Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tourney Notes, Part Three

Random thoughts now that the NCAA Basketball Tournament is down to the Elite Eight:

The Victors
It remains to be seen whether this year's Michigan Wolverines team will remain eponymous with the school's fight song come April 8th. But their stunning comeback over Kansas did give them a "team of destiny" kind of feel. If they win it all, I hope that feat will trigger the nation to properly remember Michigan's 1989 national championship team, which reached the game's summit by edging Seton Hall in one of the best title games ever played.

Rumeal Robinson sinking two free throws with three seconds left to erase a one-point deficit and deliver the championship to Ann Arbor remains one of the finest clutch moments in sports. However, when you ask about Michigan's basketball history, all anyone talks about is the Fab Five - a group that did not win a championship. What a shame.

Yes, Syracuse played a tenacious 2-3 zone defense in their Friday night win, but contrary to what all the talking heads keep saying, that system is not why they won. Indiana had plenty of open shots, only to shoot woefully off-target bricks on many of them. Syracuse won for the simple reason that they were the better team that night - and that fact would would have remained the same no matter which system they used.

Then there was Cody Zeller. After the second round, I wrote that he "played skittish and with no sense of authority" and that he had "to be considered one of the most disappointing players in the tournament." Well, against Syracuse he played even worse than he did the round before. He is not the sole reason Indiana lost, but he played so bad that the only way the Hoosiers might have had a chance is if every one of his teammates played literally perfect. On Friday, for the second game in a row, Zeller played like he doesn't believe he belongs at this level, and that kind of non-belief always proves to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

'Twas a helluva fun run guys, from the endless alley-oops to the sight of Sherwood Brown shaking hands with the TV announcers as the clock wound down against Georgetown. Sorry it ended, but it's good to know it was legit. Your school's enrollment is sure to skyrocket, and America can't wait to see you back next season.

Today: In the early game, Marquette will win a defensive struggle by a handful of points, pulling away from Syracuse at the end...Then Wichita State will edge Ohio State by sinking all their shots in the last three minutes, brushing aside what had been a tie and showing the Buckeyes that those who repeatedly play with fire ultimately get burned.

Tomorrow: Michigan will beat Florida. After staging a comeback like the one last night, how could they not?...Then Louisville will sweep the court with Duke and it won't even be close.

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