Degrees of Success
Thad Matta’s Buckeyes, led by Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award finalist Jared Sullinger, continue to bully their opponents — knocking out an overmatched Texas-San Antonio squad, 75–46, in the opener before slamming the little guy George Mason, 98–66, to advance to the Sweet 16. But prior to the dominant effort on the court, four Ohio State players — just enough to spell out O-H-I-O for a cap and sash photo op — received their bachelor’s degrees. Jon Diebler (Marketing), David Lighty (Family Resource Management), Dallas Lauderdale (Communication) and Nikola Kecman (Aviation) had their own private party since they were unable to attend Sunday’s winter commencement ceremonies in Columbus.
A cult hero known simply as “Jorts” by fans in the Big Blue Nation, Josh Harrellson and his jean shorts were styling in the first two rounds of the Big Dance. The senior transfer from Southwestern Illinois College had 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 10 rebounds and four steals during a 59–57 cliffhanger against Princeton in the opener before going for 15 points and eight rebounds — carrying the Wildcats on his back for much of the first half — in a 71–63 victory over West Virginia. Harrellson played just 12 minutes of SEC action sitting on the bench behind first-round picks DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton last season. This year, he was supposed to be Turkish five-star center Enes Kanter’s backup. But now, Ashley Judd is the only one in UK blue looking better than “Jorts.”
Larry Drew II’s abrupt midseason abandonment of UNC was a bailout in more ways than one. The move proved to be addition by subtraction in its purest point guard form, as freshman Kendall Marshall has stepped into Drew’s starting spot and the Tar Heels have never looked back. North Carolina has a 16–2 record — with losses at Duke and to Duke in the ACC Tournament title game — with Marshall in the starting lineup. Most recently, the pass-first floor general from Virginia had 13 points and 14 assists during an 86–83 win over Washington — breaking Kenny Smith’s NCAA Tournament team assists record (12 vs. Notre Dame in 1987) and recording the Heels’ first points-assists double-double in the Tourney since Ed Cota went for 20 and 10 against Weber State in 1999.
“It’s four junior college guys up here — D.J. (Odom), Jae (Crowder), Jimmy (Butler) and Buzz (Williams). Four jucos. We were trying to figure out if we could eat at McDonald’s or Burger King. We weren’t sure what Sweet 16 meant other than it was our 16th birthday.” — Marquette coach Buzz Williams, when asked to express his feelings on going to the Sweet 16 in a region that also includes basketball royalty Ohio State, Kentucky and North Carolina.
“I think this: ‘Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.’ And I know Einstein said it, and he’s a lot smarter than I am … if you had lived what (the Marquette players) have lived through, not just the games that the media saw, but the practices, the film sessions, the things that they endure for me, I can’t think of a better quote than that.” – Buzz Williams