Sweet Sixteen: Thursday – From the Bird’s Nest
So, I settle into my hotel in Bowling Green, KY. Nothing to do but watch hoops. It's Sweet Sixteen time. Four games on tap.
Unfortunately, three of them were pretty one sided.
After two nail-biters, Marquette rolled over Miami. The Golden Eagles had won the close games and they looked like a very confident and very polished team last night. Miami coach Jim Larranaga said after the game his star guard Shane Larkin had a stomach virus the day before. It may not have mattered if he'd been perfectly healthy. Marquette ran away early in this one and Miami never got untracked. In fact, the 71-61 final was about as close as Miami got in the second half.
That's going to make it an all Big East final as Syracuse dismantled #1 seed Indiana 61-50. It was the fewest points scored in the first half (22) and the lowest point total of the season for the Hoosiers, who didn't come close to figuring out Syracuse's 2-3 zone. Indiana had a tough time even getting a shot as the Orange led by as many as 18 points in the first half. Indiana cut the lead to six in the second half before Syracuse took control for good. Bottom line is, this is one of Jim Boeheim's best defensive teams. They make it hard for you to get a shot, let alone make one.
Marquette won the only regular season meeting between the two schools.
Out west, Wichita State ran away from LaSalle early. The Shockers did what Syracuse and Marquette did: get off to a blazing start, storming to an early 14-2 lead. The Explorers were never in the game. Wichita State can really defend and held LaSalle, who got to the Sweet 16 by shooting it well, to just 35 percent shooting.
Now, let's thank Arizona and Ohio State for saving the night.
I figured Arizona would give the Buckeyes all they wanted. The Wildcats had been playing with a chip on their shoulder after losing at the Pac-12 tournament on a controversial technical foul on Coach Sean Miller (who wound up a lot lighter in the wallet after his postgame comments.) And, they did, leading by double digits in the first half. But Ohio State cut it to four, 38-34 at halftime and then got out of the gate quickly in the second half, opening up a double digit lead of their own. But 'Zona came back to tie the game with 21.8 seconds left. As the clock ran down, Aaron Craft, who hit one with :00.5 left in the round of 32, had the ball, but passed it to an open LaQuinton Ross, who nailed the three pointer with :02 left to win it.
The Buckeyes will be favored against Wichita State, but look out for that Shockers' defense. And, Marquette and Syracuse should be a really good one. Marquette is familiar with Boeheim's zone, but can they get ready with just one day to prepare?
We'll find out Saturday.
In the meantime, I'll miss the early games tonight. Watch...both of them will come down to the final possession. Just my luck.