A few thoughts on the first half of the Sweet Sixteen:
- I had a huge plate of humble pie for breakfast this morning. On Monday, I wrote that Syracuse had to be the favorite from here on out after the way they dismantled Gonzaga over the weekend. Syracuse pooped the bed last night against Butler, and Kentucky absolutely smothered Cornell. A special apology goes out to Kentucky forward, Darius Miller. I picked on him in particular saying his defense on Wesley Johnson would be a huge advantage for Syracuse. Miller came out last night and played great defense on Cornell’s Ryan Wittman. Wittman finished with 10 pts. and 2 tos. on 3-10 shooting. Miller was a huge factor in Wittman’s struggles and I was wrong.
- Syracuse didn’t play their best game, but they were in control right up until 5:23 left in the second half. From that point on they only scored 5 pts, and a 54-50 lead turned into a 63-59 defecit. A -8 point swing in just over 5 minutes. Not to point fingers, but as good as Andy Rautins had been up to that point, was how bad he stunk up the last 5 minutes. His line for this crucial stretch 0/1 FG, 2 TOs and 2 PFs. A salty way to end your college career.
It’s kind of a cliche to compare basketball games to boxing matches; two heavyweights, circling the center of the ring, trading body blows, enduring through force of will. The Kansas State – Xavier game looked more like a lightweight amatuer bout; two small quick fighters, flying around the ring, wildly swinging for the head hoping to land something. It was definitely an exciting game, but not the most efficient or well executed.
West Virginia looked great, calm and under control against Washington. Their matchup with Kentucky is going to be epic. One of the big stories was the steady play of back-up point guard Joe Mazzula, who stepped in for an injured Truck Bryant. I couldn’t help but notice that he bears a striking resemblance to a former tournament hero.