Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday (WVU!) Quickie

Wow. Obviously, Northern Iowa over Kansas was THE upset of the Tournament, but the WAY that Kentucky lost to West Virginia was just as jaw-dropping.

Even without any 2-point shots in the 1st half, WVU played brilliantly -- precisely the kind of game (and game-plan) that an underdog needs to knock off a powerful favorite. Timely 3s. Unlikely heroes. That confounding 1-3-1 defense. Kentucky freaking out under the pressure.

Let's talk about UK for a second: Their season is a failure. Forget a championship; anything less than a Final Four trip was going to seal a season of underachievement. They have 4 NBA Lottery picks in the starting lineup -- with another NBA player or two on the bench.

But they were young. And untested. And, for the first time this Tournament, the "Big East factor" -- playing tough competition, night in and night out -- was obvious as an advantage.

It was a considerable upset, if only because it knocked Butler in the Final Four from the top of the headlines. But the Bulldogs win over K-State was hard-fought -- for the second straight game, Butler excelled in the final 2 minutes, where its opponent collapsed.

Butler in the Final Four -- let alone a Final Four in its hometown of Indianapolis -- is a tremendous storyline for the next week.

And, based on the quality of the teams that Butler beat in this regional -- 1-seed Syracuse, 2-seed Kansas State -- it would be crazy to consider them an underdog to whoever comes out of that Michigan State-Tennessee regional final.

Looking ahead to today's game: Michigan State-Tennessee is the most random regional final in a long time; either team will be a surprise in the Final Four, but the novelty of Michigan State's appearance this year is mitigated by the fact that Tom Izzo is the best Tournament coach in college hoops history.

Meanwhile, I'm sure CBS folks are rooting very hard for Duke -- they really need the marquee name in the Final Four.

I'm rooting for Baylor, for two reasons: (1) My natural anti-Duke bias, and (2) I love the idea of a no-1-seed Final Four, the antidote to the "all-1" Final Four of 2008. Frankly, I think Baylor has precisely the kind of profile of a team that has kicked Duke's ass in the Tournament recently.

Let's consider that Final Four: Butler. West Virginia. Baylor. A short-handed Michigan State or short-handed (from earlier this season) Tennessee. One of those teams -- or (shudder) Duke -- will be national champs.

Not much cachet for the majority of sports fans -- aside from Butler's faux-"Cinderella" (but very real "Hoosiers") factor -- but totally random and (mostly) unexpected.

How could you ask for more than that?

-- D.S.


Michael W said...

Kentucky can't feel too bad about the loss. A lot of people were saying WVU deserved the last 1-seed over Syracuse. Having said that, though, it's always a pleasure to see Calipari exit earlier than expected. The guy just oozes slime.

Personally, I'm rooting for a Duke/Butler championship game. I mean, the stuffy English manor headlines practically write themselves.

Unknown said...

If you really think that West Virginia beating Ketucky was that much of an upset, then you need to stick to writing about college football.