Heading into the home stretch of the NCAA Tournament, my bracket still has six of the Elite Eight still alive and I’m sitting in fourth place in the C-J’s Bracket Challenge (click on image to see full bracket).
The Kansas loss, however, means I’m no threat in the Final Four. I had the Jayhawks going all the way. I had them facing Georgetown in the Elite Eight. I like Kentucky and Butler to win tonight — and yes, I know I went with Kansas State in my bracket, but I like the way Butler is playing and I think they’re going to be hard to handle with a trip back home on the line.
I like Michigan State and Baylor tomorrow — going against the bracket with Duke, and against my gut with Tennessee.
On to more thoughts . . .
YOU HAVE TO GIVE MAJOR CREDIT to Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. It’s going to sound like a knock, but it’s not. If you can get to the Elite Eight with Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince as your go-to guys, you can coach. Tennessee’s tournament run is further proof of the lunacy of SEC coaches, who not only bypassed John Calipari, but Pearl too, in Coach of the Year voting. There’s no way Tennessee should be playing at this level, yet here they are, and they’re beating people legitimately. Look who they’ve beaten this season. I know they don’t do these things postseason, but Pearl has to be on the list of top coaching jobs in the nation this season. I’d put him top five, with John Calipari, Scott Drew at Baylor, Brad Stevens at Butler and Bob Huggins at West Virginia.
TOM IZZO IS A TOURNAMENT MACHINE. Pat Forde called him “the Lord of the Dance” in an ESPN.com piece this morning, and it’s the truth. He’s knocking on the door of his sixth Final Four in 12 years. At Michigan State. And he’s done it in a way to leave no doubt that it was coaching that made it happen. Could you come to any other conclusion last season, when he attacked the middle of U of L’s zone with mid-range jumpers until the top-ranked Cardinals unraveled?
CATS-MOUNTAINEERS WILL LOOK FAMILIAR: Remember the tense, explosive scene when Louisville played Kentucky earlier this year? I expect the same game in the Carrier Dome tonight. Expect nerves to get raw and people to be on the edge. I don’t think he has quite the talent on the court to pull it off, but Bob Huggins’ style is tailor-made to slow down Kentucky. The Mountaineers’ problem will be scoring themselves. UK’s defense should be tough enough to wear down West Virginia. This one will be hard-fought throughout, but in the end, Kentucky wins by double-digits.
INTERESTING SIGHTING: Saw former Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, now with the Buffalo Bills, in a restaurant in Syracuse last night. He’s up for the NCAA regional, saw the UK game against Cornell on Thursday and will be in attendance tonight for West Virginia. Buffalo isa a short drive from Syracuse. “I really don’t like either team,” Brohm told me, “But what can I say? Kentucky really is fun to watch.” Brohm had his share of success against both teams in college, so he can say what he wants. U of L has had UK-connected people attending games for years. I think there’s something good about it going the other direction. Maybe it promotes goodwill. But I doubt it.
WEST VIRGINIA COMEDY: I won’t post all the videos here, but it’s worth looking at the Mountaineer players clowning around in the hotel in these clips.
SAW OHIO STATE’S EVAN TURNER on TV this morning commenting on the no-call of his blocked three-pointer at the end of the Tennessee game. But there’s nothing to complain about there. It was all-ball. A great defensive play J.P. Prince.