Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 25, 2013 at 1:02 PM
Ahhh, we've reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 round and so many of the "usual suspects" are here such as Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski (for a 21st time!), Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Kansas' Bill Self - just to name a few.
Still, the fact that those gentlemen have - once again - guided their respective teams back into the Sweet 16 round pretty much qualifies as "old news" because the numero uno headline-maker is that team from Fort Myers ... yes, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles took the tourney by storm this past weekend with those rousing upset wins against 13 ½-point favorite Georgetown and 7 ½-point favs San Diego State and one look at that love-fest in the locker room following Sunday's rollicking 81-71 win showed what this tournament is really all about, Charlie Brown!
Let's just say that Florida Gulf Coast head coach Andy Enfield - who just so happens to be married to a supermodel, to boot - will be the most interviewed subject in the land this week and we can't even imagine what'll happen should his fearless Eagles beat the Florida Gators come Friday night in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Want to put this little FGCU tournament run into a little perspective?
Okay, so here were the posted Las Vegas odds to win this year's NCAA Tournament before the whole shindig ever tipped off (and note all figures below are based on $100 per-play wagers) and note we're only including the Sweet 16 teams here with their ORIGINAL ODDS TO WIN NCAA TOURNAMENT.
|Florida Gulf Coast||+40000|
The fact of the matter is Florida Gulf Coast's Odds to Win it All actually was listed as "not available" on many sites we researched but here we list one price that likely made its way into some casino or another in Sin City and - while this Cinderella is a great story - no reason to change our tune here as we said at the outset of this tournament that there were 10-to-12 teams that could make a legit case to win it including all the #1 and #2 seeds (and you know who's gone by now from those seed lines!) plus three or four others along the way but never - ever - have we believed Florida Gulf Coast could win it all nor does Wichita State and LaSalle have a major case either even though their head-to-head matchup on Thursday in Los Angeles does assure one of 'em will be playing in an Elite 8 game this weekend.
In all, eight teams that were part of last year's Final Four - that's Marquette, Syracuse, Indiana, Ohio State, Louisville, Michigan State, Florida and Kansas - are back again this spring while we welcome (or welcome back) the other half of the Sweet 16 sides namely Miami, LaSalle, Wichita State, Arizona, Oregon, Duke, Michigan and - of course - Florida Gulf Coast.
HERE'S TO THE WINNERS - THE SWEET 16 TEAM CAPSULE SUMMARIES
Let's take a region-by-region look at who's left in this NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 field (note regional seed #s precede the team names):
EAST - Thursday's Sweet 16 head-to-head matchups in Washington, D.C. are ... Marquette vs. Miami; Syracuse vs. Indiana
#1 INDIANA (29-6) - If the Hoosiers do eventually go on and win this year's national title than that top-of-the-key triple by G Victor Oladipo that highlighted the end-of-game 10-0 scoring run in Round of 32 action will be fondly remembered for years and years to come but gotta ask the question why did Tom Crean's club not move the ball better (just 9 assists in the 58-52 non-cover win against 12-point underdog Temple)? Plus, maybe it's time Crean advised big man Cody Zeller (just four field goals against the Owls) that he must go stronger to the rim in this next game or two or else this Big 10 team will find the exit door before its time.
#2 MIAMI (29-6) - No question the Hurricanes benefited greatly from a bad call late in Sunday night's 63-59 non-cover win against 8-point dog Illinois but it's not as if PG Shane Larkin and mates didn't take advantage of the breaks. Larkin - who is probably playing better than anyone in the land right now (we agree with you, Tim Brando!) - drained a clutch fall-back triple to help catapult Jim Larranaga's team into Sweet 16-ville and call it simply amazing that Miami could win a Round of 32 game against a high-quality opponent despite a grand total of three made FGs by Duran Scott and Trey McKinney Jones. P.S. memo to the 'Canes: If those two jump-shoot artists don't get heated up against a dogged Marquette team than this South Beach show will be over!
#3 MARQUETTE (25-8) - Tourney wins by 1 and 2 points (against Davidson and than versus Butler) have propelled this Big East team into Sweet 16 play but might Buzz Williams' crew be taking this "nine lives" bit a little too far? True, Vander Blue sure isn't afraid to take the late-game shot and his corner triple against Butler was the game's biggest play although this time Marquette was the team trying to give it away late. Best thing about Marquette in close games is it makes its free throws - see 23-of-27 versus Butler - plus getting most of those so-called 50-50 balls helps too.
#4 SYRACUSE (28-9) - It's no secret that the Orange zone simply suffocates star players (just ask Cal's Allen Crabbe who was frustrated as heck while shooting 3-of-9 from the floor and barely getting any first-half touches) but Jim Boeheim's team needs plenty of fine-tuning while heading into this elite region that has a Lawrence Welk feel to it ... as in 1-2-3-4! The 'Cuse went 12 minutes without a field goal in the Cal game and wound up shooting a dreadful 26-of-41 from the foul line and so if you wish to know what really cost Syracuse bettors there's your answer. Plus, PG Michael Carter-Williams has to know time/score a little better as he really forced some things late in that Round III win - still, here's the Orange back in the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the past five years.
WEST - Thursday's Sweet 16 head-to-head matchups in Los Angeles are ... LaSalle vs. Wichita State; Arizona vs. Ohio State
#2 OHIO STATE (28-7) - Let's steer clear of any late-game controversy here in the dramatic 78-75 non-cover win against Iowa State 'cause TV replays never conclusively proved whether or not Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft was in the "restricted area" or not on that late-game I-State shot. Safe to say that the 'Eyes are counting their blessings today and they are quite glad Craft's last-second triple prevented an overtime session as lefty star Deshaun Thomas (leg) was hurting big-time at the end of his 22-point, 5-rebound performance. One note to veteran boss-man Thad Matta: Don't blow a Final Four trip now in this region or you might get the "Ben Howland treatment" from your school!
#6 ARIZONA (27-7) - The scoreboard says that the U of A Wildcats have won their first two tournament games by a composite total of 40 points and dare we say the lopsided triumphs against Belmont and Harvard were not even that close. Okay, so maybe the step up in "comp" here against Ohio State will finally expose Sean Miller's team but Xavier transfer G Mark Lyons (27 points in the stunningly easy 74-51 win against Harvard) is a keeper and so maybe the 'Cats go back to a second Elite 8 in three years.
#9 WICHITA STATE (28-8) - If they are measuring heart in this year's NCAA Tourney, than nobody likely has a bigger one that this Shockers team that seemingly was kaput while down 49-41 to #1 seed Gonzaga the other night before staging a major rally and take your pick as to the game's biggest hero as frosh G Ron Baker nailed key triples (W-State finished with a season-high 14 trifectas) while Cleanhtony Early showed no fear while bagging 16 points including some do-or-die shots late. The fact is savvy head coach Gregg Marshall has gotten this youthful bunch to jell just in the nick of time.
#13 LA SALLE (24-9) - The only team with three NCAA Tournament wins tucked away in their pocket this year, these Explorers and their multiple-guard attack (sometimes as many as four guards are on the floor at the same time!) are a major pain to play against ... and talk about guys with "onions" as head-banded G Tyrone Garland has the guts of a burglar as you saw on that twisting game-winning shot against Ole Miss on Sunday night. Still, Dr. John Giannini's team often is at a rebounding disadvantage as was the case when the Rebels out-glassed 'em 32-to-25. So, how long can this guard-heavy team keep living on the edge and when will G Ramon Galloway (game-high 24 points against Ole Miss) slump from beyond the arc?
MIDWEST - Friday's Sweet 16 head-to-head matchups in Indianapolis are ... Oregon vs. Louisville; Duke vs. Michigan State
#1 LOUISVILLE (31-5) - Maybe this Cardinals club doesn't have any real weaknesses, after all. The so-called experts believed Colorado State's superior rebounding would cause problems for Rick Pitino's gang in Round III but instead the Big East champs out-boarded the veteran Rams 29-to-24 and superstar G Russ Smith (30 points against CSU) only went silly with his shots a couple of times while slicing/dicing his opponent with an array of pull-up jumpers. The 'Ville defensive pressure remains unrelenting and Pitino has a pretty strict eight-man rotation right now that's better than any other club's 1-thru-8 guys right now.
#2 DUKE (29-5) - It's not all that often that the Dookies can win a rough-and-tumble, hardscrabble hoops affair but Coach K's guys persevered through major foul woes by Mason Plumlee (who fouled out with two-plus minutes remaining) and Ryan Kelly (four fouls and no made field goals in five tries) in that 66-50 win/cover against Creighton and the best thing you could say about the Blue Devils afterwards is that a batch of guys "grew up" including G Rasheed Sulaimon (22 points) and key reserves Tyler Thornton and Amile Jefferson. Still, this Duke team - probably not one of the top 10 in Krzyzewski's time in Durham - has lots of limitations and won't be winning too many games where they make just 7 trifectas in a contest. It's a plus for Duke that it's not in action till Friday night.
#3 MICHIGAN STATE (27-8) - Just how much of an edge was it for Tom Izzo's team to play those first two tourney games at nearby Auburn Hills? Well, the second-round triumph over Valpo had a few anxious moments but the home crowd egged on Sparty and than in last Saturday's 70-48 pull-away win against Memphis the Big 10 guys had some listless moments but the spurred-on crowd aided M-State and even a now-celebrated sideline screaming match/towel toss between "best friends" G Keith Appling and C Derrick Nix couldn't unnerve this bunch. Hey, Appling's right shoulder injury needs to be monitored all this week.
#12 OREGON (28-8) - Let everyone out there in hoops-land continue to believe that this "chip on the shoulder" is what's making these Ducks such a tough out in this year's NCAA Tournament. True, the Pac-12 Tourney champs didn't like their ungodly #12 seed in this tournament but instead of whining they've hung together, played a special brand of defense and allowed a now-healthy/deep team to play its brand of ball and that means true blue-collar work by F Arsalan Kazemi (16 rebounds in the never-in-doubt 74-57 upset win against 4 ½-point fav Saint Louis) and some free-flowing shots by Damyean Dotson (23 points on 8-of-12 FG shooting against St. Loo) and suddenly Dana Altman's team is in a magical zone and - dare we say - playing as well or better than any of the Sweet 16 teams still standing here.
SOUTH - Friday's Sweet 16 head-to-head matchups in Arlington are ... Florida Gulf Coast vs. Florida; Kansas vs. Michigan
#1 KANSAS (31-5) - This may not be a vintage Jayhawks team despite the heady #1 seed but we all saw for ourselves that Bill Self's current club won't lie down and roll over as that ugly-as-sin start against North Carolina on Sunday (down 12-2 early and 30-21 at halftime) didn't rattle the Big 12 team that starred seven-footer Jeff Withey's 16-point, 16-rebound and 5 blocked shots and G Travis Releford's fancy 22-point, 8-board game. Still, we're waiting for super-frosh Ben McLemore to show up in this tourney as his 0-of-9 FG game on Sunday has Jayhawk fans wondering if this kid has stage fright.
#3 FLORIDA (28-7) - The Gators had a bit of second-half scare in their 78-64 win/cover against 8-point dog Minnesota but G Scottie Wilbekin (12 points and 6 assists) made some clutch plays/sound decisions when the Gophers made their charge and obviously fellow G Mike Rosario was swishing plenty en route to his sweet 25-point game. Still, foul woes kept F Erik Murphy (15 points in just 24 minutes) on the bench for long periods of time and that simply can't happen from this point forward because he remains Florida's only real up-front scoring threat ... and Gators' boss-man Billy Donovan let Murphy know loud-and-clear that he must find a way to stay in the game.
# 4 MICHIGAN (28-7) - If you wish to hand out a "Best Performance" award to any Round of 32 team this past weekend than may we suggest the Wolverines who absolutely battered VCU 78-53 en route to the maize-and-blue's first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1994. Yes, John Beilein's guys were energized by big man Mitch McGary (21 points and 14 rebounds and lots of hustle plays) but once this game got into a real flow the uber-talented guards/forwards took over and did you realize Michigan's starting five shot a collective 30-of-53 from the field with Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III looking ultra smooth while contributing 46 points among 'em. Now, Michigan hopes there is more "perfection" straight ahead and - again - no home crowd to speak of coming up in this week/weekend's games.
#15 FLORIDA GULF COAST (26-10) - The stars of the NCAA Tournament show so far may have come into the "Big Dance" without nary a peep but Sherwood Brown (17 points in the electrifying 81-71 win against San Diego State on Sunday) has become a bigger TV icon right now than either Mike or Molly and when you shoot a sizzling 56 percent from the floor against a Steve Fisher-coached defense than you deserve a round of applause. No doubt the aforementioned Enfield will be playing up the fact that Florida declined to scrimmage FGCU this past autumn and so that should be another motivational tool for a team that jumps out of the building and makes the splashiest dunks you've seen this side of the 1983 Phi Slama Jama dudes at Houston ... remember them?
NOTE: We have tons more NCAA Tournament News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez and don't forget we'll have Sweet 16 Game Previews later in the week along with our NCAA Tourney Conference-by-Conference Pointspread Breakdown Chart ... so don't miss out!