In case you were out demanding that Red Lobster serve you a never-ending pasta bowl, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
In a thrilling conclusion to the NCAA tournament, the Louisville Cardinals beat the Michigan Wolverines, 82-76, to win their first NCAA title in 27 years. Reserve forward Luke Hancock was named the Final Four's MOP after his 22-point performance in the title game. When asked if he saw his performance coming, Hancock responded, "I mean, how can you see a thing like this coming?" before Michigan's Trey Burke came up from behind to congratulate him on the win. Unfortunately, Burke's intentions were misinterpreted by a security guard, who immediately removed Burke from the stadium.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino's good fortunes continued as he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2013. Pitino, who'll be inducted alongside Gary Payton, Bernard King, and Jerry Tarkanian, among others, also saw his horse Goldencents win the Santa Anita Derby over the weekend. Pitino's great week didn't end there, as he was invited to two separate parties at the Louisville Discovery Zone this coming weekend, both of which are rumored to be supplied with both Pizza Factory pizza and Carvel ice-cream cake.
In Part 1 of 2, Bill Simmons calls up Jon Hock, the director of the latest 30 for 30 film, Survive and Advance, which chronicles the legendary national championship run of the 1983 NC State men's basketball team. Bill then calls up Chuck Klosterman to discuss the changes they would make to NCAA basketball and the real impact coaches have on basketball teams.
To listen to this podcast, you can download it on iTunes here or go to the ESPN.com PodCenter for part one and part two.
Yet another 1-seed found an early exit in the tournament last night. This time, it was the Indiana Hoosiers who met their fate at the hands of the Syracuse Orange and their famous 2-3 zone.
On a macro level, three things typically beat a zone defense: offensive rebounds, 3-point shots, and transition baskets. Indiana largely failed at all three in their defeat last night. The Hoosiers only made three shots from beyond the arc and had only 11 offensive rebounds (four of which came on one possession and didn’t even result in a made shot). Both of those figures actually fall below their respective season averages of 7.3 and 12.2.
Indiana found some success attacking Syracuse before the Orange could set up in their patented zone, but it was largely a mixed bag. The Orange did a fine job defending in transition last night, greeting the Hoosier break above the 3-point line and forcing wild forays to the rim, like these from Victor Oladipo that resulted in turnovers more often than they did made baskets.
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.
The Sweet 16 continues tonight with another slate of intriguing games that promise to be unpredictable. Luckily for all you gamblers out there, I’m here to guarantee that the following five things will happen:
1. Florida will destroy Florida Gulf Coast
Just imagine what the past four days have been like for Florida Gulf Coast’s players and coaches. Since FGCU became the first 15-seed to advance to the Sweet 16, every media outlet in the country wants a piece of these guys. The players have become rock stars on campus, and at least one fan has gotten an FGCU tattoo that I’m sure they’ll never regret. The Eagles’ egos have probably (and understandably) swollen to unprecedented heights. I wouldn’t be surprised if instead of practicing this week, they just watched highlights of their first two tournament games and congratulated each other for being awesome. This isn’t meant to be criticism. If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t even show up to play Florida because I’d be too busy partying on the beach and trying to convince girls to come home with me by telling them, “You probably saw me on TV beating Georgetown.”
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.
Florida Gulf Coast University is the most exciting version of the Cinderella story there's ever been. With two thrilling NCAA tournament upsets, and featuring a colorful cast of characters and a series of mind-bending alley-oops, we take a look at how the Eagles have fully captured our attention.
The mystery surrounding FGCU stems largely from its underwhelming record. The Eagles finished second in a weak conference and lost six games to teams that finished below .500. They beat one good team — Miami — very early in the season, and were throttled by the three other tournament teams (VCU, Duke, and Iowa State) they faced during their non-conference schedule. There was simply nothing that hinted at the two things that have now become widely held beliefs — this team is well coached and they have talented players.
Head coach Andy Enfield was a former NBA assistant turned shooting coach before finally landing back in the college ranks. His experience at the highest level of the game is evident in the team’s style of play, particularly on offense. Enfield runs a high-octane system set on pushing the ball up the court at all times, spacing the floor, and running a high volume of pick-and-rolls. It is actually eerily similar to the mid-2000s Phoenix Suns.
I am sick of the rage. I am sick of the anxiety. I am sick of inferior college basketball teams coming together for triumphant wins, or superior ones falling apart for ungodly losses, when I have clearly filled out my bracket to indicate that it should have been different. This is a mockery, and we are the innocent targets. It must stop.
The audacity of certain teams to rise past their stations in the postseason is a blight on the sports landscape. Ditto for the underachievers. How dare they? And how dare the NCAA? Of all the complaints I've heard about that organization, the fact that the bigwigs in the front office continue to condone a single-elimination tournament in college basketball is by far the most egregious. Why have we tolerated this format for so long? Why should we even make picks when the entire tournament is so unpredictable? We've been trained like clowns to make fools of ourselves, and our circus is the bracket. And the ringmaster is the selection committee. And the company that employs us all is the NCAA. And the circus tent is the basketball court, I guess, but it doesn't matter.
In case you were busy soothing your aching joints with an old-fashioned Epsom salt soak, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
The NCAA tournament Sweet 16 is set, and the biggest story thus far has been the run of Florida Gulf Coast University, who find themselves among college basketball's elite after an 81-71 win over San Diego State. Based on all my knowledge of the school from before the tournament started, "FGCU," which has probably been around for over a decade, has amassed a number of victories on their way to becoming a true school where NCAA basketball is played. The team features players, of which five play on the court at the same time, barring truly unusual circumstances, who shoot basketballs toward baskets, which is a thing those players do to get basketball points. They employ strategies regarding where they should run so that they can shoot basketballs from preferable positions, implemented by a coach with a unique backstory that I remember hearing about once but mostly forget. He might have been a baron of some sort? So mark it down in your personalized line drawing of college names: Florida Gulf Coast University is a school from Florida, probably located along the gulf coast, that plays basketball and is eligible for advancement in the NCAA basketball tournament. Up next for Florida Gulf Coast University is the University of Florida, a school that is also run by the state of Florida. Expect basketball shots, two strategic men telling basketball players what to do, and collusion.
Louisville, the tournament's no. 1 seed, advanced to the Round of 16 after dismantling Colorado State, 82-56, at the University of Kentucky's home court, Rupp Arena. Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said after the game, "Man, it's nice to be back at the old stomping ground, playing out of the home locker room. Hey, has anyone heard how the Wildcats are doing? No? Yeah, no, me neither. That's really unusual. But hey, tell John, old friend of mine, 'Thanks for the hospitality.' Also, we used all of the condiments that were in the fridge here. Hope that's not a problem."
For our final Man of the Hour, as the early games wind to a close, we turn to a mid-major hero whom I dismissed without cause in my Midwest Region picks, but who is currently putting me to shame with a great performance against Cincinnati. He is:
Oklahoma State and UNLV spent earlier parts of yesterday becoming the latest victims in the history of 12 seeds beating 5s, but the biggest upset of the night came amid a wave of blowouts during the last set of games from the opening day of the NCAA tournament. The trendy upset picks — Davidson (still don’t know how they lost) and Saint Mary’s — had already failed in their quest for a Cinderella moment, before lowly Harvard, the Ivy League afterthought, finally toppled a giant. With a 29-5 record that earned them a no. 3 seed, New Mexico was ranked 72 spots ahead of their opponent according to KenPom.com’s rating system and was considered a sleeper pick for a Final Four berth in the West region.
On paper, this was a terrible matchup for the Crimson. Their frontline rotation contained no one taller than 6-foot-8 to match up to the Lobos’ twin towers of Cameron Bairstow (6-9) and Alex Kirk (7-0). Given such a disadvantage in size, it was quite shocking to see head coach Tommy Amaker ask his Harvard big men to battle Bairstow and Kirk one-on-one all night in the post. But it was that decision that swung the entire course of the game.
Did you miss any of the hours of action (well, dudes eating gluten-free pasta and talking about hoops ... maybe not action in the Die Hard sense of the word) from yesterday's Grantland live broadcast from the Sports Guy Mansion Pool House? Want to relive some of the magic? Here's where you dreams come true, folks. Before they begin Day 2 of their epic broadcast, Bill Simmons, Rembert Browne, Joe House, and Jalen Rose bring you the finest moments from their first day of live-streaming. Check out the video highlights below!
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.
In case you were the one guy in the office who was actually working yesterday, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Break up the Crimson! Harvard mounted the biggest upset of the first day of the NCAA tournament, beating New Mexico, 68-62. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker was near tears after the game, saying, "No one thought New Mexico could be beat. No one. But we took a ragtag bunch of kids with no futures, and we brought down Goliath. No one will hear 'Harvard' and think second-rate any longer. This changes everything."
Davidson's bid to upset Marquette fell just short as a late turnover doomed the Wildcats to a 59-58 defeat at the hands of the Golden Eagles. "Not hands — talons," said Marquette coach Buzz Williams after the game, who credited his team's victory to their "unnecessarily specific mascot name. The Wildcats never had a chance."