Is pretty much now wrecked. I had Louisville winning the region and ultimately the national title. Gotta give Scottie Reynolds major props though. He went almost coast-to-coast in five seconds for the winning floater with under a second to go. Not to mention that the whole Villanova team went 22-23 at the free throw line. That’s how you answer a physical team like Pittsburgh, that’s how you win close basketball games, and it’s even more impressive given the stakes. They’re a team I wouldn’t mind seeing win it all, although I could say the same for just about any team left in the tournament. All of them have shown the ability to play fundamentally sound basketball- when’s the last time we heard American teams described that way?
For UConn, it was about keeping poise. They only made eight field goals in the second half, but played stout defense, kept Missouri from capitalizing on the turnovers their traps caused, got a few of their scores at timely moments (i.e. to extend a 1/2 point lead to 3/4), and yes, made 10 straight free throws in the final moments. Kemba Walker (23 points, including a couple of amazing plays) and A.J. Price (18 points) stood out in particular at some of these phases. The fact that UConn did this without huge games from Hasheem Thabeet and their other big men does not bode well for either Louisville or Michigan State, one of whom they will face next Saturday night.
Speaking of which, Louisville vs. Michigan State and UNC-Oklahoma are gonna be terrific games tomorrow. Michigan State just found a way late to knock out Kansas last night, while the other teams demolished their opponents. In fact, after seeing what Oklahoma did to Syracuse, I could really see the Sooners beating UNC. As well as Tony Crocker played (28 points) in support of a typically outstanding effort from Blake Griffin (30 points and 14 rebounds, and what a dunk that was right after SU misfired on a try of their own), I still think the Tar Heels are just a little deeper. As this short blog piece notes, North Carolina had better stop Willie Warren. Allowing Griffin and Crocker to ‘get their points’ is one thing. Allowing three players to torch you is probably pushing it.
For Tom Izzo’s bunch, I think it’s simple. No track meets or else Louisville will tear them apart. A tough, relatively slow, physical game is exactly what the Spartans need, so the first few minutes will be crucial. If they have to chase a 10 point deficit early, the tempo could quickly become too fast for them.
As for that bracket, I wonder if I can even finish in facebook’s upper 30%, much less the top 10%…