Well we are off to Houston and just like we all thought it turned out to be…wait, no Kansas? Where is Michigan State? Oregon? Are any No. 1 seeds left? Well, there’s one…
All hail the Heels
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite to win it all now as North Carolina is playing fast, having fun and defending as well. What makes the Tar Heels so hard to beat? They just get more shots than anyone through offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers. UNC is unselfish (ranks fourth in assists) and gets 14 offensive rebounds a game, seventh in the nation. It also forces nearly 13 turnovers per game. Add them up and that’s 27 extra chances to score. If you can stop them from scoring, you have a chance. That is hard to do. Anyone remember what you were doing in 1988-89? That was Roy’s first year at Kansas. He has been doing this very well for a very long time.
Wild about Villanova
You have to love the toughness of the Villanova team. They shut down Perry Ellis and also were incredible at the free throw line. Anyone remember when Jay Wright in his first three years (2001-2004) at Villanova was 52-46 with no NCAAs? It is another lesson in being patient with your hires and eventually if you have tradition and support you will win again. Villanova has star power, great guards and makes its free throws. In one 40-minute game it can beat anyone, and remember it won the Big East which has traditional round-robin. That league isn’t easy.
Oh Buddy and Oklahoma
Lon Kruger has coached a lot of games and all that experience paid off in the form of a Final Four trip for Oklahoma. It is quite possible we are seeing the return of Danny and the Miracles in the form of Buddy Hield. How good is this guy? Good enough to have 12 30-point games this year. He has been doing it on big stages all season long. To walk into a building where everyone is trying to stop you and they can’t says it all. OU won four NCAA Tournament games by 44 points, an amazing number. Anyone remember what you were doing in 1982-83? Lon Kruger was in his first year as a head coach at Texas-Pan American.
Orange in the Final Four
Finally, why shouldn’t we be surprised that Jim Boeheim overachieved once his Syracuse team got in the tournament. Have you seen his wife? Jim has a history of punching above his weight. I feel great for Juli (and Jim) as he continues to do amazing things as the first guy over 70 to make a Final Four. Coming out of the zone and going to the full court press had to be hard for him, but he did it because he knew he had to. Syracuse beat a team that played perfect for 30 minutes, while the Orange played determined for the final 10. Anyone remember what you were doing in 1976-77? Jim Boeheim was leading Syracuse to a 26-4 record in his first season. Nothing has changed.
Carolina cuts ’em down
At the end of the day, I have Carolina on my mind, as James Taylor used to sing. As an old coach myself, I have to say it is very neat to see a group of coaches who have been doing this for decades continue to succeed at the highest level.
– 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.