March Madness Elite Eight Review

The Final Four has been determined. For those of you that had a #1, a #2, and two #5’s in your Final Four, please give yourself a round of applause. For those of you that just clapped, you’re all liars. Shame on you. Let’s review the Elite Eight.

Many of you asked why there was no recap for the first day of Elite Eight action. Ok, so no one asked that, but I know one of you had to at least think it. Right? Forget it. Let’s move on.

The reason for not posting a Saturday recap was simple. In my opinion, there was little worth recapping. The 2010 Elite Eight gave us competitive, semi-exciting games with let’s be honest, a low level of play.

I love March Madness. It’s one of my favorite times on the sports calendar. I love the passion, the announcers, the excitement, and the interest from casual sports fans. However, the play throughout the 2010 tournament has been sloppy, inconsistent, and at times, downright ugly.

After all, suspenseful games can only carry the tournament so far. At some point there needs to be a higher level of play to sustain or increase viewing pleasure. I watched all four of the Elite Eight matchups and that increased level of play never came. Put it this way; I didn’t feel glued to my television at any time. I even switched over to “House Hunters” during the second half of the Baylor/Duke snooze fest. We’re in the Elite Eight and I’m switching over to the Home and Garden network? In the words of Dick Vitale, “Are you seriouuusssss?!”

Sorry Dickie V, but I am.

I can’t confirm this because my stat intern is away on vacation, but I would almost guarantee that turnovers are at, or near all-time highs, and field goal percentages are near all time lows. Maybe I’m watching too closely. I don’t know. What I do know is I’ve seen a lot of shots find iron and a lot of careless turnovers. Is it due to the shortage of legitimate stars, or it is because parity has infiltrated college basketball? Again, I’m not sure. But when media outlets feature the Final Four coaches instead of the teams, that’s a pretty clear assessment on where the 2010 tournament ranks. Coaches coach and players play. When players don’t play well, the coaches become the top story and THAT is never a promising sign for good basketball.

Nevertheless, to satisfy the masses and utilize the notes I kept, here’s a quick recap of the Elite Eight slop.

West Virginia – Kentucky
It took all season, but Kentucky’s inexperience finally caught up with them. The scrappy, lanky, and savvy West Virginia Mountaineers frustrated the younger Wildcats en route to an upset in the East Regional Final. Young phenoms, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins struggled against Bob Huggins’ 1-3-1 zone as they combined for 10 of Kentucky’s 16 turnovers. Furthermore, in true John Calipari fashion, Kentucky finished 55% from the charity stripe. Apparently, the “burn yourself on the hot stove once and you’ll learn a lesson” philosophy doesn’t apply to Mr. Calipari. His teams are always notoriously bad free throw shooters. Always. Hold on, let’s count how many titles he’s won while ignorantly sticking to his “free throws don’t matter” belief. ……. And we’re done. No counting required. That was fun.

While Kentucky’s freshmen struggled, West Virginia’s upper classmen took over. Da’Sean Butler (and the whole team for that matter) lit it up from beyond the arc, and backup point guard Joe Mazzulla outplayed John Wall–even outscoring him before fouling out late in the second half. Butler and Mazzulla (especially) aren’t better than Kentucky’s freshmen superstars (or arguably anyone in Kentucky’s starting five). That didn’t matter on Saturday night though. Experience was the key. West Virginia had it. Kentucky didn’t.

(Rumor has it, Verve Pipe’s, “We were merely freshmen” could be heard from Kentucky’s locker room following their defeat. Fitting, no?)

Butler – Kansas State
First of all, Butler’s Gordon Hayward is my hero. If I could have any basketball jersey in the world right now, it would be his. Hayward’s not flashy. He doesn’t jump the highest, nor does he run the fastest, but he does everything well. Look at his numbers from the West Regional Final; 50% FG, 50% 3PFG, 100% FT, 9 Reb, 1 Block. It’s only fair that I mention he uncharacteristically turned the ball over 5 times, but still. He was incredible.

While I enjoy Hayward’s play, Butler isn’t always easy on the eyes. Committing 20 turnovers is hardly what I would call “quality” basketball. For the math impaired, that’s a turnover every two minutes. Fortunately, Butler plays great defense and can obviously scrap with the best of them.

On Saturday they managed to contain the best guard combo left in the tournament. Both Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente had a miserable first half. Even when they finally found a rhythm in the second half, they couldn’t sustain it down the stretch. Pullen bricked his last two attempts from three and Clemente killed his team by missing the front end of a one-and-one on TWO separate occasions in the game’s final five minutes. Missing free throws will haunt any team in a close game. KSU finished 7/14 while Butler sunk 14/20 from the line.

Tennessee – Michigan State
I’m even getting bored recapping these games. Let’s speed this up. Tennessee needed another monstrous outing from Wayne Chism and Brian Williams. They got a decent performance instead.

In a game decided by one point, there are a number of things that could have changed the outcome. I’m going to choose free throws. Tennessee: 14/21. Michigan State: 16/21. So you’re telling me if they match Michigan St. at the line, Tennessee wins? Ouch. As always, free throws are huge. I’m seeing a pattern here.

Interesting note: Michigan State is a 5th seed in the Final Four. Impressive and improbable right? Not exactly. While I’m not in any way diminishing their accomplishment (I love Tom Izzo), Michigan State only upset one (yes ONE) team to reach the Final Four. That upset came in the second round when they defeated #4 Maryland on a buzzer beater. Technically speaking, they’re supposed to be here, right?

Duke – Baylor
Seriously, I flipped over to “House Hunters” in the second half. I think that says it all. However, if Duke can play at the same level they played at in the final 10 minutes of Sunday’s regional final, they will have a real shot at another title. Unfortunately, I have yet to see them play at that level for an entire half, let alone a complete game.

Duke’s pedigree was also a huge factor in defeating Baylor. Baylor appeared to self-destruct down the stretch and Duke took full advantage. These Duke players have played (and stunk) on this stage before. That experience clearly was a big advantage over a Baylor team with little or no big game pedigree.

By the way, that technical call on Baylor’s Quincy Acy with less than two minutes remaining was garbage. Totally garbage. The call didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but since when is going face to face with an opposing player worthy of a technical? Acy didn’t hit or push anyone; he was just defending a teammate. Jon Scheyer was the one who actually deserved the “T” for throwing his elbows around like a two year having a tantrum.

Regrettably, Duke is the only #1 seed in the Final Four. I’m proof reading my, “I’ll never forgive you, Jay Wright” letter as we speak.

One Comment

  1. Pops Coyle

    Thanks for the recap and reminding me of some of the exciting moments of the weekend….albeit as few as they were.

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