Little Big Man
Florida’s fearless guard Erving Walker is listed at 5’8” but probably stands closer to 5’6” in sneakers. But, as the saying goes, it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. And no one showed more heart than Walker during UF’s 73–65 victory over UCLA. The Brooklyn native scored 10 of the Gators’ final 12 points — including a playground circus shot off the glass after bouncing off of 300-plus-pound Bruin bear Josh Smith, a deep 3-pointer from the other side of Tampa Bay at the St. Pete Times Forum with 1:14 to play and four free throws in the final 32 seconds of the well-deserved win.
Hoosiers, the Sequel
Last season, Butler’s Cinderella run through the Big Dance ended when Gordon Hayward’s last-second halfcourt heave fell to the ground as time expired on a 61–59 loss to Duke in the national title game. Jimmy Chitwood may have moved on to the NBA — where Hayward was the No. 9 overall pick of the Utah Jazz — but the Bulldogs are in the process of filming a sequel to their Hoosiers-inspired story. Matt Howard has shaved the popular mustache he sported in last year’s Tourney, but the senior big man has already made two game-winning shots — a put back as the clock struck zero in a 60–58 win over Old Dominion and the final free-throw of a 71–70 David vs. Goliath upset over No. 1 seed Pittsburgh.
Jimmer Fredette has scored 30 or more points in seven of his last nine games, including 32 points in a 74–66 win over Wofford in BYU’s opener and 34 points (on 7-of-12 shooting from 3-point range) during a lopsided 89–67 victory over Gonzaga. The Jimmer — one of four finalists for the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award — has also used the additional attention to create opportunities for his Cougar teammates, dishing out a combined 13 assists in his first two NCAA Tournament games. Against the Zags, however, passing the ball to anyone in BYU blue should have resulted in an assist; the Cougars shot 52.5 percent (31-of-59) from the field and 50 percent (14-of-28) from beyond the arc.
“If people think we’re boring, there are a lot of channels on TV they can watch. We’re just coming out trying to win games and playing hard and trying to play the right way.” — Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor, who led the Badgers to a surprisingly lopsided 72–58 win over Belmont in the opener and a 70–65 victory against Kansas State to advance to the Sweet 16.
“I just don’t understand when people always refer to ‘Wisconsin basketball.’ We score. We’ll push. … I’m sure there’s a manual out there that says if you don’t turn the ball over a lot, you get to the free-throw line, you make your free throws, and you work hard on defense, and you take good shots, if you want to call that ‘Wisconsin basketball,’ amen. That is us.” – Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan