I don’t give away my basketball heart easily. I thought they were dead against Davidson, and I thought Butler had more of everything. The old loyalties never die, but whatever it was that the selection committee, and their coaches, and they themselves saw in this season, had eluded me. But Thursday night, as the Verizon Center clock wound through the last three minutes, and I heard the old chants and the song and everything, and after I watched Marquette pick a conspicuously unenthusiastic Miami team apart in its 71-61 win in Washington, D.C., I finally handed it over. (Simmons warned me there’d be days like this.) Sometimes, the whole really is the sum of the hearts.
I got a ton of e-mails this week and most of them were worth publishing, but I decided to limit the number to 16 in honor of the upcoming Sweet 16. Let’s get down to business.
Who do you see as the favorites to win it all, and why? Also, who has disappointed you? Between Florida Gulf Coast, Oregon, and La Salle, which team is your favorite Cinderella story? Also, who do you think has the best chance of going far and why?
Never mind. I guess I’ll answer 19 questions.
Louisville is the favorite right now, with Duke and Florida close behind. They’re the only teams that have been at the top of the polls all season and also looked dominant in their first two games. The obvious omission is Michigan, which has been highly ranked all year and just thrashed VCU. But I want to see how the Wolverines handle Kansas before I jump back on their bandwagon. The VCU win was impressive, but the Rams' style of play is possibly the worst approach against Michigan. If the Wolverines dispatch the Jayhawks, they’ll be favorites, too. But if they lose, I would have a hard time considering them contenders for the national title.
The obvious disappointments are Gonzaga and Georgetown. Both have histories of getting bounced early, but I thought this year would be different because of Kelly Olynyk and Otto Porter. I was wrong.
Finally, Oregon is the best double-digit seed remaining, La Salle has the easiest path to the Final Four of the three Cinderellas, and Florida Gulf Coast is the underdog most likely to say “Screw it, let’s go get shitfaced and party on the beach” after it loses.
Welcome to a weekly blog post of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
The Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three moments or personalities from around the league that produced the most comedic fodder for fans this week.
The third star: Teemu Selanne is going to abduct your children
But don’t worry, he’ll still look adorable and nonthreatening while doing it. This is apparently what passes for a milk commercial in Finland, but it feels like so much more. I really hope somebody breaks it down frame by frame someday and oh there we go somebody already did.
Both Butler-Bucknell and Arizona-Belmont will be decided on the final play
Butler won by 12 and Arizona won by 17. Then again, these games technically weren’t over until after the final play, so technically I was correct (which is the best kind of correct).
At some point, Gus Johnson will trend on Twitter
Somebody get Darryl Worley back in the studio, because I’m starting to think we need him to call out America for forgetting about Gus.
(Shout-out to Grantland’s four country music fans who will get that joke.)
#Haith will also be trending
[***WAIT FOR MIZZOU GAME***]
Trey Burke will spoil the Nate Wolters coming-out party
Burke was just 2-for-12, but Wolters went 3-for-14. He finished with just 10 points and his team lost by 15. I’m officially on the board.
Before 2 p.m. EDT, the annoying commercial of this year’s tournament will have already revealed itself
I can’t tell if the commercials this year aren’t annoying or if they’re all just equally annoying. Either way, no clear-cut favorite has emerged. Yet.
On Selection Sunday, Indiana secured the top seed in the East Region. The program has officially been revived; after a latent period, the 2012-13 Hoosiers — with Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, and coach Tom Crean — will be following in the footsteps of former Indiana legends this March. The school boasts a remarkable basketball history, including five national championships. But one of its most famous NCAA victories came before the Final Four, in a season that ended without a championship.
On March 22, 1984, North Carolina and Indiana met in the Sweet 16 at the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta. The Tar Heels — the no. 1 team in the nation and the no. 1 seed in the East — were led by junior Michael Jordan. Their record was 28-2, and the losses had come by a combined three points. Two years earlier, coach Dean Smith had won his first national title when Jordan made the game-winning shot over Georgetown. The ’84 team was considered one of the most talented in Smith’s career, featuring future first-round picks Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, and Kenny Smith in the starting lineup. Indiana was the 4-seed, coached by Bobby Knight and led by freshman Steve Alford.
Indiana junior Dan Dakich drew the task of guarding Jordan that day. Dakich later became an assistant under Knight, and then became the coach at Bowling Green. Today, he hosts a radio show in Indiana and works for ESPN. But the events of that game — a 72-68 upset win for Indiana — would come to define his basketball legacy.
After dominating the first half of last night’s national championship game, Kentucky reached a point in the second half where it was struggling to score. Kansas used the Wildcats’ scoring troubles to go on an 8-0 run of its own and trim what had once been a 16-point lead down to seven. Needing a bucket to put the game away, Kentucky used the threat of Anthony Davis in the post to set up one of their better shooters, Doron Lamb, for an open 3-point shot:
I was a teenage John Calipari recruit. You have not read about me on Rivals.com. There are no YouTube compilations of me going off against Oak Hill Academy. I never even played for the man. But, in a fashion, the commitment I made to him lasted longer than any of the stops Calipari has made in his professional life.
When I was a kid, I knew a lot about college basketball (in so much as I memorized Street & Smith's College Basketball Annual). But when you're young, your allegiances aren't as logical and geographically rooted as they are when you grow up. I liked Syracuse because of Stephen Thompson and Sherman Douglas. I also liked Villanova because of Rollie Massimino's championship team. These things had no rhyme or reason; I just liked who I liked.
With three minutes left in Saturday's second-round game against VCU, Indiana was trailing by five points. The Hoosiers were struggling to get Cody Zeller, one of their best offensive weapons, any touches, and he seemingly disappeared for minutes at a time. But down the stretch, Indiana coach Tom Crean used set plays to get his star player the ball, giving way to seven points in the final minutes and a two-point, 63-61 victory. The key was a play that got Zeller the ball on the elbow.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Syracuse got a huge scare from 16-seed UNC-Asheville in the NCAA tournament on Thursday. The Orange only escaped with a 72-65 win after receiving several favorable calls in the second half. "Guess I just had some good karma coming!" said Jim Boeheim, who, for some reason, was lighting a cigar with a $100 bill. In a related story, the last mystical gnome died from pollution yesterday at 5 p.m., and his last words were: "Magic is gone from the world."
VCU! In on them, right? Maybe? At least you probably were last year, when the 11th-seeded Rams toppled NCAA powerhouse Kansas to advance to the Final Four. (They would later lose to the Butler Bulldogs, whom we all liked too, remember?) Anyway, here's the highlight reel from that 2011 Kansas game, which the VCU Department of Something apparently decided to set to "All of the Lights." Of course.
"Where is this Wichita State?" I bet you are not actually asking yourself, because clearly it is in Wichita. (Kansas.) (Not, like, the state of Wichita.) (That is not a state.) (Come on, guys.) Well, if you are really asking, that's OK! For the answer to that question — and the answers to many others about the Shockers — take a look at Shane Ryan's primer, posted on Grantland this February. We quote: