The NCAA has released the sites for the 2014 NCAA College Basketball Tournament. FedExForum will serve as the South Regional site with games to be played on March 27 and 29.
So the Grizzlies beat the Miami Heat 104-86 at FedExForum Sunday and that’s eye-popping in itself. But check out some of the stats from the game:
– Reserve shooting guard Wayne Ellington had a career-high 25 points on a career-best 7-of-11 3-point shooting performance.
–The Grizzlies shot 58.3 percent from 3-point range (14-for-24) or almost as well as the Heat shot from the free-throw line (61.1 percent on 22-for-36 shooting).
–The Grizzlies extended their franchise-record regular season home winning streak to 14 games. dating back to March 18 last season.
–The Grizz are now 5-1, a first for the franchise.
–Forward Zach Randolph had 18 points and 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double in as many games.
–Dwyane Wade had just 8 points on 3-of-15 shooting.
–Center Marc Gasol scored just two points, but still had 10 rebounds and six assists.
This was the Heat’s only trip to Memphis this season. Unless … well, you can figure that out.
While former St. Louis Cardinal Albert Pujols missed the postseason out in Disneyland, his old team rolls on and Albert has to listen as the national media pounds the fact that, well, they just didn’t need him that much after all.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports! summed things up nicely: “The Cardinals are still the team that sleepwalks through the regular season, treats October like a play toy and wins ballgames like it’s some birthright. They are still packing Busch Stadium to the gills, serving cold beer and good times, and delivering jolts of electricity throughout the place like a live wire.”
In other words, Cardinals baseball is the same as it ever was during the Albert years and, for that matter, the Tony La Russa years. The team has been money in the games that matter most with Mike Matheny as a first-year manager, Allen Craig or Matt Carpenter at first base, and a bullpen full of hard throwers.
With one more win tonight in the National League Championship Series, Albert can kick back and watch his old team in the World Series with everybody else.
How green is the grass in California now?
Anything can happen in the NCAA Tournament. See No. 15 seed Norfolk State beating No. 2 seed Missouri. See No. 15 seed Lehigh beating No. 2 seed Duke.
In the same day.
So if you want to frame the Memphis Tigers’ 61-54 loss to Saint Louis University as unexpected, surprising, crazy, an upset, you can do that.
But you’d be kidding yourself.
On Friday, March 16, in Columbus, Ohio, the No. 8 seed Tigers were found out. The No. 9 seed Billikens were the better team. Better coached, more disciplined, the players individually and collectively more ready for the moment. And if you’d never heard of SLU guard Kwamain Mitchell before (game-high 22 points), you know about him now.
The loss ended the Tigers’ season at 26-9 and halted a seven-game winning streak. But none of the teams Memphis beat during that streak made the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers scored wins over three NCAA Tournament teams this season: Belmont, Southern Miss (the Tigers also lost to USM) and Xavier.
They lost seven games to tournament teams: Georgetown (twice), Michigan, Murray State, Louisville, and of course Southern Miss, and then Saint Louis in the tourney. Add it all up, they were 3-7 against the NCAA Tourney field.
They feasted, however, against mediocre competition. All year, Tigers coach Josh Pastner implored fans and media to believe that Conference USA was better than its national reputation. He played this card because, really, what other card could he play?
The Tigers won the regular season and tournament titles, and Pastner needed for those championships to have value. He said publicly the Tigers should be a 5 seed. Then against the Billikens, they get out-rebounded 31-26, shoot 38.9 percent from the floor, 13.3 percent from 3-point range (2-of-15) and 58.8 percent (10-of-17) from the free-throw line. They made a season-low four assists (all by Joe Jackson) and their 54 points were a season low as well.
Obvious conclusion: Not only were the Tigers over-hyped when they had a preseason ranking of No. 9 in the coaches poll and a No. 8 ranking in the Nov. 21 polls, they were over-hyped as an unranked team saying it had been disrespected by the NCAA Tournament Committee with an 8 seed. They boldly spoke of making a “deep run,” but deep runs start with winning the first game and they couldn’t do that.
What the Tigers did do was to find a nice rhythm during the seven-game winning streak and demolish teams with inferior talent. And it was fun. But as Pastner himself said going into the Saint Louis game, at this time of year, “you are who you are.”
So it was only fitting that forward Tarik Black played just 19 minutes, scored just four points and fouled out. It was only fitting that the Tigers flung shots from 3-point range and never found a way to consistently crack the Rick Majerus-coached half-court defense of SLU. Or to change the game’s tempo for more than a few minutes.
So, at the end, it was up to C-USA Player of the Year Will Barton (16 points) to try and put the team on his back and carry the Tigers to a miracle finish. They proved too heavy.
Just about every flaw that had been on display and caused concern before appeared again. Which is what happens against better teams.
You are who you are. Or in the Tigers’ case, not quite as good as you thought you were.
– Don Wade
Ideally, I was going to spend some time charting a course for how the University of Memphis would make it to the Sweet 16. They would get, say, a 6 seed and I’d spend a little time talking about how they would beat an 11 seed in their first game and then I’d made a case for them upsetting a 3 seed in their second game and reaching the tournament’s second weekend.
And I was prepared to do that, I really was. The Tigers are on a seven-game winning streak, have won 20 of their last 23 games, are playing their best basketball at exactly the right time and fresh off winning the Conference USA Tournament at FedExForum in convincing fashion.
But the NCAA Tournament Committee not only turned a deaf ear to Tigers coach Josh Pastner’s pleas for a 5 seed, the committee didn’t reward the Tigers for a strong finish. Or maybe it was just more punishment because they play in Conference USA, which is nowhere close to being as good as Pastner would have you believe but not so bad that the Tigers should have received an 8 seed.
They play Friday against 9 seed Saint Louis University. The loser goes home after the game, the winner sticks around to play 1 seed Michigan State, coached by the brilliant Tom Izzo, and goes home Sunday.
As much as I’d like to make a case for a deep Tigers run, their path is almost immediately blocked. And this assumes they beat Saint Louis in the first game. I think they will, but there are no guarantees. However, if they do advance to play Michigan State (and yes, I’m assuming they knock out the 16 seed with no problem), young coach Pastner will have the challenge of his life matching up with Izzo and having just a day of preparation.
If you want to know how this could have turned out differently, there are a couple of answers. They could have won at least one of their two games with Georgetown. That would have been enough to make them a 7. They could have beaten Michigan. Or Murray State. Or not lost to Central Florida and UTEP in conference, bad losses by any measure.
The Tigers deserved a little better than an 8. The only surprise here is that the committee didn’t reach for the easy story line and put them against 9 seed UConn in the South Region, setting up a possible matchup with 1 seed Kentucky and John Calipari. So it could have been worse, much, much worse.