Great night of basketball here in the Jones compound, as exciting games were ubiquitous, each with subplots and moments that proved long-standing truths about the teams involved. We will skip Memphis-Bradley since I didnt see one minute of the game and could not care less. Moving on...
Duke-LSU --- One of the uglier games that I have seen at this round in a long time, but this is how it needed to be to win. Watching this game, I thought of what sometimes happens when a rural school, full of jumpshooters and scrappy young guys goes into the biggest city in the state and plays a team with confidence and bravado. If in the first few minutes, they dont showcase their offense and get in a rhythm, they play scared and allow the other team to bully them. That is exactly what happened to Duke. LSU, with its emerging superstars in Big Baby and Tyrus Thomas, just completely bullied the Blue Devils and only Sheldon Williams even showed up to answer the bell. The Devils were scared to shoot inside, never got into a sound offense and showed that when JJ Redick is not on, they are a mediocre team at best.
And what about old JJ? For the fourth year in a row, JJ disappeared when his team needed him during crunch time and the Devils went down to an inferior opponent (well ok maybe UCONN in '04 wasnt inferior, but bare with me). This time however it had less to do with JJ playing bad, than LSU utilizing the one defense that we have been yelling about all year. Put your most athletic guy on Redick and DO NOT....under any circumstances, leave him!!! Period. Make McRoberts, Paulus, Dockery..etc beat you. They wont and they didnt. Redick showcased tonight why there are concerns about him on the pro level where offensive sets wont be enough to get him open looks. I must admit to feeling a bit bad for him as he walked off the court with some tears.....but I didnt care one bit about McRoberts who is imminently hateable.
And John Brady won.....wow....
West Virginia-Texas --- Aw West Virginia....full of mountain mamas, but no one who can get a rebound. We at KSR have been crowing for weeks that teams that only rely on jump shooters cannot win enough games in the tournament to make an impact. The Mountaineers at their best are not such a team, as they run a crisp offense that can get layups and medium-range looks. At their worst (as against Kentucky earlier in the year), they are the Tennessee of the Big East, chucking up threes and hoping....something they did tonight, which led to a defeat. The Mountaineers were dreadful on the boards, at one point down 43-15 in rebounds.....look at that stat again....43-15!!!! That is absurd and their inability to keep Texas off the glass sealed their fate.
But what an ending! Sitting with Jason Moore, he called the last 20 seconds, predicting a missed Texas free throw and a West Virginia three to tie the game (and who cant love Pittsnogle?) But he didnt call the clutch Texas comeback and buzzer beater of their own. That last 5 seconds showcases why it is ALWAYS best for a defense to call timeout in late game scenarios. An offense wants a late-game scenario where the defense is on their heels....and they always will be in such a situation right after a miss. Great shot to end the game and one that got me out of my seat. And Lemarcus Aldridge showed why he may be the number one overall pick tonight....dominant performance on both ends of the court....a true man amongst boys.
Gonzaga v UCLA --- I am not sure who is in charge of scholarships at Gonzaga, but if intelligence is a requirement for their retention, JP Batista needs to have his immediately revoked. On not one, not two, but THREE ridiculously dumb plays, Batista cost his team a game that they had should have had locked up when up 9 with just over three minutes to play. First he makes the boneheaded decision to take an offensive rebound he gets, back to the basket with a minute and a half to play, instead of kicking it out and preserving the five point lead. Then he makes a double-boneheaded foul that lets UCLA cut the game to one with 50 seconds left....and then amazingly, he turns the ball over in the last fifteen seconds, causing a UCLA winning basket that left the crowd stunned. Throw in the little point guard's awful attempt at a last second drive and our man Batista's desperation heave that was "just a bit outside" and the Zags choke once again.
I actually hate it for Adam Morrison, who is still a great player and a joy to watch in the college game. But one should be weary as there were some problems down the stretch. He took three shots on the last three Gonzaga offensive possessions, all of which were questionable and all of which were missed. Jason pointed out that he almost only takes bad shots, lowering his head and then throwing up a prayer....but he doesnt play a lot of teams as athletic as UCLA. Against such teams, the bull-headed offense doesnt work, a troubling thought as he heads to the athletic NBA. Also you have to wonder how he (a) let the ball out of his hand on the turnover and (b) ended up without the ball ever touching his hand on the two attempts at Gonzaga magic at the end. Stars dont let that happen and I was a bit surprised by both moments. Like with Redick, I didnt mind his tears, but I wonder about Morrison. Am I the only one that thinks he may be a bit crazy....what with all the punching of his own head, yelling words at no one and quick breakdowns into tears. If I am an NBA GM, I may get a psychological evaluation quickly.
Anyway, great night in college basketball.....hope you enjoyed it.