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March 31, 2008
Bracket Breakdown
Elite Eight, Day Two

by Ken Pomeroy

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(1) Memphis 85, (2) Texas 67 [69 possessions]

The first game of the day produced yet another Elite Eight whitewash, as Memphis was able to score against the Texas zone, the Texas man-to-man, and the Texas box-and-one with regularity. On top of that, Memphis made 30 of 36 free throws. For a team that generally wins with their D, the Tigers have put together consecutive offensive masterpieces, although this effort was padded a bit in garbage time by the parade of successful free throws.

In fact, to say that the Tigers win with defense is becoming outdated. As long as Memphis is getting Shawn Taggart and Joey Dorsey to chip in 20-25 points combined, this is an offense to be feared. As long as the Tigers arenít going to settle for 3-point shots when they face zone, this is an offense to be feared.

Amazingly, Texas finished the game with just eight turnovers. This is amazing because they racked up all eight in the first 16:15 of the game. By that point, the Horns were down 17. Texas didnít commit a giveaway the rest of the game and still was unable to make up ground, as Memphis continually forced Texas into difficult shots and pounded it inside on the offensive end.

(1) Kansas 59, (10) Davidson 57 [63]

It all came down to this one with Doomsday hanging in the balance, and the forces of evil won. Unlike Memphis, the Jayhawks relied heavily on their defense. Stephen Curry got his (25 points), but needed 25 FGA's and 3 FTA's to get there. Davidson is more than just Curry, but it needs an efficient Curry in order to have a solid offensive performance. The Wildcats' season ended much the same way it began, by taking a national power to the limit in a maddeningly tense game. Neither team led by more than six, and Davidson had a final possession to win the game.

Jason Richardsí three-point heave barely drew iron, and the nation is now left to face the first ďFantastic FourĒ of exclusively one seeds in the 30 years that this event has been seeded. Even more shocking, D-I teams played 5,586 games this season and we didnít learn a thing about college basketballís elite. Most people identified the four best teams before Richmond and Maine played in the first contest of the season on November 5th. Some five months later, it has been confirmed that UNC, Memphis, UCLA, and Kansas are the top four teams in the nation. For the first time ever, madness didnít make the Final Four. The four best teams will play three games to determine a national champion.

This has a couple of major ramifications in college hoops. First, you canít ridicule the one dude in your pool that picks all the one seeds next season. In fact, that one dude will now become about ten and probably include you. Second, it provides increasing evidence that weíve entered an era of decreased parity. In 2005, the two best teams in the country met in the final game. Last season, we were just three games from realizing the Doomsday Scenario, while Florida completed a run of 12 consecutive tournament wins.

Conventional wisdom says that the increase of players leaving early for the NBA increases parity. I think itís becoming clear that the opposite is true. If every player stayed four years, the top high school talent would be better dispersed, because blue-chippers are looking for playing time first. The way it is now, top talent is just as likely to find playing time at the traditional powers as anywhere else.

Thatís the case this season. Keep in mind that three of the four teams still alive lost players to the NBA last season that had eligibility remaining, yet this group of four was the most dominant group of top seeds weíve ever seen. Richardsí shot was the only time in the tournament a one seed surrendered a shot that would have lost it the game had it gone in. There was very little luck involved in any of these teamsí journeys to San Antonio.

Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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Bracket Breakdown (03/30)
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A Changing Landscape (04/01)

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2008-03-31 - Bracket Breakdown: Elite Eight, Day Two
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