Saturday, March 22, 2008

NCAA Hoops: Day 3, With Day 4 Preview

After the first round of the tournament, we get to the point where the number of games is almost manageable to comment on. Not quite there yet, as there was plenty of overlap of games today, and will be again on Sunday.

Some of the games don't need much analysis anyway. When the margin of victory is around 20 points, it seems clear to me that the analysis should just boil down to "One Team Was Much Better Than The Other." Three games from today certainly qualify for that. Kansas over UNLV, Wisconsin over Kansas State, and Washington State over Notre Dame.

(A couple of quick comments here: I'm obviously grabbing these recaps from CBS--there's an ad on the website that offers you a chance to listen to the new Viagra song. Are those little ditties especially popular? Are people looking for them? Secondly, while watching one of the later games, the CBS Sports guys put up 3 Big Game Performers or whatever they call them. They included Luke Harangody of Notre Dame. Yes, he had a ton of rebounds, and that's nice and all--but he shot 3-17 in a 20 point blowout loss. Surely there was someone more deserving than him?

Biggest Upset: I guess you have to give it to West Virginia over Duke. I personally picked WVA more times that I picked Duke. I'd love to say how prescient that was, mainly because it fucking was. But it also has some roots in a lifelong hatred of Duke (I know, how novel of me) and a belief they had been overrated in what has to be considered a down year in the ACC. I got to watch most of this game, and there is one key stat that sums up why Duke was overrated going into the game--15 missed 3 pointers in a row. Duke hasn't had a real big man in a while, and they have become a jump-shooting team, and when they hit, they win. When they don't hit, they don't win. They don't really have any other options. While West Virginia, at least against Duke, seemed like they have a ton of options for scoring. Before Joe Alexander became the most the talked about forward in the Big East, the star on this team was Alex Ruoff, who continued his run of making circus style outside shots. Another key stat is Duke's arguably best player, DeMarcus Nelson, going 2-11 from the field.

Biggest Almost Upset: Quite a few games fall into this category. UCLA barely rallied from being behind 10 points in the second half against Texas A&M, for a win with totals that remind one of the pre-shot clock era: 53-49. Xavier fended off a very game Purdue to win by seven. But clearly the award has to go to the Stanford Marquette tilt, that required a pretty shaky Robin Lopez on the free throw line just to send the game to OT. Robin's brother Brook scored a bunch of points including the last shot of the game. Stanford escapes, 82-81.

Player I'll Miss: Other folks may wish that the Kansas State Lottery Picks were still around, but for me, the player I'll miss most now that he's gone is Marquette guard Jerel McNeal. That guy was just phenomenal. He hit almost every single big shot Marquette had against Stanford. He also had big steals that clearly disrupted Stanford's play. I have no idea what kind of pro he'll be, but he is one hell of a college player.

Things to look for Sunday:

Cinderellas Please Report. We are guaranteed two seeds of the number #12 or #13 into the Sweet 16, as four of them won their first round match-ups, and now play each other for the right to hit that milestone. I'll take two 13's: Siena over Villanova, and San Diego over Western Kentucky.

Shocking Upset possibilities. Keep a close eye on #7 Butler vs. #2 Tennessee. Butler should have gotten at least a 5 seed, and probably a 4. So this match-up really shouldn't even be happening in the second round. But it is, and if anyone is more pissed off than Butler about their shitty ranking, it may be Tennessee. Butler plays tough, nasty defense, and has a feral Steve Nash running their show. Another game that has potential shocking upset written on it is #9 Arkansas against #1 Overall UNC. Sonny Weems has been playing fantastic basketball, and Patrick Beverly is always a threat to blow-up the 3 point line. Sometimes 2 great players can counterbalance a very well-rounded team that relies, overly, on a big goofy mother fucker named Tyler. I don't think a #6 beating a #3 would count as a shocking upset, but Oklahoma is definitely capable of beating Louisville. Longar Longar and Blake Griffen will cause some headaches for Louisville.

Great player in losing effort. Baby-faced Assassin Stephen Curry will probably have to score 50 to beat Georgetown. I expect him to score more around 25, and Davidson doesn't have a player who can guard Roy "Doctor" Hibbert. Mississippi State's Charles Rhodes was a beast against Oregon, but I think he'll find much harder sledding against Memphis' big men. For whatever reason, people seem to be discounting Memphis. I think this game may be the one where they announce to the country that this isn't last year's Memphis.

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