On my way back home after staying the night in Portland last night. And to answer SW WA Coug's question, yes, that was fun. Both games were highly entertaining, and you can't ask for anything more than that WKU/Gonzaga finish. Spectacular.
So as not to bury the open tournament thread, click on the link for some of my thoughts from each game.
- The first thing that needs to be said is that that was a completely different Purdue team than the one that was generally going through the motions on Thursday against Northern Iowa. The Boilers looked inspired on the both ends of the floor, and sometimes that happens when a team gets to the second round. (Isn't that right, Memphis and Villanova?)
- I honestly did not anticipate how tough of a matchup Purdue would be for Washington. The Boilers have a lot of length, and that caused problems for the Huskies all day -- not on defense, but on offense, where Purdue could get their shots off whenever they wanted to. And when you're shooting as well as they were in the first half yesterday, you can put a lot of space between you and your opponent pretty quickly. Because of this, I given them a puncher's chance against UConn -- it's not much, but it's more of a chance than I would have given Washington.
- Can't say enough about Jon Brockman. That's guy's heart and desire almost singlehandedly kept UW in that game, and I can't help but wonder what's going to happen to them with him gone. Matthew Bryan-Amaning played an absolutely terrible, boneheaded game, and Darnell Gant spends most of his time 15 feet from the basket. They're full of long and talented guys, but the toughness and intelligence most certainly have a long way to go.
- Once again, Justin Dentmon was a total non-factor. I can't believe how many shots that guy passed up in those two games. Do you know that in the final nine games of the year, he only shot over 50 percent once -- against Seattle U? And that his percentage of shots also dropped over those final nine games? The book was out -- don't leave him open, stay in his face and make him put the ball on the floor. The Huskies will not miss him next year, as they're better with Elston Turner, a guy who doesn't need to be asked twice to shoot, in the lineup.
- All the talk today is about Venoy Overton's four fouls, but that's ignoring the giant pink elephant in the middle of the room: He was having an absolutely horrific defensive day besides that, as his man beat him for penetration repeatedly. The fouls were just making it worse. And thank goodness for referees who finally had the stones to call his fouls. They're not hard fouls, but they're fouls nonetheless. I think Overton believes his own myth and has forgotten that his first priority needs to be staying in front of people, something he didn't do very well yesterday.
- I honestly felt kind of bad for about a half-second for Isaiah Thomas when he blew that layup, because he was the other reason the Huskies were able to come back. That kid is a stone-cold scorer without a conscience, and as a hoops fan I could appreciate the way he took over that game. It would have been fitting for him to tie it like that. But then I remembered I don't like Washington. And I didn't feel bad anymore.
- I know Lorenzo Romar was coach of the year in the Pac-10, but I think he made a big blunder yesterday. Sometimes coaches get married to routine, and I think Romar was guilty of that to a degree yesterday. He just went with his normal substitution patterns early in the second half, sending Thomas to the bench just as the Huskies were really coming back. Thomas was the only one giving any offense, and I think they needed to ride that horse as long as possible. Also, he continued to stick with Dentmon, despite his passivity, and Bryan-Amaning, despite his repeated brain farts. I just don't think Romar did everything he could to put his team in the best position to win yesterday.
- Yes, it was as entertaining in person as it was on TV -- probably even more so. You probably could hear it on the broadcast, but lots of "oooohs" and "aaaaahs" whenever Mendez-Valdez and Slaughter hit another ridiculous shot. And the pace was just insane. Pomeroy's got it at 71 possesssions, but boy did it seem like more than that. (Probably because it wasn't inflated by any last-minute fouling.) Both teams were running at every opportunity, and were not afraid to take the first quasi-decent shot that presented itself. Too fun.
- Grady sent me a text last night about Gonzaga's 3-point defense and noted a similar thing on the blog last night. Honestly, it sure looked to me like many of those shots were contested and that WKU was just shooting at an unreal clip. But maybe that's just the way it seemed from the top of the arena. Plus, WKU shot 61.3 eFG% -- Gonzaga's highest allowed this year, but only the Toppers' fourth highest of the year. I think you just kind of have to give credit where credit is due on that one.
- In that same vein, Gonzaga's defense looked much better last night than it did on Thursday. Part of it probably was Western Kentucky settling for a lot of outside shots, but the Bulldogs just seemed a little more inspired on that end of the floor. My guess? They knew that a good defensive possession was likely going to result in an opportunity to run the other direction, and nothing motivates running teams like that carrot.
- The end of that game is one of the many reasons why I hate coaches being allowed to call timeouts. They're not on the floor (or at least shouldn't be) and are already too much a part of the college game with all of their incessant micromanaging. Plus, you run the risk of an official in a very loud arena not hearing or seeing them, and you get stuck with people talking just a little bit less about what a great game it was because the coach was trying to call timeout.
- Matt Bouldin is playing really, really well right now. He always seemed to me to have a tendency to disappear in big games. But for my money he was the unsung hero on Thursday, and of course came up big last night. I haven't watched Gonzaga enough to say this with 100 percent certainty, but he's the one guy on that team who really seems to understand the game and who actually tries to play some defense.
- Last thing. I absolutely cannot wait for the Gonzaga/UNC matchup this week. Neither team even really attempts to play much defense, and both are going to run at every possible opportunity. Look for that game to be close to 80 possessions, first one to 90 points wins. Should be an incredibly entertaining game.