As I sit here thinking about the tournament, and about the sports betting world in general, here are 10 questions that are bouncing through my mind:
1. Can Western Kentucky be remotely competitive against UCLA? – Their center is Jeremy Evans, a 6’9″ sophomore who weighs in at a whopping 190 pounds. Kevin Love is taller and 70 pounds heavier. I think I fear for Evans’ life.
2. Is Lofton’s injury for real? – Tennessee’s heart and soul is reportedly wearing a walking cast after suffering a light injury against Butler. Maybe. Everyone says he will be fine for the game, and I wouldn’t put it past Bruce Pearl to mess with Louisville’s heads by overplaying the injury. At the very least it takes attention off the fact that the Vols don’t have a point guard.
3. Can Davidson do to Butch what it did to Hibbert? – Davidson’s speed and brilliant guard play frustrated Hibbert all day and rendered him close to useless. That’s almost entirely why they won. That was against the best team in the country at defending the field goal. Now they have to do it all over again against the third best team. Butch is a bit more versatile than Hibbert, but if Davidson can work the same magic then this game could be very interesting. If Davidson can turn it into a shooting contest then they win. And then Stephen Curry could run for president and win.
4. What will Mitch Johnson do? – The Lopez twins get the attention, but Stanford beat Marquette because point guard Johnson got 16 assists. His previous season high was eight. Texas is a huge step up in class, and Johnson will have to perform well again to help his team. Can he? What can we expect? He obviously won’t have 16 again, but Marquette plays solid defense and Johnson only turned it over once, so he is obviously in a zone of some sort. Good play from Johnson will allow the Lopez boys to exert their serious size advantage over Texas.
5. Is Xavier being disrespected? – Xavier is a three seed and West Virginia is a seven, yet the Mountaineers are favored by as much as 1.5 points. Is that unfair or is it a reflection of reality? I like Xavier much more than West Virginia in general, but depth-on-depth I don’t see how the Musketeers don’t have an edge. I also think that West Virginia is in for a shock because unlike Duke this team actually plays very tight defense and actually gets a rebound or two. I’m explaining West Virginia’s unexpected (to me) favoritism away by them beating Duke, the ultimate public team, and because Joe Alexander is way more visible than any of Xavier’s players.
6. Is David Padgett ready for the big time? – I don’t want to oversimplify, but if the Louisville big man steps up and has a huge game then Louisville will win because Tennessee has no good answer for him. Padgett definitely can do it. It’s just a question of whether he will.
7. Does Villanova have a chance against Kansas? – The odds say no given that the spread is 11.5, and my instinct is the same, but then I didn’t think they had much of a chance in their first game, either, and that turned out just fine. Scottie Reynolds is firing on all cylinders, and he will give Kansas a test. I’m not saying I am picking Nova by any mens. I just think it could be interesting.
8. Was Josh Howard making a statement? – In the first game without Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas’ de facto leader came out and had a huge game with 32 points. I’d say that that was a statement game, and that he is showing he is readying to lead a team that desperately needs a leader, but I have two reservations. First, it was only against the Clippers. I think I could get 15 against the Clippers, and I haven’t played on a team since junior high. Second, Howard was sent to the line a ridiculous 15 times, and he was perfect in those attempts. Lower the opportunities and his shooting percentage down to more reasonable levels and you are left with a more pedestrian game. Howard could certainly step up, but I am still reserving judgment over whether he will because this game proved nothing.
9. Can we fold the NBA East? – The Nuggets are sitting outside of the playoffs in the West at 43-28. The Hawks have the eighth spot in the East at 30-40. That is wrong on so many levels. There is a decent chance that a 50 win team won’t make the playoffs in the West. In the East that would get you home court advantage.
10. What’s wrong with Tiger? – How bizarre is the world of golf when a guy finishes fifth in a tournament out of well over 100 guys and you have to wonder what went wrong?