The first four days of March Madness are behind us; the Sweet Sixteen is set; we can exhale – – at least for the moment. Today’s rant will focus on the 32 games from Friday through Sunday, the matchups in the Sweet Sixteen and general commentary about college basketball.
General Comment #1: Going into this year’s tournament, there had been 136 games between teams Seeded 8 and 9. The record in those games was 68-68. This year all four “9-Seeds” beat the “8-Seeds” in the first-round games and none of the four games was particularly close or compelling. However, it is commonplace at this time of year to dismiss the NCAA Selection Committee as a bunch of boobs who would not know a worthy mid-major from a saxophone or who makes up the seedings in the brackets by drawing straws. Well, if you look at history and think about it, the “8-and-9 games” should be evenly matched and over a sample size of 136 games leading up to this year’s tournament, it was perfectly even. Maybe those guys know something after all?
General Comment #2: It seems as if the latest announcing fad is to say that Joe Flabeetz is playing/has been playing “at a high level”. What does that mean? Is he on stilts? Or maybe a ladder? What is wrong with saying that good ol’ Joe is playing very well today?
Friday game note: UC-Irvine and Kansas St. are more closely matched in terms of physical talent that a “13 Seed vs. 4-Seed” would imply. The game was tied at halftime and the second half was very competitive down to the final buzzer. This is the first tournament victory ever for UC-Irvine.
Friday game note: Colgate could not possibly match up with Tennessee physically nor could they run with them. So, they set a defense that was designed to give up as little as possible inside and to force Tennessee to shoot 3-point shots. That worked for a while, but Tennessee built a lead and even though Colgate cut that lead to 1 point, they expended so much energy doing it that they could not finish things off. Brawn beat brains in this game…
Friday game note: Arizona St. and Buffalo should have been called the “Bobby Hurley Game”. Many of the players on the Buffalo roster are guys he recruited to go there when he was the coach there. In the end, Hurley’s “former players” beat his “current players” pretty handily. Two observations from this game:
- Arizona St. has a guard named Remy Martin. How did I miss including him in the “What’s In A Name” rant last Monday?
- If an NBA team has a second-round pick and wants to take a flyer, Nick Perkins (Buffalo) has the same body type as Zion Williamson. He does not have the same skills; but Perkins is big, strong and can push back if someone pushes him. Just an observation…
Friday game note: Duke shot poorly for the entire first half against North Dakota State. My note said, “Don’t know yet who they will play next, but if they shoot like that for half the game, they are going to lose.” Well, the Sunday Duke win over UCF could not have been closer…
Friday game note: For the Liberty/Mississippi St. game, my note from about midway in the first half was, “for a “12/5 matchup, the athleticism here is pretty close”. The game was close until Mississippi St opened up a 10-point lead with about 7 minutes left in the game. Then, Liberty rallied and won its first NCAA tournament game ever. There was an unusual occurrence in this game:
- After wondering last week if the 3-second rule had been rescinded since it was never called, there were TWO 3-second violations called in the Liberty/Mississippi St. game.
General Comment #3: There were a lot of wins by “the chalk” on the first weekend; two of the brackets for the Sweet 16 are Seeds 1 thru 4; one other bracket is Seeds 1 thru 3 and then a 5 Seed. However, there were some upsets out in San José. That is the venue where Liberty beat Mississippi St. and where UC-Irvine beat K-state and where Oregon beat Wisconsin. Must be something in the water out there…
Friday game note: If you want to see what a hot 3-point shooting team can do, check out the first half of the Iona UNC game. Iona hit 7 3-point shots in the first 14 minutes and led by 5 at halftime. Then if you want to see what happens to an outmanned team when they are not shooting the lights out from 3-point range, watch the second half.
Saturday game note: The LSU/Maryland game was awfully “low-wattage” in the first half but the final 8 minutes were exciting. LSU advanced with a basket with 1.6 seconds left on the clock.
Saturday game note: Wofford is outmanned by Kentucky, but Wofford is so disciplined and fundamentally sound that they made a game of it. Wofford suffered the same problem I described for Ivy League teams last week; their best scorer – who holds the record for most 3-point shots made in a career in college basketball – shot 0 for 12 from 3-point range and Wofford had no way to make up for that.
Saturday game note: Ja Morant was not enough to beat Florida State on his own. He had 18 at the half and the rest of the team had 16. Florida St. was just too big and too physically superior.
Saturday game note: Baylor was efficient on offense and defense beating Syracuse but not here against Gonzaga. This was no contest.
Saturday game note: Auburn led Kansas 51-25 at the half. It was “not that close”.
Sunday game note: Tennessee led by 21 at the half. Iowa sent the game to OT. Tennessee dominated the OT to win by 6. Highly unusual game…
Sunday game note: Duke survived UCF. That is the only way I know how to describe that victory.
Sunday game note: VA Tech is the better and deeper team versus Liberty. When Liberty hit a cold spell in the second half, they had no recourse to overcome that.
Finally, This Tweet from Brad Dickson puts into perspective the American propensity to have National Something-or-Other Day:
“It’s National Cereal Day. Is there anything that doesn’t have its own day yet? Lint? Meth? Ear-wax?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………