Hey, so I watched games last night
No, I am not emotionally prepared to talk about the end of the WVU-Texas game. I actually felt worse after that game than after the Buckeyes' loss to Georgetown, probably because I had a full hour or so to prepare for the end of that game, while the final 20 seconds of the 'Snogles game was an emotional whirlygig that spun me around, smacked me in the face, lifted me up on its shoulders, and then threw me to the ground, laughing in my face. *Sigh* I want to bawl like Adam Morrison just thinking about it.
Anywhoodle, more basketball was played last night, and now, before the first two Final Four tickets are punched this evening, we can all take a step back and see that an astounding six of the eight Sweet Sixteen games came down to the final two minutes. Two nights of extraordinary basketball were played. Here's some of my thoughts on each game (or, at least, the ones I watched some of), in order of when they finished...
Everything everyone said about LSU having the perfect team makeup to take down the Dookies was correct. Long, supremely ath-eh-letic, and with a little bit of a swagger. Enough D to frustrate J.J. Redick - though I had no idea hw would be completely shut down like that - and keep Shelden Williams from going crazygonuts down low. And a perfect offense to combat what Duke does: the Devils prefer to pressure the ball and extend their defense, apparently consciously figuring "we're more talented than anyone else, and upsets happen when teams get hot from 3, so we're not gonna let you shoot 3s, and we're gonna make you get into the paint where Shelden Williams will be waiting." Well, that's just great for LSU: they don't bother shooting 3s, and (as we saw when the Tigers almost beat OSU) their best offensive play is probably the missed shot; they hammer people on the boards. Duke has been susceptible all year to ath-eh-letic teams willing to take it to the hole and crash the offensive boards, and that's LSU's offense in a nutshell. Once again in this tournament, the conventional wisdom came through.
This game wasn't televised in southeast Michigan, although my cable here includes CBS feeds from both Detroit and Toledo (more on that later). As such, all I saw of this game was three or four 30-second "live look-ins," so ... no idea.
Aw, the poor media: their college basketball poster boys both exited the tourney before we even got to the Elite Eight; who saw this coming? ESPN and all the other wannabe networks love to pimp players, not teams, and it's fitting that the two individual players we had to hear about ad nauseum all season went down before they were really even sniffing Indianapolis. "Oh no, where are we gonna get 'stories'?" How about you just show us the basketball, jackasses.
Now, onto the game. This game actually got me to grudgingly respect Gonzaga. For 37 minutes, they were clearly the better team, as UCLA came out in an inexplicable funk where they played like a high school team that was terrified of their opponent. And then the wheels FLEW off, as UCLA scored the last 11 points of the game to win by 2. The 'Zags had trouble all season with keeping inferior teams close and never really closing them out, and it never really hurt them because they were always clearly more talented than their opponent. On Thursday, their soft nature down the stretch in games bit them in the ass HARD. I'm not sure I've ever seen a more shocking example of one team, on this big of a stage, absolutely choking away a sure victory due almost entirely to self-inflicted gaffes. Unbelievably, for fans of the school, this has to be an even more painful loss than WVU's. Yes, I laughed a little.
After the 'Snogles went out Thursday night, the Eagles and Wildcats probably became my two favorite teams remaining in the tournament. Bummer they had to face each other in the Sweet Sixteen. BC seems big and lumbering, but they played outstanding defense on Villanova's guards, something that really surprised me. In a game where it seemed like each offense had a significant advantage over the opponent's defense, it only makes sense that the entire game was a defensive struggle, with the winning team accumulating 60 points after an overtime period. 'Nova went an OSU-like 4-for-19 on triples, with Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Nardi combining for a paltry 16 points. But Big East POY Randy Foye put up 29, pretty much single-handedly saving the Wildcats' season. In the end, with seconds remaining, BC fell victim to a variation on my high school's old "Pony" inbounds play, a simple play that I've seen teams get victimized by all tournament, to my extreme bewilderment. Also, I hate Billy Packer, because I'm alive and can hear him.
George Mason-Wichita State
See the Memphis Bradley game. I maybe saw 40 seconds of game action.
I watched very little of this game, because the one opposite it was so fascinating. However, I had the option to watch it, as my Detroit CBS feed had the UConn-UW game, but the Toledo CBS channel was inexplicably carrying this matchup. This one went right down to the last thirty seconds, and that :30 was just about the only part of the game I watched. The guy with three first names, Joe Kim Noah, looks a lot more like a "Kim" than a "Joe," but he plays like a frickin' Tasmanian Devil. I hope Florida loses to 'Nova, not just because I like the Wildcats more, but because the thought of listening to Billy Packer talk about "Billy Dunnivan" throughout the Final Four makes me punch myself in the face involuntarily.
UConn still clearly thinks they can coast for the majority of games and then turn it on when they need to. If they keep this up, they WILL lose. But they snuck out of last night's game thanks to Rashad Anderson's game-tying three with 1.6 seconds left.
A lot is going to be made of Brandon Roy having to sit out for 7 minutes after picking up his third and fourth fouls midway throught the second half on a questionable personal foul call and then a much less questionable technical, but this game was lost for UW in the first six minutes of the second half. They had a 10-point lead, and UConn was obviously frazzled, stuck in that spot where they're trying to "turn it on" but they haven't been actually playing in so long that everything is still out of sync. As a result, over about a 4-minute span, Washington forced 5 or 6 turnovers from a sloppy and frustrated UConn, but never capitalized on any of them, when they really could have blown the game wide open. The east-coast Huskies were playing like absolute crap, but the west-coast Huskies let them hang around thanks to idiotic shot selection and stupid gaffes like 3-second violations. But that's Washington in a nutshell: quite talented, but extremely stupid. I saw so many fouls called on idiotic over-aggressive defenders out by the halfcourt stripe last night that I wanted to claw my eyes out. Then there was their big albino big man fouling Marcus Williams on a layup with Washington leading by four in the last 15 seconds of regulation, pointlessly handing UConn a 3rd point on the trip, a point which proved to be crucial (otherwise, UConn is down 4 in the last 8 seconds, and Anderson's three doesn't tie the game). And then, in the OT, after UW had scrambled back to get within two with 25 seconds left, that frickin' Luke Schenscer Jr. kid stole the inbounds pass with a full head of steam toward the basket, then saw Rudy Gay there and ran away like a little girl. He dribbled out to the wing and passed to a teammate who - shocker! - turned the ball over. Stupidity cost that team the game, not Roy's double-foul trip.
And yes, there was a laughable free throw disparity in this game, with UConn shooting 47 to UW's 23. And no, it was not justified; no one can possibly say with a straight face that UConn was "the aggressor" or that they were "making more things happen" than UW. But Washington wouldn't even have been in the Sweet Sixteen had they not gotten similarly infuriating preferential treatment from the officials in their "win" over Illinois, so the amount of sympathy they get from me is somewhere in the neighborhood of absolute zero. NOW, PLAIN ZERO!