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Full Court Press: Sweet 16 Not So Sweet

Well, the first half of the Sweet 16 saw all the games decided by lop-sided, double-digit wins – with the higher seeded teams, Kansas, Villanova, Oklahoma and Oregon advancing to the Elite Eight.

What stood out?

The winners looked impressive in taking care of business – poised, high energy, great defense and rebounding and did they ever shoot the basketball. All four are worthy of a national championship, but only two will get that chance.

Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats have been most impressive. Senior Ryan Arcidiacano led an early Wildcat surge that just buried Jimmy Larranaga’s Miami Hurricane’s.

The matchup with Perry Ellis and top-seeded Kansas could give us an early look at the eventual national champ.

Oregon gained a bit of national respect by sticking it to Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils to advance to the regional final for the first time since 2007.

If the underrated Ducks beat Buddy Hield and the Oklahoma Sooners it will be their first trip to the Final Four since 1939, when they beat Oklahoma for the national title.

Dana Altman’s Ducks are legit and should get past the Sooners assuming they can deal with the euphoria of beating Duke.

Hopefully, tonight’s second half of the Sweet 16 matchups, Virginia-Iowa State, ’Cuse-Gonzaga, Fighting Irish-Wisconsin and UNC-Indiana is worth watching.

Sweet 16 notes

With the win over Texas A&M Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger becomes the fifth coach in NCAA Div. 1 history to lead three schools to the Elite Eight. Kruger joins a prestigious group of coaches that numbers Gene Bartow, Bill Self, Rick Pitino and Eddie Sutton.

This year Self racked up his twelfth consecutive Big 12 title and eighth trip to the Elite Eight.
Oregon’s Dillon Brooks and Duke’s feisty Grayson Allen got into a bit of a dustup after Brooks launched a three-pointer in the game’s final seconds with the Ducks leading by 11 points.

Allen and Coach K took exception to Brooks late-game antics but you have to cut Brooks some slack for the Sweet 16 accomplishment – after all, not many teams whip the Blue Devils and their legendary coach, 82-68.


Rutger’s took a major step forward in their men’s basketball program with the recent hiring of Steve Pikiel. Pikiel is known for his ability to turnaround a program as a player and as a coach.

In his playing days as a point guard, he helped Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun raise the bar at UConn and as a coach he elevated Stony Brook as a power in the America East.

This year Stony Brook earned an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament field before losing to No.4 Kentucky, 85-67, in the Round of 64.

Pikiel will have his hands full attempting to resurrect the Scarlet Knight’s program competing against the likes of Tom Izzo, Tom Crean, Mark Turgeon, Thad Matta, etc.

Trying to dig your way out of the cellar in a Power 5 conference can be nearly impossible. Just ask Boston College head coach Jim Christian.

Not impossible, perhaps Pikiel should schedule a visit with Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech.

A salute to Nwajel

Wagner College junior Jasmine Nwajel (Rockaway Park, N.Y.) poured in 40 points to lead Wagner to a 64-63 win over Central Connecticut State.’

Nwajel led the nation in scoring with a 29.0 ppg mark.

This season the Wagner scoring sensation totaled 841 points breaking the previous NEC record of 815 set by Sade Logan of Robert Morris in 2008.

Nwajel is the school’s career scoring leader with 2,076 points and the first player in the Northeast Conference to break the 2,000 point mark.

A nod to Craig Sager

“He’s been such a genuine person who really loves the NBA and loves the game.”
Spurs Coach Greg Popovich on Turner broadcaster Craig Sager, who is in a battle against leukemia.

Let the madness continue… Keep shooting!
(Various wire reports used in the compiling the column)

Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in college hoop happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob

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Bob Whitney

Bob is a college basketball columnist here at He also covers Yale football and the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA.
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