Spokane: That's a wrap

By Lindsay Schnell - March 18, 2007

Think we could go back in time so I can watch all that basketball again?

While the second game today wasn't exactly a nail-biter, this weekend was absolute bliss for me. Texas and Winthrop probably don't feel that way right now, though.

The Oregon game really came down to Brooks, and how he refused to be denied a Sweet 16 bid. As Kent said in the press conference, his story has been told enough already (in short, after flirting with the idea of going pro after mediocore seasons at Oregon and last year's catastrophe with Appleby of UW, Brooks and his girfriend had a baby girl this past summer and he grew up a lot) but you have to admire the heart of this kid. He said after the game today that he was pretty quiet yesterday because he wasn't happy with how the Ducks came out in the Miami game and that as a leader, it was his job to change that.

Mission accomplished.

Brooks finished with 22 points and three rebound, shooting 8-15 from the floor, including 5-9 from the arc. Talk about a clutch performance. He was big when the Ducks needed him, driving the lane and finishing against some big guys inside. Kent says Brooks plays like he's 6'5, not 6'0 and at least for this game, I'm agreeing with Kent.

Freshman Tajuan Porter was huge, too, shooting with the confidence of a fifth-year senior. He finished with 12 points, 11 of which came in the second half. And most of those came in about a four-minute span to open the second.

Leunen was also great for the Ducks, scoring 12 points and helping hold Bradshaw to just 10 points. After the first few minutes when Oregon's defensive rotation was sucking hardcore, the Ducks picked it up and played much better.

Winthrop closes a brillant season, and their loss to Oregon snapped a 19-game winning streak. As Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall said: "When this magic carpet ride comes to an end it ends rather abruptly."

I kinda wanted to start singing songs from Aladdin when he said that.

It was a great season for the Ealges, and I know it's a tough ending for seniors Phil Williams, Torrell Martin and Craig Bradshaw. But they got Winthrop's first-ever NCAA tourney win and they have to be proud of that.

For the Longhorns of Texas, the never-ending questions will now being: is Durant for sure going to the NBA? Someone asked him what his decision-making process for that would be and Durant said -- in an incredibly polite way -- that he didn't feel it was an appropriate question at this time. And while I know everyone is dying to know if there's any chance he'll come back to college ball, his answer is a fair one. He's just a kid and right now, he needs to be with his teammates to mourn the loss.

The one thing Durant said in the press conference that threw me for a loop was this: "I kind of regret not playing as hard as I could today and throughout the whole season."

Uh ... what?

If he's not playing as hard as he can, God only knows how dominant he could be if he did play hard. But I just think he's being hard on himself. You don't score 30 points against a great defensive team by not playing hard.

Texas coach Rick Barnes talked a lot in the postgame about how at this time of year, you can't get it done with two guys. Barnes was referring to the (lack of) play from D.J. Augustin, who was held to six points on 1-8 shooting and six turnovers. Much of that can be credited to Gabe Pruitt, who was also great on the offensive end, scoring 10 points and handing out eight assists.

USC coach Tim Floyd pointed out that the Trojans also did a great job defending Durant in the first 10 minutes. Durant finished with 30 points but he had just 11 at halftime and he scored those toward the end of the first.

"Those first 10 minutes were critical in getting it in their minds he was defendable," Floyd explained.

Floyd also said that "They've got a belief system right now on the other end" speaking to USC's ability defensively. UNC will surely be favored in the upcoming week, but I wouldn't count the Trojans out just yet.

One last note about USC: every single one of thier players has made a point to mention Ryan Francis, the Trojans' point guard last season who was tragically killed in a drive-by shooting last spring.

"He's been our guardian angel all season, he's been seeing us," said Nick Young.

Yesterday was Francis' birthday, and Floyd invited his mother, Paulette, to spend weekend with the team. Floyd said she has been around the guys all weekend and said as long as he's at USC, she will continue to be a part of the program.

When you think about how ugly the world of sports can be -- what with the politics, drugs, greedy people and so on -- people like Floyd give me a little more faith in the games I love so much.

And now, a short best-of series:

Best player: I think this one goes to Taj Gibson of USC, who finished today with 17 points and 14 rebound. And he played most of the game with what might be a broken jaw. Oh and this: he's just a freshman.

Best quote: "Nobody can see you."

This quote needs some explainining. In the Oregon game, a defensive rotation ended with Porter (who is generously listed at 5'6) guarding the 6'10 Bradshaw. And Porter forced Bradshaw to travel. When asked about it, Porter said, "He didn't see me, so he walked" with a laugh. Kent nodded somberly and added "Nobody can see you."

Runner-up for Best quote: "You're too short to be a referee!" from some random fan, who, coincidentally, was yelling at the tallest ref on the floor.

Best piece of advice for someone that's going to go watch NCAA games: Buy your t-shirts the first day. Otherwise, they sell out and then all they have are Gonzaga shirts. 'Nuff said.

A great site for games with great teams and players (and now I sound like a cliche machine). And I'll go ahead and give my prediction for these teams' upcoming games: Oregon over UNLV and UNC over Southern Cal. But I wouldn't be too surprised if the Pac-10 lands three teams in the Elite 8. After this weekend, would you be?

Posted by Lindsay Schnell at 08:26 PM on March 18, 2007

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