THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE MAD
The tourney is underway. All in all, while there were a few upsets, there were not a lot of surprises on the first day of madness.
Everybody picked Manhattan to upset my alma mater Florida. After reaching number one earlier in the season, only to lose twice that same week, the Gators never really recovered. Later in the season, solid swingman/point forward Christian Drejer defected to play pro ball in Spain, and left Florida a bit thin. Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh can light it up, but neither of them are the type of players who can carry a team, and they lacked the talent inside. David Lee is an okay inside player who won't dominate anyone, and the other guys are average big men. Overall, they didn't have a leader and didn't play with a lot of confidence, getting blown out three times this season by conference rival Kentucky. Very disappointing. I like Billy Donovan, but Gator fans are calling into question his ability to get the best out of his talent after Florida was upset today in the first round for the second time in four years. The other two years, the Gators lost in the second round, and have failed to advance to the second week of NCAA play since they went to the final game against Michigan State in 2000.
Nevada upset Michigan State, but I have to admit I picked that game and I bet a lot of other people did too. The Spartans played too tough an out-of-conference schedule early in the season and struggled just to get back to respectability from then on. They looked like they had control of the game, but Nevada made a run and took it over late and appeared to be the better team. Tom Izzo will not be happy with his underachieving team after being thrilled by his overachieving tourney run last year.
Speaking of underachieving, the Arizona Wildcats had a season to forget. Once an early season favorite, the Cats played themselves down to a number nine seed, then couldn't knock off number eight seed Seton Hall in Round One. The Pirates, coached by former Knick Louis Orr, outplayed Lute Olsen's team down the stretch with fundamentally sound basketball and more heart. And to think, I actually got excited when Florida beat the Wildcats in a great game at the beginning of the season. That win certainly doesn't mean much now.
My second favorite team, the DePaul Blue Demons played the tightest game of the day, finally defeating longtime rival, the Dayton Flyers in double overtime. Exciting game. Great to see the Blue Demons back in the tourney and into the second round. Now their coach gets a shot at his mentor Jim Calhoun and the Connecticut Huskies. And with the Gators out, at least I still have a team close to my heart to root for.
I'm pulling for St. Joseph's and Gonzaga to go far into the tournament and prove that smaller school, "mid-majors", can play the favorites and hold their own against the big bullies of the major conferences. I'm also looking forward to the weekend when I can actually sit down and watch games all day. Today, all I got to see was the end of Nevada's upset over Michigan State and Arizona's weak finish in losing to Seton Hall and the conclusion of DePaul's slugfest win over Dayton. But still, it's tourney time. My basketball blood is pumping and I'm finding hard to think about anything else.
I tend to rely on ESPN.com, Dickie V, and Andy Katz during the tournament, because they love college basketball more than any other news source, and because I started watching college b-ball on the cable station when ESPN was born and I was eight years old. That's how a Jewish kid from South Florida came to adopt a Roman Catholic school in Chicago as his early favorite team.
We are... DePaul! Go Blue Demons!