By Charles Hallman
Whether cable, regular television or satellite radio, it doesn’t matter when it comes to March Madness hoops coverage — it’s nothing but a media Whiteout. Call it March Monotony if you will.
For every Tom, Dick (Vitale) and Mary, we get token appearances from Greg Anthony and Len Elmore, both of whom offer excellent insights but too often seem to be working on a word restriction edict from their employers. The same goes for Carolyn Peck and Vera Jones, who gives us “fit-in” analysis, which leaves us sadly exposed to mumbling others who sound like inexperienced Specs Howard Broadcasting School grads.
And of course I’ll miss announcer Gus Johnson, now with Fox, and his genuine enthusiasm, leaving us instead with bad Mel Allen copycats.
Two teams already have gone home, and two have advanced from the First Four in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday, but prior to Selection Sunday (men) last weekend and Selection Monday (women), we talked to KFAN’s Henry Lake, who hosted a post-selection show on Monday, and Robert Littal of BlackSportsOnline in separate interviews.
First, the men:
Lake: “The teams that a lot of people expect to go deep into the tournament [include] Kentucky — they’ve got a talented freshman class. Kansas can be a team, but I don’t think they are very deep.
“And if you pull out a name out there and give it to the people as a potential national championship team, it probably would be Syracuse, because they are the deepest team in the country and have some really good senior leaders on their squad. There are at least 10 to 12 teams that could go to the Final Four, and maybe seven or eight that can win it.”
Littal: “There really is a free-for-all this year. You still have really good teams with one, two, three losses, but you don’t have that one team that’s a strong favorite. You have anywhere between 10 to 15 teams who could get on a run and really cause some problems in the tournament.
“But I do think the strongest teams are Kentucky, and I like Syracuse a lot. And you have to look at Ohio State and North Carolina, and even Duke — it’s a wide-open tournament. The teams that I will be looking at are the ones that were really strong in their conference tournament.”
Any under the radar squads — this year’s VCU?
Lake: “Cincinnati could do some damage. Possibly Wisconsin, who traditionally is a team that makes some noise, because they are a good defensive team but not that good offensively.”
Littal: “Murray State is one that comes to mind. But I do predict that when we get to the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight, even the Final Four, we will see one team that you are not accustomed to seeing in that group.”
However, when asked about the women’s tournament, Lake admits, “I don’t watch women.”
But Littal does opine, “Definitely you have Notre Dame, who has Skylar Diggins, and Baylor again with Britney Griner. You can’t count out Tennessee, but I think in the end this should be Baylor’s year. I watched them play this year.”
Any under-the-radar women’s teams?
Littal: “I really don’t know. The dominant teams are usually dominant in the tournament — not a lot of upsets or a lot of higher seeds going down. It’s the same teams you usually see who have been dominant all throughout the season.”
Gopher women hockey off to Duluth
Minnesota faces Cornell Friday in one of two semifinals, the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four. The Gophers, who advanced after defeating North Dakota 5-1 last Saturday at Ridder Arena, is making its 10th appearance in the NCAA’s 12-year history — and its fifth straight.
“It is a goal every year in this program to get to the Frozen Four,” U of M Coach Brad Frost told me after his team’s 32nd overall win of the season. “It’s a real hard thing to do. We went out [last year] and got our butts kicked, and I know the team wanted to make sure they get back there.
“You can’t win the national championship if you don’t get there,” he points out.
The Gophers are riding a hot goalie — junior goalie Noora Raty, who only allowed two goals in five post-season games.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.