Monday, March 24, 2008

Sweet 11, er, 16 thoughts

Quick story: in 2000, Jana and I were working at the Oshkosh Northwestern, and the Badgers stunned Arizona to reach the Sweet 16. Working that night, it was my job to get her teaser copy for the A section of the paper. My penmanship is, ahem, not the best, and when she brought over that section for me to proof I gasped and saw we were about to go to print with "Badgers Advance to Sweet 11." Of course, UW won two more games and made it to the Final Three before losing to Michigan State.

Fitness Center in town is closed today, so no hoops and a bonus midday Badgercentric post! Here are some thoughts after the first two rounds:

-Really happy for Tony Bennett and Washington State. They don't have a snowball's chance in hell of beating Carolina in another home game for the Heels (Raleigh then Charlotte - nice job site selection committee), but Tony has clearly established himself as a candidate for a higher profile job. Indiana?

-Thankfully Carolina will have to beat either Louisville or Tennessee to reach the Final Four. Louisville is looking really tough right now, and has the inside-outside balance to win two games this weekend. The Vols looked really vulnerable against Butler.

-Any way Villanova can beat Kansas? No. Although, in 2005 I gave the Wildcats similar odds of beating Carolina in the Sweet 16 on the other side of our bracket, and came within a refs' decision of doing it.

-Is it just me, or does it seem like Michigan State always fares a little worse than it should in the Big Ten, and a little better than it should in the NCAA Tournament? Why is that? Maybe the familiarity that comes within a conference has more of an adverse effect on Izzo's schemes than it does on other Big Ten coaches' strategies. Because State clearly had the most deep, talented, balanced roster in the conference this year, and underachieved with it. Yet they go out and pound a Pittsburgh team that many thought would reach the Final Four. Does it all depend on the Spartans' outside shooting, particularly Neitzel? After seeing Memphis struggle against good teams lately, and sizing up the personnel, I would almost favor State to win that matchup.

-Texas-Stanford is a fascinating contrast in styles. At least Texas has Atchley to provide something of an inside presence. Stanford-Marquette was fascinating, for that matter. Stanford had no chance of stopping Jerel McNeal until he missed himself, and the Gold had no chance of stopping the Lopez twins unless they missed. In the time I watched (part of the first half and crunch time) Marquette got one basket from a non-guard, and Stanford got one basket from a non-post. Really good game. One more season for MU's two excellent guards to win something of significance, unless James bolts for the NBA.

-UCLA-Western Kentucky, Xavier-West Virginia. Boy, that West Region is a dream for CBS. Watching UCLA and Georgetown, I imagine, is like watching what the Badgers would look like with higher-rated recruits.

-Wisconsin has outlasted the three teams to beat it this year: Marquette, Duke, and Purdue.


Burch said...

Good point about MSU overachieving in the NCAA tourney. With the exception of their 1st round fallout during Mason's cinderella run a few years back, it always seems like MSU goes deep in the tourney. Izzo seems to value having a tough non-conference schedule....that might work in their favor later in the year when matched against teams from the big-name conferences.

will said...

Good summary Tappa. Perhaps Izzo is like Alvarez: a coach whose most value is preparing his team for the postseason.

A quick trip report from Birmingham.

Finally, in the four-year history of making these trips I saw a quality second-round matchup. If Butler makes half of the layups it missed, the Bulldogs win the game in regulation. Tennessee has a lot of talent, but the Vols go in spurts where they just seem to lose focus. There were a lot of opportunities when they could have run American and Butler out of the building, but didn't. Loved watching Louisville play and Pitino coach....bad weekend for Duke basketball including Jeff Capel.

Other notes:

Loved the Butler chant: "B-U-T, L-E, R You a Bulldog, Hell Yeah!" Have "Rocky Top" plugged into my head and it won't go away.

Lots, lots, lots of love for Wisconsin (I wore my UW hat most of the weekend). At least 10 fans came up to me....couple of the Butler students who made the trip were from Wisconsin and supportive of the Badgers. And the guy in the seat directly behind me was a UW alum (and part-time professor) and current Saturday hockey season ticket holder.

Scott Tappa said...

Sounds like a fun weekend, Will. What was that Birmingham facility like? It didn't look very modern from the broadcast.

For some reason last weekend I started humming Rocky Top and couldn't stop, either.

Will said...

Yeah, the BJCC is not a top-flight facility - although we even though we sat pretty high up the seats weren't so bad because the arena is so vertical. Noticed there was a lot of huffing and puffing from some of the older fans.

Does anyone know if UW is going to host a regional in the future?