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Have you had enough basketball yet? The rounds of 64 and 32 of the NCAA Tournament are the best days of the year for a roundball junkie...48 games in four days, upsets, last-second shots, and busted brackets. Well I'm not a professional basketball analyst, but I'll give you my preview of the Sweet 16, as well as a few other tidbits. So lace up your sneakers, kids, because here we go...
(1) Kentucky vs. (4) Indiana
Obviously this is the match-up I'm most looking forward to. The Hoosiers edged the Wildcats by a point back in December, so UK is looking for payback. If Kentucky plays up to their potential, they win, no question. But if IU can play defense like they did in the second half against VCU (the Rams scored 4 points in the last 12 minutes) and get hot from behind the 3-point line, they have a chance. Go IU!!!
(3) Baylor vs. (10) Xavier
Baylor has been very inconsistent this season, looking great against lesser teams but not able to win the big games. They lost twice to Kansas and three times to Missouri, including the Big 12 Tournament championship game. Fortunately for the Bears, their opponent is a lesser team, tenth seeded Xavier. The Musketeers really struggled after the ugly fight in their game against Cincinnati back in December, and by most accounts barely squeaked into the NCAA Tourney. Lehigh stayed with them into the second half before fading in the round of 32 game. Baylor should take advantage of this match-up.
(1) Syracuse vs. (4) Wisconsin
Syracuse is without their leading rebounder, Fab Melo, who is academically ineligible. They struggled in their first game against UNC-Ashville, but got by Kansas St. handily. Wisconsin is known for defense and slowing down the game on offense. The Orange have only lost two games all season, but I look for the Badgers to move on.
(2) Ohio State vs. (6) Cincinnati
Big Ten versus Big East...advantage Big Ten. I didn't see Cincinnati's win over Florida State, but one thing I noticed from the box score is that they hit 19-23 free throws, way better than their season average of 64.4%. It took Ohio State until the final minute Saturday to put away Gonzaga, but the Buckeyes are strong at both ends of the floor. I think Sullinger, Craft, and Buford will be too much for the Bearcats in this battle of Ohio teams.
The biggest controversy of the tournament in my mind is the NCAA's Flagrant 1 foul for non-excessive contact with an elbow to an opponent above the shoulders. The rule came into play in two games I saw over the weekend. I understand the purpose of the rule, but the enforcement of it is a nightmare.
In the Indiana-VCU game Saturday, late in the first half, Hoosier player Will Sheehey moved the ball above his head from his left side to his right side in order to drive to the basket. His right elbow maybe made slight contact to the chin of the Ram's player defending him. After a foul call on VCU, referees then looked at replays for at least 10 minutes before deciding that Sheehey's elbow made contact, and they assessed a Flagrant 1 foul, giving the Rams two free throws and possession of the ball.
On Sunday in the Michigan State-St. Louis game, Draymond Green drove toward the basket from the top of the key. He swung his left arm out, striking the St. Louis defender in the neck and knocking him down. After passing the ball, a foul was called under the basket stopping play. SLU coach Rick Majerus asked the referees to review the play. After a delay, the referees decided there was no reason to call a Flagrant 1 foul on Green.
On both of the examples above, there was no foul call on the player at the time of the incident. To allow replay to go back and look at a play to determine if there's a foul after the fact is absurd. If this is allowed, why not allow coaches to ask the refs to review a play for traveling or goaltending. Obviously games would be delayed endlessly--just as these two games were delayed for long periods while the officials were trying to decide, "Was there contact or not? Was it his elbow or his forearm? Was it excessive or non-excessive?" If a foul was called in the first place and they need to look at replay to determine if it's a flagrant foul, that's one thing, just as the refs are allowed to check replay to see if a player stepped on the three-point line while taking a shot. But to review a play when no foul was called is just insane. That aspect of the rule as it exists needs to be changed.
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