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Hoopaholic’s Gazette: Throw Down Thursday

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It’s about this time every year during the second weekend of the Dance, that we are reminded.

It’s really hard to fill in all six slots on the dance card. Really really hard.

Which is why fans of other educational institutions harbor deep seated resentments against those schools and coaches that have won more than one. (My school is blessed. I only wanted one. We got three. (Plus the NI1T when it mattered in ‘56.)

The top two #1 seeds fell on Thursday, joining Baylor which fell last weekend, and whose coach with no Round of 16 tilt to plan for was sitting in the TBS studio yukking it up with that dude with Wildcat blue glasses. Oh yeah, Rex Chapman.

* * * * *

In recent times, those of us firm in the opinion that the Gonzaga Bulldogs WCC conference schedule doesn’t sufficiently gird them for maximized tourney performance have become the object of sever ostracism.

The politically correct dialog has evolved to something like this: “You’re nuts. Have you seen the Zags non-conference schedule? Texas. UCLA. Duke. Alabama. Texas Tech. (Bellarmine.) Plus the WCC has really improved through the years and was tougher than ever this season.

“Besides they have as many tourney Ws in the last XX years as any other program.”

Which is all well and good, but . . .

. . . yours truly, for one, and my hoopaholic pal Mr. Bunny among other observers of the game, still believe the Zags don’t get the experience of really tough game in game out competition that readies them to win six in a row.

I recall mentioning this observation last year. The Bulldogs ran one of those beauteous offensive sets, with all its flow and movement and precise passing. One of their wings caught an impeccable interior bounce pass through the paint against Baylor in the title game. When he went up for the gimme, point blank bank shot layup, Flo Thamba was there to knock it into the sixth row.

That doesn’t happen at Loyola Marymount in late February. It is obviously no matter how much the San Francisco Dons have improved.

Against Arkansas, a Bulldog stole the rock in the 2d, steamed ahead of the pack for breakaway deuce. When out of nowhere (seemingly) a Razorback “was there to knock it into the sixth row.”

Gonzaga is yet again on a flight back to Spokane without the trophy. Spunky Arkansas is in the Elite Eight, for the second straight season.

Eric Musselman had a great game plan. He challenged the unicorn in the middle, who fouled out. And he cut the head off the beast. Prior to the game, watching film of every one of PG Andrew Nembhard’s possessions in a couple of previous games Musselman coached against him before the Gonzaga kickstarter transferred from Florida.

The kid finished 2/11 from the field. Five turnovers.

* * * * *

Thus Woooooo Pig Sooey meets You Know Whom in the Elite Eight.

Coming out of a timeout late in the closely contested game with feisty Texas Tech, the Blue Devils went Wojo. All of them, including their coach, who may be retiring after this season, slapped the hardwood.

Kill me.

It was Mike Krzyzewski’s 100th NCAA tournament victory. He has umpteen titles. He can be haughty. I resent Duke as much as the next hoopaholic. The arrogance, the expectations for success, that tent village outside Cameron Indoor that gets too much pub.

But, I’ll admit, after the disappointment of another Duke W, admiration creeps in.

The guy is, let’s face it, the GOAT. It is indisputable.

I am comforted by the truth that my Cardinals beat the Blue Devils along the way to two of their titles. And is the only school that’s played Duke at least ten times, with a winning record against Coach K. (Or something like that.)

K proved his mettle again Thursday. The game turned when he had his guys play zone, after being a man to man team for 96% of the season. The Red Raiders were flummoxed.

* * * * *

Villanova is.

Workmanlike. Efficient. Mature. Philly tough. Pass the cheesesteak.

Again, another example of premier pregame planning.

Jay Wright had his smaller than Michigan’s inside guys move Wolverine Hunter Dickinson a foot or two off his comfort spot.

Michigan was out of sorts. Wildcats move on.

Extraneous haberdashery observation: Jay Wright buttons the top button of the polo shirt under his quarterzip.

* * * * *

After watching Houston dominate Illinois in the Round of 32, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind they’d beat Arizona. (I know I didn’t write that, but it’s true.)

In the 1st, Houston was +14 in the paint (18-4). ‘Zona frankly didn’t know what hit them.

For the game, the Cougars were +6 in second chance points.

Also, the Cougars were +18 (24-6) in points off turnovers.

Kelvin Sampson’s team is Ruthless. Relentless. Suffocating.

To be savored on Saturday (After watching the Cardinals play the Vols.): Cougars vs. another group of Wildcats in another Battle of Big Cats. Nasty cats.

* * * * *

Rather famously it is argued that to capture the crown, a team must be in the top 25 of both offensive and defensive efficiency in Ken Pomeroy’s valued computerized rankings.

As of those updated through Friday morning, the last two standing will be those Houston Cougars (#8O, #10D) and UCLA (#12O, #14D). Rock Chalk Jayhawk is close at #6O and #28D.

— c d kaplan