Eyes in the Back & Front: Looking Backwards and Forwards
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by Matt Casey
Some lasting thoughts on the conference tourneys, and initial musings about the NCAA's...
If that was Kobe Bryant out there down by two with no time on the clock and an empty foul lane, and after making one of two he left the third one short, it would have been a wondrous moment. But you feel bad for Memphis' Darius Washington, particularly because he's a frosh.
It may have won the game, but the buzzer-beating three made by Wisconsin's Alando Tucker would have been disallowed in H-O-R-S-E. There's no way he called bank.
Rudy Gay is an okay jumper. I mean, anyone can throw down a reverse jam after bringing the ball down past his feet in practice. But let's see him do it in a game. Wait a second...
Agree with ESPN announcers Dan Schulman and Len Elmore that a game shouldn’t be decided on a cheap foul. Thing is, it’s not a cheapie when a guy gets shoved in the back with two hands. As anti-climatic as the Villanova-West Virginia semifinal may have been, the refs made the right call.
My buddy Bobby C last Monday, on who will win the conference tourneys: “It always works this way in all the tourneys. The good team that loses its last game against another good team always wins the conference tournament. So it will be Syracuse in the Big East, Duke in the ACC, and Illinois in the Big Ten. What do you think?” I think that was a nice call, C.
Maybe now Chris Paul will transform into the saint that Sports Illustrated and ESPN have erroneously made him out to be. Not only did his dirty antics result a suspension, but that missed game may have cost them a game against NC State, and that loss was the reason they are a two seed and not a one. And no one should feel bad for them.
The ESPN guys working the Duke-Georgia Tech game made far too big a deal about a questionable Tech foul on JJ Redick, and not enough about the Yellow Jackets missing numerous wide open threes that would've the game in the waning moments.
The combination of envy, jealousy, and Yankee-syndrome leads most people to hate Duke. But here’s a reason to like them (among others): After a sixth ACC tourney title in a year where few predicted them to be the class of the conference, they’re in Prime Patriots Position to whine about lack of respect and how they won when everyone thought they’d be down. But you haven’t heard a word of that from any of the Blue Devils. That’s worthy of some props.
With his weekend performance, Redick solidified his National Player of the Year status. Not only do his numbers back it up, but few players mean as much to his team’s success.
Watching Tech, it's curious why there was so much fuss about BJ Elder missing a good chunk of the year. Jarrett Jack and Will Bynum are far better players, and they were the ones who led the furious Final Four charge last season as well. If my team is playing Tech, I let Elder shoot as much as he wants.
Everyone likes Carolina. I’m not seeing it. They were exposed by teams that actually try to defend them: Duke, Clemson, and Georgia Tech. McCants is a question mark both physically (stomach ailment) and mentally (mother has cancer), and Roy Williams should scare everyone in a pressure spot. If they do win it all, it'll be despite Roy. Most talented team? Yes. Best team? No.
A regional final of UNC vs. Kansas would be intriguing, but don’t count on it happening. A UConn-UNC rematch is more likely. So is one of the wishes of the committee: another Elite Eight duel between Duke-Kentucky.
No team got a harder shaft than Louisville. Not just because they were saddled with a four seed, but in all probability, a second round game against Georgia Tech is in store.
Syracuse as a four isn’t an atrocity, until you consider that UConn is a two and Duke vaulted to a one by winning their conference tourney. Why no love for the Orange?
Speaking of no love, it was a tough year for the A-10. Only George Washington, the conference tournament champ, made the field of 65, and they got stuck with a 12 seed against Georgia Tech. This was a conference with two Elite Eight teams last year, both of whom (St. Joe's, Xavier) were minutes away from a Final Four. Add the bad pub brought on by John Chaney, and the A-10, well, it just...sucks. Thank you, Russ.
The Syracuse region is tough, but it’s getting a little too much hype. UNC and UConn are legit title contenders, but you can’t dismiss Kansas’ swoon at the end of the year. Even with Roy gone from the sidelines, it’s tough to consider them as a true title possibility.
Four seed Florida is hot and two straight wins over Kentucky are impressive, but the SEC is down. And when your best player looks like he should be playing lacrosse or starring in Dazed and Confused, it’s usually not a good sign.
How is the Austin bracket being dubbed easy? Duke and Syracuse are conference tourney champs, Oklahoma and Kentucky are conference regular season champs, and Michigan State is always tough in the NCAA’s. If anything, this might be the toughest region.
The softest bracket is Chicago, despite having arguably the best one (Illinois) and two (Oklahoma State) seeds. BC is a garbage number four, and Arizona is always a good bet to underachieve. Alabama as a five shouldn’t scare too many people, despite their run to the regional finals in ’04. They have Undisciplined Early Exit written all over them.
If Wake and Washington meet, the over/under might be 200.
Upset possibility: UCLA over Texas Tech. Bobby Knight is threatening the Atlanta Braves for most first round exits in the past fifteen years. It may be his most talented Tech team, but the Bruins will send them home early. Which is good news for anyone in the mood for a vintage Knight press conference.
Upset possibility: Penn over BC. The Eagles complained about a lack of respect. They should have realized the reason: they're not that good.
Upset possibility: Normally I’d say Ohio over Florida, but this Gator team is different than year’s past, as they come in on a roll. But then again, they’re still Florida.
Upset possibility: Syracuse is a team that could go to the Final Four, but they’re also a squad that could forget to show up against Vermont. Less so than in year’s past, but that element is still there.