The players and coaches in tonight’s game between the Erie BayHawks and the Austin Toros will follow the NCAA Tournament for more than just the sheer madness of it.
Many of them either played for or coached at schools that are in this year’s field of 65.
Check out how Jackie Manuel, Ivan Harris and Coach John Treloar of Erie and Marcus Williams, DeMarcus Nelson and Coach Quin Snyder of Austin think their schools will fare.
As a bonus, I also talked to Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Darnell Jackson, who was sent down to play for the BayHawks just for today’s game, about how his Kansas Jayhawks will do in defending the 2008 national title he helped them win.
Erie SF Jackie Manuel
College: North Carolina (2001-05). The Tar Heels (28-4) are a No. 1 seed in the South Regional and will open tournament play Thursday against No. 16-seeded Radford (21-11) in Greensboro, N.C.
How will his Tar Heels do in this year’s tournament? “I think they definitely have a great chance of winning it all. Definitely making it to the Final Four. I definitely think they have a great chance.”
What about junior point guard Ty Lawson’s injury? The Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year missed the ACC Tournament with a toe injury and is questionable for Thursday’s game.
“I think he’ll be alright. With Ty being from D.C., he’s pretty tough. Any injury he’s having or he’s had, I’m pretty sure he’ll suck it up and play. He knows what’s at stake.”
Erie SF Ivan Harris
College: Ohio State (2003-07) The Buckeyes (22-10) are an No. 8 seed in the Midwest Regional and will open tournament play Friday against No. 9-seeded Siena (26-7) in Dayton, Ohio.
How will his Buckeyes do in this year’s tournament? “Well, I think they’ve got a pretty good chance of going pretty far. They’ve been battling all season and they’ve made it this far. I think have a pretty good chance of going far. They’re real young this year, but I don’t want to hold that against them. They’ve been playing hard throughout the whole season.”
Erie coach John Treloar
College: Before coming to Erie, Treloar was an assistant coach at LSU for four seasons (2004-08). The Tigers (26-7) are seeded eighth in the South Regional and will take on No. 9-seeded Butler (26-5) in Greensboro on Friday.
How will the Tigers do in this year’s tournament? If the Tigers win Thursday, they’ll likely run into Manuel’s top-seeded Tar Heels in the second round Saturday.
“I think that they’ve got a tough draw. I think a lot of people are saying Butler will win that game. I don’t believe that. I believe LSU will win that game. And then obviously to beat the No. 1 seed in North Carolina will be a very difficult challenge, but two of the guys on that team (junior Tasmin Mitchell and senior Garrett Temple) started and played 40 minutes the night we beat Duke, which was the No. 1 seed in the tournament (in 2006). So yes, it’s possible, but let me finish that by saying that on that team was Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas, who are both big-time minutes players in the NBA.”
Austin coach Quin Snyder
College: Before coming to Austin, Snyder was a head coach at Missouri (1999-2006), but he also played at Duke (1985-89).
Duke (28-6) is a No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will open tournament play Thursday against No.-15 seeded Binghamton (23-8) in Greensboro. Missouri (28-6) is a third seed and will play No. 14-seeded Cornell (21-9) on Friday in the West Regional in Boise, Idaho.
How will his Blue Devils do in this year’s tournament? “I really like them. I’m always going to like them, right, but I like them like them. You can always come up with things that a team doesn’t have this or doesn’t have that. People talk about it, but when I watched them play (North) Carolina, I thought they were as efficient offensively as any team. They were really good. They play to their strengths. They’re hard to guard and I think they’ve gotten better and better defensively at defending the ball. They’re smaller than some of the teams they’ll play and that’s the big question.
“…They’ve got a toughness to them. They’ve been through a lot. I think they’ve got a confidence right now that I’m not sure they had a month ago, but they went through something and survived. Not only did they survive, they came out the other side and beat Wake Forest, beat Maryland on the road, beat Virginia Tech, beat Florida State and won the ACC (Tournament). But I don’t think there is any risk of it turning into over confidence. If they lose, someone is going to have to beat them. I’ll put it that way.”
Austin PG DeMarcus Nelson
College: Duke (2004-08)
How will his Blue Devils do in this year’s tournament? “I think they’ll do good. I think they have a good bracket. I think they’re in a bracket with teams that they can play with. I think they’re one of the best teams in the country and can play with anybody. Just the craziness of the tournament. On that day, which team is going to be the best team. Which is team going to have the best game that day.
“One thing Duke that has been good at all year is establishing itself defensively and then have the offense go from there. More than anything, if they continue to defend, even on the nights that sometimes they might not shoot as well as they’re capable, if they’re defending, they’ll have a chance to win any game.”
Austin F Marcus Williams
College: Arizona (2005-07). A bubble team before Selection Sunday, the Wildcats (19-13) enter the tournament as a No. 12 seed in the Midwest Regional. Arizona will face No. 5 seeded-Utah (24-9) on Friday in Miami.
How will his Wildcats do in this year’s tournament? “I kind of felt like would get a bid after they beat UCLA and USC (during the regular season). I kind of felt pretty good about that. They still somewhat have the name and I think that helped them. They’ve got good players, but looking at the (NCAA selection) committee, some good teams got left out. I always feel like my alma mater deserves a chance in the tournament.
“I think they’ve got some talent. A couple of guys that will go in the first round in the draft if they come out. I think Arizona definitely deserves a shot in the tournament. I think they can surprise a lot of people. They’ve got a lot of talent and a new coach (Russ Pennell). People don’t necessarily feel as if they deserve to be there so if they go in there with a chip on their shoulder, I think they could surprise a lot of people. I definitely wouldn’t want to play them in the first couple of rounds of the tournament.”
PF Darnell Jackson
College: Kansas (2004-08). The defending national champions are a third seed in the Midwest Regional. Kansas (25-7) opens tournament play Friday against 14th-seeded North Dakota State (26-6) in Minneapolis.
How his the Jayhawks do in this year’s tournament? “I think Kansas can make it all the way to the Final Four. They’re the underdogs. Everybody thinks they’re a young team and they won’t make it far in the tournament. When I was there, we had a lot of guys who had a lot of experience. We really don’t have that much experience on the team, but we still have a couple of guys there that know how to win ball games.”
Are they in Jackson’s Final Four bracket? “Definitely.”