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So much for down year: Big 12 starts tourney 6-0
Happy madness to one and all.
Don't look now, but the Big 12 finished the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a perfect 6-0 record. Impressive for a conference that flew under the national radar for much of the season.
Some thoughts I had in general about some of the conference's games:
Cole Aldrich simply manhandled North Dakota State post players today. KU play of the game, to me, was Aldrich following up a Sherron Collins missed runner in the lane with a throw-down jam off the rim, plus the foul. I rewound my DVR on the play three times. It was fascinating to watch Aldrich, who started near the foul line, crash the boards on that play and rip down a thunderous dunk to put an exclamation point on a KU victory.
Is there any better college basketball announcer than Gus Johnson? I wish that guy called every tournament game. His comments on Collins today were classic:
"Collins on the wing, rise and fire."
(Then, after a few made threes....)
"We need a heat check over here for Collins!"
Did anyone notice Johnson's voice actually crack one time during a Collins crossover? I was laughing pretty hard on that one.
Byron Eaton's crossover on Tennessee and subsequent game-winning layup has been the play of the tournament so far. Bill Raftery had the call: "A little lingerie on the deck!" Eaton is one of the more underrated clutch players in the Big 12 and the country and he proved it in Oklahoma State's victory over Tennesee today.
How about Blake Griffin getting flipped over by Morgan State's Ameer Ali on Thursday night? If you missed it, catch the YouTube clip here.
Ali's takedown was certainly more intentional than Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair flipping over UConn's Hasheem Thabeet earlier this season. I couldn't help but correlate the two instances, though.
Griffin still went for 28 and 13 in the Oklahoma rout on Thursday night.
I'd say the Sooners have a great chance of landing in the Sweet 16 with their next game at 4:50 p.m. Saturday against No. 10 Michigan.
There's a reason earlier in the season I called A.J. Abrams the best three-point shooter in the history of the Big 12.
The Texas senior guard was sensational against Minnesota, connecting on eight threes and putting up 26 points. Look, I recognize the "chucker" label on Abrams. Clearly, he shoots a lot of threes and that's the main reason he's converted more trifectas than anyone in Big 12 history.
The bottom line is the guy is lethal from long range and just an inch of separation could mean trouble for the opposition. With how closely he's guarded, it's amazing he hits as many threes as he does. An Abrams open look is considerably different than most others shooters' open looks.
Other first-round conference victories went to Missouri and Texas A&M.
How's everyone's bracket looking? The mighty Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky made me proud Thursday night. They're probably my biggest sleeper right now since I have them going to the Sweet 16.
My Final Four is Louisville, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma and Memphis.
We'll see how it all turns out, but it's been an exciting first two days of March Madness. Did we expect anything less?
As always, discuss.