by Mickey Charles
If you were fixated on the tube these past few days then you witnessed some of the best games the NCAA has presented in recent history. They were either nail-biters down to the wire or you went to sleep thinking you would do better in next year?s pool only to awaken and find out you were still alive and well in your pool.
The top seeds, Wisconsin aside, are where they should be but the road has not been an easy one. And, for those of you that tend to invest a quid or two in the outcome of the game, going against the odds-makers and the usual public stance of going with favorites, taking all the underdogs has you looking at new cars this weekend and/or paying off the mortgage.
Jeff Green and Georgetown will bring their neighborhood schoolyard brand of basketball up against Roy Williams? North Carolina contingent of freshmen and sophomores.
It is only hours until tip-off today, the games that will determine the Final Four, Memphis challenging Ohio State, then UCLA pitting its brains against the brawn of Kansas. Tomorrow features the defending champs, Florida, taking on Oregon and, finally, Georgetown bringing its neighborhood schoolyard brand of basketball up against Roy Williams? North Carolina contingent of freshmen and sophomores that displayed why they are where they are last night. A twenty-five plus point turnaround?!?!?!?!
Memphis will run, and run, and run, and run whenever and however they can in an effort to wear down Ohio State but it is tough to do that when the other guys have the ball. They will, when in possession, go up against Greg Oden in the belief that the big guy and his aggressive nature will result in at least three personal fouls before the half time buzzer sounds. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that game plan. Welcome Memphis forward, Joey Dorsey and his coach, John Calipari. The former will take it to the big guy time and time again while the latter will turn this into a chess game, changing defenses over and over, having his charges run at every opportunity and heading to the hoop like the championship trophy was hanging on the rim, waiting for them.
The problem is that Ohio State plays as well, or better, when Oden is on the sidelines. All their 39-year old coach, Thad Matta, has to do is send the ball into Oden whenever they can, over and over. Do that and stop charging up the middle like bulls on a rampage in a China Shop and they move on. Buckeyes to the next round.
When it comes to UCLA and Kansas this evening, it will not be Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem, Danny Manning, Reggie Miller, coaches like James Naismith, ?Phog? Allen, John Wooden, Gene Bartow or Larry Brown pacing the sidelines exhorting his team to stop tossing up three-pointers and give it in to the big guy. It is number one taking on number two, both being where they belong. What stands out is that the Jayhawks beat Florida on Thanksgiving Weekend. Is that the paradigm that points to the winner? Hardly. Just making a point. The Bruins are 29-5, Kansas 33-4. Should be a heck of a game.
My guess is that UCLA will stay with Kansas right up to the half and then into the first five minutes of the second half before the ?Hawks pull away, inch by inch. They have the ability to slow the game down to a walk, heighten the frustration level of the Bruins? players and create confusing and discombobulated turnovers.
Tomorrow it is Oregon, who just snuck past UNLV, 76-72, taking on top-seeded Florida, who had their hands full with an undersized Butler squad after trailing them by as many as nine points. It was only in the final two minutes that their 6? 10? forward, Al Horford, took control and had help from Corey Brewer. If Butler did not panic at the free throw line the Gators might be heading home to help with the orange crop.
That being said, I like Taurean Green and Joakim Noah to take charge tomorrow and keep Oregon out of the Final Four, a school that has not gotten there since 1939 when they won it all. Florida can run as well as, likely better than, UNLV when they see the light of day between any players on the hardwoods and I can see the Ducks wallowing by half time and looking for a new pond where they can play next time around.
Despite a close call against Butler look for Florida to keep Oregon out of the Final Four.
John Thompson III?s Hoyas are now going to be playing a team a lot smarter than any they have encountered to date and a coach in Roy Williams that forgot more than Thompson ever learned at his father?s elbow. After watching Georgetown eke it out against Vanderbilt, who literally gave the game away, and witnessing a team that plays as out of control as any that ever competed in the NCAA, the phrase, ?more luck than brains,? has finally taken firm root.
The sixth-seeded Commodores had the game in their grasp and let it slide through their fingers with Jeff Green?s final second heroics (make that 2 plus seconds) having little, or nothing, to do with it. Less size, talent and depth and Vandy had the game in their hands. For the record, and contrary to the CBS pundits, Green did not walk on the final play. His pivot foot was, indeed, planted when he picked up a momentary fumble of the ball but a shooter can take that one step to the basket when the step is in the process of taking a shot. Simple. Think about it. And, these are the same guys that call what a player does a ?regime? instead of the appropriate ?regimen.? Puhleeeeze!!!
The Tarheels were down by 16 early in the second half against USC, missing one shot after the other and it was time to watch Bill Maher, Jay Leno or David Letterman. Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson were looking for divining rods to find their way to the basket and Coach Williams was checking his roster to see if these were the same players he brought to the tourney. Talent and patience persevered and won out. That is the huge advantage North Carolina has over Georgetown. This is not 1982 and Michael Jordan will not be necessary to win it in the closing seconds.
OK, we?ve done pretty well so far but does that mean the above are a lock? You gotta be kidding! Get out the nail clipper and save yourselves some trouble today and tomorrow. Also, when you make the reservation for dinner, be sure to ask for a table or booth facing the television.