Thursday, March 24, 2011

16 Sweet Things To Look Forward To: Part 1

Just 16 teams left standing today, but a few days from now there will only be four. Here is what we are excited about seeing over the next two days, 16 things to be exact. To make sure you don't get Daily Onions-coma, we'll give you eight today and eight tomorrow. In no particular order, eight things to look forward to in tonight's four games.

1. Jimmer: We might have said in no particular order, but Jimmer is always at the top of our lists. In Round 1 he had 32, in Round 2 he had 34, do I hear a 36 for Thursday night against Florida? Bottom line, Jimmer has been a joy to watch this tournament, just as he has been all season long. Hopefully the SI cover jinx won't affect him this week, but either way, this is a pretty sick cover picture. Will Florida be able to contain him? That is the question. In case you don't remember, these two teams met last year in Round 1 of the Tournament...and no, the Gators could not contain Jimmer, as he dropped 37 in the Cougs victory. Expect a pro-Gators crowd down in New Orleans, thanks to its proximity to the Sunshine State. Plus, I'm not sure if BYU students are allowed in the city limits of NOLA.

2. Brad Stevens: If Jimmer is our favorite player, then Brad Stevens is by far our favorite coach. Is it a coincidence that Daily Onions was born the day after we spent a night watching Stevens in person against Loyola back in early December? Probably not. We complimented Stevens in our first post for his sideline demeanor and the way he interacted with his players. That rang true once again on Saturday night at the end of the Butler-Pitt game. With such a bizarre ending, Stevens was calm, cool and collected (we'll call him the anti-Mike Rice), which trickles down to his players. You can tell his guys love playing for him, and there are plenty of top high school recruits out there that will as well. The real question becomes, when does he leave Butler? We don't think he leaves for any of the openings now (Tennessee, Oklahoma, NC State, Mizzou), but instead waits for his dream job  -whatever that might be - We are thinking textbook, traditional college basketball programs like a Duke or an Indiana, etc. With those two schools well off with their current coaches, Coach K and Tom Crean (another Daily Onions favorite), maybe Stevens will indeed stay at Butler for years to come, and bring the Bulldogs to a perennial top 10 team, all while staying cool, calm and collected.

3. Fab 5 Revisited: Two weeks ago we had the Fab 5 documentary air on ESPN, last week we had Duke squeak by Michigan, and if all goes well Thursday night, we could have Steve Fisher and Coach K meet in the Elite 8 with a trip to Final 4 on the line. Talk about things coming full-circle. The NCAA Selection Committee may have screwed up a lot of seeding in this year's tournament, but they have helped Jalen Rose and Co. in keeping the Duke-Michigan/Fab 5 era story lines going throughout the tournament.

4. Kyrie: There was no question that Duke was the best basketball team in the country this season when Kyrie Irving was healthy. A freak toe injury caused him to miss the majority of the season, and he saw his first action since mid-December in Duke's opening round games. His only made FG on Sunday proved to be the game winner against Michigan. Now he's had another few days of practice and should have his "sea-legs" back for Thursday's game. We don't think Kyrie will be back to 100% quite yet, but he should be better than he was last weekend, which makes Duke that much tougher.

5. In the Zona: If you haven't seen Derrick Williams play yet this season, (a) what have you been doing all year? and (b) tune into tonight. The 6-8, 241 lb sophomore is one heck of an athlete. His 3-point play won the game for the Wildcats on Sunday, while his blocked shot against Memphis saved the day in Round 1. What is he going to do for an encore....walk on water?

6. Zebras: How do you like your officials, one's with with a quick five count and a quick whistle, or ones that don't know the correct back court violation rules? Regardless, unfortunately refs were taking quite a lot of heat after the first weekend of the tournament. Throw-in the debacle at the Big East tournament and it hasn't quite been the officials' month. It should be interesting to see if there are any noticeable differences in this round's games - officials calling things a little tighter/looser, possibly a few more end of games conferences/reviews with the other officials on the court to make sure they got it "right". In any case, let's hope head of officials, John Adams isn't prominently featured in the studio shows like he was last weekend.

7: Bo Knows: We know that Bo Ryan knows where the best place to vacation/retire is, the beaches of....NEW JERRRRRSEY. He also knows a thing or two about Midwest basketball. Before coming to Madison, Ryan was the coach of Milwaukee, and before that he was the coach of UW-Platteville. We'll see just how much Bo knows about Midwest basketball when he has to deal with the Butler Bulldogs. This game probably won't be the track meet that UNC vs. Washington was, instead it will be closer to the Wisconsin-Penn State Big Ten tournament game that had a combined 70 points. Wisconsin may be favored by 5 points, but Butler has figured out a way to win games in March, both this year and last. The Duke-Arizona game might be the more exciting later game, but make sure your you have you eye on Butler-Wisconsin down the stretch.

8: Huskies Run: Saw this interesting stat that means absolutely nothing on the Twitter Machine about UConn. The Huskies are 0-7 since 1992 in NCAA games held in their opponent's state. For the geography majors (from UConn), San Diego is in California, as is Anaheim, where Thursday night's game will be held. That stat aside, can UConn's magical March run continue? The Fighting Kemba's won five games in five days to capture the Big East Tournament Championship, they dismantled Bucknell, and then sent Cincinnati home. Thursday night they'll be in unchartered waters, taking on San Diego State in their backyard. Let's see how the cross country flight and "road game" works out for the dogs this time around.

Happy watching and we'll see you tomorrow with eight more sweet things for Friday night's game.

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