2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament: Important Observations 59-60, Kentucky/Ohio State, VCU/FSU

59. Kentucky 62, Ohio State 60 — Who would have thought that the SEC would be the only conference to get two Elite 8 teams?

Yes, it ruins everyone’s brackets because we all thought Ohio State was going to make it at least to the Final Four. You missed that pick, I missed that pick, everyone missed that pick. It’s ok, you should have given up on winning your bracket pool by now anyways.

This was truly one of the best college basketball games I have seen in a long time. The final three possessions in this game were alternating game-winners of escalating difficulty, with the Diebler and Knight shots head-shakingly impossible. Seriously, this game…

Brandon Knight just really likes the number 12. He'll tell you that mathematically, it's both a perfect number and the smallest abundant number.

But also, if I were to have looked at each conference before the tournament started, I wouldn’t have guessed that the SEC, which is sort of notoriously bad at basketball, would be the only conference to earn two Elite Eight berths. The Big East is down from 11 to one (UConn), The Big Ten has lost all seven teams, the Big 12 is down from five to one (Kansas), but the SEC is still going pretty strong with both Kentucky and Florida looking good in their Sweet 16 wins.

What I really want to focus on is the reality that Brandon Knight is putting together a great tournament for a freshman. He is responding well to the responsibility put on him by Calipari and has hit two game winners in the Wildcats’ three wins. Kentucky-UNC is shaping up to be the best game of the Elite Eight round, and I’m already drooling and it now.

The biggest negative from this game is that Jon Diebler’s cooler than being cool three-pointer to tie the game in Ohio State’s last possession was all for naught. I thought the world would end when he made that shot, but Brandon Knight was probably the only person in the arena who was able to scrape himself off the floor and put himself together in time to make that earth-shattering game-winner. I really think that a replay of the final possession will show everyone in the stands still to busy convulsing over the Diebler shot to even know what was going on when Knight followed it up with a bucket of his own. Knight hit a game-winner in the first round and in this game and scored 30 in the second round game. It seems to me like he is directly responsible for all three of the Kentucky wins.

60. VCU 72, Florida State 71 VCU is a Cinderella I can definitely get behind.

My first impression of this game is that Joey Rodriguez had his fingers all over it. He only scored five points on one made field goal, but he had 10 assists and three huge steals. It seems like every time VCU needed a play, Joey Rodriguez made it. Rozzell and Burgess did a great job against the Florida State defense, but I love the way Rodriguez affected the game.

I don’t know what it is about the VCU team; they did after all, play in the First Four (which I hate) and beat USC (which I attend), but how can you not like a coach named Shaka Smart?

But really, VCU seems like the real Cinderella story of this year. I don’t mean to slight Butler, but they’ve turned into the next Gonzaga — the team everyone just starts expecting to upset the major-conference powerhouses every year. The emotion that runs through the VCU players is contagious. If you cheer for them for just one game, you’ll pick up on it. Try it on Sunday against Kansas. It was a little bit hard to watch this game after seeing how soundly Kansas beat Richmond, because it seemed like all they were playing for was the right to be the next notch on Kansas’ belt, but I really felt like a part of this win. If you haven’t tried cheering along with VCU, you owe it to yourself to give it a go this Sunday.

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