Each day this week during the first two 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.
East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)
- #8 Texas was once the top team in the nation, but now they are reeling. However, a team trending even worse might be their opponent: #9 Wake Forest. Demon Deacon Head Coach Dino Gaudio said Al-Farouq Aminu had an x-ray done on his hand and appears to be ready to play on Thursday. Meanwhile, Texas, who comes in having lost seven of their last nine games to teams in the NCAA Tournament, said he is trying to deflect questions that the Longhorns are done this year. “There are people saying Texas is done,” Texas coach Rick Barnes told the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t think our guys have felt like that at any point.” Meanwhile Wake Forest’s last road win against an NCAA Tournament team was their December 5 win over Gonzaga, 77-75.
- #5 Temple against #12 Cornell will be the game to watch on Friday to start. The subplot of course is that Cornell head coach Steve Donahue spent ten years as an assistant under Temple head coach Fran Dunphy, who crossed town from Penn to Temple in 2006. Donahue said he purposely does not schedule Dunphy’s Owls for a reason. “See, we would never play each other in a regular season game because it would be torture. In this profession, you want your friends to advance,” Donahue told the Ithaca Journal. “The NCAA tournament is the pinnacle of what you do, so both of us will have to get over that.” Dunphy reflected similar sentiments to the Philadelphia Daily News. “If you had said to me who do you not want to play? Cornell,” Dunphy said about the matchup. “We’re good friends and there is a no-win situation in that.”
- #11 Washington, the Pac-10 Tournament champion, had to play to get into the field of 65. Their opponent, #6 Marquette, is not happy about traveling to San Jose to play the Seattle school. “They going to fly, or drive?” Marquette coach Buzz Williams asked the AP of the Huskies’ trip to the neutral site. “I think anytime you play on the West Coast against a team from the Pac-10, you are the underdog.”
- #3 New Mexico, the regular season champion of the Mountain West Conference, will have their hands full with #14 Montana’s Anthony Johnson who scored 34 of his 42 points in the second half to clinch their Big Sky championship and NCAA Tournament bid. When asked about his ability, Lobos head coach Steve Alford told the AP, “We know he’s extremely talented … a potent scorer.” The Lobos will be playing to try to reach their first Sweet 16 in school history.
- #7 Clemson taking on #10 Missouri will be an interesting matchup, guaranteeing an up-tempo pressuring style that Clemson coach Oliver Purnell favors. Missouri coach Mike Anderson told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, “It won’t be one of those, walk it up and pass it about 20 times or five times. It’s going to be end-to-end. (It’s going to be) some athletic kids hopefully making some athletic plays.”
- #2 West Virginia will tip off the NCAA Tournament against #15 Morgan State on Thursday. Coach Bob Huggins did not mince words when asked on whether or not West Virginia should be a top seed. “I thought statistically we were a 1,” Huggins said Sunday to the AP. “The disappointing thing is that when they stand up there and say, ‘Let’s look at the full body of work,’ and if you look at the full body of work, we were probably a 1.” The Mountaineers probably have a case for a #1 seed and will look to come out and show it to start the Tournament.
West Region Notes (Andrew Murawa)