Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thoughts On Day 3

Not too many surprises: Only two games surprised me yesterday. One was that I was surprised how well Western Kentucky hung with Gonzaga. They were shooting three pointers out of their minds, and Gonzaga has had a little bit of a habit the past two years of playing down to their competition. But just the fact that WKU made the game come down to the final moments was probably the biggest surprise of the day.

The other surprise for me was that UCLA performance. You knew that there was a possibility that they'd just stink up the joint, considering their Pomeroy Consistency rating was 270th in the nation. They have had a few games this year where they've just sleep-walked through the first half, and there was always the risk that they'd come out and be losing to Villanova by 15 points after 10 minutes and dig themselves too big of a hole to get out of. But the assumption would be that they'd do what they did all year, which was to fight back and make a game out of it. The fact that they just gave up on the game was an embarrassment, and really a big shocker for me. I've never seen a Ben Howland team play that poorly. Even Darren Collison missed three free throws after only missing ten all season long. Without question, UCLA's performance yesterday was the worst performance (relative to their ability) out of any team in the entire Tournament thus far.

Who looked the best: As for a full team, I'd have to go with Memphis. They really beat up Maryland early on and never took their foot off the pedal. With the way that UConn has been rolling through their competition, it seems pretty clear that those two teams are heading for an epic Elite 8 clash. As for an individual player, Ty Lawson played just about as well as he's ever played. If he can keep that up for the full Tournament then North Carolina has to be the clear favorite to win the NCAA Tournament. On the other hand, Tyler Hansbrough just seemed invisible to me. It's one thing I've never understood about somebody who is supposed to be one of the two or three best players in the nation. When Ty Lawson is on the floor, he's involved at all times. You never forget what Blake Griffin or DeJuan Blair are. But Hansbrough can absolutely disappear for five minute stretches. Fortunately for North Carolina, Lawson is the most important player on that team. If he's playing like he did against LSU then they can win the National Title whether or not they get a big performance out of Hansbrough.

The best match-up already set for next weekend: North Carolina vs Gonzaga. If the Zags were up against Louisville or Pitt, I'd probably have actually picked them to win the game. They are a very dangerous team that has the potential to really go nuts on the offensive end. And they've got a lot of great pieces off the bench, and are possibly even deeper than the Tar Heels are. I do think North Carolina will still win the game, but the one chance that the Zags have will be if Jeremy Pargo can go nuts and take over the game. And if Pargo is the reason that Gonzaga wins, you can bet that it will take a very long time for Tar Heels fans to stop imagining "what if Marcus Ginyard hadn't gotten hurt".


Anonymous said...

"[Gonzaga is] possibly even deeper than the Tar Heels are"

I don't think there is any question about that. With their unexpected personnel losses (Ginyard, Graves) and some of their touted freshmen not really being ready to compete at this level this season (Drew, Zeller), UNC is actually not a deep team at all.

Second, Hansbrough has not been nearly as good a player this season as he was last year. His reputation as being "one of the two or three best players in the nation" is based on his performance throughout his career, not how he's played this year. He was not one of the top 3 players in the ACC this year.

The scary thing is that despite all that they are still one of the clear favorites to win it all.

Jeff said...

I definitely agree. There's no way that Hansbrough has been one of the two or three best players in the nation this year, which was my point. He's one of the two or three best players on his own team.

But like you said, they're still the favorites to win the title.