Monday, March 25, 2013

Tourney Notes, Part Two

Random thoughts now that the NCAA Basketball Tournament is down to the Sweet Sixteen:

Khalif Wyatt
It's too bad for this senior guard that his team did not make it past the second round. Even though I was pulling for Indiana, not Temple, I felt bad for Wyatt because his performance over the course of two games was tournament-MVP-caliber. At one point in the loss to Indiana, he had 20 of Temple's 24 points and it had nothing to do with ball-hogging. He is clutch, pure and simple, and when no one else stepped up on offense he eagerly filled the void.

Cody Zeller
On the flip side of the same game, Indiana's highly touted seven-foot sophomore played skittish and with no sense of authority. His Hoosiers have what it takes to run the table and cut down the nets in Atlanta, but he must ratchet his level of play way upward if that is going to happen. Given the Hoosiers' #1 seed and the many accolades thrown his way since he arrived on campus, he thus far has to be considered one of the most disappointing players in the tournament.

The Tiff
On the one hand, there is no doubt that Kansas fans are pleased their Jayhawks have made it to the Sweet Sixteen. But on the other and strangely stronger hand, there is no doubt they are thrilled to have beaten Roy Williams en route. Not North Carolina's team, mind you, but North Carolina's coach who once coached their own program. Am I the only one who finds their punitive Williams-hating passion to be exceedingly bizarre at this point.

Williams has been gone from Lawrence for ten seasons now. And he left the program in good shape. And he left to coach his own alma mater half a continent away, not to coach a conference rival. And everyone knew for years in advance that coaching his alma mater was his lifelong dream. Yet a (very) sizeable percentage of Jayhawks fans still consider him a traitor in the mold of Benedict Arnold, or perhaps even Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, only worse.

As an Auburn graduate, I have spent years in the thrall of America's most heated college rivalry, and I speak with confidence when I say that Kansas fans talking about Roy Williams have their priorities even more out of whack than Alabama fans talking about football. (Auburn fans are of course rational and reserved and respectful at every moment of their lives.)

Gotta love FGCU, gotta talk about FGCU...Screw anyone who ever referred to their team as America's Team, because the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles clearly are America's team...They dunk better than the Phi Slamma Jamma and play with a chemistry that reminds me of the Pat Riley Lakers...Monte Towe knew how to set up David Thompson on alley-oops, but Brett Comer knows how to set up everyone on alley-oops while ad-libbing on the fly...Watching them play hoops is like listening to Ella Fitzgerald scat "How High the Moon"...They personify what is great about America because they are out to earn their chops on merit, unintimidated by their higher-seeded foes just like the minutemen were unintimidated by the higher-seeded redcoats...They are not likely to win the national championship, and in fact the odds say they do not have much of a chance to win their next game, but since when does FGCU care about the odds?

Speaking of FGCU, they have played so impressively that they are no longer considered a sleeper. But if I had to pick a sleeper from the rest of the remaining field, I would pick Oregon. They are hitting their stride at the right time and seem capable of resuscitating the Pac-12's reputation all by themselves. Since everyone has been waiting for Oregon's football program to win a national title for the last several years, wouldn't it make a good story if their basketball team came out of shallow left field to win one that few people are expecting?

And with that...
...bring on Thursday. I can't wait!

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