I’m intrigued by the South Region. Yes, Kentucky is the #1 overall seed as expected, but what about the following:
(a) a potential UConn-Kentucky matchup (lots of draft choices here) in the second game
(b) a possible Duke-Kentucky showdown in the regional final — remember 20 years ago?
(c) Indiana is there too and could ALSO face the Wildcats — before Vanderbilt on Sunday, they were the only team to beat Kentucky this year
Did all of this happen by coincidence like the committee maintains or was there some planning done?
Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back…
We need to say welcome back to the NCAA Tournament to some teams. South Florida is back in the field for the first time since 1992 and will be looking for its first NCAA Tournament victory. Great job by Stan Heath to get it done in such a tough conference.
Colorado also returns to the field for the first time since 2003. I saw the Buffaloes play in the Pac-12 Tournament, and while they’re a good squad, they have a really tough matchup with UNLV as they try to win an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1997.
How about the job Fred Hoiberg is doing at Iowa State? He loves the place, and the place loves him, as the Cyclones are in the field for the first time since 2005. He was named 2012 Big 12 Co-Coach of the Year after winning nine more games than last year, the largest season-to-season improvement in Big 12 history.
The year 2006 resonates with Alabama in two areas, as current NC State coach Mark Gottfried has led the Wolf Pack into the NCAAs for the first time since 2006, and that also happens to be the last time Alabama made it. And who was leading the Crimson Tide at that time? You guessed it: Mark Gottfried. Tony Bennett has Virginia back in the field for the first time since 2007, while Indiana is back in the field for the first time since 2008.
Better Luck Next Year
Who wasn’t so lucky? Pitt had a 10-year streak broken, Villanova had a seven-year run snapped and Tennessee and Texas A&M are missing out after making it in six straight years. Of course, Northwestern among major conference teams has the longest drought, having never made the tournament, while Oregon State (1990), Rutgers (1991), Nebraska (1998) and Mississippi (2002) will all have to wait until next year to try to end long tournament-free streaks.
All About the Bonnies
And how about Andrew Nicholson and St. Bonaventure? Wow, what an impressive run they are on. The Bonnies’ 20 wins are their most since going 21-10 in 1999-2000 and that turnaround began with the hiring of Mark Schmidt in 2007 and getting the under-recruited Nicholson from north of the border. The Canadian big man led the Atlantic Ten in scoring, averaging more than 20 points per game, and has more than 2,000 career points. Come June, he will be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft. And kudos to Schmidt, who inherited a team that went 24-88 in the four seasons prior to his arrival.
It Is Easy Watching Green
Is there a better all-around player in the game than Draymond Green? He was the Most Outstanding Player at the Big Ten Tournament as the Spartans won their first conference tournament title since 2000. The Saginaw, Mich., native averaged 15.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in MSU’s three victories over Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State as the Spartans won their third Big Ten Tournament title in program history. I hate to say it, but Green probably passed me as Saginaw’s most famous basketball personality.
Will the Lobos See a Ghost?
New Mexico is hoping it won’t look like it has seen a ghost this weekend…as in Casper. Long Beach State’s Casper Ware, the two-time Big West player of the year, scored 13 points on an 18-5 run that ended with a 13-point lead for Long Beach State over UCSB in the Big West title game Saturday. Ware made three straight three-point baskets in less than two minutes. He made eight threes in the game and added six assists.
That’s a game to pay attention to and I really think the winner between the 49ers and the Lobos could advance to the Sweet 16 by beating Louisville on Saturday.
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball.