Quick thoughts on the NCAA Tournament...
1. Sunday’s afternoon games exemplify what March Madness is all about.
Greg Gumbel was about to go nuts as CBS kept switching back-and-forth between the end of the Butler-Tennessee game and the Davidson-Georgetown game.
What a great day.
2. I wrote Davidson off for dead as it looked like they simply could not handle Georgetown’s length. Also, the Hoyas could not miss shots—even in a losing effort, they still shot well over 60 percent from the field.
Shame on me for giving up on Davidson, though. If Stephen Curry played for a bigger school, he would be getting the attention that OJ Mayo, Michael Beasley, Tyler Hansbrough, etc., are getting this season.
Curry’s going to have a tough matchup with Wisconsin's Michael Flowers, one of the best defenders in college basketball, but I think that’s going to be a great game because Wisconsin and Georgetown are very similar teams—big, physical, and can shoot a little—and obviously Davidson just took down the Hoyas.
3. Butler also showed a lot of grit in coming back against UT.
That’s not surprising because they are an experienced team and highly ranked. This should not have been a second-round matchup but rather a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight meeting. But the Vols showed a lot of toughness that I wasn’t sure they had and persevered despite struggling from beyond the arc.
4. I nearly died watching the end of the Texas-Miami game. It’s amazing how teams can hit ridiculous shots like the Canes did down the stretch yet miss some easier looks earlier in the game.
Texas nearly killed themselves (and my bracket) by clunking some free throws late, making just 12-of-21 for the game.
5. Speaking of free throws…God bless, Memphis, what is your problem? 15-of-32? Really?
Somehow, you managed to shoot lower than your season average of 57 percent from the stripe, which ranked you 910th in the country, somewhere behind the Solon Recreation Department’s fourth-grade all-star team.
It’s going to bite you, Memphis, and it’s going to bite you reallll soon.
6. Teams I’ve been really impressed with: North Carolina (sigh), Louisville, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.
Louisville-UNC looks to be a titanic matchup in the Elite Eight if they both take care of business in the next round.
The Badgers are a machine. Bo Ryan might be the most underrated coach on the national scene. And the Spartans absolutely smothered a Pitt squad that a lot of people thought could reach the Final Four.
7. Teams I wasn't impressed by: UCLA, Stanford, Georgetown. UCLA, my pick to be national champs, was very lucky to escape against Texas A&M.
Marquette had a pair of opportunities, at the end of regulation and overtime, to extend its one-point lead into three or four and couldn’t do it, so give credit to Stanford for taking advantage of that.
But there’s no reason the Lopezes, who are like 14 inches taller than anyone on Marquette’s roster, shouldn’t have each scored 40-50 points. Stanford was lucky to escape.
And Georgetown. Heck, I don’t even know what to say about that, blowing a 17-point lead. I thought this Hoyas squad was better than last year’s team, even without Jeff Green (who never showed up in big games, anyway. Clearly, that’s a problem for the whole team, though.)
8. Teams I haven’t seen and thus can not comment on: Washington State, Western Kentucky.
Wazzu just massacred Notre Dame, so they must be pretty good. I missed the classic WKU-Drake game because I was at the hospital with my mom, and CBS didn’t show their game against San Diego here in Columbus. Shocking, I know.
WSU is running into an absolute buzzsaw in Carolina, though, while WKU has to deal with UCLA. I’m interested to watch those games next week and see what they have to offer.
9. Power Conference breakdowns: Pac-10 and Big East have got three teams alive, Big 10, Big 12 all have two, SEC and ACC each has one.
No surprise on the first two because they were regarded as the two strongest leagues this year and sent the most teams into the field.
I actually thought as many as seven Big East schools could reach the Sweet 16—I had Notre Dame, Pitt, Marquette and UConn all getting there, and I would probably still pick at least two or three of them if I had the chance to go back and do my bracket again.
Obviously the Pac-10 is lucky to have three teams reach, as UCLA and Stanford were both staring straight in the face of second round exits to lower seeds. Down years for both the ACC and SEC explain their lack of representation, but everyone who has been hating on the Big 10 needs to take notice of Wisconsin and Michigan State.
I think both will win their Sweet 16 games and give themselves a shot to reach the Final Four.
My Sweet 16 winners: UNC, Louisville, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Texas, UCLA, Xavier.
And some final thoughts wrapping up Duke's year...
I wonder how much Coach K's illness took away from them, as he was clearly lethargic on the bench. CBS was saying he had something like a temperature of 104 degrees.
Obviously, he isn't the one missing 15 straight three-pointers or anything like that, but if your coach isn't into a game, his or her team will not be in the game, either.
The Blue Devils will have a lot of work to do next year, that's for sure, although everyone should be back save DeMarcus Nelson, unless Kyle Singler declares.
They'll win 25-27 games again next year, but unless Greg Paulus or someone steps up and becomes a true leader, and,if Coach K can get at least one player to play in the post, Duke will flame out again in the tournament.
Finally, I had some people from home and abroad call me out for questioning the credentials of UConn, Indiana, and Syrcause.
Last I checked, UConn has lost to George Mason and San Diego in the Tourney, and didn't even make it last year with a 17-14 record. Syracuse has been chilling in the NIT for a couple of years now, and Indiana is an absolute mess and won't have a coach or Eric Gordon or DJ White next year.
I was just using those traditional powerhouses, along with my Dukies, as examples of teams where the past doesn't really matter anymore. West Virginia players were quoted as saying they weren't intimidated by the "Duke" name on the front of their jerseys, and why should they have been?
All four of those teams, while certainly above average on the national scene, just aren't automatic title contenders anymore.