Well, let's just say my 16 brackets have been blown up, torn up, and forgotten. Let's just be glad my life did not depend on my bracketology skills. Yet, that does not mean this has been a boring tourney...anything but. Just look at Kemba Walker and the 9 post season games UConn has won in a row and tell this isn't fun. Now, I am not and really have never been a huge UConn fan. Rip Hamilton and Emeka Okafor were good players and steady pros while winning an NCAA championship. But, nothing really gets me excited about Husky basketball until Kemba showed up. He is the real deal. He plays D, can pass the rock, and is the best offensive player in the nation. Today, he showed it in the last minute of the game. He played great denial defense and knocked the ball off of the Arizona player out of bounds. He hit the step back jumper over the bigger defender and he made a great play on the defensive rebound against a much taller player. If he continues to get help from Jeremy Lamb and the rest of the squad then they have as good as chance as anyone to win. However, let's be honest about UConn or maybe we can't because UConn isn't really that honest. Remember the past few years they have had players stealing things, phones, and Coach Calhoun had to fire some assistants for discretions on the part of the program. So, I will be excited about Kemba but I won't be conned by UConn.
Arizona played them well, but Derek Williams needed some help like he did on Thursday and it just wasn't there. They played game of the year against Duke in the Sweet Sixteen, but it ended there. The energy was there, but the Wildcats took some bad shots, couldn't hit their shots and could not put together a run in this game like they have during the season. Will Derek make a great pro-probably. Remember there are alot of good 6'8 players in the Association. He will need to work on ball handling to separate himself from the rest of the guys like him. He does have heart and that goes along way. The rest of his team plays hard but are somewhat inconsistent. This inconsistency hits them at strange times during games and often puts them in position to have to fight to the wire to win. I will give them credit though for going much farther than anyone would have thought.
Now Butler...I can think of many teams that will try to hire Brad Stevens this year. Or maybe next year. Big Ten teams like Indiana and Iowa may be contacting him soon. Possibly, he wants to set up the Gonzaga of the Mid West and be like Mark Few. Well, he actually has gone farther then Mark Few. A national championship game last year and Final Four this year. Welcome to the big time. How does he do it? Well, he has an excellent system that is flexible enough to fit the offensive talents of his players into it. But, remember he seems to always coach upperclassmen which guys like Coach Calipari and Coach Pitino don't often do because they get the upper echelon players that are once and done. I mean Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are special players and leaders but they play like the seniors they are. Throw in an old fashion defensive intensity and you have a winning combination. If he stays at Butler, I would like to see what his tourney record looks like in 5 years or 10 years. No matter what, Butler shows what is right in sports and
Coach Stevens is an example of coaching integrity. Even though my brackets have been blown up, I can thank the Bulldogs for making this tourney fun. Here's hoping they get to the final and maybe, just maybe...can they win?
Butler played Florida, who seem to forget what was working during the game at the end of regulation and OT. I know Vernon Macklin can't shoot free throws, but he can definitely dominate inside. I understand that it is risky having him shoot at the end of a game, but honestly, it was better than launching a bunch of outside shots. Coach Donovan had another good year. He is truly a good coach, who also is a man of integrity. Remember when he suspended some of his current stars a few years ago for lack of effort and other things? He taught them a lesson. They ran into a resilient, experienced team tonite and just made a few more mistakes at the end of the game than Butler (who actually made more mistakes than Florida during the game). But when you are one 3 pointer away from a win in OT, you can bet that your season wasn't a disappointment.
Finally, I don't like to see any teams lose this time of year, especially if the games are close. Someone has to lose...sometimes it is the team I am rooting for and some times it is the team I want to lose. No matter what, this tourney has been better than predicted and the Final Four should be interesting now that we an 8 seed and 3 seed in it with potential of no 1 seed...wow, who would have thunk it. I hope Jim Valvano is smiling down from Heaven.