I know I have not updated in the last couple of days. Call it still in a depressive state after Butler’s tough overtime loss to Notre Dame Saturday night. Call it just really busy with doing things more important than the blog and this former Grantland-Rice Wannabe.
I’ll try to remember and breakdown as much as possible the weekend’s Round of 32 as best as I can.
First, of course, the Butler-Notre Dame game. By far it has been the best game of the tournament. The Bulldogs had their opportunities in the last 30 seconds of the game to win it in regulation, but the Fighting Irish made the key stops to send the game into overtime. In the overtime, Notre Dame finally played like I thought they would the entire game. The key three points shots and Jerian Grant’s drive with the shot clock winding down were huge.
Even before the game was played whatever Butler did would have been a bonus to this season. By far this Bulldog squad will always hold something special to me because of how they exceeded the expectations myself as well as the rest of the fan base had for them this season. With all the players who left and then the absence and then medical leave by Coach Brandon Miller, there was a lot to skeptic about the program.
Commend Chris Holtmann for bringing that group together and provide us with one of the best seasons in the recent history of Butler Basketball. With the returning players along with transfers available to play and who knows what the Bulldogs will have from a recruiting standpoint the future does look bright at Historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Side note – I could not even imagine what Fighting Irish Coach Mike Brey was going through during the game having lost his Mother earlier in the day.
Would like to take this time to wish Notre Dame good luck the rest of the tournament. I will be cheering for them Thursday night against Wichita State.
The Shockers Shock – well kind of
Wichita State beat Indiana and it set up the Shockers dream match up against “Big Brother” Kansas. WSU took full advantage of the opportunity and beat the Jayhawks to advance to the Sweet 16. Ron Baker made up for his poor performance against Indiana with a stellar one against Kansas.
If it’s March it’s Izzo
Are we really shocked Michigan State is again in the Sweet 16? Yes and no. This team barely looked like a tournament team midway through the Big 10 season but toward the end of it Izzo had his team playing at another level. After the loss to Wisconsin, you had to wonder what effect it would have on the Spartans. Obviously the right one as Michigan State dismantled No. 2 seed Virginia to advance in the tournament.
Proving the doubters wrong
Xavier played the role of the villain in the Ron and RJ Hunter Fairy Tale. This time the villain won as Xavier’s defense clamped down on the younger Hunter and advanced to the Sweet 16 once again. This time a match-up against former Coach Sean Miller and No. 2 seed Arizona in Los Angeles this week.
We belong now don’t we?
UCLA has become that team everyone said didn’t belong in the field. They got a so-called break on the goaltending call – regardless it was the right one – to beat SMU. Then the Bruins jumped out early and beat UAB to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year with Coach Steve Alford.
We didn’t play our best but still won by double digits
Kentucky – can the Wildcats continue to play cat and mouse with teams? Or will they jump out right from the beginning and blow a team out. This Thursday’s matchup with West Virginia could be one of those games where they want to be ready to go from the opening tip. The way Kentucky played for a better part of the game in Round of 32 against Cincinnati will not cut it as the tournament progresses.
Was the best game until opposing player got hurt
This goes to West Virginia vs. Maryland. The game was going back and forth and neither team seemed to have a solid advantage and then Melo Trimble suffered a head injury. From there it was game over and the Mountaineers advanced to the Sweet 16 under Bob Huggins. The game Thursday night in Cleveland, Ohio against Kentucky is a rematch of the 2010 Elite 8 game won by West Virginia. If there’s a coach who could beat the Wildcats it definitely is Huggins.
First No. 1 team went down
The Big East Champs Villanova ran into a team which was a match-up nightmare for the Wildcats in North Carolina State. The big frontline of the Wolfpack along with the quickness of the guards will be seemed to hamper Villanova. The shots and plays which looked to work against most of the Big East throughout the season didn’t go well for the Wildcats. Thus, NC State advanced to the Sweet 16 and pulled off the first upset of a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
The Battle of Former X coaches
Sean Miller and his Arizona Wildcats got the better of Thad Matta and his Ohio State Buckeyes. The Wildcats were just too much for the Buckeyes to overcome en route to advancing to the Sweet 16. Now another twist the winner of the former X coaches now faces the Musketeers Thursday night.
The Utes Pull away
Utah hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 2005. Georgetown has recently fallen victim to early tournament ousters. The Utes pulled away late and used the front line to its advantage to wearing down the Hoyas to advance to the Sweet 16.
Sweet 16 = North Carolina
The Tar Heels are in the tournament. Can mean only one thing – UNC going to the Sweet 16. In one of the most fast-paced games of the season, The Tar Heels were led by Marcus Paige and defeated the Razorbacks to advance to another Sweet 16. North Carolina is one of the streakier teams this season. We wonder what we’ll get Thursday night when the Tar Heels must try to upset top seed Wisconsin.
As Jon Rothstein likes to say – death, taxes – Bo Ryan. The Badgers just keep getting it done to advance through the tourney. It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin plays if the good North Carolina team shows up Thursday night.
Where did that come from
A lot of people expected Louisville to get beat in the Round of 32. The Cardinals just escaped UC Irvine in the Round 64. Louisville though came ready to play Sunday and with the help of its defense and the offense of Terry Rozier the Cardinals found themselves again in the Sweet 16. IF things play out right Indianapolis may not be the same Final Four weekend.
Ran out of jet fuel
The Dayton Flyers did all they could against Oklahoma on Sunday but finally the fatigue factor came on and the Sooners opened up the game to advance to the Sweet 16. The win sets up an intriguing match up with Lon Kruger taking Tom Izzo – a rematch of their days in the Big together when Lon was at Illinois.
Duke being Duke blowing out San Diego State to no one’s surprise and Gonzaga finally getting back to the Sweet 16 with a resounding win over Iowa. I didn’t have Iowa winning that game but I didn’t expect the Bulldogs to blow the Hawkeyes out as they did Sunday. Duke now faces Utah while Gonzaga looks to finally eliminate the team most everyone thought shouldn’t be in the tournament with UCLA.
So there a quick recap of my thoughts on the games. I am working on a more extensive piece about what exactly this season’s Butler team meant to me as well as my thoughts as to what it meant for the future of the program. Hope to have that by Thursday. If not sometime next week.
Note before bed: My favorite Sports Illustrated writer, Alexander Wolff, will have a new book out in October titled The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama. It should be an interesting read.