Monday, March 21, 2011

The Buzz From Weekend #1

Buzz Williams and Marquette were last Big East team to get into NCAA Tournament, and now his Golden Eagles face North Carolina in Sweet 16 Friday. (Photo courtesy of ABC News)

One week and 52 eliminated teams later, we have reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament; and as usual, there have been expectations fulfilled (three of the four No. 1 seeds are still alive) and surprises abound. (How many of us honestly had the immortal Marquette, Richmond, VCU, Florida State and Butler still alive at this point?) Players have become legends, coaches have become unemployed, some coaches have found new life as studio analysts, (Rick Pitino did very well in the studio with CBS this weekend, and Mike Rice made six hours of pregame on CBS College Sports interesting and exciting) and the overall presentation of the tournament has been open to criticism. As far as that last point, I won't reference it until after the nets are cut down, because I have quite a lot to say about that. Until then, let's focus on the many other nuggets that have commanded and received our attention over the last seven (yes, the First Four still counts regardless of whether or not you hold value in it) days.

  • The Jimmer.
Jimmer Fredette has done nothing but defy convention all season at Brigham Young, and his consecutive 30-point games in his first two tournament outings have done nothing but enhance the legend of the shooter from Glens Falls. Up next for The Jimmer is Florida; and if you remember BYU's double overtime win against the Gators in the first round of last year's tourney, Jimmer went for 37 against a Florida team that brings back almost everyone from their surprising appearance as a 10 seed in 2010.
  • Some of the best players you've probably never heard of.
Unless you're an avid college hoops fan, you didn't know names like Kawhi Leonard, Kenneth Faried, Kevin Anderson, Joey Rodriguez and Derrick Williams until this weekend. All except Faried (whose Morehead State team was eliminated by Richmond in Saturday's round of 32) are still alive and looking to add encores to their already impressive tournament performances.
  • Mid-major coaches looking to move up.
It happens every year: A coach leads a mid-major to a better-than-expected finish in the NCAA Tournament and takes a position at a bigger program. So far, the leading candidate for this profile is VCU's Shaka Smart. Smart has guided his Rams to stunning upsets of Georgetown and Purdue after knocking off USC in the First Four to advance to the first regional semifinal in school history. Florida State is next in line for this latest 11 seed from the CAA to make a run in the "Big Dance," and if the Rams emerge victorious, only Kansas or Richmond will stand in the way of VCU becoming the new George Mason, who was also an 11 back in 2006 when the Patriots went on their miracle run. Besides Smart, other mid-major coaches looking to make a splash and a big payday include Richmond's Chris Mooney, (rumored to be going to Georgia Tech) Blaine Taylor of Old Dominion, and although he's under contract for the next eleven years and insists he's not leaving, Butler's Brad Stevens.
  • Farewell, orange blazer.
Yes, it's the end of the Bruce Pearl era (photo courtesy of Deadspin) at Tennessee after the Vols were soundly defeated by Michigan in the round of 64 after Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton issued a press release indicative of the administration's wait-and-see decision regarding their embattled head coach, who was reportedly out before the game even took place. While the charismatic Pearl may not land on his feet immediately due to the NCAA investigation surrounding his infamous barbecue incident, he won't be out of the picture for long.

The Way I See It: Sweet 16 Predictions
East: Ohio State defeats Kentucky, North Carolina defeats Marquette
West: Duke defeats Arizona, UConn defeats San Diego State
Southwest: Kansas defeats Richmond, VCU defeats Florida State
Southeast: Wisconsin defeats Butler, BYU defeats Florida

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