If I needed any reinforcement for my love of college basketball, yesterday’s hoops schedule provided ample opportunity (of course m’amour for the college game needs little support). Yesterday’s schedule included a couple of Big East rivalries, an upset in the SEC, inter-conference play between the Pac-10 and the Big East, C-USA and the West Coast Conference, the Horizon League and Missouri Valley Conference,match-up, bonus coverage from the Big Ten, an ACC show-down, and Missouri Valley match-up. I wore out the remote viewing a buzzer-beater, a sixty foot shot to end a half, an overtime match, and eight games decided by six points or less.
First up on the docket – Georgetown playing in a hostile environment at Villanova. John Thompson III has his boys playing solid hoops. The Hoyas lack the familiar names (Ewing, Mourning, Mutumbo, and Iverson) of bygone years, but these kids know how to grind it out with defense and rebounding. Those attributes make Georgetown the closest thing to a lock for the Sweet Sixteen. Nice 60-ft. heave by Jessie Sapp to finish the first half. A side note to the game – Villanova coach, Jay Wright, began his college-coaching career as an assistant at the University of Rochester.
Caught some segments of Vandy’s upset of Florida. Speaking of hostile environments. WOW!!! The raised floor at Vanderbilt created all sorts of havoc for the Gators. I want to give Billy Donovan credit, but it is hard to imagine his team winning two titles in a row. Can you imagine them playing against the likes of Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels? Or the Laettner, Hurley, and Hill led Blue Devils? Or against the Antawn Jamison version of UNC? For that matter, how ‘bout the Corliss Williamson-led Arkansas Razorback squad?
The Huskies of UW showed some moxie but didn’t have enough to upend the #7 Pittsburgh Panthers at home. After their run in last year’s tourney(they should have upset UConn if it hadn’t been for the zebras) and experience in the loaded Pac-10 the Huskies create quite a quandary for the selection committee. Who wants to play them in the first round?
The bracket-busting match-up between the Butler Bulldogs of the Horizon League and the Missouri Valley Conferenc Salukis of Southern Illinois showed that someday these conferences and other so-called mid-major leagues will wreak havoc in March. How ‘bout Jamaal Tatum and Randal Falker? They led their Salukis into the famed Hinkle Field house (Trivia: Which movie was filmed there?) and stole one from the number thirteen team in the country. Butler’s three-point shooting dropped off a little – 9 for 23. May be the result of AJ Graves suffering from the flu. But more than likely the result of the suffocating Saluki defense. Liner note for the game – Rick Majerus is quickly becoming my favorite commentator. (Trivia answer: you guessed it – ‘Hoosiers’ – DUH!!!!!!)
On to Memphis at Gonzaga. The Tigers made the first half look like the NBA all-star-weekend-dunk contest. The Zags struggled passing the ball in a half-court set. At one point I checked the dictionary to see if the spelling of the word defense changed to m-e-m-p-h-i-s. Mark Few made some adjustments, and the Zags overcame an eight point half-time deficit to push the game to overtime. Cheers to Memphis for drowning out the zealous Zag crowd. Cheers to Mark Few for getting his team to start figuring out how to compete without Heytvelt. Has anyone noticed: BC suspended two players for undisclosed reasons. ND suspended its point guard for drug possession. Gonzaga suspended two players for drug possession. Is it only the kids at Catholic schools who get in trouble? Or is it only the kids from Catholic schools who get caught? Or is it that only the Catholic schools care?
UNC versus Boston College – a hot time in Chestnut Hill. I have a difficult time cheering against this Tar Heel squad. It’s kinda like the turn-of-the-century Yankee teams. How does any true fan wish ill will upon the likes of Jeter, Williams, Posada, Riviera, Brosius, and O’Neill? Those guys embodied the team concept – the same with this group of Tar Heels. Roy Williams deserves all the credit he gets. Critics can suggest that his team plays sloppy and unfocused from time to time. Is it sloppy or is it an attempt to dictate tempo? Boston College did everything they could to slow down last night’s game. UNC wanted to play up-tempo which lends itself to more turnovers when trying to play faster. Despite all of BC’s efforts and a raucous crowd including Doug Flutie the Tar Heels pulled out another W. (More trivia: Al Skinner’s playing career ended when he was cut by the Detroit Pistons. Who was the coach?)
Bonus coverage from ESPN U: Louisville at Marquette. Just in time to see Jerry Smith sink a three at the buzzer and lead the Cardinals to victory.
The Missouri Valley Conference offered a night-cap. Bruiser Flint’s Drexel squad managed a sometimes-ugly victory on the road at Creighton. Hey Salinger, remember Bruiser Flint?
Answer to the trivia: Dick Vitale.
Time for Duke and Georgia Tech.