First off, some thoughts on the Longhorns' win...
- My friend English Mark and I went to Baker Street Pub near Willowbrook Mall to watch the game. Actually, I went for the game, English Mark went for the Guiness and Crown & Coke. The bartendress there liked to dance around, like, a lot. This was pleasing to us. At the 12:18 point of the game, English Mark tore his attention from the bartendress' gyrations to note Brook Lopez missing a jumper which would have put the Cardinal up 53-52. He said "That's your ballgame, right there." Texas outscored Stanford 30-11 from that point. English Mark will not be allowed to leave my side for the next week and 3 days. The bartendress, unfortunately, did not agree to dance for our pleasure in the same time frame. I guess that jinxes us.
- The season can officially be considered a success at this point. I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say I want more. I demand more. Feed me, Seymour!
- This was as good a team game as we've played under Rick Barnes. Everyone single player contributed. Every move Rick Barnes made worked. Stanford played a very controlled game, giving up only 10 turnovers. Texas, on the other hand, playing at a faster pace, gave up ... 6 turnovers. Seriously y'all - that's an astonishing number. We had 5 blocked shots ... and 6 turnovers. We had 16 assists ... and 6 turnovers.
- We wouldn't have won without the contributions of Dexter Pittman. To repeat: We don't win without Dexter Pittman.
- Additionally, we had excellent contributions from Gary Johnson and Clint Chapman. Just imagine how strong we're going to be inside next year: Connor Atchley, Pittman, Johnson, Chapman, Alexis Wangmene, and - presumably - Damion James. If we can somehow manage to keep DJ, while adding F Matt Hill, G Dogus Balbay and G J'Covan Brown ... gracious. That's a top 5 team. That's a #1 team. It warrants a Principal Vernon hook'em:
- As much crap as I dish out to Billy Packer - and I'm not alone in doing so - the man is still able to add tremendous color to his broadcasts. As I watched the replay, I couldn't help but appreciate how well he noted the ebbs and flows of the contest. It would appear that the key to getting good commentary from Packer is to make sure neither team comes from the ACC or is coached by Bob Knight. I'm actually looking forward to his commentary for the Memphis game. Jim Nantz on PBP was equal to the task - he never intruded, and added a lot of drama at the appropriate turning points. The broadcast pair made the game seem momentous. I suppose there's a reason they continue to be CBS's #1 team.
- We win at cheerleaders/dance team.
- Speaking of Memphis - we'd better be ready to bring it. I'll go on record here: If we get the same contribution from our front line as we did against Stanford, we'll win by 10. We'll need every ounce of crowd favoritism to win, IMO.
- DJ Augustin is the best college point guard in the land. Sunday's match-up with Derrick Rose is going to be epic. A potentially stellar rematch with Darren Collison looms, if we can beat the Tigers.
- Brook Lopez should go pro. He's ready. I can easily see him with a 10-12 year career in the pros with his game. Same for his brother.
- The Reliant layout on TV: A little odd, but it looked OK. It didn't seem to bother the players too much.
El gran Dexter. Usted es el hombre.
To the rest of the Sweet 16...
- Conference performance: The Southern (Davidson) and C-USA (Memphis) conferences are 4-0. The Big 12 (Kansas, Texas) is 9-4. The ACC (North Carolina) is 5-3. The Big East (Louisville) is 11-7. The Atlantic 10 (Xavier) is 3-2. The Pac-10 (UCLA) is 7-5.
- Best performance: Fuck it, I'll play the broken record and go with Stephen Curry of Davidson again. He's the revelation of the tournament. Curry threw in 33 points on 11-22 shooting (6-11 from 3), 5-5 from the line, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 4 steals. His charisma alone was able to beat the plodding Wisconsin.
- Honorable mentions:
- DJ Augustin, Texas - 23 points on 10-18 shooting (2-4 from 3), 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and utter control of the entire game. It's games like this that make me think he's ready for the NBA right now. Packer compared him on a couple of occasions to Chris Paul, which is about as high a compliment as you can come by these days.
- Kevin Love, UCLA - 29 points on 10-14 shooting, 9-12 from the line, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists in the win against Western Kentucky. Just goes to show you how strong the Pac-10 big men were this year.
- Biggest upsets: At this point in the tournament, there aren't really that many upsets. By this round, the teams that should be here are here. Still, the ease with which Davidson took apart a damn good Wisconsin team is pretty remarkable. The Wildcats hung tough with the Badgers through the first half before methodically disemboweling Bo Ryan's collection of talented defenders (Michael Flowers, Trevon Hughes) and Clinton-era militia members (Brian Butch, Jason Bohannon, Greg Stiemsma, Dwight Schrute manqué Joe Krabbenhoft)
- Honorable mention: Michigan State's humiliation at the hands of Memphis. The 92-74 final doesn't even come close to summing up the Tigers' destruction of Tom Izzo's squad. John Calipari could have named the score. I can only imagine that some (allegedly) Guido (allegedly) bookie kept the (allegedly) oleaginous Memphis coach from running the full-court press for the full 40. The Tigers, dammit, are an excellent team.
- Best game: Not much to choose from here, given how lopsided most of the Sweet 16 games were. Clearly, the winner here was Xavier nudging out West Virginia, 79-75 in overtime. The Mountaineers could have put this one away at the free throw line, but Bob Huggins pukes on your fucking charity stripe, bitch.
- For the other 7 games, the margin of victory was a healthy 17 points.
So now we're at the Elite 8. In theory and in practice, this is the best couple of days of the entire college basketball season. At this point, the crowds are at their peak of intensity. At this point, there are no pretenders. At this point, every team that's still around is a legitimate contender for the crown. There are no underdogs (ask Connecticut if you have any doubts).
- No. 3 Xavier at No. 1 UCLA (5:40 PM CST) - On paper, this should be an excellent game. UCLA has had a handful of near escapes the past couple of weeks (California, Stanford, Texas A&M), and if Xavier brings its best, the Musketeers could sneak out with a win. But despite - or because of? - their near misses, the Bruins seem to have a veneer of inevitability about them. I see something in the range of UCLA 60 - Xavier 54.
- No. 3 Louisville at No. 1 North Carolina (8:05 PM CST) - Again, on paper, this is a terrific matchup. Louisville is a poor-man's version of UNC, and they have a slightly better game-day coach, IMO. UNC has looked pretty much invincible so far ... but then again, so have the Cardinals. So, to these highly trained eyes, I have to go with something really esoteric (read: bullshit) and say something about how UNC has "that look" about them and mumble something about "destiny" and "kismet" and, well, Carolina 84-74.
- No. 2 Texas at No. 1 Memphis (1:20 PM CST) - Fuck it, Part Deux. I had a dream a couple of weeks ago that Connor Atchley did something momentous. English Mark says 92-89 Texas. I'll be watching through my fingers.
- No. 10 Davidson at No. 1 Kansas (4:05 PM CST) - The dream dies. The Jayhawks are just too good. I see something like 75-60.
You're the man now, dog!