Some Sweet Basketball Awaits After A Furious Opening Weekend
Take a breath.
The close of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament evokes many emotions. The most prominent of which is exhaustion. Maybe you didn’t watch every minute of the 48 games played since Thursday (and if you did, God help you) but even so, your last 96 hours have likely included a dizzying amount of basketball.
The close of games Sunday offers a respite. Your life is no longer tethered to CBS or truTV or TNT or TBS. You suddenly remember there is schoolwork or a job you’ve been neglecting. Your kids come back into focus. You say, “see you later” to your sofa and that well-worn ass groove.
Eventually, when you get your life back in order, you will do the inevitable: Look ahead to the Sweet 16.
We’re way ahead of you. Before looking briefly back at Sunday’s best game, let’s take a quick peek forward and rank the Sweet 16 matchups by level of intrigue.
1. Florida (3) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (15)
Was there any doubt this game would top the list? The two schools are separated by only 260 miles, but couldn’t be more different. One school is led by a coach (Billy Donovan) who has guided three teams to the national title game. The other is led by a guy (Andy Enfield) who has been a Division I head coach for a total of 591 days, which is also the amount of time Florida Gulf Coast has been a Division I program. A bet: this game shatters whatever record exists for total viewers of a Sweet 16 matchup.
2. Michigan State (3) vs. Duke (2)
There is history between these traditional powers. Duke defeated Michigan State in the Round of 32 in 1994 and in the 1999 Final Four. The Spartans downed the Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 in 2005. The most recent meeting was last year, when Duke won a neutral site game 74-69. Not sure if that means anything, but when a team coached by Tom Izzo faces one run by Mike Krzyzewski, you tune in.
3. Indiana (1) vs. Syracuse (4)
There has been speculation Jim Boeheim may retire as Syracuse coach after the season. If true, he certainly would like to avenge one of his most crushing defeats. You might recall this play from the 1987 NCAA title game. It was kind of a big deal:
4. Louisville (1) vs. Oregon (12)
We should all be in agreement now: Oregon was grossly under-seeded. That No. 12 seed looked suspect a week ago and looks ridiculous now. Oregon will be a long shot to advance further, but Dana Altman is such a good coach that the Ducks will keep it close. UCLA fans should also take solace in this fact: It took 39 days and two coaches turning the job down before Oregon landed Altman. Sometimes, you luck into the right coach.
5. Kansas (1) vs. Michigan (4)
Two great teams featuring several future NBA players, including Kansas center Jeff Withey, who did this Sunday near the end of the Jayhawks victory over North Carolina (Note the fan’s reaction at the end of the clip):
6. Arizona (6) vs. Ohio State (2)
Off the court, this is going to be a love fest. Wildcats coach Sean Miller and Ohio State’s Thad Matta were roommates as assistant coaches at Miami of Ohio in the mid-1990s. When Matta was hired at Xavier, he brought Miller along. The Miller and Matta families even lived together for a stretch. The last time the two coaches faced each other was an epic overtime game in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, when Ohio State defeated Miller’s Xavier team, 78-71. We can only hope for a repeat.
7. Wichita State (9) vs. La Salle (13)
At some point we will forgive the Explorers for robbing us all of another week of Marshall Henderson’s antics, but we are not yet at that point. At least sublimely quotable Shockers coach Gregg Marshall remains, and he is capable of his own tomfoolery, such as:
8. Marquette (3) vs. Miami (2)
There is nothing wrong with this matchup, and it may end up the best game of the eight, but somebody had to finish last. An important question: Will an enterprising member of Marquette’s student section, well known for using giant cutout heads to distract shooters, make a big head of Nevin Shapiro?
Craft & Controversy
The day’s best game was its first. By now you have probably seen Aaron Craft’s gutsy three-pointer with half a second remaining that propelled Ohio State over 10th-seeded Iowa State, 78-75. We’ll spare Cyclones fans that clip, but will point out Craft may not have been in a position to hit that game-winner if not for a controversial charge call earlier in the game.
With 1:15 remaining and Iowa State up by a point, Cyclones guard Will Clyburn drove to the basket and laid the ball in as he slammed into Craft. Clyburn was called for a charge, as the official believed Craft was set and outside the restricted area under the basket. The official was wrong on both fronts, costing Iowa State the basket and a free-throw attempt.
John Adams, the NCAA national coordinator of men's basketball officiating, issued a statement after the game. It read: “I spoke with the official and he determined the defender established legal guarding position outside the restricted area prior to the offensive player leaving the floor to start his shot. When asked, the official said he did not see the defender's foot over the restricted area line. By rule, this is not a reviewable play.”
Good thing for Craft and Ohio State. Not to rub salt in the wounds of Iowa State fans, but Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday several NBA teams are eyeing Fred Hoiberg to be their coach. When it rains in Ames, it pours.