As you may imagine, my weekend was dominated by NCAA Tournament games. What follows are the notes I took while watching and flipping from channel to channel starting with the Friday games:
- Providence/Texas A&M: Aggies first field goal was at 12:30 of the first half; they get lots of shots because they hit the offensive boards hard. Providence controls tempo with deliberate offense and aggressive defense – no uncontested shots. Game was close to the end and the Aggies move on.
- Cal State-Fullerton/Purdue: Early part of the game shows Tournament jitters with both teams shooting bricks. Purdue leads by 9 at the half but looks like much the better team here. Second half looks like Purdue is playing a JV squad in a scrimmage.
- Marshall/Wichita St.: In the first half, Marshall indeed looks like the higher seeded team, but they rallied and tied the game with about 9 minutes to play in the second half. Marshall got hot late in the game and won its first NCAA Tournament game ever.
- Cincy/Georgia St.: Cincy is A LOT BIGGER than Ga St. The game was close early because Ga St. was hot from the field, but Cincy dominated the rebounding at either end. DeMarcus Simonds is a one-man team for Ga St., but Cincy was too much for him alone. Game was closer than the 15-point margin indicates.
- UNC/Lipscomb: Racehorse game early. UNC leads by 9 at the half but it is not that close. Second half not all that interesting; game is not in doubt.
- Arkansas/Butler: Butler dominates early (they led 21-2 at one point) but Arkansas hangs in and leads 29-27 with about 4 minutes in the first half. Arkansas does not play disciplined basketball. Butler’s Kemar Baldwin had an excellent game leading 10-seed Butler to a win.
- West Virginia/Murray State: With 12:15 to go in the first half, the score was 8-6; there have been lots of bricks and lots of turnovers so far. Not surprisingly, WVU plays defense better than offense.
- Texas/Nevada: Texas is not a “Shaka Smart team”; they play much more efficiently on offense than his teams at VCU ever did and play not nearly as frenetically on defense. Nevada closed a 14-point deficit late in the game and won in OT.
[Aside: Jerry Rice does a promo spot for the NCAA lauding athletes who will succeed in life outside athletics. Fine. Here is the what the NCAA put on the screen at the end, “Prioritizing academics, well-being, fairness”. Takes chutzpah for the NCAA to put “academics” in the lead there, no?]
- Michigan St. Bucknell: Officials let this game get a lot “chippier” than I prefer. Final score was a 4-point win for Michigan St., but the game was not really that close.
- K-State/Creighton: These schools probably compete with one another for “local recruits”. K-State won this one comfortably.
- Charleston/Auburn: Close game pretty much all the way; score is tied with 2:00 to play. Auburn survives an “overall sloppy game”.
- Xavier/Texas Southern: Never really a contest.
- Virginia/UMBC: This was a vintage game for Virginia. They held the opponent in check with good defense, but they do not score a lot of points themselves. AT halftime the score was 21-21. UMBC is hot in the second half and leads by 16 with 11:30 to play; UVa not built to come back from this sort of thing. In the end, UVa tries to catch up by shooting 3-point shots; that’s not gonna work.
[Aside: College basketball fans should give thanks for UMBC. Finally, a 16-seed has beaten a 1-seed; and going forward, we can put to rest all of those cookie-cutter reports about “when will it happen”. UMBC scored 74 points in their win. That is the most points allowed by Virginia this season; in 11 games this year, Virginia had held opponents to 50 points or less. This game was a big deal.]
- Syracuse/TCU: The Syracuse zone clearly frustrates TCU, but they managed to lead by a point at the half because Syracuse’s offense is bland. Both teams are relying on defense in the second half; the game is close all the way meaning it is an interesting game.
- Florida State/Missouri: The game is a blowout early. Pay attention to UMBC/UVa and Syracuse/TCU instead of this one.
- New Mexico St./Clemson: See Florida State/Missouri comment above…
After a good night’s sleep and some early morning chores, I returned to my comfy chair, my notepad and plenty of coffee for Saturday’s fare.
- Alabama/Villanova: Bama’s defense held Nova to a low score and a low shooting percentage in the 1st half. Don’t know what Jay Wright said to Nova at halftime but it worked. Nova was a different team at both ends of the court in the second half with a 15-0 run in the first four minutes.
- Duke/Rhode Island: Neither team shooting well early on. Duke put on a run in a 5-minute span to lead by 17 putting the game on ice.
[Aside: It is “fashionable” to hate Grayson Allen. Nevertheless, you have to acknowledge that he is not a prima donna; he does all the “hustle stuff” you want from a player. And he is a meathead.]
- Kentucky/Buffalo: This game was never in doubt…
- Tennessee/Loyola-Chicago: In the one bracket I filled out, I had Tennessee going to the Elite 8; at the same time, I wanted Loyola to do well for “nostalgia” reasons I mentioned last week. Loyola advances on a buzzer-beater for the second time in this tournament.
[Tennessee/Loyola had a “military flavor” to it. Tennessee featured a forward named Admiral Schofield and Loyola featured a guard named Clayton Custer. Last Saturday was not Clayton Custer’s last stand…]
- Gonzaga/Ohio St.: Zags build up a big lead and then miss plenty of easy shots to make a game of it. Ohio St. leads with 8:00 to play in the game. Gonzaga wins a close one here.
- Kansas/Seton Hall: I love the grit/intensity Seton Hall plays with. The final score shows a 4-point difference but every time I tuned in to watch for a few minutes, it never seemed to me that Seton Hall was going to win.
- Florida/Texas Tech: This is a helter-skelter game by both teams with tons of sloppy plays. Even though it was a close game, I do not find it fun to watch.
- Houston/Michigan: [This note was written late in the first half of this game] The team that makes the last mistake is gonna lose this game. That would be Houston who did not guard the inbounding player in the final seconds leading to a miracle 3-point shot by Michigan as time expired.
Sunday’s fare consisted of 8 more games that would cut the field from 64 teams on Thursday afternoon to 16 teams as of Monday morning. That makes 48 games in 4 days; how great is that?
- Butler/Purdue: This game went back and forth for the whole first half. Butler “looks like a damned good 10-seed”. Purdue was hot early in the second half and held on to win by 3 points.
- Michigan St./Syracuse: Michigan St. was my pick to win it all in the one bracket I filled out. C’est la guerre! Both teams played tough defense leading to 3 shot-clock violations in the first half. Michigan St. missed 13 consecutive shots from the field at the end putting them behind by 3 with 7 seconds to play. When they missed a buzzer-beater, Syracuse won 55-53.
- Texas A&M/UNC: UNC led 20-13 early in the first half and then trailed 42-28 at halftime. The Aggies dominated every facet of the game for the last 30 minutes.
- Cincy/Nevada: Cincy is a 2-seed playing a 7-seed and at halftime, it looks just the way you would expect; Cincy leads by 12 and is in control. In the second half, Nevada completely flipped the script and won the game with another late rally.
- Clemson/Auburn: A total blowout. I watched this game only when all the others were in commercial breaks.
- UMBC/K-State: When UMBC was down only 5 points at half, I noted “A second-half run like on Friday night will put a 16-seed in the Sweet 16. An omen?” Actually, that was getting ahead of myself. On Friday, UMBC was the “giant killer”; on Sunday, K-State was the “Cinderella killer”.
- Florida St./Xavier: Xavier is methodical but Florida St. keeping it close with the 1-seed in this bracket. In the final 5 minutes of the game, Xavier was either bad or dumb – – or perhaps both – – and Florida St. advances
- Marshall/West Virginia: A game of runs early on but W. Virginia is faster and quicker than Marshall at every position. By halftime, this game was over.
As I noted last week, one coaching matchup next week will be Jay Wright and Bob Huggins. If the game were to be scored by fashion writers, there would be no reason for W. Virginia to leave Morgantown.
Thursday evening, there will be 4 games on tap. Of the 8 teams participating, the highest remaining seed is Michigan who was a 3-seed. There will be a pair of 7-seeds, a pair of 9-seeds and one 11-seed on display.
Friday night will be the “chalky games”. There will be a pair of 1-seeds, a pair of 2-seeds and a 3-seed in action on Friday.
Finally, apropos of nothing in particular, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“A hunter in Maryland was knocked unconscious when a mortally wounded Canada goose — which typically weighs in at 10-15 pounds — fell out of the sky and conked him.
“In other words: ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’ … meet ‘Goose, Goose, Duck’!”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………