- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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On Wednesday, we looked at all the New Yorkers participating in the NCAA tournament regional semifinals Thursday night.
You'll see a few more on Friday.
By now you're surely familiar with Russ Smith, the leading scorer on the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, Louisville. The 6-foot-1 junior is one of the most exciting players in the country, at both ends of the floor. He's averaging 18.4 points per game on the season, and had 10 steals in the Cardinals' first two games in the Big Dance.
Smith is from Brooklyn but went to high school in Queens, starring at Archbishop Molloy under legendary coach Jack Curran, who died earlier this month at the age of 82. Smith had a strong affection for Curran, and is playing in his honor this postseason.
In addition, Louisville reserve guard Kevin Ware is from the Bronx, but played his high school ball in Georgia.
The Cardinals play Oregon on Friday at 7:15 p.m. (on CBS).
In the South regional, No. 3 seed Florida takes on Cinderella, a.k.a. Florida Gulf Coast, on Friday at 9:57 p.m. (on TBS). The Gators are a balanced bunch, with four players averaging in double figures. One of them is 6-foot-3 senior guard Mike Rosario, second on the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game.
Rosario was the star of Florida's win over Minnesota in the Round of 32, scoring 25 points, including shooting 6-for-9 from beyond the arc. That stat line might makes Rutgers fans cringe. Rosario, who is from Jersey City and played at St. Anthony High School, starred with the Scarlet Knights for two years before electing to transfer to Florida.
Rosario, who was only the second sophomore in Rutgers history to accumulate 1,000 career points, averaged just 6.6 points per game in his first year with the Gators. But he has nearly doubled that average this season.
The other two Friday matchups -- Kansas versus Michigan (7:37 p.m., TBS) and Duke versus Michigan State (9:45 p.m., CBS) -- don't have much in the way of local flavor. But they're fascinating games nonetheless.
And don't forget about the coaches of Louisville and Florida. Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan don't just have national championships in common. Both are New York natives. And of course , Donovan played under Pitino at Providence and began his coaching career under Pitino at Kentucky.
Mentor and protege are both two wins away from facing each other in the Final Four in Atlanta. Wouldn't that be fun?
On Wednesday, we looked at all the New Yorkers participating in the NCAA tournament regional semifinals Thursday night. You'll see a few more on Friday.