Mutka: NCAA pool party drowns out favorites
By John Mutka Post-Tribune senior correspondent April 14, 2013 6:54PM
Michigan v Kansas
Updated: May 16, 2013 6:29AM
Anybody out there whose NCAA tournament pool picks weren’t a disaster? Didn’t think so.
Louisville lived up to its rave notices, but the Cardinals were exceptions in what was one of the wackiest tournaments in the history of the Big Dance.
None of the other 11 top seeds reached the Final Four, which included No. 9 Wichita State and No. 4s Michigan and Syracuse. On a personal note the winner of the pool I entered did so without picking a single team in the Final Four.
You’d have a better chance of winning the lottery than correctly picking what teams advanced to the Elite Eight. Starting with Harvard’s first-round upset of No. 2 New Mexico and Wichita State’s second-round stunner against No. 1 Gonzaga, three weeks of melodrama churned out upsets worthy of a Hollywood pot-boiler.
Before changing seasons, here’s a few final observations about the Big Dance:
Why do officials continue to ignore the physical excesses underneath the basket, but call nitpicking fouls in the open court? In particular, Indiana’s Cody Zeller was slapped and hacked by Syracuse defenders, who confuse basketball with karate, nearly every time he ventured inside.
Louisville also scratched and clawed its way to the title, a proud standard bearer for Big East basket-brawl. Basketball is at its best when it’s free-flowing, not encouraging woodchoppers.
Speaking of excesses, how about Mitch McGary taking one for the team during Michigan’s upset of No. 1 Kansas? Officials not only didn’t eject Elijah Johnson for doubling up the 20-year-old freshman from Chesterton, they barely whistled him for a flagrant 1 foul.
McGary urged the officials to check the monitor for low-down evidence of the invasion of his privacy. Afterwards, the puzzled rookie said, “I don’t know what it takes to get a flagrant 2,”
Maybe a battleaxe would get their attention.
Favorite moment No. 1: Michigan’s mini-Tarzan Spike Albrecht howling with joy and thumping his chest after swishing his ninth consecutive 3-pointer in the NCAA tournament.
What an amazing half, considering the freshman from Crown Point averaged just 1.5 points going into the tournament. Most of his previous experience came from giving national player of the year Trey Burke a chance to catch his breath.
Until that 17-point half against Louisville, Albrecht had not played more than 15 minutes or scored more than seven points. I’m looking forward to increased time for Spike next season.
Favorite moment No. 2: McGary exploding for tournament double-doubles against VCU (21 points, 14 rebounds) and Kansas (25/14), the latter binge coming at the expense of 7-footer Jeff Withey, the Division I co-defensive player of the year.
Both McGary and Lake Central grad Glenn Robinson III shot better than 57 percent from the field. Robinson is one of four Wolverines who averaged double figures.
Favorite moment No. 3: Robinson being selected to the Kyle Macy freshman All-America team and making it to the Final Four, something his famous dad never did on his way to college player of the year honors at Purdue.
My choice for most astute coach/recruiter in the Big Ten? Put your hands together for Michigan’s John Beilein. His knack for mining talent overlooked by other coaches is uncanny, highlighted by Chesterton’s Zack Novak, who captained the Wolverines for three years; and Albrecht, whose only other Division I offer came from Appalachian State.
Much like Indiana’s Tom Crean, Beilein picked up the pieces from a program handcuffed by scholarship reductions from a player scandal. In his first year, the Wolverines limped to a 10-22 record. Since slipping to 15-17 in 2009-10, he’s guided Michigan to a 76-32 record.
My favorite tournament quote: From Louisville’s Rick Pitino, commenting about McGary’s evolution before the title game. The Hall of Fame coach called McGary “one of the premier big guys in the country. So, he’s not a freshman, doesn’t play like a freshman.”
Not bad for a kid who averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds and received most of his eight starts after Jordan Morgan struggled to regain his form because of a midseason ankle injury.
Surprisingly agile for a 6-10, 250-pounder, McGary led the Wolverines in blocked shots and was second to Burke in steals even though he barely played half as many minutes as the All-America guard.
Six football hall of famers
Former NFL players Randy Beisler (Wirt) and Gerad Irons (Roosevelt) top the list of six Northwest Indiana standouts who will be inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame on May 5.
Beisler, who played for Indiana, toiled for the Eagles, 49ers and Chiefs from 1966-77. The first-round draft pick (No. 4) started 49 times in 118 games. Beisler played guard, defensive end, and offensive and defensive tackle.
Irons went from captain of the Maryland-Eastern Shore team to a 10-year career as a linebacker for the Raiders and the Cleveland Browns. His three sons who played Division I football are Gerald Jr (Nebraska), Jarrett (Michigan) and Grant (Notre Dame).
Others who will be honored are Hammond’s John Boyajian, a starting quarterback for Wisconsin in 1966-67; former Hobart stars Craig Buford and Mark and Mike Deal, all Indiana grads who went on to coach. Gary’s John Goss Jr, who officiated for 43 years, will receive a certificate of merit.
Tickets for the affair, which will be at the Avalon Banquet Center in Merrillville, are $35. Deadline is April 22. For information contact Leroy Marsh of Munster or Mark Hoffman (464-9240)of Valparaiso.