Well, it's that time of year again here. The last double-digit seeds in the NCAA tournament were knocked out two rounds ago. We've stretched our Giant Killers model to new heights of speculation and drawn as many lessons as we can from the results. There's not a whole lot left to do except to click Save As on our spreadsheets for the last time.
We'd also like to thank you for all your feedback. We are seriously proud of the loyalty of our readers to Giant Killers and of the thoughtfulness of the ideas you have sent to us, both in the comments to our posts and via the GK mailbag. We will incorporate your suggestions over the coming months as we make what almost certainly will be the biggest changes yet to our Giant Killers statistical model.
Of course, we also need to add the final cherry to this edition of the GK sundae: the third annual All-Giant Killers Team. As you might remember, last year we awarded naming rights to this squad to honor two members of the 2004 and 2005 UAB Blazers, the first and, and until VCU this year, only Killers to slay Giants in back-to-back tournaments. In 2004 the Blazers, a No. 9 seed, knocked off Kentucky, a No. 1, then in 2005 they beat LSU in an 11-6 matchup.
Over those two seasons, the Blazers stole the ball on nearly 16 percent of opponent possessions while hardly ever turning the ball over. If you want an example of how they played, check out this video of Ronell Taylor swiping a Kentucky pass and passing it, backward, two-handed and over his head, to his twin brother, Donell. We like to think that's how we throw stats around here at GK Central.
So here's the 2012 Donell and Ronell Taylor All-Giant Killers team:
In the second round, he had 13 points in a crushing first half against Wichita State, and after the Shockers came all the way back, he drained a huge 3-pointer with 1:33 left in the game to put the Rams on top for good. In the third round, he went 4-for-9 on 3-pointers against Indiana, and his effort inside as well as on the perimeter helped force the Hoosiers to commit 22 turnovers.
He did miss two crucial free throws during an excruciating stretch where Indiana scored the final seven points of the game. But Killers are boom-or-bust, and for the past two years, nobody has played smarter high-risk/high-reward hoops than Burgess has for Shaka Smart.
We could see where Missouri was vulnerable; we wrote that "they don't play the kind of defense that makes Giants safe." What we couldn't predict was that O'Quinn would have the best night of his life against the Tigers. With 26 points (on 10-for-16 shooting) and 14 boards (including five offensive), O'Quinn obliterated Norfolk State's usual disadvantages of not being able to grab enough possessions or make them count. He missed two free throws with 3.8 seconds left, giving Missouri a last-gasp chance to win, but that's just staying true to Killers form.
Offutt said he felt terrible that he missed a free throw that would have given Ohio a one-point lead with 25 seconds left against North Carolina, and that he had let his team down. Well, Walter, we know something about deep underdogs, so take it from us: At the end of the Bobcats' game against Michigan, you helped stop Trey Burke on four straight shots, then grabbed a turnover and sank two foul shots to save a 75-70 win. Against South Florida, you nailed all four of the 3-point shots you took, including one that got Ohio off to a key 10-0 run in the second half, and you had six steals.
And against UNC, come on, Ohio wouldn't even have been in that game without your six 3s and 26 points. It's no disgrace that you and your teammates didn't have much gas left in overtime against Carolina. And you played way better than Harrison Barnes.
It's still tough to explain exactly how Lehigh beat Duke. The Mountain Hawks weren't particularly efficient -- even McCollum, who appeared to completely dominate their huge upset, shot just 9-for-24 from the field. But the one scenario Duke watchers feared -- a sustained offensive funk -- came to life, and the Blue Devils, who appeared stunned by Lehigh's speed as well as its resilience, wound up playing more like a desperate Killer than a dominant Giant.
McCollum shot from inside and outside. He nabbed six rebounds and had six assists (on just 28 shots taken by his teammates). And as Duke was taking 26 3-point shots and making only six, he piled up 30 points, enough to send the Blue Devils home for the summer.
D.J. Cooper, G, Ohio
You might say the Tar Heels figured out how to shut him down; he shot 3-for-20 against UNC, including 1-for-10 from downtown, which is a lot for any Killer to overcome. One reason the Bobcats nearly did: Cooper's harassing defense, which helped limit North Carolina to shooting just 40 percent from the field (and only 31.8 percent from behind the arc). And he was a key to Ohio's upset wins over Michigan and South Florida, shooting a combined 5-for-12 (41.7 percent) on 3s and better than 50 percent (12-23) overall, and adding 12 assists.