Posts Tagged ‘Villanova’

Somehow it is already time for the NCAA Tournament championship game. Seems like the season just started.

Time flies way too quick these days but I won’t spend too much time dwelling about that as I do know why you are here.

You haven’t forgotten that it was me who nearly hit the final score of last year’s game on the head.

While the so-called experts were all falling over themselves to pick North Carolina, I not only selected Villanova as the winner but I almost nailed the final score on the head.

The final score was Villanova 77, North Carolina 74. My predicted score was Villanova 77, North Carolina 73.

Here is the proof: http://www.reuters.com/article/bkc-villanova-northcarolina-preview-idUSMTZEC443VZQAB

Not easy to predict a college basketball score, let alone nearly hit both ends of the NCAA title game.

Perhaps it is those 16 years as an award-winning college basketball beat writer helping in a cause like that. Perhaps it is just nothing but blind luck.

That said, the big tilt between Gonzaga and North Carolina is just hours away. I wrote the national preview on Sunday and I came up with the winner and final score you have been waiting to see.

So did I pick the veteran North Carolina team that has several players back from the team that lost in last season’s title game? Or did I pick all the Gonzaga transfers who have their school in the national title game for the first time?

Either way, I think it will be a terrific game … I think it will be close down to the final minutes … may even come down to another dose of late-game heroics (don’t forget Kris Jenkins’ game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer last season) … I can see the postgame scene in my head and I have decided upon the winner and the final score.

You can find it here … http://news.lakana.com/sports/preview-gonzaga-vs-north-carolina/109634570

Pretty sure I will hit it exactly this time.

Weekly links … NCAA Tournament style

 

Reminiscing about last week’s NCAA Tournament games and I can’t help but think how fun it was to watch South Carolina defeat Duke.

Of course, it is fun anytime Duke goes home the first week of the tourney but it was especially fun because all the Duke excuse makers were out in full force.

You see, it was somehow unfair for Duke to have to play South Carolina in the state of South Carolina.

But for some reason, it never is unfair for Duke opponents to have to play the Blue Devils in the state of North Carolina. How many times has Duke had two quasi-home games in the NCAA tourney?

Yet somehow it was really unfair for Coach K and his team to have to play in a different state.

Duke couldn’t play in the home state this year because the tournament was pulled from North Carolina due to that weirdo transgender bathroom law.

Do they have guards outside the bathroom checking your gender before you are allowed in? What a dumb law.

Anyway, South Carolina and star guard Sindarius Thornwell outclassed Duke. And Frank Martin outcoached Coach K.

South Carolina became America’s Team for a night as most people around the nation enjoyed watching another Duke early exit.

Go Mercer! Go Lehigh! Go South Carolina!

Isn’t Duke an elite program? Well, elite programs should be able to win anywhere.

End of story.

 

Interesting tidbit I dug up: Wisconsin has won more NCAA Tournament games than anyone else over the past four years.

The Badgers are looking for their 14th NCAA win in that time span when they face Florida on Friday.

Normally, I wouldn’t care who wins a game like this. Especially since my bracket has already met the shredder (thanks, Villanova).

Oh yeah, it was Wisconsin causing my bracket to become full of red ink with its impressive victory over Villanova.

But I now realize it is time for the Badgers to go home. Not their fault but I learned that the slimy politician guy named Paul Ryan is from Wisconsin.

Ryan is the dingbat who is somehow coming up with a worse health care plan than the disaster known as Obamacare (the one time Donald Trump is right). I wouldn’t trust that Ryan clown to correctly put English muffins in the toaster. Heck, my mom calls him a jackass.

Go Gators! Make Paul Ryan have a horrible Friday night.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/wisconsin-looks-to-keep-run-going-versus-florida/

 

Thursday is the night that all of those Gonzaga fans will become really sad.

The Bulldogs don’t have enough ball-handlers to deal with the “Press Virginia” defense that West Virginia is famous for. The Mountaineers have forced 724 turnovers — nobody else even has 600 — and I see them creating havoc all game long.

Gonzaga also is the team with all the pressure on it. The Bulldogs have never reached a Final Four and even coach Mark Few admitted that the Final Four thing will continue to hang over the program until it reaches one.

Well, I don’t see Nigel Williams-Goss and his teammates even reaching the Elite Eight. I see Gonzaga’s season coming to an end on Thursday.

Here is the stellar preview — http://newsok.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/ncaab-preview.aspx?page=/data/NCAAB/matchups/g6_preview_19.html

 

 

 

Final Four Saturday is typically one of the best basketball viewing days of the entire year.

It wasn’t good for anybody this year unless you were a Villanova fan as nobody wants to see two blowout games on that fantastic day.

But it was all made up for on Monday with a solid basketball game that included one of the all-time great endings.

You see, it’s kind of hard to top winning the national championship with a buzzer-beating shot.

Villanova junior forward Kris Jenkins etched his name into sports history by nailing the winning 3-pointer as time expired to give the Wildcats a spectacular 77-74 victory over North Carolina.

It is Villanova’s first national title since 1985 when the most famous team in school history – led by Ed Pinckney – upset a powerhouse Georgetown squad led by Patrick Ewing in the title game.

This Villanova squad went 35-5 and won its first five NCAA tournament games by an average of 24.2 points. It let a late 10-point lead slip away before Jenkins’ hoop allowed the Wildcats to hold off a strong North Carolina squad.

In fact, the Tar Heels (33-7) tied the game with 4.7 seconds left when senior point guard Marcus Paige made a miraculous off-balance double-pump 3-point shot. That dramatic basket only turned out to a warm-up act.

You’ve got to like the coolness of senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono as he came up court. He didn’t panic and had the court awareness to underhand the ball to the trailing Jenkins.

“Arch made the perfect pass and Kris Jenkins lives for that moment,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said during the postgame interview on TBS.

Kind of fitting that Arcidiacono landed the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award after that display of teamwork.

“I wanted that shot,” Arcidiacono admitted, “but I have the confidence in my teammates.”

Jenkins, who admits he’s never one to pass up a shot, was making sure Arcidiacono knew he was in close proximity.

“I was like ‘Ryan, Ryan,'” Jenkins said. “Like coach said, he made the perfect pass.”

The flip side was the pain the Tar Heels felt after putting up a strong effort.

Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was among the people struggling with his emotions afterward.

“I’ve been a head coach for 28 years,” Williams said in his interview with TBS, “and the worst thing is on a loss like this I feel so inadequate because I don’t know how to make it better.”

The contest was the first NCAA title game decided as time expired since the famous Jim Valvano-coached North Carolina State team won the 1983 title. On that occasion, Lorenzo Charles grabbed Dereck Whittenberg’s desperation heave to lay in the winning points for a 54-52 victory over a Houston squad featuring Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.

That terrific ending now has company and Whittenburg was one of the millions of people tweeting about the Villanova ending.

“That was a pretty amazing pass by Arch. Reminds me of a pass I made once,” Whittenburg wrote.

Of course, nobody but Whittenburg thinks his play was a pass but that’s OK. The ball got to the right guy at the right time.

Just as it did on Monday.

 

The first third of San Diego State’s basketball season was a smashing success. The second third begins Wednesday when the Aztecs open Mountain West Conference play by visiting TCU.

San Diego State (15-0) finds itself in unprecedented territory as the nation’s No. 6 team entering the conference slate.

That the Aztecs have a good team this season is no surprise. San Diego State returned the core of a team that went to last season’s NCAA tournament and the Aztecs have been predicted to win the Mountain West this season.

But it is hard to get used to seeing San Diego State behind only Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the national rankings. Think about this – the Aztecs are ranked ahead of programs such as Kentucky, Michigan State, Purdue and Villanova.

That’s high-level territory, even more so for a San Diego State that was never previously nationally ranked prior to this season.

Of course, the season’s final third will be the most important for San Diego State as the Aztecs have never won an NCAA tournament game before. Based on the lofty midseason ranking, winning two tourney games and reaching the Sweet 16 is the new and heightened expectation.

TCU (9-6) has the look of an improved team with Virginia Tech transfer Hank Thorns and junior-college transfer J.R. Cadot making significant contributions. Star guard Ronnie Moss has a concussion and might not be available for the contest.

The Horned Frogs nearly upset the Aztecs in San Diego last season so it won’t surprise me if Kawhi Leonard and the Aztecs receive a nice test.

There’s also a Mountain West showdown in Las Vegas on Wednesday with Brigham Young (14-1) visiting UNLV (12-2). The Rebels have defeated BYU eight straight times at the Thomas & Mack so Cougars star Jimmer Fredette faces a supreme challenge.

Air Force (9-4) hosts Utah (7-7) in Wednesday’s other Mountain West game. The Falcons have a shot at beating the Utes, who are getting solid production from junior-college transfer Will Clyburn.

Colorado State (11-4) defeated Wyoming (7-8) on Tuesday in the first Mountain West contest of the season. The Rams are hoping to be a dark horse championship contender.

New Mexico (11-3) has the first-night bye and is playing Cal State Bakersfield.

For a deep look at the Mountain West Conference, here is the stellar weekly conference roundup: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/mwest/home.htm

This was supposed to be the season when the Mountain West Conference did some major damage in the NCAA tournament. The league sent four teams to the Big Dance for the first time ever and both New Mexico and Brigham Young had history-making campaigns.

But the first weekend of the tournament ended Sunday without a single Mountain West team in sight. The Sweet 16 will go on as schedule on Thursday and Friday with the entire Mountain West sitting in front of their television sets.

Eleven conferences will have at least representative in the Sweet 16 but not the conference that rated sixth-best in conference RPI this season.

The Sweet 16 not having a Mountain West squad in it normally wouldn’t jump out as an issue but it does this year after the league’s outstanding regular season. The four teams went a collective 2-4 in the NCAA tournament — New Mexico and Brigham Young went 1-1 with second-round ousters and UNLV and San Diego State were one-and-done casualties.

The league likes to think of itself as the best conference outside the six major power conferences. But a lack of NCAA postseason success continues to haunt it, particularly when teams from lower-rated leagues like the Atlantic-10 (seventh this year), Missouri Valley (ninth), Conference USA (11th), West Coast Conference (13th) and Horizon League (14th) routinely have teams advancing to the Sweet 16 or further.

Even conferences such as the Colonial Athletic Association (George Mason to the Final Four in 2006) and Southern Conference (Davidson to the Elite Eight in 2008) have better recent postseason accomplishments worth boasting about.

Oh yeah, the Ivy League has a Sweet 16 team this year too even though a solid Cornell squad was handed a tough task by drawing a No. 12 seed. All four Mountain West entrants had better seeds but it didn’t help.

Particularly bad was regular-season Mountain West champion New Mexico, a No. 3 seed, being run off the floor by 11th-seeded Washington in Saturday’s second-round game. The Lobos were supposed to be embarking on a deep run – star player Darington Hobson was boasting about an Elite Eight appearance – and they lost to a squad from a league (Pacific-10) that drew season-long criticism for its weakness.

So when the Sweet 16 heats up this week, Washington will be lacing up the sneakers and hitting the hardwood while the Lobos will be wondering what happened. BYU, led by star guard Jimmer Fredette, also will be pondering the same thing though the seventh-seeded Cougars were beaten by a superior athletic team in second-seeded Kansas State.

UNLV lost on a last-second shot by Northern Iowa sharpshooter Ali Farokhmanesh and San Diego State fell short against Tennessee. Both Northern Iowa and Tennessee are Sweet 16 participants while the Rebels and Aztecs can both watch their respective games this week with envy.

Yeah, the Mountain West will have a lot to prove when the 2011 NCAA tournament arrives.

Can we change the name to Big Least?

Speaking of disappointing conference performances, that subject can’t cease without discussing the Big East.

The league had eight teams in the NCAA tournament and only two of them reached the Sweet 16 – No. 1 seed Syracuse and No. 2 seed West Virginia.

Such little representation isn’t what the league had in mind when this tournament began. But No. 3 seed Georgetown was routed in the opening round by 14th-seeded Ohio University, No. 2 seed Villanova barely squeaked by 15th-seeded Robert Morris in the first round and lost to 10th-seeded Saint Mary’s in the second round, and No. 3 seed Pittsburgh was a second-round loser to sixth-seeded Xavier of the Atlantic-10.

Joining Georgetown as first-round losers were No. 6 seed Marquette, No. 6 seed Notre Dame and No. 9 seed Louisville.

Sounds more like the “Big Least” to me than the powerful Big East.

Scarier is the probable expansion of the NCAA tournament to 96 teams. I saw the other day that Big East commissioner John Marinatto thinks all 16 of his teams could make the tournament with an expanded field.

That qualifies as another significant reason to root against expansion of the tourney. If expansion eventually goes through, the evidence shows more opportunities should be provided to teams from conferences that often get shafted at selection time — leagues like the Missouri Valley, for example – than adding more middling programs from the power conferences.

Tournament thoughts

–Anyone else wondering how far Saint Mary’s might have advanced in last year’s NCAA tournament when Patty Mills and Daimon Simpson were the leading players after this year’s Omar Samhan-led group reached the Sweet 16? The Gaels were shafted by the selection committee last season.

–Cornell’s Sweet 16 appearance isn’t a surprise to anyone who closely follows college basketball. The current group led by NBA prospect Ryan Wittman, superb point guard Louis Dale and 7-footer Jeff Foote are in the tournament for a third straight year and nearly beat Kansas earlier this season. Cornell is a battle-tested veteran group that is well-coached by Steve Donahue.

–Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez was already a household name after his terrific play in a February upset of Duke and winning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year honors but how superb was he in the final two minutes of the contest against Michigan State on Sunday? The Terrapins overcame a nine-point deficit with Vasquez scoring 10 of his 26 points and took a brief lead on his spectacular basket with 6.6 seconds left before the Spartans won the game on a buzzer-beating 3-point basket by Korie Lucious.

–Tough break for Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas to suffer a serious Achilles’ tendon injury while trying to lead the Spartans back to the Final Four. The absence of Lucas will give Northern Iowa a better chance at staging a Sweet 16 upset. Of course, there’s no chance of the Spartans taking the Panthers lightly after Northern Iowa’s upset of top-seeded Kansas.

–Saw some chatter about Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt being in danger of losing his job despite reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Hewitt had the Yellow Jackets playing for the national title (see the 2004 loss to Connecticut). Perhaps programs like Oregon, Auburn, Seton Hall, St. John’s and DePaul ought to hold off on filling their openings in case Hewitt suddenly becomes available.

–Tom Penders is out as Houston’s coach despite the Cougars making the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years. The hot rumor has Billy Gillispie as the leading candidate to replace him. It took Gillispie just two seasons to flame out as Kentucky’s coach but he previously did a good coach at two Texas universities — Texas-El Paso and Texas A&M.

So the NCAA tournament is off to its usual exciting start. Better enjoy Thursday and Friday as much as possible.

It appears greed is about to wreck the March Madness we all know and love. The same folks that refuse to fix the postseason football mess are on the verge of wrecking the one major college sport that is doing it right.

Say good-bye to the scintillating 65-team tournament that owns the sports landscape through the month of March. These geniuses – I mean, greedy fat cats – are intent on expanding the NCAA tournament to 96 teams. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” phrase means nothing to college administrators when they can add millions of more dollars to their already-overflowing coffers.

It probably will be announced sometime this summer so consider yourself forewarned.

Gone will be those exciting first two days where a shocking upset stands out forever – you know, like 15th-seeded teams beating No. 2 seeds (Santa Clara over Arizona, Richmond beating Syracuse, Coppin State over South Carolina and Hampton upsetting Iowa State).

We’re talking Hampton the university, not Hampton the hotel chain.

We nearly saw another one of those moments as this year’s tournament got under way as 15th-seeded Robert Morris gave an incredible effort against 2 seed Villanova before losing in overtime.

Under the 96-team format, the shocking upsets become a thing of the past. You see, the top 32 teams (the 1 through 8 seeds in the current format) all get byes into the second round. So there will now be a bunch of lackluster opening-round games that detract from the Cinderella element that makes the NCAA tournament so exciting and appealing.

Look at Murray State’s buzzer-beating victory over Vanderbilt. The Racers were seeded 13th and the Commodores were a 4 seed. In a 96-team field, Vanderbilt would have had a bye and Murray State would have been playing a 20th-seeded team. The Houston Chronicle put together a mythical 96-team bracket last week and the 20 seeds included schools like Illinois State and Weber State. (see http://images.chron.com/content/news/photos/09/03/08/NCAAbracket96.pdf).

Murray State beating an Illinois State or Weber State doesn’t mean a thing. But beating Vanderbilt did – it was the Racers’ second-ever NCAA tournament win and the school’s first since beating North Carolina State in 1988.

Thousands of people all over the country began Googling Danero Thomas, who knocked down the winning shot to instantly become a Murray State hero for the ages. Murray State is the talk of the sports world on Thursday afternoon and Thomas was the second biggest star of the first eight games — Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette, who added to his legacy with an epic performance against Florida, is the only player who can claim a better showing.

Know this: Nobody would be talking about Danero Thomas and the Racers if they had edged Weber State.

It’s been nice to see some coaches speak out about the idiocy of expanding the tournament. Others are very quiet for a very good reason – a 96-team tourney adds to job security.

Yet when you factor in that only two No. 11 seeds (LSU in 1986 and George Mason in 2006) have ever reached the Final Four, why do we need a tourney that included four No. 19 seeds or four No. 24 seeds? Only one No. 8 seed has ever played in the NCAA title game and that was 25 years ago when the famous 1985 Villanova squad upset powerful Georgetown.

But get prepared for the watered-down version of the tournament next season, where the first two days are no longer worth skipping work to watch TV. Fake sore throats will drop significantly next March and work production will rise.

I am fine with limited expansion – from 65 to 68 teams. Why have just one play-in game when you can have four? But I don’t want to see eight of the one-and-done conference qualifiers all playing each other to reach the field.

How about the last four at-large teams making up half the participants? For example, this year Minnesota might have been playing Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a play-in game under such a scenario. If you want to make those winners play 5 seeds in the first round and let the No. 1 seeds continue to play the weakest four teams not in the play-in games, that’s fine with me. Just work something out to where the tournament only grows by three teams.

But any expansion over 68 teams is appealing only to the people who will being raking in the cash of two extra days of contests. Making the tournament a 96-team entity subtracts from the quality of games and the excitement. Do we really want to see 13 of the 16 Big East teams in the field?

Of course, these type of decisions are never about what the fans might want. Just look at how the BCS (Bowl Corruption System) annually ignores the overwhelming call for a football playoff system and humors us by bragging about how great their (very, very flawed) system is.

The greedy fat cats will do what they want – just as they always do.

But in this case, it will weaken one of the top sporting events of all-time.