High VOL-tage: The 6th-seeded Volunteers will dally with the Elite for the first time ever after upsetting 2-seed Ohio State, 76-73; (5)Mich. St., (3)Baylor and (1)Duke also advance
Unlike when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State for a National Title, the team with the best player doesn’t always win. Evan Turner of Ohio State is generally considered the Nation’s best player, and he played like it on Friday night, but his game-high 31 Points were not enough to keep the Buckeyes alive in March Madness. In fact, if Turner had made either of his last two attempts, they might still be playing.
With OSU down by 3 and the shot clock off, Turner launched a tough Trey from the corner that clanked off the rim. Turner alertly got the Rebound, and managed to get back behind the arc, but his desperation shot to force Overtime was BLOCKED by J.P. Prince, and Tennessee held on, 76-73.
There are several reasons — admittedly MINOR reasons, but reasons nonetheless — for Bruin fans and trojan-haters to be happy about the Vols’ success: First of all, and least importantly, is that I happen to have taken photos of Tennessee Cheerleaders in the past, so you get the bonus of a nice pictorial because they won and Ohio State didn’t. Next up is that Ohio State’s Thad Matta got Greg Oden, he got Evan Turner, and he doesn’t need another Final Four to help his recruiting. UCLA fans tend to root against any school that has any history of success in Basketball, as a way to protect the Wooden Dynasty’s place in the Pantheon of Immortality. So it’s nice to see North Carolina and Arizona not make it at all, nice to see the elimination of Kansas, Georgetown, and even Syracuse, and it will be even better if/when Kentucky and/or Duke — and to a lesser extent, Michigan State — also get knocked out. So while Matta’s Ohio State is a proven powerhouse in progress, Tennessee has never even gotten past the Sweet Sixteen until the final buzzer sounded on Friday night. Not that Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl isn’t a well-respected and dangerous Coach himself, but in terms of NCAA Basketball History, he’s basically starting with a blank slate, in Football-crazed Knoxville. In fact, despite Tennessee’s victories over Kansas and Kentucky during the regular season, about 75% of the “expert” brackets I saw had #11 San Diego State upsetting Tennessee in the First Round. No respect.
Another reason to be happy that Tennessee triumphed: Even though it is in a different Sport, Bruin fans should feel something of a bond with Vol fans, after what Lane Kiffin did to Tennessee. The Volunteer Nation has an enormous amount of hatred brewin’ for the new trojan Head Football Coach, and anyone who hates trojan football that much deserves our support.
Not to mention Wayne Chism. Prince got the big, game-saving block, and Brian Williams got the go-ahead tip-in, but Chism led Tennessee with 22 Points, scoring 18 in the 2nd Half. He also pulled down 11 Boards for a Double-Double. Without going over the top in crassness, let’s just say that Wayne has one of the best surnames in the Country, in the admittedly immature world of sexpuns. In the old days, I would have had a lot of fun with it. After all, Chism plays for a guy named Pearl, and Chism loves to Jam. But nowadays, with the knowledge that a lot of females, some Spirit Squad members, and some of their conservative Dads, are reading, I’ll just let the TV’s announcer’s comments stand on their own merit: First he said that Chism was “the spunk and spirit you love!” and he followed it a few minutes later with: “How about the tip? Chism again!”
***[If you are offended, and don’t find it somewhat amusing, then, no offense, but you are probably not part of my target audience… that is: Guys who HATE O.J. Simpson, LOVE Homer and Bart Simpson, and WANT TO DO Jessica Simpson, provided she drops back down to her playing weight.]***
Trailing Chism and the 6th-seeded Volunteers into the Elite Eight were 5-seed Michigan State, 3-seed Baylor, and top-seed Duke. Tom Izzo’s MSU — without their injured Court General — ended the Cinderella run of 9-seed Northern Iowa in a closely-contested game, while Baylor ousted 10-seed St. Mary’s in a blowout of epic proportions. Finally, Duke wore down 4-seed Purdue to win comfortably, after playing even with the Hummel-less Boilermakers for a Half.
So with the 9- and 10-seeds brought back down to reality, 6-seed Tennessee is technically the new Cinderella. They play 5-seed Michigan State on Sunday, while another 5-seed, Butler, is set to face 2-seed Kansas State on Saturday. Also on Saturday, 1-seed Kentucky faces 2-seed West Virginia, and 1Duke will face 3Baylor on Sunday.
Butler, as you may or may not remember, played UCLA in Anaheim this year, and needed two Free Throws in the final second to escape with a 69-67 victory. So if Butler wins it all, Bruin fans could say that they were only one basket worse than the National Champs in 2010. On the other hand, if Butler could only beat the Bruins by 2, then they probably won’t fare that well in the Elite 8. Look what happened to Cal, Washington, and Kansas (other teams that didn’t always impress against UCLA this season).
So to sum up, my guess is that, Brackets aside, most UCLA fans are rooting for Baylor over Duke, WVU over Kentucky, Tennessee over MSU, and probably Butler over Kansas State… if they are still rooting at all.
Speaking of rooting (and rooting out all evil), here are 11 more Tennessee Cheerleader shots, in honor of the school’s first-ever Elite Eight. I hereby give them permission to hang a 2010 Banner in their gym, even if they don’t get any further.