So, how's your bracket working out? I am in about five or six pools and loitering around the top quartile of the standings in all of them. I lost Texas in the Final Four and of course GW in the Elite Eight, so I have no shot to win, but respectability certainly hangs within my reach. However, the only standings that really matter are those that are kept within my own home. The Doc wisely declines to participate, but after Round One, my youngest son was dominating the house with a 29-3 record. And it's not like he just picked the favorites. He had Winthrop and VCU, and his three losses were in the 8-9 games, which are always the toughest game to pick. He's going to need that big lead down the stretch though, as he had Wisconsin and Washington State in the Final Four.
My hopes of continuing my hoops-watching marathon on Friday were dashed by an early school closing due to some winter weather in the morning. I convinced the boys to watch for awhile, but then they insisted on doing silly things like eating dinner and asking for help with their homework, which can really cut into your screen time. I'm hoping they will get their priorities straightened out as they mature. Just like I have.
A few observations from the weekend, starting locally. GW fans should be disappointed in the way their team played against Vanderbilt, but not in their season. The Colonials lost four starters from arguably the best team in school history and still got back to the NCAA Tournament. Maryland fans should not be disappointed in their team's performance at all. I thought the offensive foul on Strawberry at the end of the game was a bad call and I don't know why Mike Jones was on the bench for such a long stretch during the second half when he is the best shooter on a team that struggles to score. I am sure Gary Williams has a very good answer to that question, and I would love to hear it. The Terps return a solid nucleus and should be in contention for the ACC title again next year.
Georgetown looks very strong to me, although I did not see much of UNC or Kansas. The Hoyas' defense is very quick when Roy Hibbert is not in the game, but it is a tsunami of shotblockers when he is. And Patrick Ewing, Jr., played like a guy who is capable of much more than four points per game. Having said that, Vanderbilt will be a real test for them this weekend, and it won't get any easier against Carolina, who might be able to beat them down the floor in transition with their superspeedy point guard Ty Lawson.
As far as the other "locals" that I've been watching all year, it was great fun to watch VCU knock off Duke and I was sorry to see them go against Pitt. The Rams' coach, Anthony Grant, is the ultimate antithesis of Gary Williams, the way he calmly stalks the sideline and never breaks a sweat, but at the same time, he has a look on his face that makes me think I'd better try to do what he tells me. Coming from Florida where he was an assistant to Billy Donovan, Grant is not going to be at VCU much longer (sorry, Norwood).
And, speaking of Duke, I keep hearing how much better the Blue Devils are going to be next year, but I am not ready to buy into that just yet. Not that I think they'll miss the two quality minutes played by lone senior Joe Pagliuca this year (that's two minutes total, not per game), but I don't see much benefit to another year of experience for McRoberts, Paulus, Nelson, et. al., all of whom have gotten as far as they can go in the college game with their physical talents. Look, lots of very good basketball schools miss the NCAA Tournament now and then. Syracuse and UConn this year and Maryland for two year before this one. But it's going to be culture shock for some face-painters next March when Cameron Indoor hosts an NIT game. ("What do you mean I can't pick the Devils in my bracket? Where's Dickie V, I want to file a complaint?"). If memory serves, Duke doesn't hang NCAA banners from the rafters in Cameron, only Final Four banners. Where do they put NIT banners- a broom closet? What if they win the NIT Championship?
Duke winning an NIT Championship. That seems like a nice thought on which to end.