Wizards catching tournament fever
Wizards (21-46) at Trail Blazers (41-28)
Wizards starters: Shaun Livingston, Mike Miller, Al Thornton, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee
Trail Blazers: Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby
Line: Trail Blazers by 12
Before getting on the team bus after the morning walkthrough at Rose Garden, Wizards assistant coach Randy Wittman stopped to check his iPhone. A few seconds later, Wittman lifted his left fist into the air and shouted, "Yes, sir! Yes, sir!"
The source of his excitement wasn't much of a mystery - Cornell had just upset Temple, 78-65, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and became the first Ivy League team to win a tournament game since 1998. Wittman, of course, won an NCAA championship at Indiana in 1981 but his son, Ryan, scored 20 points to help the 12th-seeded Ivy League champions move on to play No. 4 Wisconsin in the second round.
Flip Saunders was disappointed that Minnesota lost in the first round, but he had no problem praising the play of Ryan Wittman, a 6-foot-6 senior guard whom he has watched develop over the years.
Randy Wittman "is feeling good and he should. Ryan has had an unbelievable career at Cornell," Saunders said. "He's put himself in a situation that he's a viable player who could play in our league. The way he can shoot the ball and how he plays. It was the first time Cornell has won and NCAA game. Ryan will probably go down as the greatest player in the history of Cornell."
James Singleton was also feeling pretty good after his Murray State Racers pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament, defeating Vanderbilt 66-65 on Thursday. "Sometimes, you don't have to brag, they already know," Singleton said, when asked if he had said anything to his teammates. "Sadly, I haven't been keeping up with them as much as I should've been, but just to see the things that they are doing and the players that they have, I'm loving it. I'm going to see if I can stop by down there after the season is over, take them out to dinner or something."
Few of the Wizards players had much success in the NCAA Tournament, with Mike Miller the only player (other than Gilbert Arenas) to reach the championship game. As sophomore, Miller led Florida to the Final Four in 2000, where the Gators lost to Michigan State. But Miller's most memorable shot - perhaps of his basketball career - was his buzzer-beating driving bank shot to help Florida avoid a first-round upset loss to Butler.
"It was probably my biggest," Miller said. "It was on a big stage, we were able to make it to the national championship game, and it gave me and our team and an opportunity to keep playing."
Miller it's hard to compare playing in the NCAA Tournament to anything else. "It's one of the best experiences of your life. That's why you hope everyone gets a chance to play in it, get an opportunity to witness and be a part of it. it was a lot of fun for me, for sure," Miller said. "You're with that team, it's basically like your family, you spend so much time together. You always miss those days, especially when tournament time comes around. Makes you miss it even more."
Randy Foye advanced to the Elite Eight with Villanova in 2006, but the top-seeded Wildcats lost to eventual champion Florida. "I just remember being together with my teammates and having one goal in mind and that's winning it all. I definitely miss it, the family atmosphere of being together, doing everything together, eating, watching TV, the whole team. That was fun."
Who is Foye going with? "My college coach [Jay Wright] would probably be mad at me if I wasn't picking Villanova. After that, I think Kansas got it."
Ernie Grunfeld is making the rounds at the NCAA Tournament. On Friday, Grunfeld was in Milwaukee, where Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State and California-Santa Barbara are playing. Ohio State features Big Ten player of the year and national player of the year Evan Turner. Turner, a junior, is considered a high lottery pick should he enter the draft.
March 19, 2010; 9:19 PM ET
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