I know, I know. The 'Dawgs are nowhere to be found among the remaining NCAA tournament participants, many of us have moved on to basketball recruiting news, and football spring practice is in full swing. But the Sweet Sixteen gets underway this evening with a slate of interesting games, some of which have actual ramifications for my not yet completely mutilated bracket*, and perhaps yours as well. (All game times eastern, so far as I know, which ain't that far).
UConn vs San Diego State, 7:15 p.m. UConn was my lone pick to make the Final Four that was not also a top seed in its region. All of those teams are still alive except Pittsburgh, whose loss to Butler I still have trouble comprehending. Kemba Walker has been a bona fide star for the Huskies in the tournament, and San Diego State needed double overtime to get past Temple. It will be interesting to see how San Diego State responds after that win, and whether they're able to hang with a UConn team that's playing it's best basketball of the season at exactly the right time. I'm picking the Huskies to hold on at the end.
Brigham Young vs. Florida, 7:27 p.m. Thanks, Red Storm. Thanks a lot. That's reason # 24 why I don't trust Steve Lavin. #23? Holy Jeebus at the hair gel. #25? No one who's spent that much time in L.A. and wears that much crap in his hair could possibly be unpretentious. I had Florida falling to St. John's in this game, so it's a no-win situation for me from all angles. I can't bring myself to root for Florida, even though I predicted that if anybody from the SEC was going to make a run in the tournament it would be the Gators. And if they lose, that leg of my bracket is completely obliterated anyhow. BYU seems to have gotten its collective sea legs, winning a tough first round game then advancing at the expense of Gonzaga's innovative "Jimmer-optional defense". Look for that to change against Florida, which has a bench full of big men to throw at BYU's leading scorer. I think this is the game in which the Fredette Express finally runs out of steam late.
Arizona vs. Duke, 9:45 p.m. I thought Arizona was going to lose to Memphis in picking my bracket, and continued to think that through the first half of the 'Zona/Memphis game. But I was wrong. Then I thought there was no way Arizona could play that tough two games in a row, and would fall to Texas. But I was wrong. Believe me when I say I am done with the picking against Arizona. After tonight that is, because Duke is one of my Final Four teams, and I need this one badly to salvage my prognosticating dignity. I'm picking the Blue Devils against a deep Arizona team that's proven it can play well late.
Butler vs. Wisconsin, 9:57 p.m. Butler has been the Colt Brennan of NCAA tournament teams, winning 2 games by a total of 3 points and in the process having everyone fawn over what a great tournament team they are. I don't care if it occurs in Beijing in front of an audience of billions, a 2 point win over Old Dominion is not a bigtime win. Like Brennan and Admiral Cochrane before them, I suspect that this year's iteration of the Butler Bulldogs will meet their conqueror in New Orleans. It's the end of the line for Brad Stevens' Horizon League Bulldogs, as Wisconsin's methodical offense and suffocating defense wins another 56-50 shoot-em-up barn burner.
I'll be back tomorrow to pick Friday's Sweet Sixteen games in a Free Form Friday-ish manner. Until then . . .
How's that bracket looking? I'm so glad you asked. I have 8 of my Sweet Sixteen picks still alive and 5 of my Elite Eight selections. The Southeast Region is the only one in which my point scoring is decidedly at an end. All of which means that like most of you I'm doing well enough that it's not a total embarrassment but not well enough to gloat, or likely win any pool. The soggy middle: ensnaring 74% of humanity since the inception of civilization!