The St. Patty’s Day edition of Sports Revolution was preempted by N.C. State baseball, so Preston, Drew and James decided to blog instead. Keep reading for what’s happening in the world of sports and their predictions for the NCAA tournament.
Well, my predictions were a little off—what’s new! I did pretty well with the top half, predicting Carolina to lose to Florida State with the absence of Lawson. The Tarheels ended up missing Danny Green too as he shot horribly and seemed pretty out of sync. A lot of that comes from not having your point guard to distribute the ball. Green, who has been averaging double figure scoring, combined with a few missed free throws and the inability to contain Toney Douglas led to their exit in the semi-finals. I destroyed the bottom half, as I picked Wake Forest to win the whole darn thing. Once again State blew an early lead to fall to the Terps in the first round. Unfortunately, they didn’t receive a tournament bid (NCAA or NIT) and I doubt they will accept an invitation to the third tournament which I don’t even know the name of. Gary Williams’ master coaching plan led to a miserable shooting performance from the Deacs in the first round and Maryland’s advancement to face the Blue Devils (who beat Boston College by only one) in the quarterfinals. It was a well fought game, but the Dukies prevailed to move on to the finals against Florida State. Duke, who lives and dies by the three point shot, was drilling from the outside and a nine minute scoring drought by the Seminoles helped Duke pull away. Hate to say it but I have to give Duke credit for playing well and I guess I have a little making up to do to Zoubek, who is still not the greatest but had some key defensive stops and rebounds in their victory. My only concern of the final game was the last five or so minutes. With Duke up by 16 or so (I believe) Coach K wanted to run some time off the shot clock, which makes sense. However, it completely took Duke out of their rhythm and allowed Florida State to kind of keep it a game. I say run the offense a little longer because it did get a little nerve wracking at the end. Congrats, I guess, to the Blue Devils for the tournament victory. I think they only had three turnovers which really is remarkable. I don’t think the tournament accurately predicted the best ACC team but oh well. Clemson was a disappointment and so were my predictions. Hopefully I’m better with the NCAA.
Louisville proved they were a number 1 seed by clinching the Big East regular season and conference tournament. Oklahoma lost in the first round so once again I was off with predicting them to win the conference tourney and earn a number one seed. What a game between Syracuse and UCONN, if you missed it you missed a good one. It will definitely be available on ESPN Classic.
Here’s my final four: Louisville (even though I have a feeling Kansas might make a little run but clearly my predictions are off), Memphis (hopefully they can make some free throws), Pitt (Blair must stay out of early foul trouble) and North Carolina. Hansbrough, Green, Ellington and Lawson all came back for one reason: to win a championship. Hopefully they will play with a little more intensity and pick up the defense and they have a shot to win it all. Oklahoma will be a tough match up for them (assuming they both advance to the Elite 8), but I think Carolina has more offensive threats. Louisville and UNC in the championship game, UNC to win it all. Knowing my luck, Robert Morris will win the whole thing.
OK, I’ll wrap things up. Congrats to my high school, the Mt. Tabor Spartans for beating Terry Sanford to win the first men’s basketball 4-A State Championship in school history. Three talented senior point guards led the way: look for Mike Grace at Yale, CJ Harris at Wake and Josh Hicks at Old Dominion.
Another congrats to the one seeds of the 2009 Women’s NCAA Tournament: Maryland, UCONN, Duke and Oklahoma. UCONN has been terrific so far this season and I don’t see anyone coming in their way of a national title. First round starts Saturday.
A special congrats to the ACC. This is the 7th straight year that six or more ACC Teams will be in the NCAA tourney: Maryland, Duke, UNC, Virginia, FSU and G-Tech.
What a weekend in college basketball: Syracuse, a six seed in The Big East wins a tough game in the first round of that tournament, then goes on to play UConn in a six over time game that will go down in the annals of Big East history as one of the best ever, then follows that win with another overtime win against a West Virginia team who had just handed Pittsburgh what I think will be its final loss of the season; that incredible run though skidded to a halt against Louisville who was rolling along the fast track to the final four (who could expect the Orange to pull it off though after going through that gauntlet?).
The ACC’s team on everyone’s radar to run to the title game, UNC, hit a bump in the road with the loss of All-ACC and league MVP point guard Taiwan Lawson on Saturday. Roy’s boy’s, as our favorite tarheel fan Preston predicted, had a nice chance to rest on selection Sunday as they prepare to set a bearing toward the final four (where they will lose, to Pittsburgh). But Duke (as I predicted with astute foresight that Nostradamus and even the Mayans themselves would envy) pulled out yet another ACC Tournament Championship over a Florida State team with a lot to prove, and a lot to think about with the dark cloud of NCAA academic violations hanging over their heads. The Seminoles may not be able to recruit for four years, that’s something the team will have trouble ignoring. I expect them to struggle in the tournament, especially on the offensive end.
For Duke it’s another conference title, but they’ll face a tough road against Texas and Villanova that will in all likelihood come to a dead halt in the sweet sixteen. Duke has shown at times that their defense coupled with their offense which employs constant cuts, screens, and movement without the ball coupled with strong dribble drives with continued screening off the ball leaves teams winded and unable compete. That happens if the offense works, which it does against about 75% of the teams out there. But if doesn’t work, as it may not against Texas, and probably won’t against Villanova (that’s right I’m pickin’ ‘Nova to take down The University of California at LA-la-la, because the PAC-10 is mostly soft and doesn’t play defense). Furthermore the combination of J.J. Abrams scoring ability and Damian James, who is going to be tough for any of the Duke defenders to handle at 6’7” 222 playing the Small Forward position. If Duke can take charges and eliminate James from the game I think they have a great shot at the sweet sixteen, but I don’t see them in the elite eight.
Finally, Herb Sendek made things interesting in the Pac-10, once again proving what a great move he made leaving the ceaseless harangue of the NC State fanbase. But, in classic Herb Sendek style he’ll walk away again with nothing to show for his efforts, which turned Arizona State from cellar dweller to force to be reckoned with, in only a few seasons. His Sun Devils, after huge wins against in state hammer to their nail Arizona (can someone please explain why these Arizona chumps get to play in the NCAA tournament?), and an even bigger win against Washington, fell to the 13-loss USC Trojans who had to have the win to make it to the Tourney. Sorry Herb, nothing’s changed. Here’s your 6th-seed in NCAA Tournament. Good luck with Syracuse who is sitting in the spot your team might have occupied had you stepped up, and won in the clutch, again nothing has changed. Wow, that was harsh. Don’t worry though Herb, I don’t mean it, I’m just speaking out of anger because in the entire blog my only mention of the wolfpack is that we finished 16-14 and that our season is over. Good luck though, Herb, enjoy the tournament.
What’s up guys, since we don’t get to talk with you guys for the next two weeks on the radio side, the blog world will have to do. Is this not the best time of the year for sports? Major League Baseball has spring training and we all know that baseball is right around the corner. The World Baseball Classic has been an amazing couple days of baseball and somehow the USA is still kicking, and has made it to the semifinal round. Basketball certainly doesn’t leave us for another three weeks, March has gone mad so to speak. If all that isn’t enough for you, our very own Carolina Hurricanes are battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of the NHL, and they only have about 10 games left on the schedule.
So that said, I’ll get into my predictions for the tournament … As sick as it makes me to say it, I think Carolina has a great draw to get to the final and win the whole thing. I don’t see anyone really getting in their way this year. Why? Isn’t Pittsburgh coming up in the Final Four for the Heels? You’d be correct, but I don’t think that Pitt will even make the Final Four, because I think Florida State will knock the Panthers out for several reasons. Number 1 … Florida State is one of those teams with an incredible amount of post player depth they can throw at you, not that all of them are the best post players, but they can still put them on the floor and be competitive with anyone in the country. Pitt on the other hand, really only has two big men, and they are a couple of unfortunate referees whistles away from being in a world of trouble in the tournament. So, even if Florida State and their post-depth don’t manage to knock out the Panthers, Carolina with the post-presence they are capable of bringing to the floor, will take care of Pitt. Not to mention that Roy Williams is one of the top five coaches in the field of 64, and with that said, he has the best talent pool of any of those top 5. Yes players win championships, but when all things else are equal on the talent front, and I believe that for the most part they are equal in the case of the number one and number two seeds this year, something has to give, and I think coaching will be the big difference maker in this year’s tournament. So to sum it all up, I’ve got Carolina and UCONN in the finals for most of the brackets I’ve done, but I could certainly see Louisville or Kansas getting hot from the perimeter and knocking the Huskies out this year.
The Canes have two big home games back to back this weekend, Friday night against the Islanders and Saturday against the division leading Capitals. If you like hockey at all, you should take the time to get out to the RBC Center on Saturday night. Alex Ovechkin … that is the only reason I should have to give you as any incentive to go see this game on Saturday night. If that’s not enough, it’ll be a playoff atmosphere as the Canes need as many points as they can manage to keep pace in the Eastern Conference, where they find themselves in eighth place going into a crucial weekend, just one point up on the ninth place Florida Panthers.
You guys have a good week and check back next week for another blog and possibly a podcast of the show for next week.