Last night's games saw the removal of the first #1 seed from the NCAA Tournament, as Louisville defended, hounded, turned over, and intimidated the Michigan State Spartans all game long. Meanwhile, Syracuse squeaked out another win, and Ohio State and Florida looked elite against a pair of Big East squads.
Is this the wrong time to point out that the Big East squads in the Sweet Sixteen are a team that is leaving the league in a year, and three squads that were grafted on to the Big "East" in a raid of Conference USA? The traditional/ remaining eastern power of the league steeped in basketball is home, watching on television and dreaming of deep runs.
Tonight's games, and the staff picks, below the fold.
|Friday's Sweet Sixteen Games, Locations, and TV Stations|
|Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Ga.)||Friday, March 23||7:15 PM||Xavier #10 S||CBS|
|vs. Baylor #3 S|
|Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, Mo.)||Friday, March 23||7:47 PM||Ohio #13 MW||TBS|
|vs. North Carolina #1 MW|
|Georgia Dome (Atlanta, Ga.)||Friday, March 23||9:45 PM||Indiana #4 S||CBS|
|vs. Kentucky #1 S|
|Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, Mo.)||Friday, March 23||10:17 PM||N.C. State #11 MW||TBS|
|vs. Kansas #2 MW|
I'm not quite sure what to make of either Kansas or NC State. With Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack, you have a squad that is playing as good a brand of basketball as anyone in the country. After losing four straight in late February, NC State has put together a magical run. Since February 25th, they have won 6 of 7 including a Round of 32 victory over Georgetown. C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown (seemingly the only name Kenny Smith actually knows in the tournament) have provided the Wolfpack with a late season jolt that has led them to the Sweet Sixteen. But, can you really trust them?
Then there's Kansas. You know, the team that always seems to be there. If it weren't for All-American forward Thomas Robinson, where would this team even be? Not playing tonight, that's for sure. There's no possible way the Jayhawks make it past Purdue without Robinson finally waking up to the screaming alarm. Tyshawn Taylor is certainly one of the best floor generals the game can provide. But Bill Self has to be one of the top three or four coaches you want leading your group in this journey. He's been there, and he has a championship banner to his name.
All I will say is this - don't write off NC State because they are an 11 seed and Kansas is a 2. I trust that you weren't doing that anyway. The Wolfpack have some "mojo" working these days. There's been crazier things.
Game of Interest: After one hell of a game between Indiana and Kentucky during the regular season, how can you not be excited to see the re-match. Both teams are playing at a strong level throughout March would could set up for a tight finish.
After the loss, UK went on to finish the season still #1 in the country while Indiana battled some tough times, slipping through the standings and re-finding there confidence they had early on.
At the end of the day, I have Kentucky winning it all and even though I feel this game going to the wire, Christian Watford won't be hitting the game-winning shot for the Hoosiers.