Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region. If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Region Notes (Andrew Murawa)
- Lower-seeded teams like Cornell, Washington, Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s advancing to the Sweet 16 surprised college basketball fans all over, but Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was not among them, saying that “there’s not a big gap” between teams in the tournament. Of course, he said that after winning by an average of 22.5 points in the first two games, but college basketball coaches never stretch the truth, right?
- When junior forward Wesley Johnson visited Boeheim at the Syracuse campus to inquire about transferring, the hall-of-fame coach initially turned him down. Luckily for the Orange, he changed his mind.
- With the big dog in the state back at home watching, the Kansas State Wildcats will be carrying the Sunflower State banner. The Wildcats beat up on their Sweet 16 opponent, Xavier, pretty good in early December in the Little Apple, but Fran Fraschilla says the Musketeers are a different team these days.
- Pitt and head coach Jamie Dixon are in the unfamiliar position of having to watch the Regional Semifinal round, but the Panthers will be strong contenders heading into the 2010-11 season, when they are expected to return all of their key contributors except graduating senior guard Jermaine Dixon.
- Gonzaga fans on the other hand will likely have to sweat out some key personnel decisions in the offseason, including the possibility that head coach Mark Few could leave and return to his alma mater, Oregon, to take over the program from recently fired Ernie Kent. With a sparkling new arena in Eugene and all the money that Nike can throw at him, this is undoubtedly the biggest run that another school has made at the popular and successful coach who has reportedly declined numerous other offers from big-name schools in the past. But, while point guard Matt Bouldin having played his last game in a Zag uniform and freshman forward Elias Harris a promising NBA prospect, some big changes could be coming to the recent prototype for mid-major success (no matter how much they despise the term).
Midwest Region Notes (Tom Hager)
- If there was any question that Northern Iowa might suffer from a hangover after the upset over Kansas, the team did not even wait for Saturday night to end before already getting focused for the next round of games.
- In addition to his ability to hit clutch shots, Ali Farokhmanesh has also been improving on the defensive end. Although Kwadzo Ahelegbe usually covers the best guard each game, Farokhmanesh held Sherron Collins to 0-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
- Joe Rexrode reminded fans today that although Michigan State will miss Kalin Lucas in their next game against UNI, it won’t be the first time the Spartans played shorthanded this year. In addition to the injury Lucas suffered against Wisconsin, he was also suspended earlier in the season for disappointing Tom Izzo as the team’s leader. Chris Allen was also suspended earlier this season, and Durrell Summers was benched for a walk-on.
- As good as Evan Turner has been lately, the Bleacher Report’s Drew Gatewood points out that he turned the ball over nine times against Georgia Tech and had eight turnovers against UC-Santa Barbara. With the Vols ranking #7 in defensive efficiency, Turner’s assignment may become even more difficult.
- Although Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press may be getting ahead of himself, he says Tennessee is very close to the first Final Four in UT history. According to Wiedmer, UNI has overachieved and Michigan State is banged up, so the OSU matchup could be the deciding game in who will advance to the national semifinals.