Despite the undeniable impact of the Corona virus, this has been some NCAA tournament .
We never thought that Oregon State would beat Loyola, much less control them as much as they did, and while we knew Oral Roberts had given Arkansas a good game earlier in the season, we thought Arkansas had improved tremendously since that game and that the Razorbacks would run away with it.
Oral Roberts led for much of the game and came within a whisker of upsetting the Hogs and putting a #15 seed in the Elite Eight for the first time. It was a brilliant, stunning performance and Arkansas was lucky to survive.
We hoped Syracuse could keep it going but Houston put a blanket over Buddy Boeheim, limiting Syracuse’s hot star to 1-9 from behind the three point line and just 12 points.
Houston held the entire team to just 14-50 and only 5-23 from deep.
So ends a nice run by the ‘Cuse and Houston goes on to take the measure of Oregon State.
As everyone understands, Villanova is a superbly well-coached team that took a terrible hit when it lost Colin Gillispie so late in the season. We kept waiting for a team to exploit that and on Saturday, Baylor sure did, forcing 16 turnovers. But check this out: young Chris Arcidiacono, filling in at point, had just one of those turnovers. We thought he’d be the weak spot but he wasn’t.
And when they came, they came in waves and Baylor was only too happy to punish Villanova on the other end, taking the ball to the basket and picking up lots of second-chance shots - 26 shots and 13 offensive rebounds.
It was an impressive performance and as good as Arkansas can be, it won’t be easy to overcome that level of defensive brilliance.
On Sunday, we expect Creighton will lose to Gonzaga. We hope Florida State will beat Michigan but wouldn’t bet on it. We haven’t seen Florida State build a history of success in the type of games you have to win to get to the Final Four. Michigan has certainly shown the heart to do that.
We would nearly bet on Alabama. UCLA has gotten this far on a hot offense but first, we think Alabama will suppress that and second, UCLA has to slow ‘Bama as well. That’s not going to be easy.
Finally, Oregon and USC? Wow. USC was incredible against Kansas last time out but our principle is that you’re probably not going to get two games like that in one tournament. Plus Oregon knows SC well.
This Southern Cal is kind of like Dunk City on steroids. But in this case, we’ll go with Oregon because he’s got a solid history in the tournament. Trojan coach Andy Enfield had the memorable original Dunk City run but that was a cheeky underdog. This team is loaded. But we don't think they’ll blow the Ducks out of the water and if it’s close, which we think it will be, Oregon has some advantages.
Then again, with the way this tournament has gone, anything is possible.