George Mason and Georgetown's seasons end, and the Caps' season is getting real interesting. Plus, March Madness is a great time of year to be a Wizards fan even if the team continues to struggle.
It was a great weekend of action in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. George Mason ended up not being this year's George Mason, but VCU may be after the Rams advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA bracket with wins over USC, Georgetown and Purdue. Also, the Hoyas' run ends, the Verizon Center hosts the game of the tournament between Butler and Pittsburgh, the Capitals push forward with a potential goalie controversy and the Wizards look to the NBA Draft.
George Mason Unable to Be Next George Mason
George Mason's hopes of pulling off a George Mason-type run got off to a rocky start well before tip off against No. 1 seed Ohio State. Luke Hancock, the guy who hit the game winner against Vlillanova game, was unable to play due to food poisoning and spent the day receiving IV fluids at the team hotel.
To say they missed him would be a large understatement. The Buckeyes fell down early 11-2 and then ran past the Patriots in a 98-66 blowout. The Buckeyes were on fire, knocking down 16 of their 26 three-point point attempts. It was an ugly end to what was a very good season for the Patriots. They were the best team in the CAA regular season and went 27-7, a school record. Next year, they will return all but two players (Cam Long and Isiah Tate) and will be the team to beat in the the CAA. So don't be surprised if a year from now we are once again asking whether George Mason the next George Mason.
Hoyas Are One and Done
Georgetown was knocked out the NCAA Tournament Friday night by No. 11 seed VCU, 74-56. It marked the third time in four years since the Hoyas' Final Four appearance that they were knocked out by a double-digit seed. It was a bitter end for the Hoyas, who appeared poised to change their postseason fortunes this year, until Chris Wright broke his non-shooting hand on February 23 against Cincinnati. The Hoyas went on to loss their final five games.
I'm not about to group this year's loss with last year's to Ohio University because Georgetown was ripe for an upset with a clearly limited Wright. VCU is not only good, but were also very motivated thanks to all the whining from the pundits about their resume. Hell, they are now Sweet 16 bound.
It surely doesn't take away from the disappointment for the Hoyas' three seniors, though. Wright, leading scorer Austin Freeman and leading rebounder Julian Vaughn all saw their careers end. They won a lot of games for the program, but were unable to get it done in March.
Verizon Center Home of Biggest Bracket Buster
George Mason may not have been this year's George Mason, but Butler has stayed on course to become this year's Butler with a wild win over No. 1 seed Pittsburgh Saturday night at Verizon Center. The game saw two inexplicable fouls committed in the final two seconds. The Bulldogs, who were last year's runner up to Duke, beat ODU (ouch) on Thursday at the buzzer. So, the Big East regular season Champs became the only No. 1 seed not to make it to the Sweet 16.
Caps Cruising Along, But is there a Potential Goalie Problem Ahead?
The Caps are on FIRE! They are winners in 10 of their last 11 and are atop the Southeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference Standings, just two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who they play Tuesday. Goalie Michael Neuvirth has already set the record for the most wins as a rookie this season with 23, and also has four shutouts. His play sure seems to have put him in the drivers seat to be the teams starter when the playoffs begin. The rookie knows, however, that nothing is guaranteed.
"[Semyon Varlamov] was the starting goalie the last couple years" in the playoffs, Neuvirth said when asked if the No. 1 job was his to lose. "But I want to take his job from him, but we still have nine games left, and anything can happen."
Varlamov, who last played on February 20, has been limited due to injuries this year and is 10-8-4 with a 2.27 GAA, while Neuvirth has carried most of the load and is 23-11-4 with a 2.42 GAA. Bruce Boudreau plans to get Varlamov back on the ice sometime this week, but the bigger question is whether he go with the hot goalie in Neuvirth or the more experienced goalie with Varlamov when it comes playoff time. The bet here is Boudreau will keep us in suspense as long as possible.
Never Too Early to Think Wizards Draft; It Beats The Alternative
I've been too caught in March Madness to watch much of the Wizards this week, although it was nice to see some of Sunday's 98-92 win over the New Jersey Nets that snapped a six-game losing skid.
However, as I watch the NCAA Tournament, I start to wonder which one of these college stars may someday soon be playing with John Wall. The Wizards will once again have a very high pick, though I'm not sure they can count on the No. 1 pick again. They have the second-lowest win total in the league right now.
Plenty of players that could be on the Wizards in the future are playing in the Sweet 16. Duke's Kyrie Irving could be the top pick, but he is a point guard, like John Wall. Plus, the Wizards biggest need is a power forward or Center. A pair of power forwards with plenty of offensive skills are Arizona's Derrick Williams and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger. Williams more athletic and Sullinger is more powerful. Both are intriguing options.
Then, there is small forward Harrison Barnes (if he goes early) from North Carolina, who started off really slow this year. However, he has a huge athletic upside and has become a late game assassin of late. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express took a closer look at Barnes recently and was impressed with the 18-year old's maturity.
"My career has just been straight up. I always played, I always got better. ... So it's just been a good test for me to grow as a basketball player and grow as a person. And I feel like had I not had this adversity, I probably wouldn't become later the player I will."
So Wizards fans, even if the college game is not for you, there is plenty to look for in regards to the franchise's future.