I saw a little bit of the UFC 158 battle Saturday night that Georges St. Pierre won over Nick Diaz. Im preparing for another mixed martial arts battle Thursday in Salt Lake City between Wichita State and Pittsburgh in a second-round NCAA Tournament game.
The Shockers did not draw a patsy, or a pansy, when it comes to the Panthers. WSU, the No. 9 seed in the West Regional, and eighth-seeded Pitt are a lot of like.
Both teams stress defense. Pitt has held its opponents to 55.4 points. To score against the Panthers, you almost need to ask permission.
The Shockers have one of their best defensive teams and have held foes to 60.7 points.
Pittsburghs field-goal percentage defense (39.3 percent) ranks 32nd in the country. WSU is 49th, limiting opponents to 40-percent shooting.
First to 50 points wins?
Its as if WSU coach Gregg Marshall and Pitt head man Jamie Dixon are the same guy. I dont believe, however, that they are, despite evidence that would indicate its a possibility.
Marshall loves a deep bench. So does Dixon. They would slip a band member into the game if they thought it would help the team.
Itll be a fascinating matchup, with the winner to likely face the top seed in the West, Gonzaga. And wouldnt that be fun?
Lets not get ahead of ourselves, though. Pittsburgh was 12-6 in the Big East, which is sending eight teams to the NCAAs including 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds. The Panthers have lost eight games, but only one was a eyebrow-raiser a 67-62 loss at Rutgers on Jan. 5.
WSU and Pittsburgh have three common opponents, the most notable those wild-and-crazy Detroit Titans. You remember them from their high-wire act at Koch Arena, where they pushed the Shockers before losing 94-79 on Feb. 23.
Pittsburgh beat Detroit 74-61 on Dec. 1 at Pitt.
Thursdays game promises to be a battle of wills. Its hard to imagine the Shockers having an offensive field day against a Pittsburgh team that has given up 70 or more points twice all season, both in losses to Marquette.
And its unlikely the Panthers will find the holy grail offensively against a tough-minded WSU team. Its a game sure to make fans squirm.
Some other NCAA Tournament observations:
• Kansas will skate into the Sweet 16. Not only do the Jayhawks have the advantage of quasi-home games against Western Kentucky and the North Carolina-Villanova winner, but they dont have even the potential of an iffy game. North Carolina isnt bad and getting better, but the Tar Heels arent the kind of team that can knock off KU in front of the home folks. Oh, and remember when there was high anticipation for a Roy Williams-KU game? This is No. 3. Its not cool anymore.
• Kansas State got a 4-seed, as expected. But the Wildcats are in deep against the winner of the first-round 13-seed game between Boise State and La Salle, from two of the best conferences in the country. Boise, from the Mountain West, was the only team to beat Creighton in the Bluejays first 18 games. And the Atlantic 10s La Salle beat then-No. 9 Butler and then-No. 19 VCU in back-to-back games in late January. If K-State beats one of those teams, it likely gets 5-seed Wisconsin next. Nobody should want to meet up with the Badgers.
• No Pac-12 team is seeded higher than 6. Yet five got in. Oregon is a 12? UCLA and Arizona are 6s? California? Help me, somebody.
• Some second-round games I like: East, Illinois-Colorado. West, WSU-Pitt, Mississippi-Wisconsin, Belmont-Arizona, Iowa State-Notre Dame. South, South Dakota State-Michigan, Oklahoma-San Diego State. Midwest, Missouri-Colorado State, Oregon-Oklahoma State, Middle Tennessee-St. Marys winner vs. Memphis, Cincinnati-Creighton.
• Potentially dreamy third-round games: East, Butler-Marquette, N.C. State-Indiana. West, WSU-Gonzaga (I mean, really), Wisconsin-Kansas State, Belmont-New Mexico, Notre Dame-Ohio State. South, VCU-Michigan, UCLA-Florida. Midwest, Missouri-Louisville; Saint Louis vs. Oregon-Oklahoma State winner, Memphis-Michigan State, Creighton-Duke.
• The selection committee did No. 1 overall seed Louisville no favors in the Midwest, other than allowing the Cardinals to open in Lexington and then move on, potentially, to Indianapolis. The Midwest is easily the toughest of the regions. Duke and Michigan State are potential national champions. Is any team playing better than Saint Louis? Oklahoma State, Memphis, Creighton. Wow.
• I like Louisville, Georgetown, New Mexico and Indiana to reach the Final Four in Atlanta on April 6-8. Dont ask me why. This has been a crazy season, so no Final Four picks are going to make much sense.
My second Final Four (teams that will be there if my first choices dont make it) are Saint Louis, Kansas, Gonzaga and Marquette.
• Best second-round upset bets by 11 seeds on down: East, Montana (13) over Syracuse. West, Belmont (11) over Arizona, ; Boise State-La Salle (13) winner over Kansas State. South, Minnesota over UCLA, Akron (12) over VCU, South Dakota State (13) over Michigan. Midwest, Oregon (12) over Oklahoma State, Middle Tennessee-St. Marys winner (11) over Memphis.
• Best hope for a 16-seed to finally break through? Come on, be serious. But since you asked, it has to be Western Kentucky, which plays Kansas. Dont worry, Jayhawks. Its not gonna happen.