Friday, March 23, 2012

03/23 (Elite Eight) Quickie

You'll have to excuse me -- I'm busy reveling in Florida's largely unexpected run to the Elite Eight.

I knew the Gators had the potential to do it. Marquette seemed like the kind of team that would give Florida fits -- and, despite being forced into quite a few misses, Florida handled them easily.

Now regional 1-seed Michigan State has been dispatched and it's Billy Donovan vs. his mentor Rick Pitino for a spot in the Final Four -- 25 years after they paired up for Providence's Final Four run that put both of them on the map nationally. Should be a fun one.

(A quick aside about fabulous Florida freshman Bradley Beal: I have been watching Florida closely as a die-hard fan for more than 10 years -- and was certainly very familiar with the program before that -- and it is pretty clear that Beal is the best player to ever suit up for the program. Now that his 3s are dropping reliably, he is the most complete player in college hoops -- he can shoot, his defense is tremendous, he rebounds better than any guard in the country, he is supremely athletic and, best of all, he has as high of a basketball IQ as anyone I've seen. And he is not even 19 yet. Don't be surprised when Beal emerges as the clear No. 2 talent of the 2012 NBA Draft behind Anthony Davis. Questions about Beal's size -- he is probably somewhere between 6-3 and 6-4, on the small side for an NBA 2-guard -- should be mitigated by how big he plays. If you watch him on the court, you would swear he is 6-6 or 6-7.)

Meanwhile, kudos to Louisville for KO'ing a Michigan State team everyone assumed would be advancing. Louisville's defense was phenomenal.

On the other side of the bracket, it's chalky in the East: Syracuse vs. Ohio State, a match-up of two very good defenses and two OK offenses. It is a testament to how good Syracuse is that even without Fab Melo, they should be considered the favorites to beat the Buckeyes tomorrow night. (Although they will never miss him as much as they will when trying to stop Jared Sullinger inside.)

Tonight in the Sweet 16: Kentucky has four games left to claim what should be theirs, and the easiest step of all of them will be wreaking vengeance on an Indiana team that gave Kentucky its only loss of the regular season... In the other South regional semi, if Baylor can shoot like it did last weekend, Xavier won't have a chance to pull another upset. Kentucky-Baylor on Sunday would be a fun one, with a half-dozen (or more) NBA first-round picks on the floor.

In the Midwest: No Kendall Marshall for UNC, which would be a problem against any other team in the Sweet 16 except Ohio.... Based on the close call against Purdue, Kansas could absolutely lose to NC State (particularly if they are looking ahead to playing UNC without or with a very limited Marshall); KU muscles through, setting up the regional final we all wanted to see (and predicted we'd see).

How's your bracket? I'm still hovering around the 50th percentile. The bracket I filled out for my 3-week-old daughter is in the 97th percentile. The bracket my five-year-old filled out himself is in the 87th percentile. He gets to write the Wall Street Journal column next year.


*Tim Tebow takes New York, cont'd: The trade was delayed (again), but this is still happening. The major media meme is that this is going to be bad for the Jets. I'll just go back to the idea that every time the media has proclaimed something limiting about Tebow or the Tebow phenomenon, it has been wrong, often diametrically. So I'll say it's going to be great for the Jets. Whatever the most absurd scenario is (short of winning the Super Bowl), I'll take that.

*Pat Robertson thinks God will strike down Peyton Manning because the Broncos screwed around with Tebow: Are we really paying attention to this? Ironically, if Robertson had simply said "Why is everyone making an assumption that Manning's neck will hold up to being battered by defensive ends intent on hurting him?" he would have been fine.

*Andrew Luck's Pro Day: Throwing to his receivers on his home field in a choreographed pattern he had been practicing for weeks, he looked... amazing! Well, naturally. The fact is Luck remains the No. 1 talent of the draft and the most can't-miss QB prospect in a generation (as is Robert Griffin III, which is its own fascinating sub-plot). Colts fans will be thrilled.

*Chipper Jones will retire at the end of the season: He's a Hall of Famer, sure, but it strikes me as a bit disingenuous that HOF voters would come out so strongly for Jones but keep Jeff Bagwell at arm's length. They have the same level of confirmed PED usage -- which is to say: Zilch.

Great weekend of hoops ahead. Hope your brackets stay solid.

-- D.S.

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