Shanoff's W.U.C.: Spartans, Nova Anti-Chalk

Today's Calls: Michigan State vs. Villanova, Tom Izzo vs. Rick Pitino, Tyler Hansbrough vs. Blake Griffin, Gilbert Arenas vs. LeBron, Citi Field vs. Opening Day and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: The 2009 NCAA Tournament has been saved, and it has nothing to do with the top teams advancing to the Final Four. ↵

↵

↵In fact, it has everything to do with the top teams NOT advancing to the Final Four. ↵

↵

↵UNC and UConn were snoozers — remnants of last week's "chalk madness" that had this year's tournament looking like a dud. The prospect of a second straight year of all four No.1 seeds advancing to the Final Four had even the biggest fans wondering if the tournament had gotten too predictable. ↵

↵

↵Then Villanova happened. It wasn't just an upset of the 1-seed Pitt — it was one of the most thrilling and most memorable NCAA Tournament games of the past two decades. Both teams played at such a high level; the scoring was back-and-forth; and the ending was a classic. ↵

↵

↵(Who else had the feeling some time in the second half, even before Verne Lundquist articulated the thought on TV: That this game was so good that it could be even mentioned in the same breath as Duke-Kentucky '92. If Pitt got nothing else, it will be indelibly remembered by fans, as in "Remember Nova-Pitt?") ↵

↵

↵Eighteen hours later, Michigan State happened. It wasn't just an upset of the tournament's top-seeded team, Louisville — it was an answer for every critic (ahem) who insisted the Big Ten was a second-rate hoops league. (Is Tom Izzo the greatest tournament coach of our generation? Short answer: Yes.) ↵

↵

↵Michigan State's win was the least predictable of the Elite Eight — perhaps of the entire tournament. The way Louisville was playing coming into the game, their advancement felt like a foregone conclusion. Perhaps the Cards thought so too, which is why the Spartans were able to sustain stunning them. ↵

↵

↵ ↵

↵

↵The NCAA Tournament has regained what was lost a week ago — unpredictability. In fact, the way they played this past weekend, maybe the surprise would be if the pair of remaining 1-seeds were able to get past their sizzling bracket-saving (or, yes, gloriously bracket-busting) opponents. ↵

↵

↵Looking Ahead to the Final Four: ↵

↵

↵— UConn "at" Michigan State: On paper, UConn seems unstoppable. Then again, so did Louisville, and you saw what Michigan State did to the best team in the Big East. And as if beating the tournament's top seed wasn't affirming enough, the Spartans get a Final Four on their home turf. ↵

↵

↵— UNC vs. Villanova: Underestimate the Wildcats at your own peril (and not just because of the ghosts of '85, the last time they were in the Final Four). They are playing better than any team in the tournament. On the other hand, Tyler Hansbrough should dominate the inside (even if — or especially because — he was muted yesterday vs. Oklahoma's Griffin). ↵

↵

↵(Let's be clear about the stakes here for Hansbrough: Anything less than a national title would end his career not quite in failure — but in Ralph Sampson-sized disappointment, given his individual accomplishments. If he wins a title, he ends his career as a Top 10 all-time player.) ↵

↵

↵What next for Blake Griffin? He will be the consensus top pick of the 2009 NBA draft, presuming he comes out. His 23 and 16 against UNC (and otherwise dominant tournament) eliminated any doubters; Griffin won't be dominant, but he will be very very solid — think Al Horford 2.0. ↵

↵

↵More non-Tournament story lines you should be thinking about: ↵

↵

↵— Tiger wins at Bay Hill: The 12-foot birdie putt FTW? The 5-stroke comeback, matching his biggest comeback ever? Um, yeah, I'd say he's ready for the Masters. ↵

↵

↵— Is John Calipari going to Kentucky? That would be a coup for UK, particularly because the current image of the program is Billy Gillispie scurrying from TV cameras. Cal has always had an inferiority complex about Memphis; UK fans have the biggest superiority complex in college hoops. Good match. (Or should the Cats be looking inside the family — Travis Ford or John Pelphrey, like Rick Pitino wants them to? I say if they can get Calipari, do that.) ↵

↵

↵— Seth Curry is going to Duke: Does he get to make that move if his last name is "Hobbsnoffer" rather than "Curry?" Meanwhile, I thought we established that Coach K had no trouble finding wispy guards; it was his lack of big men that was Duke's real problem. ↵

↵

↵— NBA Instant History: Just in time for LeBron's star turn on "60 Minutes," the Cavs keep rolling. ... I know the Lakers are unmotivated, but watch the Hawks as potential East spoilers (hey, they nearly were last year). ... So nice to have Gilbert Arenas back (any fantasy owners in the playoffs ready to pick him up?) ↵

↵

↵— Ryan Moats police scandal: This cop in Dallas sounds like a real class act. ↵

↵

↵— Mets' Citi Field debut: Those fans were NOT there for Georgetown-St. John's baseball. ↵

↵

↵— Fantasy Baseball: Kevin Gregg tapped over Carlos Marmol to be the Cubs closer. But you know the first rule of fantasy baseball is: "Don't pay for saves." By midseason, expect Marmol to be in the mix — or someone else, who you haven't even heard of. Saves just kind of work out that way. ↵

↵

↵— MLB Picks: Richard Justice kicks off MLB predictions week with a doozy — guess what, Yankees fans: Your team ain't making the playoffs. ↵

↵

↵— Twitter Watch: Mark Cuban proves that, indeed, Twitter has a business model. At least for making money for the NBA league office. ↵

↵

↵— Pop Culture: This makes me sort of love Coach K and Bob Knight, two coaches I historically have not been a big fan of. But playing Metallica with no pants on? I now have a greater appreciation for them. ↵

↵

↵The Last Word: Among all of my many (many) humiliations during this NCAA Tournament, here is the latest and perhaps biggest: ↵

↵

↵I got the entire Final Four ... wrong. I mean, I knew Syracuse was a stretch — but was it so crazy to think that either Louisville or Pitt (or, y'know, maybe both) would win four games and make the Final Four? They were only the two best teams in the best league. ↵

↵

↵I am in the 22nd percentile nationally. Only slightly better is Barack Obama, who is in the 35th percentile, outperformed by nearly two-thirds of the nation. He did, however, get 1 of 4 Final Four teams — should he really get credit for picking UNC? (Well, I didn't, so YES.) ↵

↵

↵If we had both gone with the ol' "Pick-By-Higher-Seed" method, we would have been outperforming nearly 90 percent of the country. ↵

↵

↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.