If the Final Four was held this, now past, weekend, here’s the lineup:
Kentucky. Kentucky devastated UCLA.
- 24 - 0 start,
- a 7-point UCLA first half,
- a final score one point away from a double-up: 83-42. T
The only question in the mind of UCLA’s Coach Alford is: “How do I wipe my hands clean of this debacle and blame it all on the players?”
The only question on the mind of UCLA’s hiring committee is “What do we do, now?”
Duke played well enough against a UConn team that’s better than their record offers. When they played defense, they looked very good. When they didn't ... they looked mediocre especially without their usual parade of 3-pointers.
Can they beat Kentucky? No. Okay, in a universe of infinite possibilities there's one or more where they could. Think NC State over Houston - '83, Villanova over Georgetown - '85 and Butler ... almost over Duke 2010. But they have to play much better defense.
Texas. They rolled. Once they have Isaiah Taylor back and this Mile Turner plays to expectations.
Virginia. They rolled, too. Smooth and steady, with no drama, just like their coach. Got big men, skilled guards, good defense and good shooters. What’s not to like?
- Villanova. Sure, they needed an overtime to win at home against a sub-standard Syracuse team. But, that’s the nature of their rivalry. And they came back, tied it, won it.
- Utah. They have a player out, a big. Once they get him back, look out.
- Wichita State. Defense wins championships and they have a strong one. Wichita’s only loss this year is to Utah, at Utah. In overtime.
- Wisconsin. Their one loss was to Duke, granted it was at home. But their schedule is very favorable for making it through the Big Ten with minimum damage. When Michigan State loses to Texas Southern ... Texas who? ... a 2-8 Texas Southern that’s who and Michigan gives NJIT it’s first Division 1 win which started a four-game losing streak ending with yesterday’s loss to SMU, at SMU, ( which circles us back to MSU’s loss to Texas Southern ... it was at home ) and Ohio State can’t beat UNC ... well, Wisconsin should make it through with ABSOLUTELY no more than 2 conference losses. I’m seeing them undefeated, really.
- Ohio State? They couldn’t stop UNC on a neutral court for goodness sakes. And UNC lost to Iowa on its home court. So ...
- Arizona. They don't deserve a Final Four listing. I'm not seeing their dominance, yet. They look like they have the athletes and the talent but they struggle nearly every time they play a ranked opponent.
- Gonzaga? They're very good. But historically they never play defense.
You know, it's the opposite scenario of your dream game - a matchup of evenly and very talented teams and coaches. This year that would be Louisville - Kentucky this Saturday or Duke - Louisville on January 17.
No, the Nightmare Game is one where the strengths and weaknesses, player's size and speed, magnify against each other into an interminable match of futilities.
VCU vs Arkansas.
Long and tall and rangy and fast athletes, relentless and frenzied defense, play hard all game and ... and ... can't shoot a lick. Dunks, 15-footers, tear-drops, three's, breakaway layups ... they'd miss them all. It would be a contest of futility. They should change the scoring for who can miss the most shots because that would credit them for their strengths: defense. Those shots would come from their defenses, see?
Easy. I'm having fun. Both coaches, Mike Anderson for Arkansas and Shaka Smart for VCU, run great programs and sell their athletes on the value of relentless pressure defense. That's a tough sell in today's I need my minutes, I need my points, I'm going to the NBA mentality for today's college players or a lot of them.
Still, it's been painful to watch their games.
* Where was Final Four - Week 5? Nowhere. Nothing happened that week.