There’s lots of joy these days on the sunny side of the Ohio. Indiana is home to arguably even more hoopaholics than its neighbor to the south. Good for them. Branch McCracken is smiling.
It’s been a long, strange trip back to the top. But the Hurryin’ Hoosiers have done it.
As for me, well, there’s a bittersweetness about it. (And it’s not that, given likely seeding, a possible scenario would have my Cardinals playing IU in Lucas Oil for a place at the Final Four table.)
You see, Tom Crean has always rubbed me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong. He’s an outstanding coach. But, there’s just something about his manner that annoys me, prevents me from fully embracing the Crimson & Crean’s resurgence. It’s more than that ugly look of his.
Perhaps it’s this kind of insolent little incident that took place yesterday.
In the wake of IU’s stunning W in Ann Arbor, Crean was demonstrably ill-mannered in the thrill of victory. Watch this video of IU’s coach in the immediate moments after the game was won. Instead of expressing joy and sharing the moment with his players and staff, he runs to a Wolverine assistant who used to coach in Bloomington during the Sampson regime and spews venom.
Ah, what a kind, generous, forgiving and gracious winner you are, Tom Crean.
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The manner of Michigan’s meltdown yesterday underscores the mantra you’re going to be hearing from me until the national championship is won. Or lost.
The title will turn at the charity stripe.
You’ve got to hit your free throws.
Michigan had two 1+1s in the last minute. They missed the front end of both.
The Wolverines lost. Indiana won.
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More than a few hoopaholics around here will be tuning in to watch tonight’s Sun Belt championship.
The game features the feisty Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. They finished the season 10-10 in the league, and stand 19-15 overall.
But yesterday’s two-point squeaker over Arkansas State puts them a W away from a second straight trip to the Dance.
They’ll meet surprising Florida International, which upset Middle Tennessee, 61-57. Coming into the tilt, the Blue Raiders had the nation’s longest winning streak. They were 19-1 in league play.
The Golden Panthers are coached by a fellow with a familiar sounding name, Richard Pitino.
Middle Tennessee sports a 28-5 record, and stands 46th in the BPI rankings, higher than Butler, Baylor, Iowa, California, Villanova and Tennessee to name but a few nervous bubblicious schools. Sphincters are tightening up, kids.
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For many of us who are addled with college hoops, the early part of this week is just about as much fun as opening weekend of the Dance. Remember, I qualified the comment. I said “just about.”
Tonight and tomorrow, we get, in addition to that Sun Belt title game with a serious local flavor, the championship games of the Southern, Colonial, West Coast, Metro Atlantic, Northeast, Horizon and Summit leagues.
How cool would it be if St. Mary’s could upend Gonzaga? Way cool for teams with their eye on the top seeding line, like, I dunno, say, the University of Louisville Cardinals.
Little Ricky isn’t the only former Cardinal assistant looking to punch a ticket to the post-season. Stevie Masiello’s Manhattan Jaspers play Iona for that right to represent the Metro Atlantic.
Will Dolly be stitching like Madame DeFarge when James Madison takes on Northeastern for the Colonial title? I haven’t the slightest idea. But I’ll be tuned in, because it’s likely to go down to the wire.
Understand what I’m saying here?
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U of L’s women are assured a spot in the Dance. After all, the school is hosting one of the opening round sites.
But a W over tough Notre Dame tonight in the Big East semis would sure be a confidence builder. The game tips at 6:00 on ESPNU.
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One more thing, before I get outta your way.
ESPN bracket “expert” Joe Lunardi, a fellow whom we can’t stop reading now, but who shall be as irrelevant as Sarah Palin by 7:00 pm Sunday, now has U of L as a one seed.
As does Jerry Palm, cbssports.com’s bracketologist.
Let’s hope come Sunday, the people that make that decision agree.
– Seedy K