Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Friday, March 24, 2006

What a Finish -- Times Two

Following back-to-back outstanding finishes in the Texas-West Virginia and UCLA-Gonzaga games, I must give two awards for each category today.

Heroes of the Day: Kenton Paulino and LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas. Paulino's last-second shot wouldn't have been possible without Aldridge's stellar play inside against West Virginia. The Mountaineers are the kind of team that it's impossible to hate. They play on grit and deadeye shooting, but in the end, Paulino's big shot beat them.

Goats of the Day: J.J. Redick, Duke, and Adam Morrison, Gonzaga. Again, apologies to fans of these two great players, who were the two best in the country during the season. But Redick's 3-for-18 shooting made him 13-for-60 in games in which the Blue Devils were eliminated from the tournament in his college career. Morrison scored 24 points, but it's up to the team's leader to keep the group focused and organized when the other team makes a run, and Gonzaga was anything but that.

Games of the Day: Whether you like a bang-bang finish or a dramatic comeback, the two late games had something for you. Texas-West Virginia was extremely well-played, and featured a fascinating contrast in styles. The Mountaineers might be the only team in the country that can be outrebounded by such a staggering margin (41-15) and still be in it at the end. UCLA-Gonzaga proved the theory that you have to play until the final buzzer. Gonzaga was not only the better team for nearly 37 minutes; they were utterly dominant. But the Bruins never stopped playing, and as mentioned earlier, the Bulldogs seemed to fall apart at the end. Offensively they seemed content to watch Morrison, who didn't make a field goal in the final seven minutes. And defensively, Gonzaga really missed Erroll Knight at the end, after their best defender fouled out of the game.

Players to Watch: Tyrus Thomas, LSU, and Darius Washington, Memphis. Thomas' athleticism and shot-blocking inside was too much for Duke, and Washington has gone from a Conference USA tournament goat last year to an outstanding team leader. Both Tigers will need to step up Saturday, as LSU faces a quick and athletic frontline and Memphis a trapping, pressure defense.

Games to Watch: I don't know about you, but I plan to watch both of them on Saturday. Memphis might be the best under-the-radar college basketball team in this decade. The Tigers have enough of a name that they don't capture the cute mid-major headlines like Bradley, Wichita State and George Mason have. They also don't have the cachet of Duke, UConn or any of the power-conference teams. They're just good, and I hope they're finally getting the respect they deserve. UCLA, however, will be Memphis' stiffest test by far. The LSU-Texas game features two of the sport's best frontlines. Texas, which had to leave its 2-3 zone against West Virginia because of the Mountaineers' 3-point shooting, won't have to face that dilemma with the Tigers.



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