Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NCAA Tourney: A Look Back, A Look Ahead

1. North Dakota State guard Ben Woodside will play in the NBA (and I'm taking bets via email). By no means is this guy "just a shooter." The way he consistently split Kansas double teams was far more impressive than any long-rage bomb he nailed. It also gave me a chance to reference Mark Price 263 times in one day.

2. Cal State Northridge entered the tournament with a 17-14 record. To that I They gave Memphis all they could handle, and their point guard, Mark Hill, was the best guy on the floor for most of the game. Again, I have no idea how that team ended with 14 regular season losses. Between Hill and the big white in the middle (I'm sure he has a name) they have two guys who absolutely would've started for the Bearcats this season.

3. While I'm on the topic of Cinderella teams that couldn't quite get it done, East Tennessee State almost knocked off No. 1 Pitt in what would've been the strangest tourney upset of my lifetime. Consider...

a. ETSU shot only 30 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free throw line.

b. ETSU's guard play was atrocious; they're only decent player, a small forward named Tiggs, shot 6-21 from the field.

When the big boys go down it's usually due in large part hot outside shooting and excellent guard play. That wasn't the case with ETSU-Pitt. ETSU killed them on the offensive glass (an unheard-of 19-9 advantage) and generally stuck around (down only three with under 3:00 remaining) without being superior athletically. Pitt survived to the Sweet Sixteen, and they should beat Xavier, but this team really isn't that good.

4. Is Oliver Purnell the next Pat Kennedy (i.e., good recruiter, terrible game coach)? Seriously, if I'm a Clemson fan I'm asking for that guy's head. Their season-ending results never match the talent level at Clemson.

5. I said it before the tournament, and I'm sticking with it: UConn is playing in the title game. Partially because they have a buttload of talent, but also because nobody from the Midwest/West side of the bracket is good enough to make it there. That means you, Memphis and Louisville.

6. Vegas lost their ass this past weekend. So did Vickers. That happens every few years in the tournament. Whattya gonna do? Is it my fault Syarcuse was only a twelve-point favorite over Stephen F. Austin? What about a slow-ass IVY League school like Cornell getting less than two touchdowns against a race car like Missouri? Every other year of my life I'd have been dancing in the shower with all my extra money. This year, the gambling gods had different plans. Keep the faith, though. And sorry if my advice burned a hole in your pocket...

7. In my preseason college basketball preview, I allowed the world to see the eleven teams I wagered on (with accompanying odds) to win the whole damn thing; only five remain.

A moment to toot the horn...

Here's part of what I wrote Kansas: "If I could actually bet on such a thing, I would place a healthy amount of American dollars on Aldrich's stock rising higher than any player on the planet over the next five months."

Anyone see what Aldrich did against Dayton on Sunday? How about 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks.

8. One team I guarantee will open in next season's top five: Purdue. They return everybody. Can they pull an '06 Florida and shock the world a year before it was expected? Probably not, but trust me, nobody ants to play them right now. They're (a.) talented, (b.) well coached and (c.) peaking at the right time.

9. I've said this about a million times already, but I'll say it again: Even if North Carolina brings the goods Friday against Gonzaga they might lose. Man for man, the Zags are equally as talented. This one has the potential to be a never-to-be-forgotten shootout.

10. Do you realize Xavier is one win away from making the Elite Eight for the third time in six years. Think about that for a sceond...

*****End of thems words*****

More tourney thoughts (plus Vickers) to be posted before Thursday's games.

-Brad Spieser (