SAN DIEGO — Norman Powell nearly lit Viejas Arena on fire with his acrobatic dunks in the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Each one made the place erupt and his best move of the weekend, a behind-the-back move for an up-and-under finish, burning Stephen F. Austin’s leading scorer in Desmond Haymon, elicited the biggest response from the crowd all day.
It was clear that the hometown kid was having fun in his hometown and showed in more than just his dazzling array of transition moves.
"It’s always fun going back home and being able to compete and win in front of your friends and family that haven’t seen you play in so long," Powell said. "I’m excited that everybody came out and watched me play and get in a win in front of them."
"Norman is a really ugly dude, but that was a nice move," joked teammate Tony Parker. "That was a real nice move. I got to give him his props, that behind the back man, that was nice … He had to show off for a San Diego crowd."
Powell has averaged around 11 points and 2.5 rebounds all season. Credit the Tournament, the hometown atmosphere and one other thing, according to Parker, for playing above his averages in two key games.
"I think it’s his haircut, he got a nice little haircut," Parker said. "He’s trying to get curls — they’re not as good as mine — but we let him rock ’em anyways."
Dayton busted most of America’s brackets except for one: Arizona coach Sean Miller’s, brother of Dayton coach Archie Miller. Sean Miller believed in his younger brother the whole time.
"Today is a special day in my mind more for him," Sean Miller said. "We’re both so much a reflection of how we grew up. Growing up in western Pennsylvania — that’s Joe Namath, Tony Dorsett and Mike Ditka — it’s a football area. And it’s a great deal of pride being from that area and hopefully tonight is a proud moment for everybody there and good ole Beaver County, western P.A."
Read more about the Sweet-16-bound BRUINS … postgame recap, stats and much more to follow here: http://t.co/Ws30KOs5zD
The chance is slim, but should Dayton, the No. 11 seed in the South Region, advance out and make it to the Final Four and Arizona, the top seed in the West, do the same, Miller would coach against his former assistant and younger brother.
Stone Cold University
If you hadn’t heard of Stephen F. Austin State University before, you probably have after this weekend. Their 29-game win streak, the WWE wrestler that may or may not share a name similar to the university, the lumberjack mascot and their scrappy play made them a Cinderella worth cheering for.
The run ended against UCLA and by next week, there may be another Cinderella to cheer for but Stephen F. Austin earned an immense amount of respect in San Diego over the weekend and will bring back a little more pride to Nacogdoches, Texas.
"We didn’t have a great year, we had a year for the history books," said head coach Brad Underwood. "There wont be many teams that will win 32 games and when a coach can wake up every single morning and enjoy going to work every single day because he knows he gets to work with guys like this, it’s pretty special."
"You can’t underestimate guys in March. Everybody, if they’re here, they’re good," said UCLA forward Tony Parker. "There’s no ‘Oh, you played them. Oh, we played them.’ We played the best. Whether it was the best of their conference or the best in their area, we’ve got to come out strong and teams get beat because they don’t."
Big time agree. @jaimemaggio: Greatest first weekend in NCAA tourney history. Agree?