Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hats off to victors (Mizzou) - and even to victims (Marquette)

Sunday's final four:

1. Because Michigan State somehow was chosen as Chicago's "home" team - even though Marquette has a massive alumni base here and is only an hour and a half away - I had to watch most of the Marquette-Missouri game on a laptop computer while Michigan State-USC droned on in the background on my beautiful HDTV. CBS's feed repeatedly froze and the network experienced a couple of long stretches of outages due to its own technical difficulties. It was like the Dark Ages, man, so ... so ... so ... 2006!

2. My lads fought valiantly but couldn't quite pull off the upset. I'd love to blame the refs or injuries or sunspots for the 83-79 loss, but Missouri earned the victory by playing extraordinarily well in the first half and then coming through in the clutch. Even though Marquette's season is over, I really enjoyed this edition of the Golden Warrior Eagles. The class of Jerel McNeal, Dominic James and Wes Matthews played hard and well for four years. As a fan, I never felt cheated, and there's not much more we can ask for from our athletes. 

3. Between Wisconsin's hack-first defense, the Badgers' slow-mo offense and the refs calling a foul every time a player on either team breathed on an opponent, the Wisconsin-Xavier game had all the pace and entertainment value of somebody changing a flat tire. I'm still trying to figure out how Wisconsin made the tourney, how the Badgers beat Florida State in the first round and how Xavier merited a No. 4 seed. I'd say that Xavier's stay in the tournament from here on in will be a short one, but its next opponent, Pitt, hasn't exactly been playing like the team so many folks (including this folk) picked to win it all.

4. How's your bracket? I'm not going to set any records, but I'm 37-11 after the first two rounds and still have seven of my final eight alive. (West Virginia? Oy! What was I thinking?) I'm looking forward to next weekend, when the stars really will shine. Who will emerge as the one transcendant star - the guy who, like Stephen Curry in 2008 - everybody will be talking about? Terrence Williams? Blake Griffin? Ty Lawson? Hasheem Thabeet? Gerald Henderson? DeJuan Blair? JaJuan Johnson? Tyreke Evans? Jonny Flynn? I'm thinking Griffin is really going to put on a show in carrying Oklahoma past Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough and the rest of the Tar Heels. Regardless of what happens, it will be fun watching it unfold.

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