UK Men's Basketball

Big Dance stock report: SEC & players from Kentucky are up; ACC down

De'Aaron Fox says Malik Monk is a volcano

Kentucky guard De'Aaron Fox talks about Malik Monk's big plays in win over Wichita State.
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Kentucky guard De'Aaron Fox talks about Malik Monk's big plays in win over Wichita State.

Whose stock is up and whose is down after the first week of March Madness:

Up: Southeastern Conference basketball. After a season when the prevailing consensus was that SEC basketball stank like a rotting fish, Southeastern Conference teams were stellar in the NCAA Tournament’s first week.

Kentucky took care of its business, subduing plucky Northern Kentucky then grinding out a mettle-tester vs. Wichita State in the round of 32.

It was not a huge surprise that Florida advanced to the round of 16, although the margin of the Gators’ 65-39 second round obliteration of the ACC’s Virginia was attention-grabbing.

What was stunning was Frank Martin and South Carolina ousting ACC Tournament champion Duke Sunday in the round of 32.

Down 30-23 at halftime, Sindarius Thornwell and the often offensively-challenged Gamecocks hung 65 second-half points on the Dookies — the most ever given up in a half by a Mike Krzyzewski-coached Blue Devils team — and shocked college basketball with an 88-81 win.

Even more amazing, another perceived-as-middling SEC team, Arkansas, was achingly close to eliminating the ACC’s other traditional kingpin, North Carolina. After rallying from 17 points down in the first half, Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks led UNC 65-60 with just more than three minutes left Sunday.

Roy Williams’ Tar Heels then closed the game on a 12-0 run.

Had Vanderbilt not self-destructed and lost to Northwestern after a late-game brain cramp, the SEC would have gone 5-0 in first round games. As it is, the league stands 7-2 and is tied with the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 for the most remaining teams with three.

Down: Atlantic Coast Conference basketball. After a season of hosannas to the strength of the ACC, the league laid a dinosaur egg when it mattered most.

Of the nine ACC teams that began the NCAAs, only North Carolina is still alive. The second round was an ACC massacre with Virginia, Florida State, Notre Dame, Louisville and Duke going down. At 7-8, the ACC is the only one of the six major hoops conferences with a losing record so far in the NCAA tourney.

So, was the ACC over-rated all season?

Or was the league as good as advertised but merely the victim of one bad weekend?

Up: Kentucky high school hoops products. Four players from Kentucky have performed well for teams that have made the round of 16.

UK senior Dominique Hawkins (Madison Central) has scored seven points in both of Kentucky’s NCAA tourney wins. His three baskets in the first half against Wichita State Sunday when the Wildcats were struggling to score were crucial.

Wildcats forward Derek Willis (Bullitt East) has turned himself into a stat stuffer late in his final UK season. He went for eight points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots vs. NKU. He came back with nine points, eight rebounds and three steals vs. WSU.

Xavier’s Quentin Goodin (Taylor County) was pressed into full-time point guard duty after Musketeers starter Edmond Sumner was lost to a torn ACL in late January. Goodin struggled initially, but the ex-Kentucky high school standout played 39 minutes in X’s round of 64 win over Maryland with nine points and nine assists.

In Xavier’s second-round pasting of Florida State, Goodin logged 34 minutes with six points and five assists.

After Butler’s Kelan Martin (Ballard) had 10 points and eight rebounds in an opening-round victory over Winthrop, he had 19 points and six rebounds to help the Bulldogs past Middle Tennessee State and to their first round of 16 trip since 2011.

Down: Rick Pitino. When Pitino and his Louisville team were ousted in the second round by Michigan, it marked the ninth time in Pitino’s 16 seasons as U of L coach that the Cardinals have failed to make the second week of the NCAA tourney.

Up: Northern Kentucky University basketball. John Brannen started three products of the Bluegrass State in NKU’s historic Division I NCAA Tournament debut against UK, and all three acquitted themselves well.

Kentucky’s 2016 Mr. Basketball, Carson Williams (Owen County) hit UK for 21 points and nine rebounds. Point guard Lavone Holland II (Ballard) dropped 22 points on the Cats, while forward Drew McDonald (Newport Catholic) had 14 points and five boards.

There’s probably no way to quantify the value of the publicity Northern gained from playing UK, competitively, in the NCAAs.

Down: Gregg Marshall. In life, timing can be everything. Let’s say that if, after an ultra-successful coaching run at Wichita State, one aspired to become coach at a tradition-rich program with a vacancy such as, say, Indiana.

Then it would be the absolute worst time for a family member’s unusual deportment to become a national story.

Comparing the conferences

How teams from the six major basketball conferences have fared in the 2017 men’s NCAA basketball tournament:

League (Record) —Teams remaining

Pac-12 (8-1) — Arizona, Oregon, UCLA

SEC (7-2) — Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina

Big 12 (8-3) — Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia

Big Ten (8-4) —Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin

Big East (5-5) — Butler, Xavier

ACC (7-8) —North Carolina

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