I sat next to him at a dinner two weeks later, honoring the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team from Beijing. The unending procession to his seat made me dizzy. Everyone wanted a picture or a handshake, as if some of that grit would rub off on them. Izzo only managed two bites, but drained three glasses of wine. He leaned over at one point, laughing. "It's fine. I'll catch up on the rest soon."
Sure. Just like when his mentor, Jud Heathcote, handed off the job and said he'd started his book.
"I didn't know you were writing one," a friend said.
"I'm not," Heathcote growled. "I'm hoping to read one."
This should do wonders for your confidence: AP college basketball writer Jim O'Connell says one of the best things about picking games in the Sweet 16 is "there are only four you can get wrong each of the next two days."
Syracuse-Wisconsin comes down to whether you prefer the top-seeded Orangemen's 2-3 zone defense or No. 4 Wisconsin's man-to-man, which led the nation this season by allowing only 52.9 points per game.
"First team to 60 wins," O'Connell said. He likes Syracuse.
If nothing else, the Ohio State-Cincinnati nightcap means one less school from the Buckeye State left. Two of their last three meetings were in NCAA championship games, and the Bearcats won both. Unfortunately, those were in 1961 and 1962. Like those days, that streak is about to become history.
STAT OF THE DAY
STATS LLC takes the defensive theme a step further, noting the Badgers are making their sixth Sweet 16 appearance in 13 years in large part because they're so stingy. Wisconsin has held 15 of 35 tourney opponents over that span — including both Montana and Vanderbilt this year — to fewer than 60 points and gone 12-3. That might not be good enough for Syracuse, though, which has proven it can play slowdown games, too. In their last nine, games, the Orange have been held below the 60-point mark five times — and won every one.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I wish that would've been a question on the SAT. I wouldn't have had to go to junior college." — Marquette coach Buzz Williams, asked to discuss the differences between him and the other three coaches at the West Regional, Izzo, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan.
At TD Garden
Syracuse (33-2) vs. Wisconsin (26-9)
Ohio State (29-7) vs. Cincinnati (26-10)
At US Airways Center
Michigan State (29-7) vs. Louisville (28-9)
Marquette (27-7) vs. Florida (25-10)