Thursday, March 26, 2009

NCAA Sweet Sixteen

The Sweet Sixteen starts tonight.

UConn looked very strong last weekend, particularly in their 92-66 defeat of Texas A&M (who had themselves looked solid in crushing BYU in the first round). It seemed as though UConn's outside shooters couldn't miss - they didn't need to rely on Hasheem Thabeet, at all, for inside points.

Particularly impressive was Jeff Adrien, who made shot after shot from the top of the key (granted - I could not for the life of me figure out why A&M didn't do a better job of adjusting to guard him).

UConn plays Purdue in one of the early games tonight.

My upset pick for the round of 16 is Gonzaga over UNC, and my fingers are crossed that Villanova beats Duke.

Robert Weintraub theorizes in Slate this week as to why there were so few upsets in the first and second rounds of this year's tourney (the numbers for his arguments are mine):
"So was it just bad luck that the little guys fell shy of knocking off Goliath this year? Or is there something different about this year's tournament that made an upset less likely?

(1) Watching the Siena and East Tennessee games, it was hard not to wonder whether the endlessly hyped mythology of the Cinderella has started to affect the players as well as the fans. Today's players know that draining a 3-pointer to drop a top seed, a la Bryce Drew, will be better remembered than nearly anything in college basketball except winning it all—a goal realistic for only a handful of teams each year.

So perhaps it isn't surprising that when faced with a moment that has the potential for repeated replays every March, some kids ditch the disciplined play that brought them to the brink of upset. Had one or two of the teams just kept their focus late in the game, no one would be labeling this tournament "boring" ...

(2) The mid-majors are also getting squeezed by the selection committee. This year, only four of the 34 at-large berths were given to schools outside the power conferences ...

(3) What's more, season-long bracketology has resulted in a selection committee that may be too accurate for its own good. Yesterday's upset-laden tourneys may have been more about too-highly seeded clubs regressing to the mean or unfairly low-seeded teams performing to their actual ability."
I think Weintraub's point #1 is supported by the end of the VCU/UCLA game that we watched on Thursday night. VCU waited too long to take the final shot (they got the ball and called timeout with 12-15 seconds left but didn't ultimately take the shot until there were only 2-3 seconds, leaving no time for a rebound and put-back.

It almost seemed like VCU wanted the drama of a single last-second shot (as the buzzer sounded), rather than playing smartly to give themselves a couple of chances. Their loss - particularly given (1) the great comeback over the last five minutes of the game and (2) UCLA's awful performance on Saturday - was a bummer.

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