NCAA Tournament Tidbits – 03.17.2011Posted by Brian Goodman on March 17th, 2011
Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.
- When Jay Wright speaks, his Wildcat squad listens. The veteran coach knows how to communicate with his players and that is one of the reasons he has had such a successful tenure.
- A key for West Virginia‘s resurgence this season has been the turnaround of senior guard Casey Mitchell. Mitchell, who was thought to be a consistent player for the Mountaineers, battled inconsistency and conduct problems throughout the early part of the season.
- UNC head coach Roy Williams revealed guard Dexter Strickland has been battling a knee injury for a few weeks. Strickland’s health will be a key to Carolina’s chances of making a deep run.
- Marquette has struggled with defensive inconsistencies all season, but they have had great success getting to the hoop and drawing fouls. Look for Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom to exploit the Musketeers in an attempt to get easy hoops.
- #13 seed Princeton is seeking a monumental upset as they prep to face Kentucky. The Tigers do have a history of pulling huge shockers in March, as they stunned defending champion UCLA in the first round in 1996.
- Kansas State standout guard Jacob Pullen is battling the flu, but is expected to be a full participant in tonight’s tilt with Utah State. If Pullen is not 100%, one can assume Utah State’s chances for an upset get significantly stronger.
- The fresh infusion of talent provided to Gonzaga by the emergence of Marquise Carter, David Stockton, and Sam Dower have been key to the Zags’ late season run. The play of all three will undoubtedly dictate if Mark Few‘s squad will make any noise.
- Tom Izzo knows this season did not go exactly the way he wanted it to, but an experienced squad can be a huge factor if the Spartans make a run. Izzo is a great veteran coach, who has Final Four experience, so a big run may not be that surprising.
- St. John’s associate head coach Mike Dunlaphas interest in the opening at Wyoming. Dunlap has a great track record as an assistant and a lower-level head coach and could thrive as the head man at Wyoming.
- An interesting story has emerged about how Old Dominion head coach Blaine Taylor has endured bouts with alcoholism. His road to redemption is quite inspiring, as he did not let his demons put an end to his career.
- For the teams playing in Denver, including Vanderbilt, will the altitude of the Pepsi Center play a role in the action on the court? Perhaps, but since it’s a challenge that’s new for each team there, it’s an element that may be more neutral than we think.
- After his team’s First Four win Thursday, VCU coach Shaka Smart has a bone to pick with ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who criticized the committee for including the Rams in the field of 68. Next up for the Rams is Georgetown on Friday night.
- St. Peter’s may have the most favorable matchup of the four 14-seeds against Purdue. Both teams prefer a slow-tempo style, but Purdue has struggled considerably away from West Lafayette, with all six losses coming in road or neutral environments. It remains an uphill battle for St. Peter’s (they’re a 14-seed for a reason, after all), but don’t be surprised if the Peacocks come out feisty.
- The Akron Zips have come a long way since February 2, when they lost 60-56 to a bottom-dwelling Eastern Michigan team. Can they catch lightning in a bottle against Notre Dame on Friday? If you ask us, their best chance involves a post-St. Paddy’s Day hangover for the Irish.
- Kyle Kuric of Louisville is one of the most improved players in the Big East this season. His story of outperforming expectation is indicative of his team, as the Cardinals were picked to finish no better than eighth in the conference, and many predicted them to miss the tournament.
- Chris Wright‘s recovery plays heavily into Georgetown‘s chances for a deep run. With or without Wright, though, frontcourt production remains a struggle for the Hoyas and could be just as big a factor.
- Washington, D.C., may be a ways away from Columbia, Missouri, but it’s practically a home game for the Tigers’ Kim English, who grew up in Baltimore. The junior guard gathered many of his teammates’ allotted tickets for their game against Cincinnati to give to family and friends.
- With an impressive run, Penn State may be able to finally make some waves on the recruiting scene in the nearby hotbed of Philadelphia. The Nittany Lions’ current roster features just one scholarship player from the City of Brotherly Love, senior Andrew Jones.
- Memphis‘ Joe Jackson will try to live up to the tattoo on the front of his chest, which reads “King of Memphis.” The McDonald’s All-American has struggled on and off this season, but scored eight of his 17 points in the Tigers’ furious comeback against UTEP in the Conference USA Tournament final.
- Another top college freshman, Tennessee‘s Tobias Harris, is living up to the hype. The 6’8 forward averaged 22.5 points in the Vols’ two games against Arkansas and Florida in the SEC Tournament, and turned down scholarship offers from a pair of elite programs in Syracuse and Kentucky.