Last Saturday the so-called experts acted surprised that seven double-digit seeds were sticking around for the Round of 32. I’m amazed that they haven’t figured out yet that once you get past the elite eight or ten elite teams that the next 50 or so are all the same. Just as an example: what do you think happens if #5 seed VCU plays 11th-seeded Tennessee in a home-and-home series. Yes, they split. So it’s no surprise to me if 11 and 12 seeds beat the 5 and 6 seeds in the tourney. That’s called parity and that’s what we have in college basketball today.
Looking back to look ahead:
Hey, right after Louisville cut down the nets in Atlanta, I said that Arizona and Kentucky were my picks to reach the 2014 championship game and look at that — I’m holding strong. After watching Arizona dismantle a good Gonzaga team and seeing all the good that Nick Johnson does for that team, I think Sean Miller continues all the good he is doing by delivering a national title to Tucson. But don’t sleep on the great story of the guy that will be on the opposite bench on Thursday night. 25 years after winning an NCAA title, Steve Fisher is two wins away from going back to the Final Four. Truly amazing.
Go Midwest and West, young man:
Speaking of Michigan… I do like the Wolverines to come out of Indianapolis, mainly because of the toughness that they have showed navigating a very good Big Ten schedule. As you think about it, you have to be impressed with both Michigan and Arizona, as both the Wolverines and Wildcats have had big injuries and yet managed to stay on track while playing in very good leagues. Arizona played the two worst teams in the Pac-12 in the first three games of the conference schedule and never saw them again. Michigan had to fight off several great teams for the conference title. Being battle-tested is very important when it gets late in these high-pressure tournament games.
Firing up the carousel:
As the coaching carousel begins, keep this in mind: the job many of these coaches have is better than the one that is open. I also hope the athletic directors who make these hires show some of the patience that Steve Fisher had from his administration. I’ve said it before, but in mind that Fish did not win an NCAA tournament game at San Diego State until his 12th season and was 127-117 in his first eight years with just two NCAA tournament appearances. No one panicked. Good for SDSU to reap the benefits of patience.
Not Volunteering for a day off:
If there is one team that didn’t want the break between the Round of 32 and the Sweet 16, it’s the red hot Tennessee Vols. Tennessee could probably use the rest though, after playing five games in ten days. The Vols are playing some of the best defense in the tourney right now and against Mercer they grabbed an impressive 18 offensive rebounds. Jarnell Stokes led the way with 18 total boards. That said, Tennessee will need to be more efficient on the offensive end against a Michigan team that can score on anyone.
High-flying Cardinal and Flyers:
While there were some experts who thought Tennessee was underrated, there weren’t any who predicted we’d see the 11-10 Sweet 16 matchup in Memphis between Stanford and Dayton. Although Dayton is playing very well right now, it’s important to remember that they could easily have lost both games on last second shots. This doesn’t diminish what the Flyers have accomplished so far, but they will need to find a way to contain a tough, physical Stanford team that is playing with a lot of confidence. The Flyers shot well from three-point land in their win over Syracuse and must continue to do so if they hope to advance.
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for WestwoodOne’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. This week he’ll be at the West Regional in Anaheim as Arizona, San Diego State, Wisconsin and Baylor fight for a spot in the Final Four. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball.