I watched a ton of hoops this weekend. The most in ages. Especially on Saturday, when I barely left the couch. Two of our nephews stopped by and one of them, the nearly six-year-old, asked C, “Why is Uncle D always watching basketballsports?” Basketballsports. One word. Made me laugh. You picked the wrong weekend to get any attention from Uncle D, buddy.
Some notes on what I watched.
Just a week ago KU was fortunate to not have ended the regular season on a four-game losing streak, and KU fans were pessimistic about the future. After three wins in Kansas City, including their toughest win of the year over the (alleged) toughest team in the conference, all of a sudden KU fans were thinking Final Four and more.
First, that was a good-ass win Saturday in the Big 12 title game over Texas Tech. Tech probably should have swept KU in the regular season, coming a miracle Ochai Agbaji 3 away from winning in overtime in Lawrence. I figured they would be playing free and easy and confident Saturday. It took them awhile, but midway through the second half they finally had a little spurt and took a 54–51 lead. It felt like they had KU on the ropes, especially with KU going through a sequence where they kept kicking the ball around or forcing shots that weren’t there.
KU took a timeout, settled down, and then closed the game on a 23–11 run. Jalen Wilson was a stud in the second half, getting just about every loose ball and scoring some big buckets in traffic. David McCormack battled his ass off. Dave elicits so many feelings from KU fans, not all good. But we’ve reached the point in his career, and he’s reached a level of play, where you can’t help but admire how hard he works. Now I worry more about his health causing issues for KU the next three weeks than his play being key in losing.
And Remy Fucking Martin! Hello, stranger! He got a few more minutes and a little better each game in Kansas City. Tech is one of those terrible matchups for DaJuan Harris due to their physicality, and Remy stepped right in. He’s tiny, too, but he was too damn fast for Tech to contain. The biggest play of the game, likely, was him stepping in and forcing a turnover on an inbounds play after a KU score. Seconds later Wilson scored, KU was up eight, and the game was over.
KU hit free throws, played some of their best defense of the year, got some important rebounds, erased a second-half deficit, and won a game against a #3 NCAA seed with Agbaji not doing much within the offense. That’s some good shit right there, Jayhawks fans.
Other than Mitch Lightfoot hurting his knee, the weekend went about as well as it possibly could for KU. Oh yeah, there was this, too.
OCHAI AGBAJI pic.twitter.com/uPT9hY5Hof
— We good? (@gifhawk2) March 12, 2022
I screamed. And watched replays about a thousand times.
It came on the sixth anniversary of this, no less!
High School Hoops
Both of the Cathedral Regional playoff games Saturday were on local TV. C watched them both with me, the other two girls drifted in and out. In the opener, they took on Terre Haute North. CHS dominated early, were up by as many as 16 and seemed totally in control through the first half. THN started hitting shots in the second half, got it down to a one-point game, but never had the ball with a chance to take the lead as the Irish won by five.
In the nightcap CHS took on Ben Davis, who beat them by one point three weeks ago. We missed most of the first half watching KU, but flipped over just in time to see Cathedral hit a 3 at the halftime buzzer to go up by four. Then they curb-stomped Ben Davis in the third quarter, hitting threes, getting blocks, forcing turnovers, and throwing down a few dunks. They led by as many as 22 and never let BD get closer than 15 in a meaningless fourth quarter.
On to Semistate next week.
Other College Games
I flipped around a lot when not watching either KU or CHS. The Indiana-Iowa game was tremendous fun. Iowa fans don’t take over Indy quite like Iowa State fans take over Kansas City, but it was still a great atmosphere for a great game with a tremendous finish.
Michigan State – Purdue was a lot closer than I expected. Purdue just can’t seem to be steady enough on the defensive end to close out these games easily. This really should be the team that gets Purdue fans over a lot of their angst built up over the past 40 years. I think they certainly have a decent chance to make it to New Orleans. But it seems like those odds should be way better than they actually are.
It was treeeemendous catching the end of Virginia Tech – Duke. If Biden doesn’t declare a national holiday when Duke goes out in the NCAAs, I will support impeachment. I can’t wait for K to whisper to his media apologists that this season being disappointing – by Duke standards – was somehow the fault of someone else.
I flipped on UCLA – Arizona late, after seeing Twitter buzz that the Bruins might be taking out the Wildcats and give KU a chance to move up to the #2 overall seed. As soon as I turned it on Arizona went on like a 23–5 run and took away any drama. First time I’ve seen them all year. They are impressive.
We were out to dinner when the brackets dropped, so I avoided the long, slow reveal. Or what I assume was long and slow.
There was a whole list of teams I wanted KU to avoid. The biggest name on that list was Kentucky. Despite their loss this weekend I think Kentucky is probably as good as anyone and, strangely for a UK team, playing with relatively little pressure. Plus they destroyed KU six weeks ago. I didn’t want really any long, athletic SEC team, Memphis, Illinois, Iowa, or Villanova either. KU got just one of those schools, Iowa, in what could be a spicy matchup in Chicago where the Iowa fans outnumber the Jayhawk fans.
But both teams have to win two to get there. KU will face one of two slow, defensive minded teams in the second round, assuming they get past the 16 seed. San Diego State is athletic and seems like a lower-budget Texas Tech. Creighton has been through the battles of the Big East and were hot over the last month. Both teams offer a threat because of their pace and ability to guard, but KU should be good enough to beat either of them. They’ve been battling ridiculous defenses in the Big 12 for 10 weeks, and went 17–4 against them.
Auburn was a nightmare matchup until they hit their recent cold stretch. I’m not sure they make it to the Elite 8.
I think the most likely team to prevent KU from reaching the Final Four is Iowa, followed by Wisconsin, then Auburn and San Diego State. Iowa is as hot as anyone, has athletic wings, and white guys that can shoot from anywhere. Wisconsin seems custom-built to beat KU in March. That said, KU is 6–2 against Big 10 teams in the tournament in the Bill Self era.
I haven’t broken down the brackets yet, but I’m feeling more a lot more confident about KU than I was a week ago. They seem like a solid bet to win two and then roll the dice in tough matchups in Chicago. And, dammit, I’m thinking they have a decent shot to win four. Which will make the pain if they don’t hit harder.