NCAA BK

HILL: Saturday was a shooters day

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Randy Hill

Veteran columnist Randy Hill is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com.
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We have reached intermission in the Bittersweet 16's RSVP phase. Bittersweet? Yeah, and it's personal. After three days of March Madness, my bracket sheet looks like scratch paper from a math test. But at least the NCAA men's basketball tournament has not become as uncivilized as the NBA, where 's 20,000th-career-point ball allegedly was defaced by a Sacramento fan. According to sources with Sharpie skills, the insulting expletive written on this souvenir was (drum roll) "Skip dessert, Shaq." Unless the author was Phil Jackson, that's just wicked. Anyway, aside from a little mascot dueling Friday, tournament behavior has been exemplary. Saturday's top mascot showdown could have been dicey, but the Husky avoided a nature-related visit with 's The Tree. The actual basketball activity was tremendously compelling, paced by Arizona's double-overtime (instant) classic with . After fighting like 'Cats and 'Dogs for 50 minutes, Arizona crawled away with a victory. A tournament-wide epidemic of accurate 3-point shooting also was noticed, with several players getting hotter than your uncle's Rolex. At the risk of missing more shooters than the shooters missed shots, here's the roll call: 's Dan Miller, Oklahoma's De'Angelo Alexander, of , 's and , of , of and 's . Special mention is due the entire Duke team, which has yet to embrace the Noah philosophy of field-goal shooting (two inside the arc). That's all of the shooters I have time to salute; thanks for reading and drive home safely. Oh, right. I forgot to rewind Saturday's most-shocking quote, provided by coach Mike Brey. The following are five words you never expected to hear Brey say (this year):
    "Our defense won the game."
Speaking of shock (but now awe), how about those decorative NCAA stickers that seem to be causing slips like Tonya Harding with her skates tied together. It's only a matter of time before someone puts an eye out with one of those decals. OK, let's take a look at Saturday's category winners:

One-on-one shining moment

Things looked grim for the five. With 6:34 left before elimination at the paws of UConn, the Cardinal trailed by six. But , who had been as quiet as my telephone on Friday night, raced to the rack in transition. The only creature lurking in the vicinity of his path was Huskies center , whose shot-blocking prowess should require a sobriety checkpoint for opposing drivers. "I pretty much thought he wasn't gonna try to dunk it from the get-go," said Okafor, realizing Childress had enough intelligence to get into . "I just waited there to throw it." For the record ¿ it was thrown. That maneuver didn't cost the game, but it was sort of an important play and fits the category quite well.

One whining moment

It as all quiet in the whine country until Kansas coach Roy Williams achieved bitter-beer face after CBS pounced on a commercial op. With three minutes and change left in KU's rout of , Roy ordered a TO (baby) so that senior could have a curtain call. Williams had intended to have play to resume immediately. CBS had a better idea ¿ thank the sponsors. The ASU players — checking in as the third fallen Pac-10 team of the day — interpreted the gesture as bad form. Now Roy, who discovered that TV money seems to be important, is peeved. "The CBS Invitational is what they're eventually going to call it," he said. I prefer Roy Madness.

One Billy Packer moment

OK, I hate to do this, because Len Elmore is one of my favorite college basketball analysts. But as a former professional low-post employee, Len was expected to provide more definitive expertise during his constant and well-deserved critique of 's inside cha-cha. Cook, whose 19-point, 16-rebound effort couldn't save Illinois against , may be a fine pro. He's 6-foot-10, fast, agile, bouncy and capable of stepping away from brutes for on-target jumpers. However, his low-post game offers little more than shooting fade-away jumpers over his right shoulder from the right block. That's why his field-goal percentage was certifiably rotten Saturday. Elmore recognized this, but didn't inform viewers that Brian could have owned the college lane with refinement of his drop step and an occasional up-and-under. It's this kind of analyst crabbing without offering a solution that makes me such a fan of Packer.

Roll over, Jim Harrick

It's time to pick on the winning coach. To make this truly enjoyable, I'll select a Hall of Fame coach. So, what did Arizona's Lute Olson do to attract my nitpicking? Well, it wasn't his decision to engage in an up-tempo dance without using his bench. The U of A bench may be lousy with freshman, but the freshman are anything but lousy. However, they are freshman and highly capable of making bad decisions at both ends of the court. They also are great athletes and fine defenders who could have bought rest time for the starters. Anyway, that's not the issue. The issue is screen-and-roll defense against 's rifleman guard, . Arizona chose to have the player defending the screener (usually center ) step out and bother Stepp long enough for the guy guarding him (usually ) to recover. That's just dandy, in normal circumstances. In this circumstance, Stepp finally had resuscitated his shooting stroke and had become rather toasty. The Wildcats (in my opinion) would have been in better shape if Frye and Stoudamire had trapped Stepp, forcing him to give up the ball. Their teammates would validate this double-team tactic by rotating to 3-point threat . Faith in this scheme was built on the notion that Harrick wouldn't have tried it.

An ad to subtract

After three days, I've had it with a commercial featuring Microsoft purchasing geeks, who gleefully restock the entire company in just three keystrokes, but are unable to secure one light bulb for their female co-worker. "I can't do one," says seated geek. "He can't do one," says standing geek. Let's hope Microsoft doesn't do more than one.

Andy Warhol Hall of Fame

Take a bow, , your new audience (everyone outside ) is waiting. Novak, a freshman forward for , had about 15 real-time minutes of fame during a five-minute overtime in the Golden Eagles' victory over Missouri. Steve, who had scored four points through regulation, drilled three 3's in as many OT attempts. The last three followed a screen-and-curl move that Tigers coach Quin Snyder should have been able to sabotage.

Jimmy Chitwood award

Man, the resumes were pouring in. Missoui's Paulding, for example, buried eight 3's, but his team is a goner. So, with winning used to weed out the other hotshots, I'm going with forward Dan Miller. Dan didn't exactly gun down Illinois in the second half, but he did bag five triples in five attempts during a crazy Irish (10-of-16) first half. In representing the inspirational character from a movie that had the nerve to offer Barbara Hershey as hot, Miller couldn't miss.

The Big Spin-off

With seven favorites winning Saturday's eight skirmishes, HBO is considering an original program with the working title of Six Feet Underdogs. Randy Hill can be reached at his e-mail address: rhill@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal, Marquette, Arizona, Stanford, Arizona State, Illinois, Duke, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Missouri, Kansas, Gonzaga, Tulsa

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