Some quick thoughts on the NCAA tournament as we prepare for Sweet Sixteen action Thursday:
*My original Final Four was Kansas, Louisville, Miami and New Mexico. I’d like a do-over, and I’d instead like to go with Michigan, Louisville, Indiana and Arizona.
*Best games of the Sweet Sixteen: Kansas/Michigan and Duke/Michigan State. Both feel like Elite Eight matchups, don’t they? I believe any of those four are capable of winning the national championship. Louisville is the favorite (as it should be), but something scares me about Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. In a fullcourt game, they’re awesome. If a team can handle their pressure, though, and limit fastbreak opportunities, the Cardinals sometimes struggle to score in the halfcourt. Siva is a streaky shooter and Russ Smith is, well…you know how he is.
*Best game of the tournament: The obvious choice here is Wichita State/Gonzaga, but I like Marquette/Butler. No, it wasn’t as well-played as the Shockers’ upset over the Zags. It was, however, a classic back-and-forth battle, a physical, dive-on-the-floor affair. You have to hand it to Buzz Williams: He’s been to three consecutive Sweet Sixteens, the longest current streak among Big East teams.
*Speaking of Buzz, the UCLA job remains open and two top candidates — VCU’s Shaka Smart and Memphis’ Josh Pastner — have decided to stay put. That leaves a dwindling field of qualified candidates. Williams, who has averaged 24.2 wins in his five seasons at Marquette, must be near the top of the list.
Newsflash for UCLA: Rick Pitino isn’t leaving Louisville, Tom Izzo isn’t leaving Michigan State or Billy Donovan isn’t leaving Florida. Why would they?
I’d imagine that UCLA will have to settle for one of two options (or three if you include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who reportedly expressed interest in the job Wednesday): A former NBA guy or a young college coach. Villanova’s Jay Wright and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar have been mentioned as a candidates.
Now, don’t freak out UConn fans, but I don’t see why UCLA wouldn’t contact Kevin Ollie. While unproven, Ollie looked like a star-in-the-making as a rookie at UConn. He grew up in Los Angeles, and given his NBA background, he’d probably kill the L.A. recruiting scene. He’d make perfect sense.
With that said, there’s no way Ollie leaves. He’s far too loyal to the program and the university. When he says things like “I’ll keep coming back to my office until the keys stop working,” you have to believe him.