Normally, we would know the Final Four on this Monday on the calendar, but the modified scheduling this year only gives us the Elite 8 as of today; it will not be until Wednesday morning that we have the Final Four. The 12 games that cut the NCAA field from 16 to 4 are usually the prime cuts from the Tournament.
- The first two rounds are all about quantity; 48 games happen to select the Sweet 16. One feels gluttonous while taking them in – – and truth be told, a quarter to a third of those games are not particularly entertaining.
- The Final Four and the Finals always seem to find contestants that make the games interesting. But there are only 3 such games; I always feel as if I just had the appetizer and there is no main course to come.
- But the 12 games from Sweet 16 to Final Four hit the “sweet spot. Most of the games are good; the teams tend to be ones playing well and there are enough of them to make me feel satisfied.
Given that everything in college basketball this year has been topsy-turvey to say the least, I was worried that the games over the weekend would be dogs. They were not; even the ones where the final score was not close were entertaining for much of the time. Here are some notes I took during the games:
- Loyola-Chicago/Oregon St.: Great defense by both teams in the first 15 minutes; total score in that time is 29 points. This is a totally different sport than NBA basketball.
[Aside: Interesting that the promos for NBA basketball during these college basketball telecasts are for the upcoming NBA playoffs. Those will start in 8 weeks, but the NBA hypes them instead of the 8-weeks’ worth of games between now and then. Tells you what you need to know about the NBA’s view of its own regular season games.]
- Villanova/Baylor: Seeing Jay Wright in sweats instead of in thousand-dollar Armani suits is simply wrong. Defense dominates here and the game is entertaining. Villanova is good and Baylor is better.
- Oral Roberts/Arkansas: Arkansas has better athletes and much better subs off the bench. ORU has to scramble on defense to keep this close.
- Syracuse/Houston: Syracuse needs its 3-point shots to fall to win this game; not happening in 1st half. In the second half, Houston was almost playing “Box-and-1” on Buddy Boeheim.
- Creighton/Gonzaga: Creighton is trying to run with the Zags and match them shot for shot; good luck with that. Game is theoretically in doubt at halftime but after 6 minutes of 2nd half, there is no doubt who is moving on.
[Aside: I was most pleasantly surprised to see Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel on the call for this game. I like the two of them as a tandem better than any other current college basketball broadcast team. Thank you, CBS…]
- Florida St./Michigan: Michigan plays old-school basketball; they work the ball around to get it inside for a really good shot. Michigan has 3 big men who are good passers and good inside shooters. Florida St. offense today is basically 5 separate games of 1-on-1 basketball.
[Aside: I also liked the fact that both coaches avoid histrionics on every possession and they also accept some of the calls that go against their team without making it seem as if they are suffering more than Job.]
- Alabama/UCLA: Herbert Jones was certainly the most over-hyped player in this game. The game went to OT and he missed 3 free-throws in the final minute and a half – – helping Alabama shoot 11 for 25 from the free throw line in the game. A team that shoots that way on foul shots does not deserve to win an overtime game.
- Oregon/USC: USC defense was the difference in the first half. USC won the game on cruise control.
When Texas lost to Abilene Christian, I said here that the Texas fanboys might be moved to buy out Shaka Smart. Well, Coach Smart beat any of them to the punch and signed himself out of Texas to take the head coaching job at Marquette. The glamor-factor at Marquette may not be at the same level as at Texas, but the fact is that Texas is a football school and winning a half-dozen NCAA Tournaments in ten years will not make it a basketball school. Marquette is a basketball school. If Marquette even fields a football team at the Division II or Division III level, I do not know about it.
Greg Cote of the Miami Herald had this observation; it tells me all I need to know about the subject:
“New Zealand defeated Italy in the final of America’s Cup sailing in Auckland. Home-water advantage?”
Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Tigerleg has supplanted dogleg as the more currently discussed golf term.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………