NCAA roundup, round 3 

Yeah, this blog has been turning into a sports blog recently. But really, is there anything else important happening in the universe?

Over in LA, I got to see Duke-LSU, the last few seconds of West Virginia-Texas, and UCLA-Gonzaga, on each of which I will comment in turn.

Duke-LSU was a slugfest. The offense wasn't pretty, and LSU won by scoring lots of points inside, dominating the boards, and funneling JJ Redick (3-18 shooting, 0-9 inside the arc) into their shotblockers. When he was interviewed after the game, Krzyzewski said that the game was a physical game, one to which his team didn't adjust very well. I'll translate this statement for you: "We got jobbed by the officials, who don't understand that we're supposed to get charging calls any time one of our defenders falls over after minimal contact from an offensive player, and that you're not allowed to breathe on JJ Redick without drawing a foul." As a footnote, my prediction that Greg Paulus would kill the team turned out to be incorect.

UCLA-Gonzaga ran at the same time as West Virginia-Texas, so I only saw glimpses of the WVU-Texas game, including the end where WVU's Kevin Pittsnogle hit a tying 3-pointer with 5 seconds left, only to have Texas inbound the ball immediately and get it to Kenton Paulino for the game-winning 3. Not many people will claim that Texas's Rick Barnes is a great coach, but it seems to me that a team that can run an end-of-game play successfully on the fly (taking advantage a defense that isn't set) instead of calling a timeout and having the coach diagram every possibility is a well-coached team.

UCLA-Gonzaga was a wild game. UCLA started off terribly by taking outside shots early in the count and by playing turnstile D; they ended up down 17 late in the first half. PG Jordan Farmar injured his non-shooting wrist earlier in the week and seemed to be reluctant to drive to the basket for most of the first half.

UCLA put together a quick 8-point spurt bridging halftime, but Adam Morrison and JP Batista continued to fill up the Gonzaga basket. Also, the officials ruled at some point that a player can get fouled by his own backboard. With three minutes left, UCLA still trailed by 9 and was in considerable foul trouble.

Then the game started.

3:13, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute sinks a pair of free throws. 71-64 Gonzaga.
2:22, Adam Morrison misses a jumper.
2:09, Mbah A Moute puts back a Farmar drive. 71-66 Gonzaga.
1:35, Derek Raivio misses a 3, and Batista misses the putback.
1:01, Morrison misses a jumper.
0:52, Farmar sinks a midrange jumper. 71-68 Gonzaga.
0:23, Morrison misses a jumper.
0:20, Ryan Hollins gets fouled after the rebound and sinks a pair. 71-70 Gonzaga.
0:20, Raivio inbounds the ball to Morrison deep in the corner.
0:16, Morrision gets double-teamed and lobs the ball over to Batista in the other corner.
0:12, Batista gets cornered by Cedric Bozeman, then Farmar steals the ball from behind and dishes to a streaking Mbah A Moute for a layup. 72-71 UCLA.
0:06, Raivio is driving for a game-winning layup and encounters traffic. Mbah A Moute runs up from behind and *dives onto the floor* to steal Raivio's dribble, then gets fouled. He sinks one of two free throws. 73-71 UCLA.
0:02, Batista fields a long pass and misses a last-second shot. Ballgame.


Farmar's steal reminds me a lot of Bird's steal and dish to Dennis Johnson against the Detroit Pistons in 1987 (which thankfully I am too young to remember fully), or of MJ hacking the ball away from Karl Malone and then shoving Bryon Russell in 1998. Amazing.

The CBS cameras showed an extended shot of Morrison lying on the court, crying into his jersey after the game. (A couple UCLA guys eventually helped him up.) Half of me feels sorry that his pain has to be broadcast on national television. The other half of me thinks it's hilarious that a guy who talks so much junk to his opponents during the game was so spectacularly humbled. The other half of me also just shoved the first half out the window.

I have UCLA making it to the Final Four and losing to Duke in the semis in both of my brackets, but that's not going to happen now.


George Mason Patriots beat Wichita State. Hey, did you know two mid-major teams made the Sweet 16 this year? Despite this attention, the Patriots are still feeling disrespected.

Villanova outlasts BC in an overtime slugfest. Despite its three- or four-guard lineup, they're a physically tough team that didn't get pushed around by BC. In other news, the officials ruled that you can be called for a travel if you're holding the ball and a guy pulls you to the ground by grabbing the ball. 'Nova's game-winning inbounds play was pretty sweet -- Randy Foye curls around a double screen, they fake a pass to him, and then one of the screeners, Will Sheridan, cuts to the basket.

Florida over Georgetown. Meh.

UConn over Washington. Washington adopted the brilliant strategy of stopping UConn forwards Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong by fouling them every time they got within five feet of the hoop (they ended up shooting 11-18 from the line combined). The strategy backfired slightly when Washington players started getting DQed like East German swimmers towards the end of the game. UW star Brandon Roy also got mutually T'ed up with Rudy Gay somewhere during the second half. The foul was his fourth and provided another demonstration of why counting a technical as a personal foul is such a horrible idea. Also, somewhere along the line UConn laptop salesman Marcus Williams got fouled by a leg cramp.

Oh yeah, Rashad Anderson hit a clutch three to tie the game in regulation. Ryan Appleby hit a clutch three to pull UW within two near the end of OT, stole the inbounds pass, passed up a layup chance to try to get the ball out for a three (the correct play, since UW had lots of players fouling out), and passed the ball to Roy, who then passed it to Williams to ice the games.

Finally, UW's Huskies logo looks a hell of a lot more dignified than UConn's.


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