral stats were right on par with his season average—tallying three assists, two turnovers and one steal—but when he decided to score, there was nothing anyone in crimson could do to stop him.

    Lyons scored 14 of Arizona’s 17 points over an eight-minute stretch early in the second half, extending the lead from 15 to 20.

    Harvard never got back within 17.

Loser: The Selection Committee

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    So there’s this thing called “The Bracket Matrix.”

    It’s run by some guy named Brian that I have never met, but I greatly appreciate the work he does.

    Throughout the course of the season, he compiles the projected brackets from 120 professional and amateur bracketologists into one centralized location, averaging each team’s seed to project where each team should be seeded. Oregon’s average seed was a 7.65.

    Only five people had them pegged for a double-digit seed, and four of those five people were among the 13 least accurate brackets of the bunch. Not a single person had the Ducks slotted for a No. 12 seed.

    Please don’t misinterpret this as sour grapes over a busted bracket.

    Oklahoma State and Saint Louis were completely screwed over by the selection committee. Not only were they placed in a pod in San Jose with a should-have-been No. 8 seed, but put in unanimously the most difficult region of the four.

    Those poor teams never had a chance, and they only have the committee to blame.

Winner: Arsalan Kazemi

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    Four days ago, very few people east of the Rockies knew his name.

    Even fewer people knew how to spell it.

    In the previous three seasons, Arsalan Kazemi toiled away for a Rice team that failed to even sniff the NCAA tournament during his tenure.

    Over the course of his four-year collegiate career, he has averaged a double-double. But he’s just now becoming famous.

    In Oregon’s two tournament games, Kazemi has 19 points, 33 rebounds—13 offensive rebounds!—and approximately 200 hustle plays.

    If your bracket is hopelessly busted and you’re just looking for a fun team to root for from this point forward, look no further than the Ducks.

Goat: Mike McCall Jr.

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    It was not a good seven days for Mike McCall Jr.

    Averaging just shy of 10 points per game during the season, McCall scored a grand total of five points in Saint Louis’ final three games. On Saturday, he scored nary a point on 0-for-6 shooting and didn’t do much of anything to keep Oregon’s Damyean Dotson from scoring 23 points.

    The 41-percent three-pointer shooter missed all six of his long-range shots over the course of those three games.

    To be sure, his role in the offense was marginalized when Kwamain Mitchell returned from offseason surgery. However, he was still a regular contributor, scoring at least four points in all but one game this season before this rough three-game stretch.

Hero: Davante Gardner

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    By no means was this one of Davante Gardner's better games of the season.

    With 5.5 seconds remaining, Gardner was 1-for-5 from the field with six points, four rebounds and two turnovers in 19 minutes of action. In every way, it was a below-average game for the big man.

    That didn't stop him from stepping to the line with a two-point lead and draining consecutive free throws to all but ice the game for the Golden Eagles.

    Because of two miracle plays that could only happen for Butler, the Bulldogs were in a position to tie or win the game on a last-second inbound play.

    Gardner jumped and flailed his 6'8", 290-pound body in front of the trigger man, forcing Butler to settle for an Andrew Smith desperate throw toward the hoop that never had a chance.

Loser: Anyone Who Based Their Picks on 2011

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    I love Butler and VCU as much as the next guy, but if you had either of them in the Final Four, it was not your day.

    Also, it's really weird that you had Kentucky and Connecticut in your Final Four. That should have been a sign that you weren't winning any pools this year.

    VCU never had a chance against Michigan, but Butler's March magic wore off in heartbreaking fashion.

    Seriously, when Rotnei Clarke lined up that three-point shot with seven seconds remaining, you thought it was going in, right?

    And when Butler got the ball back after a Marquette turnover with two seconds remaining, you thought the worst-case scenario at that point was the first overtime game of the tournament, didn't you?

    Even as Andrew Smith was tripping over his own ankle and hopelessly heaving the ball towards the hoop, you thought it would somehow rattle in, yes?

    It just wasn't meant to be in 2013.

Winner: Vander Blue

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    After fairly lackluster showings in his freshman and sophomore campaigns, Vander Blue has spent more time winning in his junior year than Charlie Sheen spent winning back in 2011.

    Saturday night was no different.

    Blue scored 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line against America's favorite Cinderella team. Each point and each of his four steals were crucial in a two-point win that went right down to the wire.

    Just two days prior, he hit the game-winning lay-up to lead Marquette to a last-second win over Davidson.

    Perhaps it's just Blue's lucky year.

Goat: Gary Bell Jr.

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    It's a little unfair to peg the loss on Gary Bell Jr., who missed much of the second half with some sort of leg injury. Although, if you search "Gary Bell" on Twitter, you'll find plenty of people claiming the game would've gone differently with him in there.

    And we all know that Twitter analysis is nothing short of doctrine.

    Perhaps those people have a point, though. Mark Few considered Bell his best perimeter defender. To be fair, a tackling dummy would provide better perimeter defense than the rest of Gonzaga's guards.

    The Shockers certainly got hot from the perimeter without him in there, though, hitting seven of their final nine three-point attempts.

    However, in the 21 minutes of action before the injury, Bell didn't do a doggone thing. He missed his only two shot attempts, grabbed two rebounds, committed one turnover and that's it. Nothing else in the stat sheet from a guy who averaged 9.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists during the regular season.

    Clearly, Gonzaga missed his defense down the stretch, but shortly after he left the game, the Bulldogs turned a four-point deficit into an eight-point lead.

    It almost seemed like they were better off without him on the court.

Hero: Ron Baker

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    There have been a lot of key pieces to Wichita State's season.

    Carl Hall led the Shockers in rebounding and was dearly missed during a seven-game stretch in the middle of the season.

    Cleanthony Early led them in scoring and—along with Malcolm Armstead—was one of the key guys they turned to in the clutch.

    Even Tekele Cotton had a huge role as a poor man's version of Aaron Craft, frustrating opposing guards with his quick hands.

    Ron Baker came out of nowhere.

    The freshman guard suffered a stress fracture in his foot and missed 60 percent of the season. However, he was everywhere in Wichita State's upset of Gonzaga, with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.

    Baker scored eight points in a span of 88 seconds in the final minutes, turning a four-point deficit into a four-point lead.

Loser: California's Three Primary Guards

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    They hit a couple of shots down the stretch, but with 2:20 remaining in the game, the trio of Allen Crabbe, Justin Cobbs and Tyrone Wallace was a combined 6-for-25 from the field and 2-for-14 from long range for a grand total of 15 points.

    On the season, they averaged 41.1 points per game.

    Richard Solomon played admirably against one of the best interior defenses in the country, recording a double-double and almost single-handedly keeping the Golden Bears in the game. It wasn't quite enough to make up for a horrendous night of three-point shooting.

    The three guards combined for eight assists and 11 turnovers in helping Syracuse advance to the Sweet 16 despite missing 15 free throws in the game.

Winner: Jim Boeheim

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    The players change, but the product remains the same.

    For the fourth time in the last five seasons, Jim Boeheim's Orange advanced to the Sweet 16.

    In the past few years, Syracuse has dealt with a scandal involving former associate head coach Bernie Fine and several issues of academic probation, but it hasn't fazed Boeheim and his 2-3 zone.

    Behind 32 points and 15 rebounds from C.J. Fair and James Southerland, the Orange advance to a potential showdown with Indiana.