MR. MOJO RISIN’ — #5 Michigan State and #1 Duke Break On Through to the Final Four, slamming The Doors on Tennessee and Baylor
If familiarity breeds contempt, then you can understand why some Bruin fans didn’t want Michigan State or Duke to advance to the Final Four. MSU, under the guidance of Tom Izzo, have now made the Final Four twice in a row, and 6 times in the last 12 years. And although Duke hasn’t made it in 6 years, they were a fixture for the decade before that. In a perfect world, only the name “UCLA” is associated with NCAA Tourney dominance, hence the disappointment that both of these historical powers once again reached the hallowed ground.
Duke was trailing #3Baylor by 1 with under 4 minutes left, in a game where Star Blue Devil Kyle Singler missed every single shot he attempted (0-for-10 on the day). But then Duke, whose Offensive Rebounding in the 2nd Half kept them in the game, got a Free Throw, and then back-to-back three-pointers to take a 6-point lead. The game-changing 1-2 punch was delivered by Nolan Smith, who led all scorers with 29, and Jon Scheyer, who scored 20, including 5-of-10 from behind the arc. After that pair of Trey’s, Baylor never really threatened, as Duke made their Free Throws to put a close game out of reach, 78-71. Actually, Baylor DID threaten — a fight. When the lead was at 8 with 80 seconds to go, Quincy Acy picked up a Technical for rushing, and sticking his chest out into, a Blue Devil, in frustration. The Duke players didn’t take the bait.
Speaking of bait, the Volunteers can cut bait, after committing a foul with 1.8 seconds left in a tie game, letting Michigan State escape with a 1-point victory, 70-69. Tennessee had just missed a Free Throw to leave the game tied, but then their Defense was out of position on the ensuing possession, allowing a Spartan to get in deep. Two defenders collapsed on him and blocked the ball, but a foul was called. He made the first one, then missed the second one intentionally. After a time out, the Vols were able to get off a desperation halfcourt shot at the buzzer, but the ball slipped in the shooter’s hands a little, and never came close to the basket.
So now the Final Four is 1, 2, 5, 5. In the Semi’s on Saturday, it will be the 5’s — Butler and Michigan State — playing each other, and then the 1 versus the 2 — Duke and West Virginia. So Duke takes on Jerry West U., right after Edgin’ Baylor? Are they riding high on Goodrich tires? Are they Happy? Are they going to Wilt?
Both Saturday games are expected to be close, with Butler favored by only 1 point, and Duke favored by only 2. It should make for some exciting ball… and it’s easy for (most, otherwise unaffiliated) Bruin fans to pick sides: Go Butler, and Go West Virginia! At least if Duke wins in the Semi’s, it will give Bruin fans a more “vested” interest in the Final. And if Duke loses, then MSU would be the team to root against. And if it’s West Virginia and Butler, as hoped, it doesn’t matter too much. WVU Coach Bob Huggins is a proven ELITE, and gets my respect as a Coach, but he does have some incidents in his past that make it a little harder to root for him. And UCLA almost beat Butler, so the loss retroactively becomes a moral victory (I know, “Big fricking deal! Who cares?” In a season like this, you take the “good” wherever you can find it). Also, Butler is more of a Cinderella — 2-seed WVU, from the mighty Big East, hasn’t been there in 51 years, but 5-seed Butler, from the under-the-radar Horizon Conference, has NEVER been there.
The End. When the Music’s Over, turn out the light. Turn out the light. turn out the light.
That’s it for today. If you are looking for the usual collection of Cheerleader photos, there are about 20 shots at the end of the previous aritcle. Also, there will be about 50 more UCLA Cheer Squad and Dance Team photos (from the last UCLA/Cal Football game, but never-before-published), COMING TO A WEBSITE NEAR YOU… Really, really near you… like the one you are reading right now. Check back soon.