I really feel good for schools at this time of the year who have great tradition, have struggled recently but are showing signs of life. Seton Hall hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and has only been there twice in 15 years, but after the big win against Xavier last weekend I think the Pirates are on their way. Wins in eight of nine has Seton Hall in great shape, and that includes a sweep of Providence. Kevin Willard hung tough when things weren’t great at first and just never stopped believing. Sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead from Brooklyn is leading the way, averaging over 17 points per game. Only one senior is in the rotation. The Hall is back.
I had the pleasure of broadcasting the Texas-Oklahoma game and it was awesome to watch two great coaches from different eras go at it. Lon Kruger and Shaka Smart are as good as it gets in this business, yet they are far apart in age. That’s great because it shows it can work for the new and the old. Shaka made adjustments and forced Buddy Hield into some missed shots. He stopped switching the screen and roll and then doubled him in the half court making him give up the ball. Genius move by Shaka that helped spur a 22-0 run and earn the Longhorns a big win.
Next stop Tobacco Road
Duke goes for the sweep at home against North Carolina on Saturday and I can’t wait to be there for Westwood One. The Blue Devils took one on the chin in Pittsburgh Sunday and need to bounce back. UNC seniors Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James get one last chance to pick up a win at Cameron Indoor. It’s also Marshall Plumlee’s last home game on Senior Night. This one is always good and the latest installment has the makings of a classic.
Sunflower seed and beyond
Kansas should get a top seed and Oklahoma deserves one too. After that, I think the ACC and Big East are in contention for the other two. UNC, Duke, Miami, Virginia, Xavier and Villanova all have a shot. But don’t sleep on Oregon. If the Ducks finish strong they are for sure in the discussion. Oregon has 10 top-50 wins and a strength of schedule that is in the top five. This team is good and will make a run that could last until April.
– 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.