Kruger And Wright Downplay Oklahoma’s Early Season Romp Of Villanova


The Final Four is set and familiarity abounds.

Of course, it makes sense that ACC foes North Carolina and Syracuse are familiar with each other, but the other National Semifinal match-up will also be a rematch.

Villanova and Oklahoma played each other during the non conference portions of their schedules in early December and the result was far from kind to the Wildcats. Oklahoma dominated Villanova, winning the neutral court contest in Hawaii, 78-55.

The Sooners were paced by five players in double figures, led by Isaiah Cousins’ 19 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds, along with Buddy Hield’s 18 points. Meanwhile, the Wildcats shot 32% from the field, including a putrid 4-32 from beyond the three-point stripe.

That result doesn’t seem to bode well for Villanova. However, both coaches downplayed its significance.

“I see very little carryover,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said during a Final Four conference call on Monday. “They’re doing things differently, we’re doing things differently. It’s almost like we played them last year.”

They did, actually.

Villanova coach Jay Wright elaborated a bit more.

“We were both ranked in the Top 10 going into that game,” he said during the conference call. “But, when that game unfolded, it was very clear that Oklahoma was playing like a top ten/top five team and we were not. We really used that [game] as a bar.”

It’s clear Wright believes his team is much better equipped this time around.

“[Oklahoma] was close to a Final Four team at that time of the year,” he said. “We weren’t even close at that time. I think we just got to that point, Saturday night, of playing like a Final Four team.”

We’ll see which team is playing at a championship level on Saturday.


Iowa’s Fran McCaffery On NCAA Tournament: “There’s no such thing as an upset.”


Everybody loves the NCAA Tournament, or almost everybody. You can find a hater or two out there in the twitterverse if you try hard enough. But for the most part, it is a beloved event.

Why? Easy: the love of March Madness stems from fans’ love of the upset. We all love to see David come through from time to time and take down Goliath. The NCAA Tournament provides ample opportunity for these surprise results.

This year, the Tournament’s first round did not disappoint.

On Thursday, Ivy League Yale took down Big 12 power Baylor, Arkansas Little Rock came from behind to beat one of the Big Ten’s finest in Purdue, and in a slight upset, Wichita State pretty easily took care of Arizona.

Friday produced even gaudier results. Hawaii, who many didn’t realize fielded a basketball team, upset a talented, though injury bugged California team. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin took it to 3 seed West Virginia and in one of the biggest upsets of all time, 15 seed Middle Tennessee State took down mighty Tom Izzo and Michigan State.

Insert your favorite bracket busted joke here.

However, according to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, there are no upsets in this tournament. That’s right, those random occurrences that we all love and root for do not really exist. They are figments of our imagination.

“There’s no such thing as an upset and I mean that sincerely,” McCaffery said after Iowa’s last second victory over Temple in Brooklyn. “I’ve had lower seeded teams that won. You’ve seen higher seeded teams lose.”

“It’s really difficult [to win an NCAA Tournament game],” he explained. “You’re playing somebody that you haven’t played, on a neutral site. You’re trying to figure them out in a short period of time.”

Hmm, maybe he has a point, especially nowadays.

The mid-major teams – the good ones that end up in the NCAA Tournament – tend to be more experienced, upper-class dominant squads that have been together as a unit and with their coach for a number of years. That’s a sharp contrast from the now typical major program that is dependent on highly ranked freshmen, likely to leave the program before they are ready to take it to any significant heights.

Stephen F. Austin coach, Brad Underwood, sees some advantages to building a team at the mid-major level.

“We’re able to get better players [than in the past] and keep them for their career and have seniors, so there’s maturity,” he said after his team dispatched of West Virginia Friday night.

“One of the biggest discrepancies in college sports is the difference between an 18-year old freshman and a 22-year old senior. The maturity level is drastically different.”

So maybe there are no upsets and these are just a collection of good teams knocking each other off.

That’s likely the case, but don’t expect to hear that narrative. We don’t want to.

We love the upsets, real or not.
Follow Jamal Murphy on Twitter: @Blacketologist


NCAA Tournament 2016 – Day One – Experience Counts


Recaps for every game are all over the internet and to be honest, most of us lived those moments as they happened either by radio, tv or streaming over the web, silently cheering in our cubicles as our team (or our bets) won or lost.

Kansas (1), North Carolina (1), Virginia (1), Miami (3), Kentucky(4), Indiana(5), Wichita State(11), Duke(4), Gonzaga (12) and Connecticut(9) all notched wins on day one of the 2016 NCAA tournament.


What do all of these teams have in common?  They have a team or a coach not just with experience in March but success in March.  Most of these teams were higher seeds that were supposed to win, Wichita State, Connecticut and Gonzaga however, were seeds that pulled upsets (although admittedly UConn was the 9 who beat an 8).

Wichita State and Gregg Marshall beat a good Arizona team handily after winning the First Four play-in  game, destroying Vanderbilt on Tuesday.  While we could contest that it was a battle of experience because Sean Miller was on the opposite bench, Marshall is an experienced coach in the tournament with a lot of recent success.  Maybe more importantly Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet have had a lot of success in the tournament as well.  As they dismantled Arizona it was obvious that the combination of Van Vleet and Baker, along with the high pick-and-roll game plan from Marshall, was a winner, and there wasn’t much the six-seeded Wildcats could do about it.

Connecticut upended Colorado in the 8-9 game.  Why anyone would pick against Kevin Ollie and UConn based on their ability to win games in March is beyond me.  Ollie and the Huskies weren’t nearly as convincing as the Shockers but still won, and the motto in March for every team is “survive and advance”.

In the night cap Gonzaga and Mark Few were able to win convincingly and beat fifth-seeded Seton Hall.  Gonzaga has one at least one game in the tournament for the last seven years and Mark Few has the highest winning percentage among active coaches, that’s a lethal combination.  Add in that fact that they have the best true big man and one of the best players in the country in Domantas Sabonis and the combination is lethal.

If you are picking winners still, bet on experience because it is unlikely that Friday’s results will refute what Thursday confirmed.


North Carolina Double Dips, Takes ACC Tournament Title Too

North Carolina Hoists the ACC Trophy - Photo by Scott Zolotorow

North Carolina Hoists the ACC Trophy – Photo by Scott Zolotorow

Roy Williams doesn’t have to worry anymore about this year’s senior class winning an ACC Tournament title after his Tar Heels defeated Virginia 61-57 Saturday night at Verizon Center, making them the true ACC champion, winners of both the regular season and tournament. Continue Reading


North Carolina Blows Past Notre Dame, Advances to Finals


North Carolina showed off their top-seeded strength, posterizing Notre Dame 78-47. The Tar Heels used a 24-0 run to take the luck out of the Irish. Marcus Paige returned to form, scoring a team-high 16 points and knocking down four triples. Continue Reading


Miami Holds Off Virginia Tech to Advance to ACC Semifinals

Angel Rodriguez speaks to the Media - Photo by Scott Zolotorow

Angel Rodriguez speaks to the Media – Photo by Scott Zolotorow

Miami used a 14-2 run early in the second half to propel themselves past Virginia Tech 88-82. During the run, senior guard Angel Rodriguez knocked down three triples and had a steal and layup, scoring 11 of those 14 Hurricane points. Continue Reading


Virginia Dominates Second Half, Shuts Down Georgia Tech

Malcolm Brogdon on defense

Malcolm Brogdon guards Adam Smith – Photo by Scott Zolotorow

Second-seeded Virginia had no trouble with Georgia Tech, winning 72-52 in the most lopsided game of the tournament thus far. Malcolm Brogdon did Malcolm Brogdon like things, scoring 26 points on 10-15 shooting. Continue Reading


North Carolina Dominates Pitt

Brice Johnson is all Smiles in the second half - Photo by Scott Zolotorow

Brice Johnson is all Smiles in the second half – Photo by Scott Zolotorow

North Carolina used a late first half run to propel themselves into a dominating second half in their 88-71 win over Pittsburgh. Joel Berry was the key jump starter for UNC’s large run that ultimately gave them the win. Berry finished with 20 points on 7-8 shooting.  Continue Reading