Texas, and to a lesser extent Georgetown are two teams that need to have good weekends to start the process of redeeming what's been underachieving seasons. Both got off to strong starts yesterday, in moving into today's quarterfinals. Texas finally played like they had a purpose and hit the board hard, outrebounding Iowa State 44-28. The Cyclones, for their many shortcomings, do have a good frontline, so this kind of dominance speaks well to Longhorn focus. Damion James poured in 28 points and got 15 of the rebounds to highlight the win. For Georgetown, it was defense that showed their intensity. They held South Florida to 29 percent shooting from the floor. Dominque Jones got his points, 21 to be precise, but no other Bull hit double figures.
Both teams are part of the day's two best games today. Georgetown plays Syracuse at Noon EST, and this is a
game the Hoyas MUST win. No, they aren't on the tournament bubble, but this is a proud program and this is there shot to do something special, rather than losing to the Orange three times. I've been waiting all year for Georgetown to play to their potential and I think today is it. I see Greg Monroe inside and Austin Freeman outside having big games, and Syracuse---mindful that winning the regular season and the tournament didn't help Louisville get to the Final Four last year--to be just a step behind in hunger and intensity. Enough to tip the balance in a good one. If only this game was in prime-time.
Texas-Baylor is in prime-time, tipping at 9:30 EST to bookend the day, and if the Longhorns play with the same kind of focus, this will be an absolute barnburner, matching Texas' rebounding strength against Baylor's backcourt prowess. Regular readers know I've been high on the Bears since late December and I like LaceDarius Dunn to have a big
night. If the unfocused Texas shows up, it will be a rout. If the good Texas makes a second straight appearance, it will be a bucket either way. I'll take the Bears in both scenarios.
The Big Ten, ACC and SEC all have first-round games tonight, with the heavyweights waiting for tomorrow start. The best game in any of these conferences is Georgia Tech-North Carolina (7 EST). The Tar Heels could make some amends for their awful season if they win here and beat Maryland tomorrow. But after that disaster of a game they turned in at Durham last Saturday night I'm not holding my breath.
Overall, the day's ultimate highlight is just all day in the Big East. Georgetown-Syracuse is only the start of a great day of basketball. It's followed up by Marquette-Villanova, where I like the Golden Eagles to shoot the ball well enough to pull the mild upset. At night, Notre Dame squares off with Pitt. The Irish have shown they can win without Luke
Harangody. As well as they played defense when he's gone, is it being cynical to wonder if they can win with him? Finally the night ends when Bob Huggins and West Virginia take on his old team in Cincinnati. Other than the Bearcats, any of these teams can cut down the nets on Saturday night. And if I might be permitted a cultural tangent, it's a even 4-4 split in the Catholic school/public school rivalry that is only prevalaent here and the Atlantic 10 among prominent conferences.
More spring training reports are over at www.thebaseballnotebook.com , and you can read good game-by-game statistical recaps over Jeff Fogle's Stat Intelligence blog, found at http:/statintelligence.blogspot.com