In case your West region wasn’t wacky enough after the Round of 64, Saturday’s games cemented this quarter of the bracket’s status as the most unpredictable in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
It began with the No. 14-seeded Harvard Crimson, who shocked the Mountain West and the country by taking down trendy Final Four pick New Mexico in the Round of 64. Then Ole Miss, fueled by whatever keeps Marshall Henderson going, pulled an upset over Big Ten foe Wisconsin. Then it was La Salle, who beat a tough Boise State team in the First Four, coming through to beat Kansas State. But not to be outdone in this madness, No. 9 Wichita State outlasted No. 8 Pittsburgh, then eliminated the first No. 1 seed of the tournament Saturday night by beating Gonzaga.
So what are we left with? A No. 9 seed playing a 12- or 13-seed for a spot in the Elite Eight. A 6-seed in Arizona that has yet to be tested will face either Iowa State (who beat Notre Dame convincingly in the Round of 64) or Ohio State for its next chance to advance.
The reason for the madness in this region has been a mix of overseeding, matchups, and surprise performances. Gonzaga showed in its Round of 64 game against Southern that something was not right when the Jaguars ran the Bulldogs to the wire. Wichita State beat Pittsburgh at its own game to advance to meet the Zags. Ole Miss rode the wave of an SEC championship to beat a team that we have seen beat Indiana. La Salle’s guards matched up well against Kansas State and it got a big performance from Jerrell Wright to advance.
The real question now is if we will see an underdog emerge from all of this dust or if ultimately Ohio State or Arizona, teams that have spent time in the Top 10 this season, will represent this region at the Final Four in Atlanta. Judging by how things have gone, I’d favor madness over predictability.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.