Monday, March 24, 2008

Expect Vols-Cards to be a track meet

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It was fun while it lasted.

I am heading home from Birmingham today after a weekend of posing as a college basketball reporter. Once I get home and turn in a few last musings about Tennessee and Louisville, it's back to being the NASCAR monkey for me.

I saw some good basketball games here and two very good teams are coming to Charlotte out of this pod.

Louisville looked great in its two games here. I think people went to sleep on them after they lost at Georgetown and then in the Big East tournament to Pittsburgh. Both games were close and Georgetown and Pitt beat a lot of good teams this year.

The Cardinals play primarily zone defense, but they do it with a voracious hunger. They crave the basketball and use the turnovers they cause and the steals they get to create easy opportunities on offense. And they have a lot of players with the skill to convert those opportunities.

Tennessee didn't look as, let's say, precise in winning its two games here. But don't let that fool you. The Volunteers create a lot of havoc with their defense and that helps them play at a pace that sometimes makes them look hurried on offense, too. But the Vols have played a lot of good teams this year and haven't lost that often.

If you watched the two games played here Sunday, the tendency would be to think Tennessee will have to play much better than it did against Butler to win over Louisville on Thursday in Charlotte. But Butler is a very, very good team. Butler should have been no lower than a 5 seed, maybe as high as a No. 3. The fact they were a No. 7 and played Tennessee, another 30-win team, in the second round is baffling.

Tennessee won two games in Birmingham fighting and clawing all the way. I don't see any reason the Vols won't keep clawing and fighting as they try to reach the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

If I had to bet on Thursday night's second game, I'd bet the over. I think it will be a track meet. But as for picking a winner, I will leave that one to the "experts."

Meanwhile, I'm going to Martinsville this weekend.

-- David Poole