Sunday, March 30, 2008

Halfway Home

There really isn't too much to say this morning, but I figured with the Final Four on the horizon, a little snippet was warranted. In case you didn't get to see it on Friday, Kansas' demolition of Villanova was not truly reflected by the final margin of 15 points. It was complete domination and it was beautiful (the first half). As I said, Kansas had every capability to play that game without so much as a worry - and it was incredibly satisfying to see them execute to that degree.

What surprised me Friday happened well before Kansas even took the court. As you know, I took Wisconsin to win the game and truly thought they'd be able to slow down and frustrate Davidson. But as you also know, that didn't happen in the least bit. At every position on the floor, Davidson made Wisconsin look like the slow, boring Big 11 team that they are, and it lead to an eventual blowout. At one point, the Wildcats actually lead by 21 - which in Wisconsin terms is more like 35.

And so because of that, our Jayhawks will be facing America's new favorite team for a chance to go to San Antonio. It's hard to complain, because it means that in order to get to the promise land of college basketball, they will have had to beat only 1 single digit seed in #8 UNLV. For sake of comparison, UNC had to play #4 Wazzou and #3 Lousiville. Similarly, Memphis had to face #5 Michigan State and today will square off against #2 Texas, a team we certainly know to be pretty damn good. UCLA had, never mind.

But if any of you have watched Davidson over the past two weeks or throughout the course of the year, you know they aren't a 10 seed. For one thing, they're ranked. We all know how subjective and unreliable those rankings are, but any team that wins 25 straight games is probably pretty worthy. Hell, I don't think many would argue that they aren't ranked high enough. Just pulling a few teams out of the mix, Butler is 10, Drake 14, and Vandy 16 - I think you would have a pretty tough time arguing that any of those teams are better than Davidson. Hell, Georgetown is 8 and Wisconsin is 5 (granted both were clearly overrated) and we all say what happened there. I would argue, with the possible exception of Georgetown, that Davidson would beat each of those teams and many more in their company more often than not.

But the same will not be true today when they play the Hawks. That's not to say they won't win, but they won't be the better team. And as I've said all along, all you can ask for is that your team is put in the position to win every time they're on the court. As has been the case all year long, the same will be true today. Up to this point, it's been enough to come out with a win nearly 92% of the time. I have a great deal of respect for subjectivity, but when it comes down to it, the numbers rarely lie and a figure like 92% makes me feel pretty good even if every living creature that does not count Kansas as its favorite team will be rooting heavily against the Hawks today.

Just as was the case Friday night, the onus will be on the guards, primarily Russell to stop them at the point of attack. He was able to do this with Reynolds and key #1 for tonight's game is if he can do the same to Richards. As I did Friday, I like the odds of this happening. Keeping with odds, when Kansas gets to play fast, I'll usually take my chances with them. Whereas Davidson was able to speed up Georgetown and Wisconsin and take them out of their game, that plays directly into the hands of the Jayhawks. Knowing those things, I'm going to go ahead and say Curry is held below 30 for the first time in tournament (28) and the Hawks pack their bags for San Antonio getting the proverbial monkey of Bill Self's back.

The pick: Kansas 84 Davidson 73

Before I leave you to the games, I want to throw congrats the way of UNC and UCLA. Tyler Hansbrough re-won me over last night (I love him as a freshman but hated him since) - the guy's a gamer. And Kevin Love won me over a long time ago and last night did nothing to dissuade that. Obviously I dislike both of these teams, but there couldn't be two more worthy adversaries this year.

And in case you haven't seen them all yet, here are some links to some of the Bill Self articles around the country today.

First, from your nation's best sportswriter.

Secondly, from someone not nearly as talented, but a bit higher profile.

And thirdly, from Methzou alum Pat Forde.

Finally, here's an excerpt from STF, via Deadspin, "Here's what Self is facing, pressure-wise:

• Facing a hugely popular Cinderella team
• Could get beat by a #10 seed
• Two #1 seeds are in San Antonio already, Memphis could make it three
• He plays the last game of the weekend
• If he wins, he gets to play his predecessor, Roy Williams
• If Mark Mangino can win an Orange Bowl, what's your problem?

That about sums it up. And you wonder why the guy's going bald."

All I can say is, I hope he and the guys in the white jerseys slept better than I did last night.

Rock Chalk!

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