Round Two of March Madness


32 are now 16.

KENTUCKY v. WEST VIRGINIA

The Cats outlasted a game, but limited Cincinnati team to reach the Sweet 16.  It was a performance that gives belief to those that would like Kentucky to lose.  Defensively, they were solid, but not impenetrable, and on offense they were, with the singular exception of Willie Cauley-Stein’s poster dunk, uninspiring.  The victory was secured by essentially wearing down an inferior foe over the forty minute game which has been something of a formula for the Cats.

The Mountaineers literally knocked Melo Trimble adn Maryland the F… out.  Like all Bob Huggins teams, this group is athletic, defends and plays hard-nosed, seldom attractive basketball.  This is a dangerous opponent for Kentucky.  West Virginia will descend from their inscest-infested stronghold with little or no respect for Kentucky and engage them in a street fight on hardwood.  Hard screens, bumped cutters, hands on defense and limitless hustle will attempt to “bring the bitch out” of the Cats.  This game will be like a young fighter on his way to a title shot meeting a crusty, dirty old timer in one of those fights that verifies the class and quality of the prospective champion.

KENTUCKY by 4.

NOTRE DAME v. WICHITA STATE

Two teams that have won me over.  Notre Dame beat Butler in overtime on the day that Mike Brey’s mother died in an immensely entertaining game.  The Irish are a likeable team with fun players, an open style of play and a developing back story.

Wichita State over the last three seasons has been to the final four, completed an undefeated regular season only to lose in the second round of the tourney to eventual finalist Kentucky and advanced to the Sweet 16 by beating in-state overlord Kansas, who could no longer dodge them.

There will be no losers in this game….from a narrative perspective.

PUSH….enjoy the game.

WISCONSIN v. UNC

Wisconsin is a fully evolved Virginia.  At one time not so long ago, they were a one trick defensive, tempo controlling, boring ass, white bread machine.  This no longer fits the team, though any adverse description should still hang onto Bo Ryan like a bottom of the bowl skid mark, as he is truly boring. Wisconsin has developed an effective offense that creates mismatches all over the floor and more importantly enables them to compete and win games when their beloved tempo gets away from them (Virginia’s undoing).

UNC have long been masters of transition and secondary break basketball, but will likely find tough sledding against the Badgers.  UNC has been largely unimpressive and inconsistent throughout the season and the first two rounds.  I am still bitter the escaped the Crimson of Harvard and ousted Michael Qualls of Arkansas.  Further, my contempt for Teardrop Roy’s sportcoats have forced me into the bizarre and disorienting position of actually rooting for Wisconsin.

WISCONSIN by 8

ARIZONA v. XAVIER

Chris Mack faces mentor Sean Miller with the school that Miller left for more money and presumably the opportunity to advance further in this very tournament.  Good story line.  Arizona is the better team, and deserved a one seed.  They are playing good basketball and will beat Xavier making Sean Miller look like a guy who did the right thing for himself, his family and Arizona basketball.  Chris Mack will respond by sending feelers out for an opportunity similar to that of his mentor.

ARIZONA by 7

NC STATE v. LOUISVILLE

The Wolfpack rallied against a talented, but largely uncoached LSU team to advance to the second round where they took down the first one seed in Villanova.  Nevermind that Villanova should never have been a one seed, the Wolfpack are now a team of destiny….behold!

Louisville is coached by Rick Pitino.  He is a legend and enjoys brief sexual encounters in Italian eateries.  He has taken the Cardinals to the Sweet 16 four years running and is two years removed from a National Championship.  This years team is seriously flawed.  The cannot shoot and lost their point guard a few weeks ago.  That means they are vulnerable, but not this round.

LOUISVILLE by 2

MICHIGAN STATE v. OKLAHOMA

Regardless of seed, there must not be a  more disconcerting sight that Tom Izzo in the way of your path to the Final Four.  Izzo’s teams are always a tough out at this time of the year, and were excellent in dispatching Virginia.  So much so that in combination with Villanova losing, seven seed Michigan State is now the favorite in the East.  Oklahoma beat Albany and Dayton, but I watched neither game and know very little about the Sooners beyond the simple fact that they will NOT beat Tom Izzo in March.

MICHIGAN STATE by 5

DUKE v. UTAH

Duke put it on an offensively challenged San Diego State team while Utah prematurely dispatched yet another Georgetown team setting up this money game.  Five likely first round picks are spread across the two teams, and money will be made or lost by how these players perform on the same floor in direct competition making this a must see game for NBA fans.

DUKE by 6

UCLA v. GONZAGA

A rematch to the famous Adam Morrison’s Tracks of My Tears Game that marked his undoing as a basketball player and a man.  Again, Gonzaga will enter the game as the higher seed, but will undoubtedly hope for a better result.  Gonzaga is an interesting case study.  Many years ago, they were a classic mid-major Cinderella that played their way to the brink of the Final Four.  Their coach at the time Dan Monson moved on to presumably greener pastures, but slipped in cow shit in the putrid fields of Minnesota.  His replacement Mark Few has built a sustainable college basketball power in Spokane.  The Zags are regularly ranked high in the polls, play in the tourney every year and enjoy a gravitas that few other mid-majors enjoy when it comes to seeding.  The problem is that they have never made a final four, and their more recent tournament pedigree is more consistent with underachievement.  This is a big game for Gonzaga.

GONZANGA by 3.

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