Welcome to Oz

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, The Sports Network

Phil Martelli and Jameer Nelson
Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli consols Jameer Nelson after losing 64-62 to the Oklahoma State Cowboys during their Elite Eight regional game.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -- San Antonio is not the same place where Dorothy and Toto found themselves one day but there is a similarity, an obvious and apparent one.

I could while away the hours
Conversin' with the flowers,
Consultin' with the rain
And perhaps I'd deserve you
And be even worthy erv you
If I only had a brain.

So sang Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow. But it was Saint Joseph's that displayed most of the brains recently in a heart-wrenching loss to Oklahoma State, coming out on the short end of a 64-62 final. No yellow brick road to Texas here. No Wizard with a loudspeaker behind a wall, only Phil Martelli exhorting his players with the gusto and enthusiasm of a politician running for office and drawing diagrams on a chalkboard faster than a cartoonist late for his deadline. A three point prayer by John Lucas to put his Cowboys ahead with 6.9 seconds left and then a jumper that fell short for the tie by Jameer Nelson. It was over with the Philadelphians on the short end of a 64-62 result. The Hawk may never die but they had to limp home after this one.

You live by the three, you die by the three. A team that can drop them in from beyond the line 40-50% of the time cannot afford to have the radar break down. And, a team like Oklahoma State cannot afford to give up 16 points on turnovers in one half while outrebounding the opposition two to one.

Saint Joseph's was in a no lose situation on and off the court. Seeded number one, playing in the softest bracket and being touted as over-rated continuously, they used their brains and skill against an out-manned Liberty team, a runaway train without an engineer or conductor in Wake Forest and a sloppy State team befuddled by a stifling defense. They had a great season for the record books, this corner says that Delonte West will be a better pro than Nelson and Oklahoma State is about to go to war with Georgia Tech.

Clarence Moore
Georgia Tech's Clarence Moore celebrates after defeating the Kansas Jayhawks 79-71 in overtime to advance to the Final Four.
Oh, it's sad to be admittin'
I'm as vicious as a kitten
Without de vim and voive;
I could show off my prowess,
Be a lion, not a mowess,
If I only had de noive.

Bert Lahr had all of us cheering him on and now we have to take sides with the Cowboys of Oklahoma State battling the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech, overtime victors of Kansas, 79-71. These two could change uniforms and you would never know the difference. GT beat a very talented and aggressive Jayhawks club with an excess of courage, coming back again and again whenever it looked like Kansas was going to take control. Their best player, B.J. Elder, cheered them on from the bench but just might be ready for this one against the Cowboys.

Tech is the predicted winner here. They are on a roll and don't require the Wizard for an infusion of courage. They are looking at a place in the finale to decide the best college team in the nation. Oklahoma State got lucky against Saint Joseph's but that Lady is changing partners for this one. Georgia Tech moves on.

Jack Haley was our Tin Man, joining Dorothy, Lion and Scarecrow on that fabled walk as they sang...

Jason Baisch
Jason Baisch leads the UConn Huskies celebration during their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. UConn won easily, 87-71.
We're off to see the Wizard,
The wonderful Wizard of Oz.
We hear he is a whiz of a wiz,
If ever a wiz there was.
If ever a wever a wiz there was,
The Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because of the wonderful things he does.

The way UConn is playing these days it seems like they already made that trip to see the Wizard and he graciously provided them the map to not only the Final Four but, perhaps, to the Big Show as well. The Huskies enjoyed the easiest win of all, 87-71, over the Crimson Tide of Alabama and it wasn't even that close in the final analysis. 'Bama was a good team, better than most surmised, but Connecticut, despite its necessity to improve its foul shooting percentage (just over 61% from the stripe), dominates the glass, outscores its opponents by 15 points per game (ppg) and allows them, if you can call it that, to shoot a low 37 percent from the field. They turn the ball over more than the club they're playing but make up for that by getting into a groove and staying there, against all odds. It works and Jim Calhoun, their long-time coach, orchestrates their movements as though he were leading the Boston Pops.

Duke just eked out a win over Xavier, 66-63, when the Musketeers were playing their best ball of the season and stayed competitive with their big man, Anthony Myles, sitting on the bench with five personal fouls. Lionel Chalmers and Romain Sato took over but it wasn't enough. Close but no cigar. Watching the Blue Devils play is like watching a team that did not have to visit the Wiz, they are being coached by him. J.J. Redick is about as smart as they come with an unerring ability to loft the three just when you need a pick me up. It overcomes the few mistakes his aggressive style causes during the game. Chris Duhon is always in control and provides direction that would make Steven Spielberg proud. Daniel Ewing is a great role player, Shelden Williams an opportunist that is as smart as they come (and as strong), while Luol Deng makes more good plays than mistakes and makes you forget the latter when accomplishing the former.

Mike Krzyzweski and Chris Duhon
Head coach Mike Krzyzweski (r) and Chris Duhon (l) of the Duke Blue Devils watch as players cut down the net after Duke defeated the Xavier Musketeers 66-63.
Watching Emeka Okafor, Josh Boone and Charlie Villanueve do battle with Duke's big men will be worth the price of admission. Ben Gordon, Rashad Anderson and Taliek Brown round out a solid shooting team (48% from the field).

The NCAA has provided better games these past few weeks than they have in a long time, thanks to the teams, competitive levels of play achieved and desire on the hardwood, highlighted by lots of heart, courage and brains. Duke and Connecticut are, from this vantage point, a toss-up decided at the foul line with the Blue Devils headed to the final against Georgia Tech on April 5th, Monday evening. April 3rd, Saturday, is a day to give meaning to the term "couch potato" and plant yourself in front of the big screen you just purchased for some five to six hours of hoop mania.

Considering that the only ones still alive in their office pools are those of you that have UConn or Duke (don't tell me that any of you picked Oklahoma State or Georgia Tech to be in the final), this is the game to watch. I see it as Georgia Tech against Duke for all the marbles. Can you take that to the bank? Look at the games and results to date. You gotta be kidding!

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