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Night 2, Sweet Sixteen: Well, Last Night Didn’t Go As I Expected …

March 29, 2013

I’ll start by taking a moment to ponder who UCLA will turn to next in their coaching search, seeing that both Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart are staying put – is it just me or is it the UCLA coaching search starting to resemble a Lou Bega song? One, two, three, four, five, Everybody in the car, so come on let’s ride! Perhaps a little bit of Jay Wright is all they need (that’s who I’d hire), or a little bit of Gregg Marshall is what I see (even if he is “Howland The Sequel”), or maybe a little bit of Buzz Williams in the sun (sweating)? In any event, most UCLA fans certainly didn’t see this mambo coming.

As for last night, the entire East Regional gets the “WHAT WAS THAT?!?” Award for the whole week. Unlike The Rock (not loving the G.I. Joe trailer there big fella), Indiana and Miami disappeared like Charlie Brown Spelling Bee contestants, falling behind from Minute 1 and never looking like the Contenders I thought they were.  Kudos to Syracuse and Marquette, but I admit that I begrudge the fact I have to watch that game Saturday.   Out West, the game of the night came down to another smart decision by Aaron Craft, leaving the vocal Wildcats contingent  with sad faces and the Buckeyes primed to return to the Final Four against a defiant Wichita State squad that gladly accepted the invitation to don a glass slipper.  Despite my words pointing to the possibilities, my bracket never even conceived of Saturday’s matchups, so all that is left is hope for today and wonder for tomorrow.

MIDWEST … Don’t sleep on Oregon’s chances tonight; While Louisville has been playing the best basketball in the country as of late, I remember not so long ago when Louisville looked like one of the least intelligent ranked teams in America, and “Russdiculous” Smith was prone to late game gaffes, and Oregon brings a Top 10 Defense to the party that has made many an offense this year look stupid … Old foes clash again as Coach K faces Izzo and Duke’s guards try to find a way over and through a rugged Michigan State frontline. I’m still surprised at the lack of chatter behind Duke’s chances tonight, most observers seeing the battle in terms of Blue Devil finesse vs. Spartan physicality, codewords for “pretty offense vs. tough defense”, but I think tonight will be decided by how well Duke defends Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Adreian Payne, two burgeoning offensive options for which Coach K will have to find answers …

SOUTH … All the excitement about the “Dunk City” Match between Florida and Florida Gulf Coast – which has inspired everything from intra-state bragging rights to t-shirts and trademark battles – has overshadowed what I think will be the most potent matchup tonight, Kansas vs. Michigan.  I have the Wolverines advancing, as I think Trey Burke is the best player remaining in the tournament, but Jeff Withey may have something to say on Kansas’ behalf. One other interesting tidbit, speaking to the potential bias of local media, is that most of Detroit’s scribes have picked Kansas to win, while most of the nationally-based media has gone with Michigan … Not to end this by being a Debbie Downer, but I think FGCU’s run ends tonight, the thought of which carries a tinge of sadness.  I think the Eagles’ John Enfield has gone about the business of coaching basketball in the right way: finding athletes, drilling them on certain precepts of sharing the ball and being aggressive, building their trust and letting them loose.  Basketball’s version of the jogo bonito, my sincere hope is that this style and tempo are more than a mere fad, and that enterprising teams like FGCU and VCU (even if their approach is more defensive, it’s still a move in the right direction) can help college basketball back from the brink of tedious wrestling matches with their attractive, positive and to date successful styles.  I just think Florida is on a mission, and while they present some of the same characteristics as FGCU’s bested foes Georgetown and San Diego State, they have more talent across the board than either team and will be able to handle increased tempo in stretches that the fallen could not.  Either way, I expect we’ll all be winners for watching.

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From → Basketball, Sports

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