One of the interesting things about college basketball is that it’s the only major sport I can think of where there’s a universally agreed upon threshold of success below winning the championship. Sure, teams and coaches want to win NCAA titles, but more often you hear about the Final Four. At the beginning of the year, prognosticators pick their Final Four. The top coaches are measured by the number of Final Fours they’ve reached. Top players talk about wanting to play in a Final Four. It’s almost as if just reaching that level is good enough even if you don’t go on to the title. Almost.
So, this year’s group of teams who reached their preseason goal is set. Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Duke all won their regionals this weekend and are headed to San Antonio.
UConn won by completely dismantling happy-to-be-here Alabama in the first game of the weekend. The game was over by halftime, when UConn was ahead by 24 points. The Huskies were never challenged in four straight games, none against a ranked opponent. Obviously, UConn is playing very well, but just how well is difficult to judge. I still think they’re the favorite, but I think they would have been better off if they’d have beaten at least one really good team instead of several pretty good teams who had been on hot streaks.
Oklahoma State beat sentimental favorite St. Joseph’s in a great game Saturday night. It was tough to see St. Joes lose. They really had a remarkable team that played the game the way it should be played. They never woofed, they never whined, they never flinched. When opponents fell, Jameer Nelson would help them up. He’d pat opponents on the butt when they made a good play. You just don’t see that kind of sportsmanship anymore. But, they lost to a damn good team. Oklahoma really has a complete team, with quickness, shooting, defense and strength. I can’t bring myself to feel too good about Eddie Sutton, but the man is a hell of a coach. I just wish he still had the big perm.
Today’s games were both nail biters and of course I was psyched to see the ACC take them both. Jarrett Jack was incredible in the first game. He gave Georgia Tech everything it needed to win that game. He scored, he passed, he got rebounds. Did you see that play in OT where they brought Schenscher up high and Jack went low and posted Miles up for a hoop? The man can do it all!
The Duke – Xavier game was every bit as close as the Georgia Tech – Kansas game. Closer even, although it didn’t go to overtime. Neither team played a very pretty game, but that was mostly due to good defense on both sides. It was a slugfest and it just turned out that Duke hit the key shots late. Obviously it really hurt Xavier when their main big man, Anthony Myles, fouled out after getting two quick whistles. The conspiracy theorists will all swear that the fix was in, but he really committed a dumb foul for his fifth one, clearly shoving Sheldon Williams right in front of the ref. They rarely miss it when players in good rebounding position suddenly go flying forward. (psst – hey conspiracy boys – before you get too worked up, check the box score. 23 fouls on Duke and 21 on Xavier).
The ACC has two teams in the Final Four for the fifth time overall and fourth since 1990. Since 1990, the ACC has had nearly as many Final Four entrants (17) as the next best two conferences (the SEC has 9 and the Big Ten 10) combined.
I’ll have more tourney stats later in the week showing just how strong the ACC has been this year and in the past.
Tournament peformance by conference
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