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College Basketball – Get Ready for a Phenomenal March Madness Run This Year
They don’t pay Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar a lot of money because he’s stupid. Romar took another in a long series of smart decisions on Friday (2-8-08) – he took responsibility for his team’s 4-game losing streak.
Romar praised his players throughout the season because they were ready to do whatever he asked. He has now taken the blame because what he asked of them didn’t work.
He was rewarded two days later when his Huskies played their best game of the year, upsetting UCLA No. 5 at home 71-61 in front of a sold-out crowd at the Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Romar, tired of losing, retired starting guard Venoy Overton just 57 seconds after the first caution. Overton, a true freshman with exceptional potential, opened the game with a turnover, but then didn’t rush the defense. Junior guard Justin Dentmon came in and responded with 20 points off the bench on 7-of-12 shooting, and the Huskies were gone and running.
Jon Brockman grabbed a record 17 rebounds (including his 800th career rebound) and added 12 points for his Pac-10 leading 16th double-double of the season. Ryan “Dead Eye” Appleby added another dozen points and sank his 200th career 3-pointer, 12 shy of the U-Dub record.
Washington even played a bit of defense as Artem Wallace held UCLA freshman center Kevin Love to 13 points, and real freshman Justin Holiday put the “D” on Josh Shipp of the ‘UCLA when hosting a comeback for the Bruins.
Even UCLA coach Ben Howland was impressed. “They were more physical,” Howland said. “They passed us by 8. Brockman had 9 offensive rebounds alone.”
The Huskies, now 13-11 overall and 4-7 in Pac-10 Conference play, are scheduled to play 5 of their remaining 7 games on the road. Washington will likely still watch the NCAA and NIT playoffs on TV, but they showed just how big the parity is in the Pac-10 and nationwide on Sunday by being ranked No. 82 by Sagarin and by upsetting No. 5-ranked UCLA.
Despite its lackluster record, Washington moved up to 74th in Sagarin’s standings by beating an equally highly ranked team. Sagarin rankings change daily during the basketball season because, unlike soccer, games are played during the week as well as on weekends.
As of Sunday (2-10-08), No. 2 Memphis remain the only undefeated team in the country (23-0) among 341 Division 1 teams. There were only 3 teams left with a single loss-No. 1 Duke (21-1), No. 3 Kansas (22-1) and No. 13 Drake (20-1).
Heck, there are only 3 teams left with only 2 losses-No. 4 North Carolina (22-2), No. 6 Tennessee (20-2) and No. 25 Butler (21-2).
Here’s another interesting fact to note: three of these top 7 teams have poor rankings – Memphis (124th hardest), Drake (105th), and Butler (88th). Unless they start playing tougher teams, they won’t go deep in the NCAA Tournament.
Compare their schedule strength to Duke (21st toughest), Kansas (60th), North Carolina (18th) and Tennessee (10th).
To underscore the Pac-10’s competitiveness this year, the Washington Huskies, who are 9th in Pac-10 standings with a 4-7 record, are ranked 25th by Sagarin in schedule strength. And you must be wondering how Washington could upset such a good team as UCLA? Be grateful that your team is not attending the Pac-10 conference this year.
All of this bodes very well for the networks that will be broadcasting March Madness and for any team that will be competing in the NCAA Tournament. Because the upheavals happen even when there is little parity between the teams, when there is a lot of parity like this year, we will see shockers.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley
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