The selection committee bought it. Georgetown announced on Saturday that point guard Chris Wright would be ready not only in time for the first round of the NCAA tournament -- but also in time to practice several days before the opener.
Georgetown said it. The committee believed it. Now it's up to the Hoyas to make good on their promise.
And to not be the liar that Syracuse was a year ago.
You remember a year ago? I do. I was in Salt Lake City for Syracuse's Sweet 16 game against Butler, a game injured center Arinze Onuaku was allegedly going to play despite a recent knee injury. That's what Syracuse had led the selection committee to believe before the bracket was selected. Syracuse knew it would get a better seed with Onuaku than without him, so Syracuse announced two days before Selection Sunday 2010 that Onuaku's knee wouldn't keep him out of the tournament. Or even out of practice in the days leading up to the first round.
Ten things you need to know about Southwest No. 1 seed Kansas. Read More >>
A lie. All of it. Syracuse got the No. 1 seed it wanted, but Onuaku didn't practice before the first round. He didn't play the first game. Or the second game. Or in the Sweet 16. And when Syracuse lost, I ripped the Orange.
Don't repeat that mistake, Georgetown. I like John Thompson III. Wouldn't want to rip a man I like. And as luck would have it, I'll be in Chicago for the Hoyas' opener.
1. The return of Kevin O'Neill: But for how long? O'Neill, the tyrant coach at Southern California, was suspended for the Pac-10 tournament after he and his wife got into an altercation -- physical, verbal, we're not sure ... but dadgum, O'Neill, your wife? -- with an Arizona booster. USC lost without O'Neill, then announced he would rejoin the team for remainder of the postseason. However, USC athletic director Pat Haden has said repeatedly that O'Neill faces additional university sanctions, leaving open the possibility that USC might still fire its tyrant coach after the tournament. As luck would have it, Part II, I wrote this unbelievably critical piece on O'Neill in 2009. And I'll be in Chicago to see him, assuming his team gets past VCU in their First Four game in Dayton. Should be fun.
2. Love it when the committee does this stuff: It's accidental or coincidental, I believe that. Sincerely. But every year the small world of college basketball produces some great storylines in the NCAA tournament, storylines that seem like they were engineered by the selection committee, if you believe in that sort of thing. Which I don't. But it's cool nonetheless that UNLV, coached by Lon Kruger, will face Illinois (once coached by Lon Kruger) in the first round. And if UNLV wins, Kruger would almost certainly see his longtime archrival Kansas -- Kruger played and coached at Kansas State -- in the second round. And if Kansas wins that one, the Jayhawks (in my bracket, anyway) would face former Kansas assistant Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt in the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, the committee gave fourth-seeded Louisville a testy first-round game against an in-state rival with a chip on its shoulder, Morehead State. The teams are located two hours apart on Interstate 64, but they'll settle this state rivalry in Denver.
3. A little more about Chris Wright: With Wright, Georgetown was 21-6. Without him, after he suffered a broken hand on Feb. 23, the Hoyas were 0-4 -- and uncompetitive, losing four games by an average margin of 14.5 points. Obviously the committee believed Wright will play in the first round against the VCU-Southern California winner, or it wouldn't have given the Hoyas a No. 6 seed. If Wright returns to practice and is able to play at a fairly high level, then the seeding is perfect. Not too high, not too low. Just right. But only if Wright plays, because when Wright doesn't play, Georgetown is an NIT team. As I might have mentioned earlier.
Southwest Regional Picks:
Who will win: Notre Dame will win for a couple reasons. One, it won't have to see Kansas in the region finale; Vanderbilt will take care of the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16. Two, Notre Dame is sensational, worthy of a one seed itself, and I love me some Mike Brey. So I'm going with the intellectual and sentimental pick. Don't judge.
Dark-horse pick: I already said I like fifth-seeded Vandy to get to the region final, which would mean upset wins against fourth-seeded Louisville and No. 1 Kansas. But if you want a real dark horse, how about USC or VCU -- pick an alphabet -- over Georgetown in the first round. The whole Chris Wright factor. He plays, he doesn't play, whatever. Hoyas lose.
Most likely upset: Pick against the Hoyas. Not because you don't like them, but because you don't trust them. You don't trust them to have Wright, or even if you do trust them to have Wright, you don't trust their ability to reinsert him seamlessly into the lineup -- as the lead guard -- in only a day or two.
Best mascot: I hate Spiders, so sorry Richmond. Don't like using Native American imagery as mascots either, so Illinois and Florida State are out. A Peacock is embarrassing, St. Peter's, and so is your nothing, Akron Zips. I'm going with the Terriers of Boston University. I love dogs. Own three of them, in fact. No Terriers though. Little yippy things ...
|Keep an eye on Ben Hansbrough and the Irish to stand out in the Southwest Regional. (US Presswire)|
Best post player: Best name, too: Festus Ezeli of Vanderbilt. This guy is a monster, 6-feet-11 and 255 pounds, and efficient. In only 23 minutes per game he averages 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. Why so few minutes? Well, he tends to foul a lot.
Best coach: Richmond's Chris Mooney is scary-good, but this region has two national champions, so we have to go with Bill Self or Rick Pitino. And I'm going Pitino, because his current Louisville team isn't supposed to be here. This was a rebuilding season, and Louisville could very well have gone to the NIT with an 18-12 record without anyone thinking unkindly of Pitino. Instead, the Cardinals are 25-9 and a No. 4 seed in the big show. Well freaking done.
Best reputation: Kansas. No-brainer. Louisville has a top-15 reputation, but Kansas is one of the heavyweights -- on that short list with Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, Duke and UCLA. Since I don't see Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, Duke or UCLA in this region, this was an easy pick.
Five stars on display
Ben Hansbrough (Notre Dame): He was one of my five stars last year, too, but I was only joking then. Hansbrough was good, but he made that list because of his name. This year? Because of his game. The guy's a superstar. And, yes, his big brother plays a little bit of ball, too.
Marcus Morris (Kansas): Not the best point guard, not the best post player, but probably the best all-around talent in this region. Morris does everything at a high level, most notably averaging 17.3 ppg in only 27 minutes.
John Jenkins (Vanderbilt): Led the SEC in scoring at 19.5 ppg despite "slumping" from three-point range. He made only 40.2 percent from that distance this season, down from 48.3 percent last season as a freshman. So the guy can fill it up. And if he goes to the foul line, forget it. Count 'em (89.1 percent).
JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore (Purdue): So this region will have six stars. Got a problem with that? I can't pick Johnson or Moore over the other, so put it like this: Together they average 38.7 ppg and 13.3 rebounds. Moore hands out more than three assists per game. Johnson blocks more than two.
Austin Freeman (Georgetown): This unusual-shaped guard (6-3, 235) has the ability to pack in the points. He averages 17.9 ppg, shoots at a high level across the board -- 48.4 percent overall, 37.3 percent on threes, 86.5 percent on ones -- and he does it all with diabetes. Inspirational.
Five random notes
1. Louisville and Morehead State have done this before, actually. They met in the first round in 2009, with Louisville winning 74-54, but this one should be tougher. One, that game was in Dayton, where Cardinals fans could make the drive easily; this one is in Denver. Two, that was a 1-16 seed matchup, whereas this one is a 4-13 game. Three, Morehead State has everything to gain, Louisville everything to lose. OK, so that's the same as in 2009.
2. Florida State has been without its best player, Chris Singleton, since he broke his foot Feb. 12. The Seminoles went 3-3 without him -- you hear me, Georgetown? -- but still, would have a better shot against Texas A&M with him. Expect that to be decided later this week.
3. Southern California has one of the best, if not the best, international players in the field in 6-10 Nikola Vucevic, who averages 17.3 ppg and 10.2 rpg and who would have been a fine choice as the top post player in this region.
4. VCU forward Jamie Skeen is an example of what happens when a player finds his level. At Wake Forest, Skeen was just another guy on roster. After 1½ seasons there he transferred to VCU, where he became a star this season at 15.3 ppg and 7.5 rpg.
5. Cool stat for you. Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon is fourth in the Big 12 for victories after four years at a school. All three coaches ahead of him (Larry Brown, Bill Self, Roy Williams) coached at Kansas. Little bit easier to win at Kansas.
Final thought: We learned a lot about Jim Boeheim last season, didn't we? Let's not learn the same thing this year about John Thompson III. Chris Wright had better play in the first round, for everyone's sake.