Sweet 16 Madness
March 28, 2013
As advertised, this year’s Men’s College Basketball Tournament has delivered us a number of stories, upsets, and great games. Sixteen schools remain heading into tonight’s games. Four teams will remain after this weekend’s two rounds of games. You can count on some exciting matchups and finishes this weekend. Here are some facts, some observations, and some stories for you to digest heading into this weekend.
It is quite easy to pick out that Florida Gulf Coast out of the South Region is the biggest story of the tourney thus far. The Eagles are the first-ever 15-seed school to advance this far. What has impressed me most about FGCU is how this team won its first two games. Most Cinderella schools win one and then pack up come the Round of 32. Not the Eagles. After outplaying No. 2 seed Georgetown, they looked even better beating my alma mater, No. 7 seed San Diego State. Most lower-seeded teams win over a game and a crowd by hitting a few big shots late from deep to pull out close games. FGCU has been different. It got its biggest buckets by way of the dunk before pulling away for double-figure wins. Next up for FGCU is Florida. You know the Gators have to be a bit nervous about this in-state matchup. If the game stays close, I like the Eagles. I am basing this on the fact that Florida has yet to win a game this season decided by single digits. In other words, either the Gators blow you out or lose the close games.
I think Florida will win big and this will leave us with a Florida-Michigan Elite Eight matchup after Michigan upends No. 1 seed Kansas. The Wolverines are playing better than ever and it was just two months ago when they were the No. 1 team in the nation. Michigan has the best point guard in the country in Trey Burke and that is so important in tournament play. Kansas looked shaky at times against North Carolina. They will have to play 40 minutes to beat Michigan.
The East Region has not given us many surprises thus far. I am changing my mind in this region. I really like how Miami is playing and I see them beating Indiana. And I would not totally discount Syracuse. All three are playing well but something has to give. The Hurricanes have impressed me since sweeping through the ACC Tournament after winning the regular season conference title. Shane Larkin of Miami is right behind Burke as the best point guard in the nation and he will have to come up big for the Hurricanes to advance to the Final Four.
Surprisingly, both Indiana and Syracuse have not been to the final four in over 10 years. They will square off in a Sweet 16 matchup this week. The Hoosiers will have to shoot well from the perimeter against the Orange’s vaunted zone defense. I see Indiana winning a close one before falling to Miami over the weekend.
The West Region has provided multiple surprises. Only one of the top five seeds survived early round action. The West still has a 13 seed and a nine seed left. Top-seeded Gonzaga went down at the hands of Wichita State, while La Salle won three games in five days. On paper, this region has the weakest group of schools left. The upset clearly benefits my pick of Ohio State. The best game left in this region is Ohio State vs. No. 6 seed Arizona and they meet in the next round. The winner will meet the winner of Wichita State and La Salle. I am going to stick with the Buckeyes who have won 10 straight games now. They won the Big 10 tourney and it is clear that the Big 10 was the best conference in the country this year. By the way, the Big 10 has four schools (25%) remaining in the Sweet 16 and there is a chance that all four could advance to the Final Four.
That leaves us with the Midwest Region. This region is still loaded and still has the tournament’s number-one seed, Louisville, remaining. This is the region to watch this week. You have to love the Duke-Michigan State on Friday night. The winner will likely meet Louisville over the weekend if the Cardinals can end 12 seed Oregon’s surprising run. I am sticking with Louisville even though Duke beat the Cardinals back in November. Actually, I do not think the Blue Devils will get by Michigan State. The Spartans are not a good matchup for Duke. They have an inside presence that will neutralize Ryan Kelly and an athletic backcourt to slow Seth Curry down.
Louisville matches up well against both teams due in large part to Russ Smith. He is the best player remaining in this region and is averaging 18 points a game this season. And Card coach Rick Pitino knows what he is doing in March. His team has bought into defense as they rank number one in the nation in that category and actually rank 10th nationally offensively.
My review (and picks) has Michigan, Miami, Ohio State, and Louisville in the Final Four. You know that will not happen and this is the fun about March Madness.
Hurley Gets Head Coaching Gig
You can add another name to the college basketball coaching tree tied to Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Former Duke standout Bobby Hurley has been named as head basketball coach at the University of Buffalo.
The 41-year old Hurley has been an assistant coach under his brother Dan Hurley at Wagner for two seasons and then last year at Rhode Island.
At Buffalo, he replaces Reggie Witherspoon, who was fired two weeks ago after 14 seasons and following a 14-20 finish. Though the Bulls were often competitive under Witherspoon, they never saw NCAA Tournament action.
Hurley heads to Buffalo
Hurley, as a player, saw a great deal of NCAA March Madness. At Duke, he established himself as one of the nation’s top point guards. He won national titles in 1991 and `92, while leading the Blue Devils to three Final Four berths.
After college, Hurley was selected by the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the 1993 NBA draft. He went on to play five seasons in the NBA split between the Kings and the then-Vancouver Grizzlies.
Hurley’s career, however, was cut short due to the lingering effects of the life-threatening injuries he sustained in a car crash during his rookie NBA season. Thrown from his truck, Hurley broke his ribs and shoulder, sustained a compressions fracture of his lower back, tore a tendon his right knee and his lung collapsed.