Sports department for the student run radio station 90.3 WRST at UW-Oshkosh
This is the saddest day of the year. Arguably my favorite four days of the year have passed. Here at UW Oshkosh, our Spring Break is over. And there’s still snow on the ground. But alas, baseball season is right around the corner (we’ll get to that later…maybe) and we still have the Sweet Sixteen, which means 15 more meaningful games of men’s college basketball remain this season.
Let’s take a look at what we learned over the weekend. Sixteen sweet takeaways…
1) I have no idea how we’ll remember this Wisconsin team… The Badgers looked awful in non-conference play, incredible at times in Big Ten play, and then just awful in a first round loss against Ole Miss. Based on all of this, I really couldn’t tell you whether they were a top ten team that had a rough game when it mattered most, or perhaps the most overachieving team of the 2012-13 season. If I had to guess, I’d take the latter.
2. Yes, the Big Ten is THAT good. I’ll concede that it’s still DEBATABLE, but this is the nation’s best conference. A 10-3 record. Six teams in the round of 32 (I don’t want to talk about who the seventh could have been). Four teams in the Sweet Sixteen. The Big East is the only conference that’s close. Entering the round of 32, it looked like you could have argued for the Atlantic 10. Unfortunately for St. Louis, Butler, VCU, and (barely) Temple, that storm weathered quickly.
3. Even with how good it is, the conference still needs a national title. Badly. At the very least, multiple teams need to make a deep run. Three in the Elite Eight, two in the Final Four sounds pretty good to me. That should silence the doubters. Remember, it’s still conceivable that the Final Four could be made up entirely of Big Ten teams. Man, I would love the hell out of that situation.
4. Michigan is a legitimate threat to make a title run. And I’m not just saying it because I chose them as a sleeper Final Four pick. If this team plays like it did on Saturday against VCU (a team that was expected to challenge them, and picked by many to upset them), they can beat anyone in the country. Remember that Michigan was ranked number one at one point and in the top ten for nearly the entire season before getting (in my opinion) robbed on seeding. While this team is undoubtedly led by its guards, the key for Michigan’s Regional Semifinal matchup against Kansas is going to be how freshman center Mitch McGary handles Kansas’ blocking machine, senior center Jeff Withey. My guess is he’ll lose that battle. Michigan is going to half to shoot well from the outside, and also from mid-range. Trey Burke loves that pull-up jumper.
5. Indiana needs to stop frightening the townspeople like that. A lot of hardcore Big Ten fans (myself included) are relying on this team to represent the toughness of the conference in the tournament. Yes, they played tough against Temple. But 31 points for Khalif Wyatt? Come on, Victor. You’ve gotta D up a little bit better than that if you want to shut down Michael Carter-Williams in the next round. I’m worried.
6. Aaron Craft made a bold (and somewhat selfish) decision. And I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s tough for me to criticize him. The guy is probably my favorite non-Wisconsin based college basketball player since Gerry McNamara of Syracuse way back in 2005 (and 14-year-old Brandon idolized G-Mac to the max). Craft made the game-winning three pointer against Iowa State. And that’s great. But he’s probably the teams 3rd or 4th best scoring option in that situation, and no one else touched the ball on that possession. He even waved off a pick and roll with First Team All Big Ten Forward Desean Thomas. I’m not saying it was a selfish move, I’m just saying that it’s easy to take that shot in a tie game. No one will remember it if the game goes to OT, but yet you’re a guaranteed hero if it drops. But, who am I to judge. I haven’t hit a game-winner since JV summer ball at Bay Port High School.
7. Marquette basketball is the drama-capital of the world. Even dating back to before the tournament, Marquette’s last eight games have all been decided by one possession or less. They’re 6-2 in those games. And, obviously, 2-0 in those games in the NCAA tournament. I’m really looking forward to their matchup against Miami. Vander Blue/Junior Cadougan vs. Shane Larkin… wow. Just wow. That’ll be fantastic.
8. Buzz Williams is an emotional person. I’m pretty sure we knew that before, but still. After a stressful week (the two games, plus his wife was hospitalized in Lexington due to an emergency appendectomy), he went OFF on some reporters in the post-game press conference. I won’t go into more detail, but you can read more about it here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2013/03/24/marquette-coach-buzz-williams-had-quite-the-postgame-press-conference/. I like the fire, but Buzz needs to control himself, especially after wins. Imagine if Marquette had lost…
9. Vander Blue has the clutch gene. A remarkable finish against Davidson in the round of 64 followed by 21 points on 7-14 shooting against Butler. He’s gotta be on everyone’s all-tournament team to this point. Remember when he was almost a Badger? Damn…
10. Louisville just might be deserving of that number one overall seed after all… I thought they deserved a one, but not the top seed. Still, it’s hard to argue will the Cardinals’ play thus far. I still question if they would be playing the same way had they not been virtually playing a home game in Lexington. Remember, though, they have a 12 seed in the Regional Semi, and these next two games are in Indianapolis, which is just a 90 minute drive from Louisville. This team is set up for another deep run.
11. Gonzaga was historically overrated. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. In the midst of a loss to Wichita State in the Round of 32, let’s not forget about the near-loss to Southern (yes, Southern) in the Round of 64. This team was five or a six seed in a one seed’s body. At best. Hopefully now we’ll stop overrating mid-majors unless they’ve played a reasonable non-conference schedule. Gonzaga didn’t beat a team that advanced past the Round of 64 all season long.
12. Play-in games aid in upsets. VCU’s Final Four run in ’11 started with a play-in game. Now, La Salle is set up to make a deep run of its own, with a Regional Semi matchup against nine seeded Wichita State. These games allow teams to get some momentum rolling before the tournament itself begins, and I love it. Keep this thing at 68 teams for the rest of time.
13. I never should have doubted Miami in the first place. This team ROLLED in a Round of 64 matchup (not that that was terribly unexpected) and stood its ground against an underrated and gritty Illinois team in the Round of 32. Who cares if these players have never been to the NCAA Tournament? They have like a gajillion seniors, Barry Larkin’s son, and a coach who has been to the Final Four before… With GEORGE MASON. After reevaluating, I like this Miami team a whole heckuva lot. The Regional Semi matchup against Marquette should be fantastic.
14. Pac 12 teams were misseeded. Badly. Oregon is the prime example. A 12 for a team that won its conference tournament, beat the conference’s regular season champ, and at one point was ranked in the top 20 in the nation? Shame on you, selection committee. In addition, UCLA should have never gotten a six, especially with the injury problems. But the committee probably punished the Bruins by matching them up with Minnesota in the Round of 64.
15. Basketball can be exciting without an buzzerbeaters. That’s right, there were zero game-winners at the buzzer. Even Craft’s shot fell through with .5 seconds remaining on the game clock. But still, it was a wildly entertaining four days of basketball. I knew basketball could be exciting without them, but hopefully the rest of the world enjoyed the games anyway.
16. Florida Gulf Coast. That is all.
World of Sports…
Some big signings in the world of Wisconsin sports today. Kyle Lohse gets 3 years, 30 million from the Milwaukee Brewers. Still, the biggest benefactor may be the arch rival St. Louis Cardinals, who get a compensatory pick in June’s MLB draft from the signing. In addition the Brewers are forced to forfeit the 17th overall pick in the draft. Even though Lohse is coming off the best season of his career (he went 16-3 with an ERA under 3.00), this might end up being worse than the Randy Wolf singing. Lohse will have a base salary that is higher than any other Brewer. Yes, that includes Aramis Ramirez, Yovani Gallardo, Corey Hart, and even Ryan Braun. At least Wolf was left-handed. Yeesh.
Also, as expected, the Packers will retain Jermichael Finley for the 2013 season. Finley will make a base salary of $8.25 million. After the loss of Greg Jennings, I like the signing. At age 26, Finley is still young and supremely talented. Plus, his attitude has gotten a lot better since midseason of 2012. We’ll see how he performs, and then the Packers will decide if they want to sign him to a long term deal when this expires after the 2013 season.
Also, go Heat. #Chasing33
Brandon Kinnard, Titan TV Sports Director