Monday, March 24, 2008

NCAA Weakend #1

Um, my predictions kinda stank BUT all my Final Four teams are still alive. Take that, Hoya paranoics.

This is currently a "go figure" tournament. Seriously, I said G'Town lacked offense . . . and then the Hoyas go out, fire in 63+% of their FG attempts and LOSE to a 10 seed they out shot by 25 percentage points. ESPN noted last night that the Georgetown shooting accuracy was the second-best mark by a loser since the Tournament expanded to 64+ teams . . . but the top shooting loser ever, So. Illinois, lost in a 7-10 game by 96-92 to a team that shot well (Syracuse); the Salukis didn't blow a 17-point lead to a team eight seeds below them in a game where they outshot their opponents by three orders of magnitude.

More insanity: the #3 seeds are 8-0 and all in the Sweet 16; the #2 seeds are 6-2 and two are out.

And now some trenchant observations from the weekend: (1) UNC obviously had the best weekend of any team -- it whomped an overmatched #16, then crushed a senior-led Arkansas team that had drilled #8 seed Indiana, the lowest seeded 25-win major conference team ever; (2) I told you Michigan State is a Tourney overachiever -- and it had a perfect foil in perennial underachiever Pitt in round 2 -- the Mich St./Memphis game should be interesting because Izzo is a good coach who will throw bodies and fouls at a Memphis team that cannot shoot FTs; (3) Kansas plays good defense -- that's an improvement the J'Hawks have made during the Bill Self years; (4) other than UNC, the ACC sucks -- two mid-level Big East teams dropped the second- and third-best ACC teams out of the Tourney -- I'm thinking expansion has diluted the talent distribution in the conference; (5) of the other #1s, UCLA still has a crappy offense -- I thought that had been rectified a bit by getting an interior scorer in Kevin Love; Memphis is loaded with talent, but its FT shooting will kill it in a close game; (6) Wisconsin is pretty good, which only proves that the 22-point loss to Duke was an early-season outlier result and the win over Texas in Austin may have been a more accurate measure of the team; (7) the two worst performances of the Tournament by teams that were not just cannon-fodder are easily Notre Dame's 61-41 loss to Wazzou and Vandy's 21-point beating from 13-seed Siena -- there's no excuse for ND to lose by 20 points in such a low scoring game and no small conference team should be able to drill a major conference opponent 83-62 in the NCAA Tournament.

Some quick television observations: (a) when did "unbelievable" become a substitute for fantastic, tremendous, extraordinary, superb, and outstanding? Everyone from coaches to commentators misuse this adjective. If something is unbelievable, it cannot be believed. That doesn't mean it is good. Say what you mean -- Stephon Curry had a fantastic second half against Georgetown (25 points) to follow up his excellent performance against Gonzaga (40 points); not Stephon Curry played an unbelievable second half against Georgetown to follow his unbelievable performance against the Zags.

(b) Why so much love for Bob Huggins? He's an irascible curmudgeon who got canned from Cincinnati because his drunk driving violations gave the administration an excuse to fire him who does not improve his players to help them in the NBA and who does not graduate his players. His players' academic record is atrocious -- Cincy was the poster child for NCAA efforts to tie graduation progress to scholarships. And yet "Huggy" gets treated as a revered member of the coaching fraternity.

(c) Jim Spanarkel had it wrong yesterday -- Miss. State failed to lengthen the game against Memphis when, with 2:30 left, it didn't play hack-a-star with the horrible FT-shooting Tigers. From that point on, the game should have been hack city. Only when MSU tried the hackathon in the final minute and Memphis bonked did the Bulldogs whittle a 68-59 deficit to the 77-74 final.

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