NCAA Tournament: Top 10 takeaways from Saturday's basketball games

By The Sports Xchange  |  March 20, 2016 at 9:01 AM
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Top 10 takeaways from Saturday's basketball NCAA Tournament action:

1. They came within one win of their third Sweet 16 in four years. They went to the Final Four together.

Now, the college careers of Wichita State guards Fred VanVleet and Ryan Baker are over.

"A couple of years ago, I told Fred that we would be back in the Final Four after we lost to Louisville (in the national semifinal) walking down the tunnel, and I wasn't able to keep that promise to him," Baker said after Saturday's round of 32 loss to Miami. "We weren't able to get back, and that goes to show you how hard this tournament really is and how well you have to play."

VanVleet said, "It hasn't really sunk in yet. I just want to go back and watch the film and break it down and get ready for our next team that we're playing. For it to be over, it will probably take a while to get used to."

As they spoke, their coach, Greg Marshall, dabbed at some tears.

"Just thank these guys to my right and all five seniors for allowing us to ride their coattails. They've taken us on the ... I term it a magic carpet ride for the last five years and Evan (Wessel) and Ron and four years from Fred. What they've done for this program, this university, the state of Kansas and college basketball, it's been incredible."

2. North Carolina has turned out to be a second-half team through two games in the NCAA Tournament.

The Tar Heels outscored both of their opponents -- Florida Gulf Coast and Providence -- by 15 points in the second half.

North Carolina felt a lot better once its lead reached double figures.

"There's a huge difference when you look up there and it's seven (points ahead) and then you're looking up seeing double digits, at least psychologically for me," Tar Heels senior guard Marcus Paige said.

North Carolina led by one point and four points at halftime of its two games in Raleigh, N.C.

"Give credit to Providence," Paige said. "It wasn't going to be a cakewalk."

3. Sophomore Marial Shayok continues to become more a part of Virginia's rotation.

He has scored in double figures in consecutive games in the NCAA Tournament. At times, it looked like the Cavaliers were looking for him as a primary option in the second-round victory against Butler on Saturday.

With Shayok on the court, the Cavaliers can go to a form of a four-guard attack. That worked wonders against Butler.

But coach Tony Bennett said there aren't plays specifically designed for Shayok.

"We don't have a play for him," Bennett said. "He's going to ask for one now, I'm sure."

4. The Gonzaga Bulldogs reached the Sweet 16 or the seventh time, and this year might be the most improbable for the class of the mid-majors.

The Bulldogs are seeded 11th in the Midwest Regional and beat No. 6 Seton Hall and No. 3 Utah. Coach Mark Few doesn't think that means his team was underseeded.

"Our numbers weren't great," Few said. "They kind of seed off the RPI. That was fine."

Gonzaga might be favored when it gets to Chicago to play No. 10 Syracuse or No. 15 Middle Tennessee State.

5. Chris Beard usually sheds tears with his team at the end of the season, but in his first year coaching Arkansas-Little Rock, he didn't. After the 12th-seeded Trojans lost to fourth-seeded Iowa State on Saturday, he found only satisfaction with the season.

"I've cried every year. I didn't cry this year," Beard said. "I'm happy, man. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my coaching career because I just had a chance to coach these guys and we really had a special season."

Beating fifth-seeded Purdue in the first round of the Midwest Regional made it special, and Beard takes that into his first offseason at Little Rock.

6. Jim Larranaga proved you can go home again.

"I have a lot of fond memories of playing at Providence College," the Miami coach said after his Hurricanes moved into the Sweet 16 with a win over Wichita State in Providence on Saturday.

"The other day one of our Providence College fans gave me my little trading card with my picture from 1969, and it had my stats on the back. And one of my coaches took it from me and showed the players and they said, 'Man, you shot a lot.' I said, 'I only shot when I had the ball.'"

Larranaga played for Joe Mullaney and Dave Gavitt and with Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes. He came right out of college and got his first college assistant's job at age 21.

7. Larranaga said the technical foul he received in the second half of Saturday's game was only his second in his five years of coaching at Miami. He just doesn't think coaches should get technical fouls.

This one seemed to help as the Hurricanes, who had blown a 21-point first-half lead, responded and won the game.

"The way we were playing to start the second half, we had careless turnovers, we were very tentative, very unlike the way we played to start the game," he said. "And as (Wichita State) began to whittle down the lead, instead of getting tougher and fighting harder, we tended to let up.

"So I wanted the players to know, 'Listen, we need to fight right now and I'm going to fight for you. I'm going to let the referees know that I'm fighting on the sideline.

"So after the technical foul. I think it snapped our guys out of the doldrums and got them aggressive again, which I'd have to say was good timing."

8. Yale coach James Jones saw a familiar face in the stands this weekend -- his brother Joe, who also coaches men's hoops at Boston University.

But Joe had no intention of stealing his older sibling's spotlight.

"He knows what he's doing," Joe said. "He's enjoying every step of the way. I just tell him how happy I am for him."

James owns bragging rights with a 9-5 edge in their head-to-head matchups.

"He got a little head start, so it's a little misleading I always tell him," said Joe, who also coached at Ivy League rival Columbia.

9. The biggest takeaway from Indiana's 73-67 win over Kentucky on Saturday is that the Hoosiers have basically been underappreciated all season and just now might finally be getting their due.

Indiana won the Big Ten outright but was slighted for only playing Michigan State, Purdue and Maryland once each. Then the Hoosiers were not only handed a five seed but sent to a pod that featured Kentucky, a trendy pick to reach the Final Four after the bracket was released.

Yet when it mattered in crunch time, Indiana made the plays down the stretch like it has most of this season.

"Long story short, they've responded all year to getting better," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "They've responded to success. They've responded to adversity. The more they're doubted, the better they are."

10. After Kansas' 73-61 win over Connecticut on Saturday night, it's clear that when the Jayhawks are on, there's no better team in the country right now.

UConn entered the second-round matchup as one of the top defensive teams in the country in terms of field goal percentage. Yet Kansas assembled 16-0 and 19-0 runs during the first half and shot better than 55 percent from the floor en route to a 20-point lead at halftime.

In addition, the Jayhawks were dominant on the glass from the get-go. They grabbed more rebounds in the first half alone (25) than the Huskies had in the game (24).

"We were really, really, really good the first half," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I thought both ends we defended, we rebounded, we put pressure on the defense, and of course it helps when you make shots."

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