Selection Sunday slightly puts the conference tournaments out of the spotlight, but tournament champions were declared in the ACC, where Virginia beat Duke; the SEC, in which Florida overcame Kentucky; an the Big Ten, with Michigan State beating Michigan.
As predicted, Virginia were simply too good defensively for a Duke team that’s struggled in winning big games away from home this season. The Cavaliers won 72-63, completing the ACC double, and winning their first conference tournament since 1976.
The key was keeping Duke and especially Jabari Parker out of the paint. The projected number one pick in the draft did finish with 23 points and 8 rebounds, but he shot a very poor 9-of-24 from the field. He was held to only 5-of-17 when Akil Mitchell was guarding him (15 rebounds for him), and shot 4-of-7 when others were paying attention.
Everything Duke are known for on the negative side came true, especially when it came to interior defense. Virginia scored 20 points in the paint during the second half (after only 6 in the first), taking 75% of their shots from inside the paint. They went to the line 38 times (missing 13 of them) compared to Duke’s 11. Malcolm Brogdon, with 23 points, made as many free throws as the entire Duke team.
In the Georgia Dome Florida beat Kentucky 61-60 for a third time this season, although it was a lot more difficult than before. Kentucky actually played some good defense throughout the second half, but it was Florida’s terrible free throw shooting (7-of-17 from the line) that made this a close game, and not just Kentucky’s “brilliance”.
Florida will be a number one seed in the tournament, winning the conference tournament for the first time since 2007, the year Billy Donovan led the Gators to a second in back-to-back national titles. Is this the year history repeats itself?
Florida were lead by Patric Young and Michael Frazier, both scoring 14 points. Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin each scored 11 points, as the team did an excellent job on Julius Randle, finishing with only 1-of-7 from the field and 7 points. Aaron Harrison led the scoring for the Wildcats with 16 points.
In the Big Ten, Michigan State showed just how much better of a team they are than their Wolverine brothers by beating Michigan 69-55. Things look very different when Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson are playing.
Payne led the Spartans in scoring with 18 poitns and 9 rebounds. He got help from Dawson and Gary Harris, both scoring 15 points as the Spartans held Michigan to only 31.5% from the field and an appalling 26.1% from beyond the arc.
Like we said before the game, it’s not just the players coming back. The moment a team is able to take the Wolverines out of their fast paced shooting game, they don’t have a plan B. Few teams have a good enough defense and interior game to make it happen, but Michigan State, a healthy those of them at least, is more than capable of that.