|
|
The Suburbanite
  • Are you ready for more March Madness?

  • The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles soared into the spotlight as the breakout star in the opening week of the NCAA tournament, alley-ooping their way onto the national stage. LaSalle and Oregon join them as double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16. Wichita State, a nine seed, crashed the party, too. But plenty of heavyweights remain. Here’s a quick primer for when the tournament resumes Thursday.

    • email print
  • The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles soared into the spotlight as the breakout star in the opening week of the NCAA tournament, alley-ooping their way onto the national stage. LaSalle and Oregon join them as double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16. Wichita State, a nine seed, crashed the party, too. But plenty of heavyweights remain. Here’s a quick primer for when the tournament resumes Thursday.
    Crafty Buckeye
    Deshaun Thomas seemingly scores at will. Sam Thompson can dunk on anyone. But point guard Aaron Craft often makes the plays that matter most. Just ask Iowa State. First he stepped in at the last second to take a charge, a call that Iowa State fans will dispute for a long time, as the Cyclones’ Will Clyburn was driving for the go-ahead basket. Then he took, and made, his only 3-pointer of the game just before time expired to push the Buckeyes into the regional semifinals, where they will meet Arizona.
    Remember me?
    When Ohio State faces Arizona, one of the Wildcats should be familiar to hoop fans in the Buckeye state. Guard Mark Lyons helped key tournament success by Xavier, where he was a 1,000-point scorer over three seasons, before transferring to Arizona.
    Arriving with numbers
    The Big Ten has been advertised as far and away the best conference in the country all season long, and the big boys have backed up the hype with some exceptional play in the tournament. Four teams — Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State — are in the regional semifinals for the second straight season. Prior to last season, the Big Ten hadn’t accomplished that since 1999.
    Free-wheeling FGCU
    The Eagles hail from the beachfront school in Fort Myers that came into existence just 16 years ago and is the first No. 15 in the round of 16. “I feel like we’re getting a lot of America behind us,” star Sherwood Brown said. “I guess you could say we’re a part of America’s team at this point.” Look for the Eagles to continue playing their free-flowing, anything-goes style that already produced one memorable moment: The Brett Comer alley-oop to Chase Fieler that slammed the door on Georgetown as an emphatic introduction to the masses. It was brazen not only for the casual nature with which Comer flipped the ball practically over his head to a soaring Fieler, but also in its timing. The Hoyas were making one final charge, down seven with two minutes left when Comer made the pass and Fieler threw it down one-handed.
    Mighty Ducks
    Oregon felt slighted by the selection committee when it was stuck with a No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region despite winning the Pac-12 tournament. All the Ducks did was bludgeon Oklahoma State and Saint Louis by a combined 30 points to set up a game with top-seeded Louisville on Friday. “We just decided as a team we’re going to go out there and we don’t care who we’re going to play,” Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Best regional semifinal
    How about Duke vs. Michigan State on Friday? Does it get any better? Two tradition-drenched programs. Two of the game’s most successful coaches in the Spartans’ Tom Izzo and the Blue Devils’ Mike Krzyzewski. No. 2 seed against a No. 3 seed. Can we play tonight?
    Underdogs meet
    The surprise matchup has to be La Salle vs. Wichita State on Thursday. The Explorers haven’t made this much noise since the L-Train, Lionel Simmons, was leading the school from Philly more than two decades ago. The Shockers haven’t been to a regional final since 1981, but they have won 109 games the last four years, won an NIT title and reached two straight NCAA tournaments. “They play hard, just like we do,” said La Salle guard Tyrone Garland, whose driving layup in the final seconds beat Ole Miss in the third round. “They play defense and they have good guards. They have players that come off the bench and contribute, just like we do. I just think they are kind of just like us.”
    You’re my boy, Blue
    Marquette guard Vander Blue might be the next Mr. Big Shot. He beat Davidson with a last-second layup before scoring 19 second-half points, including a clutch 3 late, in the win over Butler.
    Sugar Shane & the Canes
    Miami is in the Sweet 16 for just the second time in school history. Shane Larkin’s big step-back 3 late in the win over Illinois was a big reason why, as the ACC Player of the Year continues to thrive under head coach Jim Larranaga, who guided George Mason to the 2006 Final Four.
    Must-see TV
    Ratings for the NCAA tournament are the highest in 15 years and up 27 percent from last year. The broadcasts on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV averaged a 5.8 household rating and 12 share, the highest rating for the tournament’s first week since 1998.
    The broadcasts also had the highest viewership since 1993, averaging 8.9 million total viewers — a 9 percent increase from a year ago.