1. For fans of college basketball, the highest of high holy days are nearly upon us. Soon, conference tournaments will get underway and then, on March 15th the selection committee will fill in the brackets for the NCAA national basketball tournament. Today I watched parts or all of six college basketball games. Providence turned its nasty, ugly, gritty style of play into a win over Villanova, 58-54; Seton Hall's balanced scoring attack was a key in their 88-79 win over Marquette; Virginia's pack line defense and slow down offense frustrated Duke, and the Cavs triumphed, 52-50; Michigan State streaked to an immediate lead of over ten points in the early minutes of their game at Maryland and dominated the Terps, 78-66; Gonzaga slowed down St. Mary's Jordan Ford in the second half and steadily pulled away from the Gaels, winning 86-76; and, UCLA held Arizona scoreless for about three and a half minutes at the end of the game, in part by harassing the Wildcats into terrible turnovers, and vaulted from behind to overcome Arizona and defeat them, 69-64.
As I watched these games, I continued to think about the NCAA tournament and tried to imagine how games between non-conference opponents might turn out. For me, it's tricky. When teams play in conference, especially this time of year, they are very familiar with each other -- they know one another's offenses, defenses, and tendencies and can draw up game plans accordingly. This is usually not true in the NCAA tournament. Opposing teams are often unfamiliar with each other and they have very little time to review film, run their opponents' ways of doing things in practice, prepare for one another.
Here's my point: I try to imagine Gonzaga playing, say, Seton Hall. When I do this based on how they played tonight against St. Mary's, I have to remember that St. Mary's coach Randy Bennent is so familiar with Mark Few's system at Gonzaga that he is practically an assistant coach. In addition, I don't really know how Filip Petrusev or Drew Timme would perform inside against Seton Hall's Romaro Gill; I think they'd have a lot of trouble, but I don't really know. Likewise, I try to imagine the Zags defending the Pirates' ever improving forward, Sandro Mamukelashvili, especially after the way he performed so brilliantly against Marquette today. In the abstract, I see Mamukelashvili as bigger and stronger than Kisbert or Tillie, but I wonder if once the two teams are actually playing each other, if qualities I'm blind to might emerge and the Zags play him better than I think they would. And, of course, there's the Myles Powell nightmare for the Zags -- Powell can score from as far as thirty-five feet away from the cup, is an accomplished driver to the hoop, and has a very skilled running mate in guard Quincy McKnight who is a fierce defender, a solid shooter, and an efficient playmaker.
In my imagination, I can't see Gonzaga defeating Seton Hall. Then, I remind myself that games are not played in my imagination! I realize that I don't really know how teams will play against one another until they are actually on the court, squaring off.
I could go on an on -- how would any of my favorite Big East teams play against teams like Iowa or Kansas or Florida State? Once Oregon is in the tournament and competing outside of the Pac-12, how would they perform against Providence or Baylor or Michigan State? How would Dayton perform against any of these teams.
I don't know.
And, in women's basketball, I have the same questions, with much of my questioning focused on what would happen if Oregon played South Carolina or if they have to face Baylor again. If the Ducks play South Carolina, how will Ruthy Hebard fare against South Carolina's mighty freshman, Aliyah Boston? If the Ducks play Baylor again, how will they defend Lauren Cox and what kind of scoring will they get against Baylor's defensive stalwarts Juicy Landrum and DiDi Richards?
I don't know.
But, my imagination has been active, dreaming up scenarios and wondering what's coming in these tournaments and today's full slate of action kept me stimulated all day long.
2. In the midst of all this basketball action, I managed to also squeeze in some kitchen time. I wanted the appetizer I'm baking for Sunday to sit in the refrigerator overnight to let its flavors age and I got that done. I also finished my last batch of crab stock from the haul of crab shells I brought home last Saturday from the Elks Crab feed. I now have a total of fourteen or fifteen quarts of stock.
3. Christy and I had a lot to talk about during the Zags game: we got caught up on Debbie's comings and goings this coming month; we discussed the management of Everett's health and his mobility; we talked about our family theater date coming up in a week to watch Carol perform in Church Basement Ladies. We are already anticipating our post-performance drinks at the Silver Corner and dinner at the Blackboard Cafe in its new and expanded location.