Bill Frieder on the Spartans, Bruins, Irish and more


Boxed Out by Bill Frieder

Well, that was fun. We had quite the time in Louisville on Thursday, with three one-point games back-to-back-to-back – until Kentucky got involved and stopped the streak. Saturday didn’t have the same late drama, but it was still a ton of fun with my man John Sadak. Now it’s off to Cleveland…

What a Difference a Week Makes

Congratulations to UCLA and Steve Alford, who advance to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. Were they fortunate to get in? Of course. But it doesn’t matter. In Steve’s two NCAA Tournaments, his route to the Sweet 16 has been Tulsa, Stephen F. Austin (who beat VCU), SMU and UAB (who beat Iowa State). Zero apologies needed in Bruin land. You play who is next on the bracket line. How about Tony Parker? When the Bruins got swept in mid-February in Arizona, he scored two points in each game. In the seven games since, he is averaging 16.7, including a career-best 28 points and 12 boards against the Blazers.

Irish Eyes are Smiling

I can’t even imagine what was racing through Mike Brey’s mind Saturday when he heard his mom had passed and yet a group of kids depending on him were about to play the biggest game in of many of their lives. Notre Dame is in Kentucky’s bracket, and if they meet, remember that Notre Dame gets a lot of points from the three-point arc. If you play Kentucky, you won’t get many near the rim. The Irish are a top-five team in field goal percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio and a top-25 team in three-point percentage. They can shoot it, and they have a group of kids on a special ride. Notre Dame was in four straight NCAA Tournaments prior to last year’s slip to 15-17, so this group that scores at just under 80 points a game could give Kentucky fits in a regional final.

Salute the Utes

Congrats to Utah as it reaches the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade. There is more than one Coach K in this business, as Larry Krystowiak has done an amazing job taking the Utes from six wins four years ago to a 26-8 mark this year. Saturday, he got 23 points from his bench, and Delon Wright is an unassuming star who can carry this team to even greater heights. Utah slipped a little down the stretch after losing to Notre Dame, but it might have allowed the Utes to get their focus back. Next year, if Jakob Poeltl returns, the Utes will probably be Pac-12 favorites. But they might not be done this year, either. The matchup Friday in Houston with Duke is an intriguing one that I’ll definitely have my eye on.

Sparty Marches On… No Shocker Here

My good friend Tom Izzo has done it again. He and his Spartans beat #2 seed Virginia for the second year in a row to get to the Sweet 16 for the 13th time in Izzo’s 18 years in East Lansing. All I can say to that number is WOW. Trust me when I say not to be surprised if he takes them to the Final Four once again. He always seems to get the Spartans playing at a high level at the right time. And what about Wichita State? They’ve been itching to play Kansas for years and somehow, just by chance I’m sure, the selection committee made it happen. Well, we all witnessed why the Jayhawks have been avoiding the Shockers, as Wichita State pulled away for an emphatic victory.

I don’t think Wichita can get by Kentucky if they play, but I do think there is a good chance we see Tom Izzo in Indianapolis – and not as a TV pundit.

– Bill Frieder

Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball. He’ll be in Cleveland for the East Regional this weekend.

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