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Saturday, March 30, 2013

March Maddness, Bottom Line: Ohio State Keeps Winning

Mmmmadd, Maddness. Or so goes the song by alternative rock band Muse, chosen by CBS Sports as the theme song for the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

The 2013 NCAA tournament is full of Maddness this season, no different than any other year really. In fact, the odds that I win any of the four brackets I filled out are slim and none.

And I'll let you in on a little known secret: I could care less if I lose all of them, if it means that Ohio State is cutting down the nets on April 8th. For that would signify the Buckeyes are National Champions, king of the courts for the first time in my lifetime.

As a matter of fact, I will admit that last season I finished dead last in the tourney pool amongst my family members, finishing behind my nine year-old niece, who doesn't watch sports at all. The rest of the family had a good laugh at my expense, as well they should. It was quite funny. And I could finish last again.

Of course I will point out that the final four of my bracket 1A is Louisville, Ohio State, VCU, and Miami. For comparison purposes, it should be known that I just saw ESPN college basketball expert Jay Bilas' Final Four is Louisville, Ohio State, VCU, and Indiana. The point being that, not only did we come up with three of the same Final Four participants (and I guarantee you I didn't let him copy off of me, even though he begged me to do so), only Louisville and Ohio State remain in our respective brackets. And while I am getting paid the big bucks, Bilas is sitting on his cozy stoop in the ESPN studios at Bristol making his minimum wage.

But I digress, the point is, I would love nothing more than to see the Buckeyes win it all. This Maddnness has driven me so insane that Thursday, as my day job proceeded into the night, I couldn't decide which would be worse: missing the game due to my job, or Ohio State getting knocked out of the tournament. At the end of the day, it was clear that I wanted Ohio State to keep playing, regardless. And they did.

Madddnnesss, I tell you.

Did I mention that I bet my best friend $10 heads up that my bracket would finish better than his? I have told him repeatedly I will gladly pay up that bet if it means the Bucks win it all. Of course, I should note that he has significantly more money to lose in this tourney than I do, but, hey, that really isn't my problem, is it?

 So, when its all said and done, I hope my team wins the whole bleeping thing. Cause if they don't, I am going to be kicking myself madd I didn't do a better job of guessing in these brackets.

A few other observations as we head into the Elite Eight:

Leave Aaron Craft alone. Where's all the criticism of Deshaun Thomas?

For as much as Buckeye fans want to pin the team's recent struggles on Aaron Craft's inability to make free throws in the latter stages of the game, I would like to offer up another scape goat: Deshaun Thomas.

It has seemed all along that fans want to overlook Thomas' flaws (there are several) because he leads the team in points and rebounds. But there are times in every game where I think to myself, "this guy is really the leader of this basketball team?"

I mean, first off, let's examine his shot selection. Within 7-10 feet, there is probably no one in the nation better than Deshaun Thomas. When he moves to the perimeter however, it becomes more problematic. If he has an open shot, and he gets his feet set, I say let him shoot. The thing is, he often takes off balance shots from three point range (sometimes with defenders in his face. Which brings me to another point. My best friends argue ad nauseam how difficult it is to defend the three. How is it, then, when Thomas shoots a three, many times the defenders are right in his face?)

Then there is DT's defense, or lack thereof. It should come as no surprise that, in the Iowa State game, the reason Aaron Craft took a controversial charge was simple: Thomas was out of position. And this still happens quite often. For as much as fans want to say he has improved that part of his game, he still employs the O-le method of on the ball defense.

So it seems funny to me that people believe Thomas is a lock to leave for the NBA next season. Especially when they were quick to ridicule Jared Sullinger last year, even though the Northland graduate was a much more polished player than DT is now.

Michigan may have caught the break of the tournament last night.

I know this may seem like I am hating, especially since, in my last post, I claimed the Wolverines were playing the best ball of anyone in the tournament. But hear me out.

Last night the Kansas Jayhawks had Michigan beat and let them off the hook. Seriously. This is no Denny Green "We had 'em...and we let 'em off the hook, so crown them champions" bs. No, Kansas was clearly dominating the game, up by double digits with six minutes left, and shooting over 55% from the field. All they had to do was run out the clock and they were moving on to the Elite Eight.

Yet something happened that has still left me dumbfounded. It was as if, in the waning moments of regulation and overtime, KU point guard Elias Johnson stopped playing smart basketball. There was the missed front end of the one-and-one. And the 10 second backcourt violation. Then the wild pass at the end of overtime to someone who is not even a good perimeter shooter.

That is not to say that Trey Burke and company didn't play hard. Burke's three pointer, from about 30 feet, was just as dramatic as Ross' bomb a night earlier. And it appears that this tournament has single-handedly propelled freshman center Mitch McGary into a star as well. But the way the game ended had to leave anyone not wearing Maize and Blue extremely perplexed at the very least.

Florida has quietly put themselves in position to make another final four.

The talk of the South regional for days has been the cinderella Florida Gulf Coast and its coach, Andy Enfield. And it seemed that, for the opening moments of last night's game versus Florida, the glass slipper would remain. The Eagles raced out to a 24-15 early lead with five minutes left in the 1st half.

From there it was all Florida. Going on a 22-7 run that would last deep into the second half, the Gators would eventually win going away, 62-50. And, while most of the focus on that side of the bracket centers on Michigan and Syracuse, it would be foolish to count team Billyball out.

Coach K inches one step closer to a basketball immortal, the late great John Wooden.

Be honest, if I asked you how many Final Fours Duke had been to under Mike Krzyweski, what would you say? Seven? Eight? Cause that is what I guessed.

Try 14. I know it surprised me too. Which might be one reason he is so hated among so many people.

That's all for now. Enjoy the games and don't let March Madness get you too down.

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