Canzano: When the world is against you keep that chip on your shoulder
Thoughts, musings and facts...
I really like Arkansas’ coach Eric Musselman. He’s a good coach who gets a lot out of his teams. But what I like even more is a good quote.
After the Razorbacks’ impressive upset of No. 1-seed Gonzaga on Thursday an excited Musselman told CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson on the court after the game, “We believed, nobody else did. Thank you to everybody who said we had no chance.”
The coach added: “…we read it all.”
Musselman’s team entered the tournament as a solid and dangerous No. 4 seed. I get why coaches like to paint an “us-against-the-world” picture but I’m struggling to find disrespectful things written about Arkansas in the run-up to the game against Gonzaga.
More than 8 percent of the ESPN NCAA Tournament brackets had Arkansas advancing to the Elite Eight. Another 3.7 percent have the Razorbacks in the Final Four. Still, I don’t expect Musselman to drop the underdog role. His team plays No. 2-seed Duke on Saturday night.
• Am I nuts for thinking Arkansas will beat Duke?
• Gonzaga was the top seed of the entire tournament and was picked to win it all in 22.8 percent of brackets on ESPN. Maybe that’s what Musselman is talking about? Or maybe he’s just fired up and likes the feel of that chip on his shoulder?
• 31,901 brackets correctly predicted the first four Elite 8 teams, per ESPN. Last year only five of the nearly 15 million brackets filled out correctly predicted all eight of the Elite 8 teams. How’s your bracket?
• Arkansas was a big winner on Thursday. But so were NBA officials, who have the heat off them this month. Not sure what’s happening in this NCAA Tournament but there’s been more focus on poor officiating than I can remember from any previous tournament. There have been some glaring hiccups.
• The Pac-12’s best team — Arizona — was one of the least-experienced teams in Division I men’s basketball this season, per KenPom.com. The Wildcats averaged 0.63 years of experience and ranked 355th out of 358 college teams. Notably, Arizona played young on some key second-half possessions in its Sweet 16 loss to Houston.
• No. 5-seed Houston is 32-5 this season and will play No. 2 Villanova with a trip to the Final Four at stake on Saturday. Two of those Houston losses (to Wisconsin and Alabama) came by a total of three points. The Cougars are defensively masterful, have a good coach and are playing well.
• With Arizona out it’s UCLA-or-bust for the Pac-12 Conference. Bruins’ athletic director Martin Jarmond served as a member of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. He had to leave the room whenever the Bruins or conference were discussed. Jarmond also wasn’t allowed to be present at No. 4-seed UCLA’s opening-round tournament games in Portland because the NCAA viewed it as a conflict of interest. I’m now told that Jarmond has recused himself from the selection committee for this round of games. The NCAA allowed it, adjusted the site administrators and Jarmond is with UCLA’s team in Philadelphia today for their East Regional game vs. No. 8-seed North Carolina.
• The Pac-12 is the “host” of the West Regional at Chase Center this week in partnership with the Golden State Warriors. It’s the first NCAA Tournament event in San Francisco since 1939 when the West Regional of the first-ever tournament was held on Treasure Island.
• The 1939 men’s NCAA Tournament included only eight teams. The Oregon Ducks won the national title. But did you know that Oregon nearly didn’t play in the event because there were concerns about too many games being played in a short span?
From an AP story published in The Klamath News in 1939:
The Pacific coast conference basketball champion will be chosen to represent the coast in the NCAA tournament on Treasure Island March 20-21, District NCAA Committee Chairman John Bunn announced today.
The conference championship will be decided in the next two-out-of-three game playoff series at Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between University of Oregon and University of California.
Bunn announced his decision after a week of debating whether to choose a team other than the conference champion. He had expressed the view that it would be too much of a hardship for a team to play the conference series and the NCAA tournament only one day apart.
• The anti-expansion folks still sing that same “too-many-games” hardship refrain when it comes to College Football Playoff expansion debates. We’re stuck at four teams until the end of the current television contract. The football postseason should be a 12-team playoff with automatic qualifiers for the major conferences. Division II’s football playoff includes 24 teams. The DII student-athletes navigate the format well.
• I went for a walk with my 5-year old yesterday. Soji is especially chatty when I have her 1-on-1 because there’s no competition from her older sisters. We took our two dogs and she was very proud mid-walk when I gave her command of both leashes.
Soji asked me why I more frequently write in the morning vs. evening. I explained to her that unless it was a breaking-news sports event I felt that writing and distributing in the morning helped reach a wider swath of readers. She accepted this as a reasonable answer. Please know you’re free to read me whenever it works for you and also know that if news breaks, I’m on it.
On that note…
I’m having a lot of fun with this new journalistic endeavor. It’s great to be able to reach you directly and in a more conversational manner. I have big plans for the coming days and weeks. Thank you to all who have supported, subscribed and shared with friends and family. By all means, consider subscribing.