Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday's Finest: Elite 8 Coverage

... Midwest Region ...
#1. Florida vs. #3. Oregon [aka The National Champs vs. Team Track Meet]
Florida wins it 85-77 in a game played in the single digits. Florida asserted itself on both sides of the boards. More importantly, they hit three-pointers at a very high clip, which makes them unstoppable. When Taurean Green gets into an offensive groove, the whole team gets elevated to a different level. When Lee Humphrey is on, you'll have bad dreams that go into next season. Just trust me on that one.

Len Elmore has made too much out of the "struggles" of Tajuan Porter early on, but it was validated in the 2nd half when Porter's shooting slump translated into poor decisions. To expect a repeat performance of Friday night is preposterous. Porter still penetrated effectively. After letting Porter take the accolades for a night, Aaron Brooks re-emerged today as the Ducks' go-to guy. One major trend stood out - whenever Oregon cut the lead to two scores, either the Ducks could not execute or Florida prevented them from doing so. That's the mark of a champion.

The Florida Intangible
The ultimate intangible for Florida is targeting key members of the opposition and getting them into foul trouble. After that, they are able to attack the reserves as well as starters who are trying to avoid prohibitive foul situations. This is exactly how they exploited Butler on Friday night and how they intend on cutting the nets in Atlanta. Today was no different.

An Honest Question
Will Al Horford ever get called for a player control foul when backing down on the opposition? (Note: I would say Horford/Noah, but Noah is so out of control at times that even the worst referee would blow the whistle.)
As Walter Sopchek says in the Big Lebowski, "This isn't [Viet]'nam. There are rules."

... East Region ...
#1. North Carolina vs. #2. Georgetown [aka 12 Deep vs. Hoya Paranoia]
After the Hoyas were down literally all game, they fought tooth and nail to tie up the Tar Heels in the final minute. When the overtime began, the game was over. The Hoyas rolled to a 96-84 overtime victory and their trip to the Final Four in more than twenty years.

Despite 94 combined points in the first half, Georgetown dictated the pace of the game in the second half. Both teams had their cold streaks in the second stanza and Carolina had a 5-11 point lead for the majority of the half. For the first 32 minutes, North Carolina owned the offensive glass (namely, Deon Thompson) and were demonstrating a relative repeat performance of the USC game given the talent of the opposing frontcourt personnel.

Following the under-eight minute timeout, the game turned on a dime. Shortly thereafter, Brandan Wright picked up his fourth foul, and Carolina hit a brief spell. Meanwhile, the Hoyas seemed to score on every trip. In the waning minutes, Carolina took no less than three ill-advised early in the shot clock. All resulted in empty trips. The lack of continuity and the lack of defensive intensity - both being by-products from youth - stifled the Tar Heels' ability to finish off Georgetown.

With less than a minute remaining, Jonathan Wallace hit the shot that others may have seemed afraid to take. As a result, Georgetown tied the game. In my biased, mean world syndrome-affected mind (note: I'm a UNC fan, and have seen many near-giveaways against much weaker teams than Georgetown this season, who I picked to win it all in my single sheet of integrity), Georgetown had won the game because I had little to no faith in Roy Williams' ability to either select the right personnel or choose the right play to break Georgetown's mettle.

When the coach called the timeout for the final play, I expected a well-scripted play. What we got was a generic curl scripted for the wrong player shooting the ball without a single move to Hansbrough. Although Wayne Ellington will live to be a terrific player, he is for all intents and purposes, a young streak shooter. And when your young streak shooter is 2-for-8 (and a freshman), why not script the [horrific] play for the more seasoned pressure shooter, Reyshawn Terry? I would have preferred the boring feed inside to Hansbrough against Roy "I played masterfully with 4 fouls" Hibbert and having Terry on the perimeter waiting for the collapse on the ball, but what do I know? I'm not a coach, never will be, and would be humbled by the opportunity to come within two sniffs of press row.

The end game is that the better team with the better in-game tactician won. Carolina should be very strong next year unless both Wright and Hansbrough declare for the NBA Draft. Georgetown faces a slightly different Ohio State team compared to the one they defeated last year in the NCAA tournament. Just slightly.

Key Stats
North Carolina had a free throw attempts and makes edge of 34-18 and 29-12, respectively. The difference is more stratified when considering that Georgetown made many if not most of its trips during the extra session. To make up for that, JTIII's men shot 8-for-14 from 3-point range, with the underrated Jonathan Wallace hitting 3 of 4 including the one to tie it up.

Fun Facts
- Brad Slepetz, architect of the Hashemi-Slepetz Percentage Index (an evolving alternate to the RPI), has his second school going to the Final Four in as many years. Last year, Slepetz lived the dream at George Mason University. Over the summer, Slepetz, like many before him, bolted for the greener pastures of Georgetown.
- I muted Billy Packer with 9:59 left in the first half after further suggesting that America is blind (insisting Jeff Green did not travel on Friday night). I went back to full volume shortly after the start of the second half.
- Jeff Green had about the quietest 20-point performance he's had all year.