The Southsider Voice’s second annual College Basketball Blitz is again proving to be of interest to advertisers who were paired with teams in the men’s NCAA tournament after purchasing the 64 ad slots.
Of the businesses that have teams remaining in the tourney, Glover’s Tree Service is sitting pretty with No. 1 seed Virginia (30-6) in East Regional and No. 10 seed Stanford (23-12) in the South, although the Cardinal are a long shot – make that a colossal long shot.
Virginia will battle Big Ten tournament champion Michigan State (drawn by Carole’s Fitness) in New York on Friday. Many people are picking the Spartans (28-8), who are in the Sweet 16 for the 12th time in the past 17 years, to reach the Final Four in North Texas, but the Cavaliers are on a roll, having won 18 of their last 19 contests.
In the bottom bracket of the regional, No. 3 seed Iowa State (28-7, Sleepy Hollow Pet Ranch) faces No. 7 seed Connecticut (28-8, Annee & Matry Heating & Cooling) in what looks like a toss-up.
The other top seeds are Florida (34-4, Steve’s Towing) in the South and Arizona (32-4, Dant Insurance) in the West. Wichita State (35-1), the fourth No. 1 seed and the only undefeated team in the tournament, was defeated 78-76 by Kentucky. Many pundits had predicted this outcome, having claimed that the Shockers’ impressive record was the result of their weak strength of schedule (97th nationally) and its midmajor status. Last year, Wichita State knocked off No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the third round, won a regional title and advanced to the national semifinals, losing to eventual champ Louisville.
The loss was music to the ears of Indiana University fans because they can still claim fame to having the last undefeated team (32-0 in 1976) to win the tournament.
Florida, the 2006 and ’07 national champs and this year’s favorite to cut the nets down April 7, faces Steve Alford’s UCLA Bruins (G.H. Herrmann Funeral Homes) on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn. Alford, a Hoosier basketball legend, led Indiana University to the 1987 national championship when draining 7-of-10 3-pointers against Syracuse. Although the Bruins (28-8) feature an explosive offensive, the Gators’ defense is unrelentless. Wouldn’t it be special for “Stevie Wonder” to win this one.
The region’s other opening-round game pits Stanford, which has lost more games than any other team in the round of 16, against No. 11 seed Dayton (25-10, Tomlin Realtors). Stanford upset No. 7 seed New Mexico (27-7) and No. 2 seed Kansas (25-10). The Flyers beat No. 6 Ohio State (25-10) and stunned No. 3 seed Syracuse (28-6) to reach the round of 16 for the first time in three decades. However, some didn’t see Dayton’s victory over the Orange as a big surprise. Syracuse entered the Big Dance having lost five of its past seven games. Many said the team’s high seeding was gift.
Arizona, which could meet Florida for the national title, meets San Diego State (31-4, Healthy Living & Saving Energy) in Anaheim on Thursday. The opening game matches No. 6 seed Baylor (26-11, Cardinal Insurance Services) against No. 2 seed Wisconsin (28-7, R.L.H. Ventures). Eleventh-year Baylor coach Scott Drew, a Butler graduate who mentored at Valparaiso in the 1990s and early 2000s, led the Bears to the Elite Eight in 2012 and won the NIT last year. A big plus for Drew & Co.: They are playing as good as anybody right now. The Bears stand of good chance of knocking off the Badgers ... and it really wouldn’t be a surprise.
Saving the best for last, regional play at Lucas Oil Stadium opens at 7:15 p.m. Friday with No. 2 seed Michigan (29-8, Indyteledata) meeting No. 11 seed Tennessee (26-12, A Perfect Climate Heating & Cooling). The second game – and it will be one for the ages – features defending champion and No. 4 seed Louisville (31-5, Parsley’s Heating & Cooling) and No. 8 seed Kentucky (26-10, Garage Doors by John Walke).
And while the matchup of the Bluegrass State’s best will be a dandy, the game between the Wolverines and the Volunteers won’t be a yawner. Tennessee rolled past Massachusetts and Mercer with ease and have won its past seven games by an average of 22.9 points. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin played and mentored at Purdue.
Kentucky, which has appeared in 15 Final Fours, has won eight national championships; Louisville’s numbers are nine and four; Michigan’s are five and one; Tennessee has never reached the Final Four.