It’s just after midnight on what is technically Monday morning, and I can’t stop thinking of college basketball, and rightfully so. Four furious days of NCAA tournament action, waking up at noon (I’m allowed to do that, I’m in college), and watching 12 hours of consecutive basketball will have that effect on a person.
I think that it’s safe to say that at this point, I will likely go to bed thinking about college basketball, will have dreams about college basketball, and then skip classes in the morning under the excuse of “March Madness Withdrawal”. When one’s mind is so occupied by a single subject like this one, they are often advised to do things like “go for a run” or “read a book”. Instead, I’m choosing to ‘talk it out’ so to speak, by giving you the five things I loved and the five things I hated from this particularly rowdy weekend of March Madness action. Hopefully once I am finished, I can live my day’s basketball-free until my next fix on Thursday evening. Without further ado, here are my top and bottom five from Rounds 2 and 3 of the NCAA tournament.
SOMETHING I LOVED was the way the Duke Blue Devils came out and played against the Creighton Blue Jays. Going into the game, it was obvious that Duke had prepared to defend the Nation’s second leading scorer Doug McDermott aggressively. Duke often trapped McDermott forcing him to give up the ball, as well as constantly switching defenders on him so he never really got in a comfortable flow all game. Duke also played a very physical game, which may be a good sign for their upcoming matchup against Michigan State. Duke is often thought of as a soft team, but with Kelly and Plumlee out on the floor, Duke’s defense is one of the best in the game, physical or not. Their toughness will come into question in the upcoming days before their showdown with Sparty, but Duke proved that they can beat you on both sides of the ball against Creighton, especially on a night where they only shot 39% from the field.
SOMETHING I HATED were the way teams were seeded in this tournament, especially the 12 seeds. One day when I become a professional filmmaker and produce a 30-for-30 on “Selection Sunday”, at least 15-30 minutes will be solely dedicated to the preposterous 12-seed, and why it so often seems that teams with that seed are superior to higher seeded teams, especially including their 5th seeded Round of 64 opponent. Take for instance an Oregon team which steamrolled their way to the Sweet 16 this weekend. The Ducks won their conference tournament, and have been extremely hot since Dominic Artis returned to their lineup. They were given a 12-seed, while California, a team that didn’t even make it to the PAC 12 championship, was given a 12-seed as well. Throw in Ole Miss and it seems downright perplexing to imagine what the selection committee was thinking when they unveiled their 2013 bracket. The only possible defense I could offer up is that a 12-seed, if victorious in the 1st round, has a relatively easy path to the sweet 16 before having to go up against the region’s #1 seed, potentially. Perhaps 12-5 games are so evenly matched for this reason. This however, seems very unlikely.
I LOVED the way Brandon Paul played against the Miami Hurricanes. Paul showed that he will go high in the upcoming NBA Draft this June, and he was able to do this by scoring from the outside as well as in the paint. Paul is athletic, quick, and extremely tough to guard. This skill set will get him far in the pros, and it was a pleasure to watch him at his best against a superior Miami team.
I HATE that referees cannot review out-of-bounds plays inside two minutes. This is a rule that has to be fixed going into next season, because if plays involving the shot and game clock could be reviewed, there’s no reason at all why plays such as the one at the end of the Illinois-Miami game shouldn’t have gotten a second look. That play quite possibly cost Illinois the basketball game, and so easily could have been fixed with one quick glance at the monitor.
I LOVED the way that Michigan handled the VCU full-court press on Saturday. VCU can be such a bad matchup for some teams with their “havoc” style of play, but when you’re a team like Michigan with athletic ball handlers, the full court press is rarely an issue for you. Michigan was able to create open 3-point looks and layups all game simply because VCU never broke out of their press, and once Michigan was able to do this, there simply was not a basketball game being played. Just a Michigan highlight show.
I HATE the repetitive commercials that I have been unable to escape during the last four days. If I have to see the short-haired chick talk about the difference between a mustache and a beard, or see Ken Jeong jump out of a refrigerator one more time this week, I think I am going to break my television. Hey advertisers, here’s an idea: it’s 2013, and it’s the era of “on demand entertainment”. Why not let your viewers choose say, 5-10 advertisements out of a group of 30 to view while they are watching March Madness? I know for a fact that Hulu already does this on their website, and not only would it increase interest in certain demographics, but it would also make it possible to bring myself to go to NAPA for auto-advice.
I LOVED Victor Oladipo and Aaron Craft’s shots at the end of their respective games. Just prime examples of leaders who stepped up when it counted the most. I was especially impressed with Craft’s shot, because he had been bothered and even instigated by Iowa State’s players for a major part of the second half. Craft did what good players do best and “let his game speak”. And as for Naismith Candidate Oladipo, I think Clark Kellogg said it best when he summed up his game-winning shot, “[Oladipo] knew it was going in right after the ball left his hands, all the best shooters do”.
I HATE the fact that Gus Johnson is no longer involved in my college basketball life. It seems incredible to me that CBS Sports can’t overpay Gus for just the opening weekend of March Madness to commentate games. I understand that he is currently broadcasting Champions League Soccer in Europe, but I wouldn’t even mind if Gus was just Skyped in from abroad. I just want to hear his voice, is that too much to ask? Okay, this is getting creepy, I’m going to stop now.
IT’S HARD NOT TO LOVE the way Louisville is playing basketball right now. They absolutely manhandled both of their early-round opponents, and on top of that, did it on UK’s court. I found it extremely hilarious that not only was Louisville running train on the likes of NC A&T and Colorado State on the court of their rivals, but also the fact that Kentucky lost the opening round of the NIT as a one seed, likely because they had to play their opening game at Robert Morris because their home floor was being used for the NCAA tournament they failed to qualify for. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just wait until next year though, as Kentucky will bring in a fresh top-10 recruiting class, and, as my good friend and Kentucky Native Cam puts it, “going on to the next group of ‘student athletes’”.
I HATE myself for not seeing this La Salle thing coming. La Salle is undefeated in games this year when they are either tied or leading with 5 minutes to go in the second half, and they have several scorers who can hurt you from many points of the court. Against Ole Miss, it just seemed like the Explorers were going to run out of gas, but they kept responding and quite simply wouldn’t go away. La Salle got lucky and is now going to face Wichita State in the Sweet 16 instead of Gonzaga, and I think its quite possible that they may have a date with destiny against either Arizona or Ohio State.
IF YOU TOLD ME YOU LOVED everything about Florida Gulf Coast University, I would tell you to get in line. College Basketball’s best kept secret in America is no longer that. I actually heard that after their win against San Diego State, their athletics website bought several extra servers because they were anticipating heavy website trafficking. Nearly on cue, the website crashed after reaching astronomical heights in viewership. I could write an entire article on this specific team, but I suppose that would make me rather typical. Just know that I have fallen for this team just as the rest of America has, and I am as excited as anyone else to watch the Florida Super Bowl on Friday night. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do the chicken dance and pour bottled water on myself.
I WOULD HATE it if I were a Georgetown Hoyas fan right now. Since 2008 when the Hoyas reached the Final Four, G-Town has won 2 NCAA tournament games. This is unacceptable for a team as good as the Hoyas, and they’ll be looking for answers again this offseason as they continue to fail on the big stage with superior talent . Times are tough right now for sports fans of the D.C. area, but on the bright side…I’ve got nothing.
All right, it’s time to rest up and prepare for another crazy weekend of college hoops, starting Thursday night. Good luck with your basketball withdrawal, everybody.
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