March 24, 2006
Tyrus Thomas
He's the anti-Redick: Thomas played EXACTLY the kind of game that will make NBA GMs swoon: 9 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks. (Only 5? Felt like 15.)
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
J.J.  REJECTION.

Now you know why J.J. Redick will be a nonfactor as an NBA player.

Forget all the talk about his pure shooting stroke translating to the next level. How will he get that beautiful shot off?

Because in a game against precisely the kind of long, quick athletes he'll meet all over the place in the NBA, Redick was lost.

How bad was his 3-of-18?

So bad, that even the most passionate J.J.-hater could start to feel sorry for him by the end. After a career spent inspiring "he's-so-good" loathing, his career ended inspiring "he's-so-sorry" pity.

Pitiful: That pretty much describes Duke at the end.

What a rare sight, symbolized at the euthanized finish, when "Big Baby" Davis beat out four deflated Dukies to grab his own missed free throw. With no other LSU players on his half of the court.

It's not even that Redick was cold. That diminishes the phenomenal defense that LSU played, the never-ending swarm of long arms.

And it discounts the reality LSU provided: While Redick might have a career in the NBA, his career as an offensive force is as over as Duke's season.

UCLA Wins Stunner
I could be cruel and say that Adam Morrison "pulled a Redick" in the game's final minutes, as UCLA put on an 11-0 run to end the game that was one of the most improbable comebacks in NCAA Tournament history.

Destiny looked like Morrison's and the Zags'. They were ahead 9 points with 3 minutes to go. Teams of Destiny aren't supposed to lose games like that. Unless Destiny, that flirty minx, was just toying with them all along -- saving herself for the Bruins.

With one game, UCLA may have single-handedly reversed East Coast opinion of West Coast moxie. (That is, if you East Coasters were up late enough to see the wild finish.)

(P.S.: That pic of Morrison lying on the court after the game is one of the most evocative of the heartbreak of losing in the NCAA Tournament that I've ever seen. Adam's loss was more crushing than buddy J.J.'s. But did anyone else notice that Morrison started to cry before the game was, um, actually over?)

Memphis Rolls On
Speaking of long athletes, that's at least one major theme of the Atlanta and Oakland teams in the Elite Eight.

Good as LSU looked, Memphis might have looked even better, using its own length to shoot 51 pct and hold Bradley to 33 pct. Rodney Carney (21 pts) may pogo his way into the NBA draft top 3 discussion.

Right up until UCLA's dramatic comeback, deliberate teams were getting swarmed, swatted and swept out of the gym this round. And Memphis is becoming the poster team for that mini-trend.

One Cindy down, two to go: Bradley gave fans a wonderful ride. They helped prove mid-major doubters wrong. That alone is worth cheering.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Sheldon Williams: 23 and 13. Now he'll have an NBA career!
Mick Cronin: Ex-Cincy assistant wins top job with Bearcats
Karl Malone: Jazz retire his 32, including Mailman statue
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Morrison Mania: Career ends with him on the floor, crying
Pittsnogle Mania: Despite game-tying 3, his WVA run over
Mayo Mania: Prep star O.J. suspended from state title semi
 
WVA is Pittsnogled
If "Pittsnogled" has come to mean "to be beaten by an unlikely source from 3." After Pittsnogle himself hit that improbable 3 to tie the game, UT point guard Kenton Paulino (perhaps no more than the fourth option in the offense) hit that sick, buzzer-beating 3 to win the game.

But again, athleticism was the key: Texas outrebounded WVA 42-17 (not that WVA has ever been a good rebounding team), and UT super-soph LaMarcus Aldridge had a career, scouts-drool type of night: 26 pts, 13 reb.

"8": Minneapolis
7:10: Nova (1)/B.C. (4)
The two toughest teams in the tournament; this is the Sweet 16's "Fight Club." I expect them to simply start trading roundhouse punches.

Pick: For all my big talk about a busted bracket freeing you to pick the underdogs, I originally picked Nova to win it all, and I'm gripped by the need to get that right. My head hangs in shame.

9:40: Florida (3)/G'town (7)
The most intriguing player in the field? Florida's Joakim Noah: Between the gender-bending ponytail, the chest-thumping enthusiasm and the stat- stuffing performances, he's the Hoyas' toughest matchup.

Pick: My original bracket had G'town making the Elite Eight. With the way LSU and Memphis won last night, though, long and athletic Florida seems to have an edge. Athleticism is the new mid-major.

"8": Washington D.C.
7:27: Wichita St. (7)/G. Mason (11)
As I've been preaching since Monday, it really doesn't matter which of these teams advances to the Elite Eight. Cinderella lives regardless.

Pick: I'm convinced that GMU is hell-bent on continuing to punish everyone for the griping that happened when they originally made the field. Spite + Underdog Status + Home-Court Advantage = Elite Eight.

9:57: UConn (1)/Washington (5)
A showcase of the two hottest guards in the region: UConn's Marcus Williams and UW's Brandon Roy. How about this: Winner gets picked higher in the NBA Draft, and the loser has to spend a half-season in the NBDL?

Pick: I want to pick against UConn because it has extended a hand to bracket oblivion for two games now (only to yank it away). But UConn finally is going to meet a team talented enough to take it up on the offer. But sticking with this round's theme, UConn has the athleticism edge.

Elite 8 Preview
ATLANTA: Texas vs. LSU.
How can you have watched LSU confound Duke and not envision them foiling another higher seed the same way? Then again, Paulino's shot gives the Longhorns an aura of destiny. Which LSU big man will guard Aldridge? (Or will they all take turns? Advantage: LSU's frontcourt depth.)

OAKLAND: Memphis vs. UCLA
Given the gritty way the Bruins came back to beat the Zags, they might just have the "we believe" mindset (oh, and that defensive intensity) to be the team that finally keeps the Tigers in check. No one has done it so far (and UCLA couldn't do it earlier this season, when it lost to Memphis.)

Amare Returns
20 pts, 9 reb in 19 minutes: What recovery from knee surgery? Did it look like this was his first game back?

I think it's fair to argue that, presuming he doesn't reinjure the knee, the Suns might have just become the team to beat in the West.

Phoenix was already a top 3 team in the West. And with Amare, it's like they just got a trade for one of the top 5 best big men in the game.

Tiger Skipping Masters?
Let's hope Tiger Woods plays The Masters in two weeks. Because that would hopefully be a signal that his father, Earl, is in stable condition in his battle with cancer.

Otherwise, Tiger said he might skip the Masters to be with his dad, which unarguably is where he should be. "There's a chance I might not play for a while," Tiger said.

It has become the biggest story at The Players Championship. Here's to strength and comfort for Earl and the entire family.

Bonds Lawsuit
I'm no lawyer, but it sure looks like Bonds is suing those "Game of Shadows" authors out of spite, not because he claims what they write is, well, wrong.

His lawyer made it clear that Team Bonds simply doesn't want the authors to profit from "illegally obtained" grand-jury info that is the meat of their case against Bonds.

Then again, according to the book, Barry loves his "spite": He allegedly was motivated to bulk up because he didn't like all the attention Mark McGwire was getting for his home runs.

Duke's Sweet 16 streak
It must be asked: What good is it to be in all those consecutive Sweet 16s when Duke gets bounced in that round for the 4th time in 5 years?
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Around the Rim
Page 2 Index
 
Top 5 NCAA Long Athletes (Remaining)
Tyrus Thomas
Can block anything?
 
Rodney Carney
No player is smoother
 
Rudy Gay
But will he turn it on?
 
Joakim Noah
Best passing big in Sweet 16?
 
LaMarcus Aldridge
Breakout game at right time
 

Notice the postgame Duke talking point was that LSU played "physical?" That sounds like code for griping that they should have gotten more calls.

Cowboys sign K Vanderjagt: Can you imagine V'jagt and T.O. in the same locker room? I want them to become BFF (Best Friends Forever), and V'jagt to co-host T.O.'s TV show.

More NCAA coaching moves: Ex-Cincy interim coach Andy Kennedy got the top job at Ole Miss; Missouri wants to talk with UAB's Mike Anderson.

Keyshawn Watch: WR Johnson is reportedly close to a deal with the Panthers, which would give them another warm body to play opposite Steve Smith.

Raiders sign QB Aaron Brooks: What does this mean to the inevitable moment when the Raiders draft Vince Young? Brooks as mentor? Yikes.

More VY: He worked out Thursday for the Titans, and if Chow and Fisher can be impressed, that's good enough for me. (But maybe they're posturing!)

Steve Nash is leading SportsNation fan voting for NBA MVP. No problem with that. However, what is LeBron doing in 5th place?! He's top 3.

Best part of Gonzaga's loss? An end to that game-ruining Gonzaga "shrieking fan" who wailed on every UCLA offensive possession. Seeee ya!

"National Bracket" update: 0-2 on FF picks, missing both Duke (everyone had that) and Gonzaga (near-miss!). Still outperforming 71 percent.



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