A bit bleary-eyed after a day in front of the TV, but here goes . . .
1. Officiating. I’ve now heard Rece Davis — twice — say that Stanford coach Trent Johnson handled the postgame discussion of his early ejection against Marquette with “a lot of class.” Digger Phelps and Steve Lavin of ESPN then went on to say that Johnson shouldn’t have been tossed. The ref that tossed him, Curtis Shaw, has a well-known nickname. “Quick Draw” Curtis Shaw. But in this case, Shaw made absolutely the right call. If a coach is going to walk out to the top of the key to accost a ref, he needs to be tossed. Period. Somebody has to keep these coaches in line. I happen to like Shaw’s attitude. He takes nothing off these coaches, and I don’t think college refs should. It’s more of an NBA attitude.
2. Late-game execution. The more tight finishes I watch, the more I appreciate the heady play of Western Kentucky’s Tyrone Brazelton, who had the presence of mind to pull the defense away then dish to an available shooter. Texas A&M got a joke of a shot at the end of regulation against UCLA. Belmont, going back a couple of days, had the worst out-of-bounds play in history against (now-departed) Duke. Here’s a hint. If you’re a coach who hasn’t been to ten Final Fours, you’re probably not going to out-coach Duke’s coach during a 60-second time out, so just let the game continue.
3. Marquette. The Golden Eagles lost a golden opportunity against Stanford, and it can’t be sitting well with Tom Crean and Co. to have lost to a team whose coach spent much of the game in the locker room. Marquette’s inability to adjust to defend, somehow, the Lopez brothers, was puzzling. Where were the double-teams? Where were the digging guards? On too many crucial late possesions, Marquette went straight man, on-one-one against the bigger Stanford trees, and paid for it.
4. Conference Talk. U of L fans beware, this discussion may be a bad omen. The biggest conference fraud, I think we can all agree now, was the ACC. But after looking like world beaters in the first round, the Big East is 1-3 in the second. Pitt ran out of steam against Michigan State, which looks to be coming on. And Notre Dame was simply exposed, in a big way, by Washington State. So while the Big East probably still stands as the top conference overall, I still like what I’ve seen from the Pac 10, and am increasingly impressed by the Big 12. Texas A&M doing what it did with UCLA should send a message to teams like U of L, which faces Oklahoma later today, that these teams are tough and tested.
5. Kevin Love. It’s hard not to like watching him play, even if he does get away with the odd moving screen
6. Tournament’s biggest disappointment: Indiana, Indiana and Indiana. I’m now in agreement with colleague Rick Bozich. IU shouldn’t have gotten an eight seed. . . . . It should have been lower.
7. Tournament’s best moment: Western Kentucky’s Ty Rogers hitting a buzzer beater to beat Drake.
8. Quote of the night: West Virginia’s Joe Alexander: “Playing in the Big East tournament makes every tournament seem like nothing to you, really. Playing in the Big East every day gets you tougher and you play the best competition in the country. There’s really nothing that you’re afraid of and nothing that you’re not ready to face. And everybody saw that tonight as we played an ACC school, and not only held our own but went we went well beyond that. . . . Duke’s a great team, but I think they fit in well in the Big East, but they definitely wouldn’t dominate the Big East. We had a lot of great teams, I think the top six or seven teams are definitely right on par with Duke in the Big East. And the rest of them are right up there, too.”
9. Upset alert. Digger Phelps puts U of L on upset alert against Oklahoma. Steve Lavin puts Tennessee on upset alert against Butler. I haven’t agreed with either of these guys all night. But both made good points on these. Still, Phelps says Louisville will win, and Lavin goes with Tennessee.
10. Good night.