Kragthorpe: Sweet 16 thoughts as NCAA Tournament rolls on
NCAA Tournament • Cinderella Florida Gulf Coast has ties to Utah Valley.
Published: March 25, 2013 02:55PM
Updated: March 28, 2013 04:21PM
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Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Gonzaga Bulldogs guard David Stockton (11) drives between Southern University Jaguars guard YonDarius Johnson (23) and guard Christopher Hyder (31) as the Bulldogs face the Jaguars in the NCAA tournament at EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday, March 21, 2013.

Sixteen sweet, semi-sweet and bittersweet sentiments at this stage of the NCAA Tournament:

• Now playing in the Sweet 16, Florida Gulf Coast once was in the same class as Utah Valley University. During a transition period, the schools collaborated to create the “Division I Provisional National Championship,” a four-team tournament in 2004. UVU beat the Eagles 81-80 in the title game, thanks to freshman Ryan Toolson’s 3-pointer. The Wolverines also featured guard Ronnie Price.

• I’m never sure if this distinction should be a source of pride to BYU. In any case, Missouri gained ground on the Cougars this month. By missing the NCAA Tournament, the Cougars maintained their record of 27 all-time appearances without making the Final Four. Missouri stands at 26 after losing to Colorado State in the round of 64.

• The three most notable players who transferred from Utah after playing in the Jim Boylen era each lost Sunday in the round of 32: Marshall Henderson (Mississippi), Will Clyburn (Iowa State) and J.J. O’Brien (San Diego State). Henderson and Clyburn were involved in controversial plays at the end of tough defeats, with Henderson claiming he was fouled on a shot attempt against La Salle and Clyburn called for a charging foul that took away his basket with ISU leading by one point in an eventual loss to Ohio State.

• With his on-court antics, Henderson represents everything that’s wrong about college athletics. So why will I miss him so much, as the tournament continues? He would have served as a contrast to Wichita State’s workmanlike approach in the Sweet 16.

• For every Marshall Henderson associated with Utah basketball, there’s an Arnie Ferrin, Wat Misaka and Herb Wilkinson — and thankfully so. The classy, appreciative members of the Utes’ 1944 national championship team were recognized Saturday at EnergySolutions Arena at halftime of the Arizona-Harvard game.

• As a BYU assistant coach, Dave Rice was involved in first-round defeats in four consecutive NCAA tournaments before enjoying some success in Jimmer Fredette’s last two seasons. As UNLV’s head coach, Rice is 0-2 with losses to double-digit seeds Colorado and California.

• With two conceded layups in the last minute, Gonzaga guard David Stockton improved his season’s field-goal shooting to 40.7 percent. But it was not a good finish for Stockton and his Bulldog teammates, as he passed up a few shots in the late stages of a 76-70 loss to Wichita State at ESA. He also was involved in a mixup that created an in-bounds violation with Gonzaga trailing by one point. So in two of his team’s three losses this season, Stockton’s in-bounds mistakes proved costly — and those plays are part of his designated role. Gonzaga has lost in the round of 32 each of the last four seasons.

• It has been a wild tournament in many ways, with Nos. 9, 13 and 15 seeds in the Sweet 16. Yet 11 remaining teams are top-four seeds, which is a fairly standard number. The East Region has gone exactly according to form and FGCU is the only outlier in the South.

• Sweet 16 contestants, by conference: Big Ten four, Big East three, Pac-12 two, ACC two and one each from the Big 12, SEC, Atlantic Sun, Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley.

• The Mountain West is the biggest omission from that list, although only New Mexico was a top-four seed among the conference’s five entrants. The embarrassment stemmed from from the MW’s losing to Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seeds, although Colorado State was eliminated by No. 1 seed Louisville after beating Missouri and San Diego State’s loss to No. 15 FGCU also came in the round of 32.

• UCLA’s firing of coach Ben Howland, a former Weber State player, seemingly was destined. The Bruins received a No. 6 seed after winning the Pac-12 regular-season title, but were short-handed with the loss of Jordan Adams, their No. 2 scorer. UCLA’s 20-point loss to Minnesota became Howland’s last game, completing a five-year run of failing to reach the Sweet 16 — after he took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours.

• Arizona has done basically what BYU did in 2011 to reach the Sweet 16. Jimmer’s Cougars beat No. 14 seed Wofford and No. 11 Gonzaga that year; the Wildcats beat No. 11 Belmont and No. 14 Harvard. But that’s not to suggest No. 6 Arizona will be overwhelmed by No. 2 Ohio State on Thursday in Los Angeles. BYU took No. 2 Florida into overtime before losing.

• The attendance for Saturday’s two-game session at ESA was 16,060, with a seating reconfiguration slightly reducing the capacity from the Jazz’s usual 19,911. That’s a decent turnout, factoring in New Mexico’s early exit. Yet anyone who figured the followings of Gonzaga, Arizona and UNM would produce sellouts in Salt Lake City was misguided.

It’s one thing to make plans to attend conference tournaments in Las Vegas — as thousands of fans from those schools did — but it’s asking a lot of those fans to make quick arrangements for the NCAA Tournament a week later. I still say the hidden flaw of a college football playoff is the challenge of getting fans to those games.

• Utah remains the last team to have beaten Oregon. Since that loss to ensd the regular season, the Ducks have won three games in the Pac-12 tournament (including a 19-point victory over Utah) and two games in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed. The Utes also can claim to have lost twice to Arizona by a total of only seven points.

• Oregon’s playing rotation includes a son and brother of former BYU players. Tony Woods Jr.’s father played briefly for the Cougars in the early 1990s and Johnathan Loyd’s brother, Michael, scored 26 points in an NCAA Tournament victory over Florida in 2010.

• No team had a crazier NCAA experience than Virginia Commonwealth, which beat Akron by 46 points and lost to Michigan by 25.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt