ELITE EIGHT PICKS
-I ended up going 6-2 in the Sweet Sixteen, but most of the games were so close that I could have easily been 2-6. Thats typically how it is at this stage of the tournament. Anyones guess is as good as anyone elses.
-Im now 42-15 for the tournament so far.SATURDAY, March 24, 2007
-2. MEMPHIS VS 1. OHIO STATE (pick-Memphis). Ohio State has survived two very close calls and Memphis survived a very close call of their own in the Sweet Sixteen. Ive just been more impressed with Memphiss play throughout the tournament than Ohio States. Either team could end up winning this one. Ohio State has definitely shown that they are never out of the game even when theyre down by 20. They also have an advantage in the post, but other teams have managed to neutralize that and I believe Memphis will do that today.
-2. UCLA VS 1. KANSAS (pick-UCLA). UCLA has been winning ugly for the whole tournament, but even when their offense isnt there, their defense is. Kansas struggled against a very good defensive Southern Illinois team in the Sweet Sixteen, and I think theyll struggle again today against another great defensive team. The thing about UCLA is that have more offensive weapons than SIU did, and I look for them to knock off the Jayhawks in yet another ugly offensive day for both teams. SUNDAY, March 25
-3. OREGON VS 1. FLORIDA (pick-Florida). This is Floridas toughest opponent of the tournament, and the way the Ducks have been playing Id say it would be Floridas toughest win away from home this season. The Gators were my pick to win it all prior to the start of the tournament and Im not going to pick against them now. Oregon looked very impressive against UNLV and clearly has some athleticism. I just look for Florida to play up to the level of their competition in this one and get back to the Final Four for the second straight year. They appear to have more weapons than the Ducks. Look for Noah to be a factor in this game as well.
-2. GEORGETOWN VS 1. NORTH CAROLINA (pick-Georgetown). As many have pointed out this is a rematch of the 1982 national championship game. I have to laugh every time CBS brings that up because no one playing in this game was alive in 1982, so it isnt as if the Georgetown players are foaming at the mouth to get another shot at North Carolina. Roy Hibbert
did not have a good game against Vanderbilt, but he knows it and its rare that someone like him will have two bad games in a row. Georgetown is lucky to be here, and wouldnt be here had the refs called traveling on Jeff Green
, but now that they are here I believe theyll take advantage of the opportunity and advance to the Final Four. North Carolina is very athletic, but I believe Georgetown will force the Tarheels to play their game. NEWS AND NOTES
It will be hard pressed for the Elite Eight games to be as exciting as the Sweet Sixteen games. All four #1 seeds are still alive along with three of the #2 seeds, so there havent been all that many upsets, but from the second round on there have been as many close calls as there have ever been.
-The examples of controversial officiating continue to stack up. Southern Illinois fell to Kansas 61-58 and two of Kansass 61 points came on what should have been a shot clock violation early in the game. There were some other questionable calls on both sides of the ball as well. I think its safe to say that both Southern Illinois and Kansas were much more impressive than the referees were. The Salukis played incredible defense and forced Kansas to slow it down, but struggled on offense themselves. They arent a great shooting team, but they still missed some shots that they typically hit. Kansas probably got a much bigger scare than they were expecting.
-Memphis vs Texas A&M had its share of controversy as well. At the end of the game, Memphis had the ball down by one, and was sent to the line with a chance to either tie or take the lead after a TAMU foul. The foul called was questionable, but at least a case could be made that a foul did in fact occur. After Memphis hit both freethrows, TAMU in-bounded the ball and Memphis nearly stole it, but ended up knocking it out of bounds. The play appeared to take about 0.1 secs, but the refs ended up taking off 1.1 secs. After further review, they actually got this one right. The ball hit in bounds and was not technically out of bounds until it touched something. In other words, even though it crossed the line in just 0.1 secs, it didnt actually touch something out of bounds for another second or two. TAMU missed a prayer at the buzzer and Memphis ended up winning by one. Acie Law
, who at times seems like he cant miss any shots, missed a lay-up in the final minute that would have likely given TAMU the win.
-On Friday night, Vanderbilt jumped all over Georgetown and led by as many as 12 early on. They ended up with a 10 point halftime lead, but the Hoyas came back and pulled even and it pretty much stayed even throughout the second half. Vanderbilt got a 65-64 lead in the final seconds of the game, but Georgetown had one last chance to win. Green got the ball, was well defended, but got a shot up anyway and hit it. The bad news was that he obviously traveled with the ball and replay clearly showed it. The worse news was that the referees did not see it and the basket counted. Out of all the bad calls/no-calls in this tournament, I believe Vanderbilt has the biggest gripe.
Not all the games ended in controversy.
-Tennessee jumped out to a 20 point first half lead against Ohio State, and led by 17 at the half. They did it by pushing the pace and hitting from the outside. The only thing about that style of play is that if a team continues to push the pace and then begins missing from the outside, the lead can disappear very quickly. Less than four minutes into the second half, Ohio State had the lead down to 10, and it didnt take them much longer to pull even. Tennessee finally got control of the game and went back ahead, but never had a lead bigger than five down the stretch. With the game tied in the final seconds, Ohio State hit one of two freethrows to take a one-point lead. Tennessee got the rebound, got the ball up the court, and got a good shot off, but Greg Oden
of Ohio State, who didnt have that big of a game, blocked the shot in a big way and Ohio State escaped.
-Pittsburgh and UCLA was a defensive struggle, but UCLA ended up winning by nine points, which is a blowout when comparing it to the rest of the Sweet Sixteen action.
-Butler hung tough with Florida and had the game tied with less than two minutes to go, but just ran out of gas. Butler is a team that at times cant miss from anywhere, but against Florida they missed several shots right under the basket and three very crucial freethrows late in the game. A lot of that was due to Floridas defense having worn down the Bulldogs, but again it was a very close call as far as an upset goes. The final score was 65-57, but the game was not decided until the final minute.
-UNLV cut an 18 point Oregon lead down to three, but ran out of time before they could come all the way back. The Ducks ended up winning 76-72.
-USC led by as many as 16 in the second half against Ohio State, but foul trouble plagued the Trojans, as did fatigue. North Carolina came storming back and ended up getting the lead. At one point the Trojans were up by three, but it still felt as if they were behind because it looked like North Carolina could do no wrong and that USC wasnt going to do anything right anytime soon. Another great comeback by a #1 seed. Weve seen quite a few of those in this tournament.