Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2013 NCAA Tourney: the Round of 32 in Review

-- Adrienne Webb, LSU. With just seven players at her disposal and with an injured star in Theresa Plaisance, coach Nikki Caldwell turned to senior guard Adrienne Webb. Boy howdy, did the kid ever deliver. For a moment, forget that she dropped 29 points on Penn State. And forget that she drained a 3-pointer in the waning minutes. What she did that blew me away was take Maggie Lucas completely out of the game. Lucas is Penn State's best player and the best player in the Big 10; she is one of the best players in the country. I've been watching basketball long enough to know that sometimes even the best shooters have a cold stretch. Lucas started the game on what I thought was a cold stretch, but it became apparent as the game wore on that it wasn't Lucas being cold. Webb froze her out -- she turned Lucas cold. Though Caldwell was running a zone, it was often Webb who was right in Lucas' face. And I mean, In. Her. Face. It was so bad that with time ticking away, Penn State didn't even try to get the ball to Lucas. Maggie Lucas not taking the last shot? Crazy! To my mind, Webb was the player of the tourney in this round.

Next up for the Tigers? A Cal team that looked pretty shaky against South Florida on Monday night.

-- Brittney Griner, Baylor. Another double-double (33 points, 22 rebounds), complete with three dunks. Griner is just messing with opponents at this point.

-- Monica Engelman and Angel Goodrich, Kansas. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, saw this coming. Kansas squeaked into the tournament with a 20-13 record (worse, 8-10 in conference). Sure, some of those losses came against very good teams like Oklahoma, Baylor and Iowa State, but still, I didn't expect them to make it past Colorado in the opening round. And then this? Beating Dawn Staley's team? (Likely the Gamecocks would have had a better chance had Staley just suited up and played the second half ...) The Jayhawks did it because senior guards Monica Engelman (27 points) and Angel Goodrich (20 points, 8 assists) just went off. You might think that a diminutive guard like Goodrich (only 5' 4") might hit most of her 20 points on 3-point shots, but she only dropped two of those, instead hitting on lay-ups, jumpers and free throws. Even more impressive than her points was her ability to facilitate. If you look through the play by play of this game, what you'll see over and over again is:  'Monica Engelman made Two Point Layup. Assisted by Angel Goodrich.' I'm sure Dawn Staley will be seeing that combination in her nightmares this off-season.

-- Elena Delle Donne, Delaware. Holy Happy Joe Biden! Did you see Delle Donne's 3-pointer as time expired in the first half? THAT is how you finish a half, people.

Delle Donne does everything for the Blue Hens -- she post up, she dribble drives, she gets her own put backs and she plays a cleaner defense than just about anybody I've ever seen. But for me, and I think for many, questions remained. Playing in the CAA, it's not like she playing against teams in the Big East or Big 12, so really, how would she respond when a team from a big-time conference got physical? And that's exactly what UNC did -- they got physical, they bodied up, and they tried to wear her out. For a minute or two, it looked like it might work, but when Delle Donne went a bit cold shooting, teammate Trumae Lucas played the game of her life. That's the thing about Delle Donne -- even though she can do it all, she can't do everything. She needs some help to win games so Lucas drove the lane fearlessly, put in a few bunnies and drew a few fouls. It was the little extra nudge that Delaware needed to advance to the Sweet 16. Look out, Kaintuck, these kids might be for real.

-- Jordan Hooper, Nebraska. I only see a couple of Nebraska games a year, sometimes less, but for whatever reason, I always think of them as a team that's a bit soft. But against Gary Blair's Aggies, proven to be one of the tougher teams out there, Hooper and the Huskers proved me wrong. 21 points and 8 rebounds for Hooper, with teammate Lindsey Moore chipping in 20 points. [While we're here, did any player have a worse tournament than A&M's Kelsey Bone?]

photo:  Patrick Semansky, AP
-- Alyssa Thomas, Maryland. I have been a fan of Alyssa Thomas for years. The word that always comes to mind when I watch Thomas is gutty. I've seen her stumble and turn in a bad performance, then turn it around. That, to me, is gutty. In Hollywood circles, she's what might be known as a red-light performer, one who saves her best effort for when the cameras are rolling. In two games in the NCAA tourney, Thomas has scored 28 and 29 points, respectively. In the second round, she staked her Terps to a big halftime lead and took all the air out of the Spartans. Next up? UConn. Oh well, it's been a nice run anyway.

-- Joanna McFarland, Oklahoma. McFarland had another monster game (20 points and 16 rebounds) to take out #3 seeded UCLA in the second round. It doesn't hurt that while she dominates in the paint, she has teammate Aaryn Ellenberg (27 points, with six 3-pointers) patrolling the perimeter. 

-- Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, UConn. Even in a relatively quiet night (by her standards, 22 points is a quiet night), she's still the best player on the floor. We are careening towards a certain Notre Dame v. UConn Final Four showdown, aren't we? (Not that I'm complaining ...)

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