In Indianapolis, the magic number was 57. That’s percentage Ohio State shot from the floor and the number of points they scored in the second half. Something else that was magic was Evan Turner—a 31-point/11-rebound game marked his second straight game of breaking 30/10, as the Buckeyes routed Minnesota.
And in the SEC, Kentucky got everything it could handle from Mississippi State, before surviving 75-74 in overtime. Like Duke, the Wildcats won their tournament and got a #1 seed to go with their trophy, but they didn’t look the part of a Final Four team in doing so. One player who did look the part was John Wall, scoring 17 points, dishing nine assists and coming up with five steals. The latter was a huge intangible factor in pushing UK over the top.
Now,let’s start with the last chapter of the season, indeed one of the best chapters in all of sports. Here are some quick thoughts on the bracket…
*Tomorrow is when I’ll dig more in-depth into some of the ferocious debates over seeding and selection, but for now I’d like to thank Jay Bilas for pointing out the obvious—“This is for the national championship. We waste too much time on handwringing over the end of the line.” Bilas is clearly right. It’s fun to debate and doing so is the point of having sports media, but let’s not talk about leftout teams as though they’re on a par with the starving people of Darfur, the innocent unborn or a fallen soldier in Iraq.
*You have to come to a Wisconsin fan to get this useless nugget—last year, the Badgers drew Florida State, right after having played the Seminoles in a bowl game in football. This year, Wisconsin opens with Wofford, the same team they opened the football season. I’m just hoping Trevon Hughes doesn’t imitate running back John Clay, who put the ball on the ground several times in the football game.
*Was happy to see Richmond get in. I was glad to see the Atlantic 10 get that respect, plus a good friend of mine played baseball at Richmond. Although the Spiders’ matchup with St. Mary’s isn’t exactly overwhelming when it comes to deciding who gets a crack at Villanova.
*In the more useless nuggets category, Pitt plays Oakland in the first round. Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods have very distinctive names, and the Pitt campus is ironically located in the one called Oakland. For you sports history buffs, the old Forbes Field, where the Pirates used to play, is there too.
*If you’re looking for an opening weekend site where the house is going to rock, go to New Orleans. Nearby schools include Texas, Baylor and Sam Houston State. And something tells me that Kentucky will manage to drag a few fans along too. A second-round game between the Wildcats and Longhorns should have a Final Four atmosphere.
*If you’re looking for an opening weekend site where the place will be quiet and you can get some prayer and meditation time, grab a plan for Spokane. The schools on hand will be Michigan State, New Mexico State, Maryland, Houston, Texas A&M, Southern, Purdue and Siena. Only the Spartans and Terrapins can even remotely dream of the Final Four in that group, and it’s not exactly easy travel for any of them. And nothing to generate local interest.
Those are some casual thoughts. Here’s the plan for next week in the four days leading up to tip-off…
Monday: Opinion on selection and seeding, particularly the Virginia Tech controversy that dominated the ESPN discussion.
Tuesday: East & South previews
Wednesday” Midwest & West previews
Thursday: Sweet 16 & Final Four predictions. Good luck with your brackets and see you tomorrow.