It happened! It finally happened! A highly seeded KU team played a less talented team in the round of 32, saw that team go nuts from behind the 3-point line, and still managed to gut out a win and advance to the Sweet 16.
The Creighton game was not a lot of fun to watch, at least as a KU fan. Ochai Agbaji suddenly can’t shoot, seems to be forcing bad shots, and plays soft/lazy on defense. Jalen Wilson played like an absolute dog in the first half and kept bricking 3’s early in the shot clock. Christian Braun made a couple extremely bad turnovers without much defensive pressure in moments when KU seemed poised to take control. Dave McCormack was ineffective most of the day. And Creighton, who shot around 30% for the year from 3, kept draining triples. I’ve seen this movie before. I did not like it.
A Creighton run cut the KU lead to one with under 2:00 to play and left me throwing things and feeling like I was going to either puke or pass out. Or both. Then the Jayhawks made a series of massive defensive plays. Creighton bricked a few of those 3’s that had been dropping early. And KU escaped with a win to advance to Chicago.
Despite all of that, there was plenty to be happy about. KU didn’t falter or fluster despite Creighton’s constant runs. The Jayhawks didn’t play particularly well on offense and still scored 79 points. They dominated the boards.
However, the biggest thing to be happy about was Remy Martin. Thirty-five points in two games. Thursday he turned a close contest into a blowout in about three minutes. Saturday he was the only KU player who could score in the first half. This was the player KU had been waiting on the entire season!
I found it interesting that CBS kept saying that Bill Self sat Remy down for three weeks. I don’t think that was ever clearly communicated as the plan while it was happening, so I’m inclined to think that is more adjusting the narrative after the fact. Which, whatever. All that matters is that he seems healthy, locked-in, and playing really well now.
Hopefully this week Ochai can figure out/fix whatever is ailing his game. And Dave McCormack can heal up and be ready for a rugged Providence team.
Until a week ago, most KU fans would have been completely satisfied with making the Sweet 16, or at least that had been the case since Remy’s injury saga began. After a Big 12 tournament title, the re-emergence of Remy, and a number one seed, expectations changed.
AND THEN THE MIDWEST BRACKET BLEW UP. WHAT BAD THINGS COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN NOW????
More on that later this week.
Other Assorted NCAA Notes
The first week of the NCAA tournament is A LOT. Thanks to long games on both Tuesday and Wednesday,
I was up until or past midnight five straight nights. I finally bailed early Sunday. But as we sit here on Monday of Sweet 16 week, that first First Four game seems like a long time ago.
Late edit: I wrote most of this Sunday evening. Before the TCU-Arizona game captured my attention and kept me up until 12:30 again. I’m a little fried this morning.
Games of the weekend?
TCU-Arizona was amazing. Frogs got hosed.
It was soooo fun that Kentucky went out in the first round to St. Peter’s, even though that meant the Marion County sales tax coffers took a hit. And it also destroyed my bracket. As a fan of a Blue Blood that has taken some heat over early exits, I am always ready to celebrate when another Blue Blood shits the bed.
But Carolina-Baylor had to be the game of the weekend, right? I missed most of the game while L was playing, but was following the score (as much as spotty cell service would allow). Then I listened on our way home. I heard Brady Manek go ballistic from three and then get tossed for throwing an elbow. I heard Carolina slowly meltdown, but never thought they would totally blow it. I got home in time to see Baylor complete the comeback through an insane ending, then the Heels pull away in OT.
What a damn game. I guess the officiating sucked. I know that from one friend who was at the game – and got a picture with Roy! – and from all the articles I read about it on Sunday. Apparently the refs totally lost control and then didn’t know how to get it back. What an embarrassment. Especially given numerous other blatantly incorrect calls over the weekend. Each time defended by the completely needless Gene Steratore. Refs stick together more than cops, man.
There are a lot of problems with college basketball. Unfortunately many of them stem from the officiating, generally in the lack of consistency from the refs. NBA refs aren’t perfect, but you generally know how a game will be called and that doesn’t change unless the game becomes overly physical. The NBA refs also being subject to public critiques makes the product better and more consistent. But the NCAA allows refs to hide from the media, puts a mouthpiece like Steratore on CBS, and never issues anything like the NBA’s Last Two Minute Reports. Typical NCAA, whistling past the graveyard as their product melts down.
The final play of regulation and all of overtime in the TCU-Arizona game was also an absolute disaster. I can’t believe Jamie Dixon didn’t murder a ref.
This time of year I always marvel at the evolution of how we view the tournament. Remember when you could only watch whatever was on your local CBS station? So, like, if a Big 10 team was playing, there was no way I could watch KU here in Indy? Eventually CBS started posting the scores of every active game on the screen. I remember “watching” a few KU games that way before 2008.
Then for a few years you could stream any game for free. That’s how I watched the first three games of KU’s 2008 run. I recall that our Internet service wasn’t ready to try to stream a basketball game. There was a lot of buffering and choppiness to the feed. Sometimes it just stopped working for long stretches.
Finally the current, perfect system where every game is live across the country on four different channels. There’s plenty to complain about CBS’ coverage, but our access to games is not one of those things.
I will complain about the commercials. There are too many commercial breaks with too many of the same commercials. There are too many commercials that feature mascots. Way too many AT&T commercials, most of which are dumb.
I must say, the Coach K one is perfect, though. It is a wonderful representation of what a smarmy, entitled ass he is. That was what they were going for, right?
I would be fine never seeing the Special Olympics commercial again. I swear I’ve seen it 5000 times over the past two weeks.
Worst part of the tournament? Back-to-back long time outs. Just brutal that every commercial break is somehow 2:30. I’ve seen coaches signal for a 30 second time out and then had to sit through five commercials, plus a delay while the refs make sure the CBS sideline reporter can give their meaningless update.
I could use less Grant Hill, too. I think he’s just a bad match for Bill Raftery, who remains great. Hill rarely offers any commentary that strikes me as particularly unique or insightful, or that benefits from his long playing career. He often seems more concerned about telling bad jokes that show how he is buddies with Jim Nantz and Raferty. Please, tell another joke about who doesn’t grab the dinner check!
Brackets and Pools
My brackets suck. I was in last place in all three after day one. That’s what having Kentucky in the Final Four will do to you. Not one of my upset picks came through. Auburn going out Sunday removed one of my two finalists.
BUT…I was able to rejoin a player pool with friends in Kansas City that I hadn’t been involved in since 2005 or so. I got the first pick, taking Drew Timme. Most of my other picks have done well, too. I still have six of my eight players alive, and I’ve only had one single-digit game out of 16 played. I have a 67-point lead going into the Sweet 16.
L had her first real AAU tournament over the weekend. Two pool games Saturday followed by a two-game bracket on Sunday.
I went to the first game Saturday (I left to watch “my sons” play, as L called KU) and saw both Sunday. They got smoked by 27 in the first pool game, then lost by five to a team that beat them by 20 two weeks ago. L had a single bucket in both games. The girls looked shook in that first game but I heard they settled down and played solid in the second.
Sunday they pounded the first team they played by 25. We had a running clock five minutes into the second half then the refs stopped the game at the 2:00 mark. Apparently that’s what you do in these tourneys when it’s a 20 point game to keep things moving. L was 1–3 from the line and 0-fer from the field.
Although the other semifinal was on the court next to us, both winners had to hop into their cars and run to the high school 10 minutes away for the title game.
That was a good game for the first 8–9 minutes, then our girls went on a nice run to lead by 10 at half. It never got closer in the second half, we got it up to running clock territory, and won by 17. L had a nice game, although she was a little sped-up at times. She scored 8 on probably 4–12 shooting. She was firing! She scored twice on what I call the Josh Jackson play, taking a pass from the weave outside the arc and cutting to the basket. Although Josh dunked where she flipped in runners. She also had two steals that turned into layups.
They got medals. Sure, it was the consolation bracket, but they still said champions! She, and her teammates, were pretty happy. And they did it without two players, one who is their best rebounder.
Amongst all the NCAA and AAU ball, Cathedral was playing at semistate on Saturday. They had a 19-point lead early, an 18-point lead moments after halftime, and found themselves tied with 90 seconds to play. I doubt that was stressful.
A short jumper, a put-back, and a dunk later and the Irish had advanced to the state championship game. They play undefeated, #1 Chesterton. I know nothing about them, although they are three spots lower than Cathedral in the computer rankings.
- Although it seemed like there were a lot of Michigan and Murray State people in the stands Saturday. I doubt they drink as much as Cats fans. ↩
- They did pilot showing every game of the tournament here in Indy in 2005 and 2006. That was weird. The first year they didn’t publicize it at all. I only knew about it because a friend had a neighbor who worked for the NCAA and told us where to find the “secret” channels, which were buried in a part of the digital cable spectrum where there weren’t any other stations. I also think back then they didn’t stagger games the way they do now, which made for a less satisfying experience. ↩