Happy St. Patrick’s Day. And by the way, how did the NCAA Selection Committee fail to put Notre Dame in a bracket slot that would have them playing today instead of yesterday? Whatever… Here are my notes and comments from yesterday’s games:
- Notre Dame/Princeton: Both teams are very disciplined on offense and defense. There were lots of actual student-athletes on the floor. Notre Dame’s offense seemed out-of-sync all day long – – or was that really good Princeton defense?
- Virginia/UNC-Wilmington: UVa is methodical; UNCW plays “Helter-Skelter”. UNCW had a big lead early but had no idea how to hold on to it or to make Virginia play in a way Virginia would prefer not to play.
- Winthrop/Butler: Butler is a very good team. This was a generally uninteresting game.
- Gonzaga/S. Dak. St: In a 16 vs 1 game, it was tied with 4:32 to play in the first half and Zags led by only 4 at the half. Don’t know what Mark Few said at halftime, but Zags just dominated by running and playing smothering defense in the second half. It was an easy win at the end.
- Bucknell/W. Virginia: W. Virginia simply had too many “better athletes” in this game. Bucknell hung in by shooting 9 for 20 from 3-point range.
- Florida/E. Tenn. St.: Florida was just better at every phase of the game here. For ETSU, it seemed as if Guard, TJ Cromer was the only one out there playing with his brain as well as his body.
- Mid. Tenn. St./Minnesota: Minnesota is a 5-seed? Really? They lost 7 games in the Big 10 and got a 5-seed? Nate Mason was supposedly a leader for Minnesota and he played miserably. Middle Tennessee St. is interesting to watch and has won 30 games this year but I don’t see them making a deep run in the tournament.
- Vandy/Northwestern: If ND/Princeton was not the most entertaining game of the early slate, then this one was. Another game with lots of student-athletes on display. Northwestern holds a distinction here that no other team in the country can claim; Northwestern has NEVER lost an NCAA Tournament game.
- Villanova/Mt. St.Mary’s: In the first half, it seemed that this year’s Villanova team did not play defense with the same ferocity/efficiency that last year’s championship team did. Then in the second half, their defense showed up and it led to a runaway win.
- VCU/St. Mary: St. Mary looked awfully good for a 7-seed; they shot 56% from the field and 35% from 3-point range. VCU plays fast but they need to recruit some shooters.
- Vermont/Purdue: If Purdue is the best team in the Big 10, then I wonder why there are so many teams from the Big 10 in the tournament. The game was interesting because it stayed close for most of the time but neither team was overly impressive.
- Xavier/Maryland: Maryland went sleep-walking through the second half – particularly their point guard/leader Melo Trimble. Xavier is very efficient on offense.
- Wisconsin/VaTech: This was an entertaining game even though neither team was all that impressive.
- Fla. Gulf Coast/Fla. St.: I don’t know if this game reminded you of an “And-1” exhibition but that is what it looked like to me. I did not enjoy this game at all.
- Nevada/Iowa St.: I could not decide if Iowa St. had a very effective offense or if Nevada just did not play defense very well.
- Arizona/N. Dakota: At 10:40 of the first half, I wrote down, “N. Dak is overmatched/game over”.
Yesterday in mid-afternoon as college basketball fandom had its attention focused on the first-round tournament games, Indiana announced that it had fired coach Tom Crean after 9 years on the job there. Tom Crean is a good coach; he took a Marquette team to the Final Four; he rebuilt the Indiana program from the scorched earth left behind by Kelvin Sampson and the probation that ensued. In his first 3 years at IU, Crean went 28-66; from those humble beginnings, his teams went on to win the Big 10 Championship twice before this year’s team had a total meltdown in the latter part of the season. Indiana lost its opening round game in the NIT to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
It will be interesting to see who gets the job at Indiana. On one hand, the program is a college basketball blueblood even though one could argue that it is not nearly as dominant a program as it used to be. On the other hand, the way the administration there has handled athletics for the last couple of decades might be enough to get top-shelf coaches to keep looking for that “ideal landing spot”. One name surfaced immediately and that is Brad Stevens who is now the coach of the Boston Celtics. Stevens is a darling in Indiana because he took Butler – an Indiana school – to the final game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and lost to Duke when a half-court shot at the final buzzer rimmed out.
Personally, I think Brad Stevens would be nuts to leave the Celtics for the job at Indiana. If he wants to go back to the college game from the NBA, he is one of those guys who ought to look at the “environment” at Indiana and keep looking for a job elsewhere.
Finally, here is a note from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:
“Sunday is the final day for the Omaha Boat Sport and Travel Show which features a water-skiing squirrel. The Creighton baseball program’s worst nightmare? Drawing fewer fans to the home opener than a squirrel on skis.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………