Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 4, final segment

#3 team (Syracuse) in the Big East plays the #11 team (Marquette) from the Big East in a second round matchup. Syracuse sleepwalked through it for too long, with 17 turnovers. The last one was the worst, with 'Cuse getting called for a backcourt violation on an inbounds pass near midcourt out of a timeout with ~45 seconds left and the game tied at 56. Marquette hit a 3-pointer (great passing to get an open look, by the way), 'Cuse missed a 3-pointer, and Marquette hit their foul shots.

So if you're scoring at home, the list of end-of-game brain farts in games today reads pretty long:
Game 1 (UW vs UNC) - in the last 5 seconds, UW guard laucnhes half court shot with 2 seconds still left on clock, UNC player tries to catch it and fumbles it out of bounds instead with (arguably) 0.5 seconds left. Officials don't review to check clock, and UNC player possibly goaltends final shot, though it;s not called.
Game 4 (Arizona vs Texas) - Texas called for 5 second violation up 2 with 14.5 seconds left. Then fouls Derrick Williams as he shoots a 3 footer, giving him a 3-point play, Texas loses.
Game 6 (Marquette vs Syracuse) - With ~45 seconds left, Syracuse inbounds out of a timeout at midcourt, and is called for a backcourt violation on the entry pass. Then down 5 with < 15 seconds left, Syracuse drives for a free layup instead of shooting the three. Then, with < 10 seconds left (down 5 again), Syracuse again drives, AND Marquette fouls the guy (though he missed the shot to no 3-point play attempt). Plus 17 turnovers for Syracuse in the game.

As you can see, it wasn't just the losing teams that experienced serious brain-lock at the end of their games.

Kansas did their Kansas thing, let an inferior team hang around for the first half and some of the second half, before finally asserting themselves and pulling away. You are officially on notice. The other teams left in your region? A 10 seed, an 11 seed, and a 12 seed. As a Bill Self team, I fully expect one of these teams to give you a dogfight to the very end. There is no reason this should happen. Should you lose to one of these teams, I think the volume of times you have fallen to inferior foes and generally underachieved in the tournament will start to outweigh even the championship you guys won back in 2008. That's no easy feat.

When they're on, Notre Dame is a sharp-shooting creative offensive team. When they're not, we see them for what they really are: a jump shooting team, and jump shooting teams don't tend to remain hot enough for 6 games come March Madness time. Florida State brought it harder offensively than I (or Notre Dame, seemingly) expected, and their defense gave the Irish fits, and the game was never close for the entire second half.

Charles Barkley nailed it

Of all the analysts CBS/TNT/TBS/TruTV have used, Charles Barkley is the smartest of them all (in college basketball), at least in regards to the "best conference in college basketball".

Big East standings by regular season record:
1. Pittsburgh (1 seed - lost in 2nd round to #8 Butler)
2. Notre Dame (2 seed - lost in 2nd round to #10 Florida State)
3. Syracuse (3 seed - lost in 2nd round to #11 Marquette)
4. Louisville (4 seed - lost in 1st round to #13 Morehead State)
5. St. John's (6 seed - lost in 1st round to #11 Gonzaga)
6. Cincinnati (6 seed - lost in 2nd round to #3 Connecticut)
7. West Virginia (5 seed - lost in 2nd round to #4 Kentucky)
8. Georgetown (6 seed - lost in 1st round to #11 VCU)
9. Connecticut (3 seed - through to the Sweet 16)
10. Villanova (9 seed - lost in 1st round to #8 George Mason)
11. Marquette (11 seed - through to the Sweet 16)

If we go by the chalk, The Big East should have 14 wins right now, and 5 teams should be in the Sweet 16. Instead, the conference has 9 wins, and 2 teams are still alive and in the Sweet 16.

Looking closer, of the 11 teams from your conference to make it to the Big Dance, your #9 team and your #11 team are the ONLY ones still alive. And your #9 team won your conference tournament.

Looking even closer, the 2 Big East teams that made it to the Sweet 16...did so by beating other Big East teams in the round of 32. Unreal.

Give Sir Charles credit, he's been calling the Big East overrated since they gave him a forum to comment on college basketball. Based on the evidence, I have to say he's right.

Day 4, middle 2 games

Rick Barnes (Texas coach), once said the following:

We would love to win a national championship, but we're not obsessed with it because we're obsessed with these guys trying to live their NBA dream. What's happened to Kevin Durant , LaMarcus Aldridge , T.J. Ford - I'd give up a national title for all our guys to be able to live their dream.

That's good for Rick, because he's a (say it with me now Charles) TURRRRRRRR-IBLE in game coach. Want proof? Texas, having forced Arizona's best player (Derrick Williams) into a turnover with 14.5 seconds remaining, were then called for a 5-second violation. Yes, much of that blame falls on the player, but if Barnes were a better coach, they would have a better play down cold for this situation, or would be better schooled to call time out before it gets that close to the time limit. I'm not saying Barnes isn't good for a program, he attracts elitle talent. If you're hopes are consintent tournament berths in strong conferences, Barnes will give you that. Your teams will be exciting and talented. However, teams with this large a weakness in the x's and o's category will not contend for national titles. It just won't happen.

Williams didn't disappoint with his second chance, not only making a bucket to tie the game, but getting fouled and making the free throw to take the lead with ~9 seconds left.

Was the Texas player fouled on the putback attempt that the other end as time expired? Yes, except that time expired before he was fouled, so a no-call was the right call by the officials.

Then came VCU-Purdue. I don't have any reason to root for Purdue, except I just feel awful for Robbie Hummel, and to a slightly lesser extent his team. For thos of you who don't know, Hummel has torn his ACL in each of the past 2 seasons. Last year Purdue could have made a Final Four run, but Hummel went down. This year he went down before the season started, and Purdue still won 25+ games. Perhaps their depth was suspect, but they were run off the court by VCU's speed. VCU's point guard was very impressive. Could they beat Notre Dame (if you listen to Charles Barkley, probably, as the Big East is so overrated, per Chuck).

Day 4, 1st 3 games

The potential and athleticism in the UW-UNC game was off the charts, and that part of the game did not disappoint. Back-and-forth they went at each other, and you knew it was going to come down to execution in the end. I think UNC's superior length bothered enough UW shots, especially late, to give UNC the lead and force UW to push at the end to get back even. The ending could have been more exciting, I don't know where UW's Overton had his internal clock set, but it was fast, depriving UW of a real shot at a game-tying 3-pointer. UNC had enough mental miscues in the last minute that I'm not sorry I don't have them winning another game in my bracket.

Michigan played a tremendous game. In the end, they weren't quite hot enough from outside the arc to pull it off, but when Duke went up by 10+ in the second half, I wrote Michigan off. Boy was I wrong. Whether Duke took the foot off the gas too soon, Kyrie Irving screwed up the offense, or whatever it was, Michigan just never stopped pushing, and they got a terrific shot to tie at the end, it was just a little too strong and went off the back rim. Nolan Smith is a legit talent. I'm starting to understand the Kyrie Irving questions, because Smith has been playing Irving's position, and killing it. Singler, on the other hand, I have not been impressed with this season, and this game did nothing to change my mind.

George Mason started strong, then Ohio State woke up as I fell asleep. When I woke up, tOSU was up 26. I didn't feel compelled to try to get back into the game when I saw that, and they ended up winning by 32. Well done, Buckeyes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 3, final segment

Gonzaga looked really good in dispatching St. Johns in the first round (I'm not calling it the second round, it's not happening, let's move on). I'm still not sure how BYU made them look so unable to play with the Coffee-free ones, so I'll just do what everyone else does: JIMMER-TIME!!!!!!!! I will say though, that Jimmer is an offensive machine. Guy scores in every possible way.

A bigger man would probably commence eating his words on Wisconsin. To that line of thought I say, they scored 33 points in a Big Ten tournament game!!!! Thirty-three!!!! Good teams don't do that. I don't care that they beat Belmont and Jacob Pullen (oh, the rest of Kansas State played too? Didn't seem like it). They could win the whole thing, and I will not give them credit. I don't care that they lost, I care that they couldn't even average a point a minute. I hope Butler wipes the floor with them.

Back to the game, Pullen had no help, and still almost willed K-State to victory, but for all the good he did, he had 3 huge opportunities missed in the last 30 seconds. First, down 1, he drove down the court and lost the ball without getting a shot off. Then, down 3, he was fouled while shooting a 3, and missed the middle free throw. Finally, his potential tying 3-point attempt was blocked with 1-2 seconds left.

I didn't really believe UConn had enough to make a Final Four run, but I didn't see much standing in their way before SD State and then Duke. I have to give Cincinnati credit, as I didn't see them giving UConn any problems, and they really made it a dogfight to the finish. I give Walker credit, he's still carrying the UConn offense, and he put up over 30 points tonight.

Day 3, Pitt-Butler

Or, as an alternate heading: WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? OH MY GOD, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING??????

As I was watching the last 8-10 minutes of this one, my first thought was how Pitt looked competent on offense for the first time in about 6 years in the NCAA tournament. Pitt has always been a defensive stalwart, and they've been beasts on the boards, but offensively they've been...ahh, unimaginative. When they were down 8 to Butler around halftime, I was very worried. Heck, when they were down 4 to Butler with ~6 minutes remaining, I was very worried. But to their credit, they executed some very nice offensive sets, got good looks, and took a one-point lead with under a minute left.

Then they became Pitt again. With 43 second sleft they ran down the shot clock to 13 seconds, called a timeout, and proceded to not get a shot off before the shot clock expired, giving Butler the ball with 9 seconds left. Butler got the ball to midcourt and called their last timeout with 7.1 seconds left. Everyone in the building wondered how coach Brad Stevens would design a way for en fuego hand Shelvin Mack to get open to release a shot (he only had 30 points at the time). Stevens didn't. He used Mack as a decoy and got a layup for one of his big men with 2.1 seconds left.

Then it really got interesting. Would-be hero Mack FOULED the Pitt player receiving the inbounds pass, giving Pitt 2 shots with 1.2 seconds left. He made the first, but missed the second.

Then it got ridiculous. A Pitt player FOULED Butler big-man Matt Howard as he caught the rebound, giving Howard 2 shots to take the lead with 0.8 seconds left. Howard made the first, missed the second intentionally, and Pitt couldn't launch a prayer in time.

First off, yes, both were fouls, and no, neither was ticky tacky, and finally, yes, the officials got both calls right. Both were huge brain farts, the Pittsburgh one was more incredible only because he was given a template of what not to do and did it anyway. As my friend Dave said, Jamie Dixon has to be sick right now. He seemingly addressed Pitt's weakness of the last few years, and they still lose to a lower seed for the 4th season in a row. And while this loss at first blush goes on the players (missed 2nd free throw, idiotic foul), look a little deeper:

Jamie Dixon had 13 seconds to set up a play to get a bucket while up 1. It ended in a shot-clock violation.

Brad Stevens had 7.1 seconds to set up a play to get a bucket while down 1, AND Dixon got a look at his first setup and was able to adjust his defense accordingly, so presumably, Stevens was down to his 2nd-choice play. It ended in a layup.

Day 3, first half of the slate

The West Virginia-Kentucky game went pretty differently than last year's Elite 8 clash. A year ago, West Virginia was 10-23 from behind the arc, and Kentucky was 4-32 (which made West Virginia's 1-3-1 matchup zone much better). This year WVU was 7-19 and Kentucky 6-18, so no decided edge from downtown for the Mountaineers. That allowed Kentucky to hang in long enough for their superior athleticism and length to take over. A part of the game I enjoyed: West Virginia has a blessed last minute-plus of the first half, with steals, easy buckets, and cheap foul calls go their way, and Bob Huggins still looked asleep for his brief interview with the sideline reporter at halftime.

Florida-UCLA was a really entertaining game, and UCLA had enough length to bother Florida, but not enough to take over. Florida ran some really nice offensive sets, and surprisingly (to me) did a lot of their damage in the paint against UCLA's brickhouse, Smith. This game also brought a new term to the masses: the man-jam. Apparently it means very manly slam dunk (thanks, Ian Eagle). I vote we never utter this word again.

I'll be honest, I didn't see much of Richmond-Morehead State. Not too surprised Richmond won a yawner, as Morehead State pretty clearly emptied their load in the Louisville game. Richmond seemed to have a little more substance to their upset, given their run through the A10 tournament and the overall strength of their conference versus Morehead State's.

Temple put up a heck of a fight against San Diego State, and San Diego State's big men need some practice on their outlet throws. In the second overtime, they threw away an inbounds pass out of a timeout from under the basket, and then after securing a rebound, another big man threw a lazy lob over a Temple defender that didn't actually clear said defender. That being said, eventually SD State's size was too much at both ends, as Temple just couldn't get enough easy shots to keep up by the second overtime.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 2, late games

Now I don't know what to think, the A10 seemed to be a decent conference (Temple, Richmond advancing), and Xavier wiped the floor with it all season (with the exception of the A10 tournament). Marquette was the 11th team out of the 16-team Big East to make the tournament. And Marquette steamrolled Xavier. As John Madden might say, "Anytime you can hold the other team's 3 top scorers to very few points, you have to feel good about your defense." Xavier just got bullied off the floor. Considering yours truly was 11/11 today until Xavier got throttled, I filed this one under disappointing.

UNLV-Illinois was one of less than five games in the bracket where I had seen/read/heard nothing about either team. I was all set to pay attention to this one, as it was an 8-9 game and thus a probable close game to help close the night. I got distracted and by the time I came back to it Illinois was up 14. I don't think UNLV got that close again until less than 2 minutes remained and Illinois was just waiting for the game to end.

Wait, Georgetown, aren't you supposed to be good at basketball. Just when I willing to listen to Charles Barkley and write the Big East off as somewhat overrated, Marquette subdues a respectable Xavier team. Then, as I'm reconsidering my opinion, you guys lay down to VCU, who played less than 48 hours ago in that First Four garbage. So now what am I supposed to think? It's one thing to lose, but by 20+ at some points?

Washington is very, very athletic. They also committed some of the dumbest fouls I saw today (and that's saying something). Their second round game against North Carolina is going to be fast, crazy, and prone to outrageous lapses in concentration. What a comeback attempt by Georgia, they made this the only game of these last 5 that wasn't a snoozefest.

Indiana State wasn't much of a threat to Syracuse. You know why?

"All the negativity in this town stinks."

Day 2, dinner segment

It took Kansas over 20 minutes to pull away from Boston University. Yes, they were tight, but why does this stuff always happen to Bill Self teams? I still can't believe he won a title, though that was likely the NCAA gods ensuring Calipari wouldn't win one so the NCAA wouldn't be put in the awkward position of having to vacate an actual title. It's one thing to vacate a Final Four berth (UMass), or a final game berth (Memphis), but a whole other can of worms to vacate a title. Remember, USC and Reggie Bush gave up the Heisman, not their titles.

Purdue smoked St. Peters. Lesson here, if you want to be a basilica, St. Peter's is a good name. If you want to be a basketball team that gets taken seriously, pick something else. Second lesson: if you're thinking of backing a team that's named after a single person, slap yourself upside the head, and pick the other team.

While Kansas habitually simply plays poorly for long stretches of torunament games, North Carolina clearly just gets bored for stretches of games. It seems to take years off of Roy Williams' life, but he refuses to use timeouts to re-focus his troops. Except for the 2 years where Tyler Hansbrough was a junior/senior, this has been a problem for Roy's UNC teams, even the one that won the 2005 national title. Is it better to not just chase talent, ensure your kids are coachable, and take 6 months to remove their souls, like Duke does? Sure the high end of your potential is lower but the low end of what you'll actually get is so much higher.

Day 2, through dinner

Notre Dame didn't really ever put Akron away, and as someone who picked ND to make the final four, that made me a little nervous. And as they're a jump shooting team, that's the type of offense that can disappear for a game, but they are darn good at it. They create good looks for themselves.

Villanova's game went kind of like their whole year. They started out well, and it looked like their 3-guard lineup would run George Mason ragged. But as the game went on their offense disappeared for stretches, and they gave up too many points in the paint, so George Mason never went away. In the end, they couldn't put enough plays together to make something of this game (or their season), and you're left wondering whether they underachieved or you were just looking at them through the filter of their past recent successes.

Duke's not going to lose to a 16 seed. It's just not going to happen for a Coach K led team (a Bill Self led team? Maybe). And it didn't, they smoked poor Hampton. Now that we got that out of the way, can we stop with the arguments over whether Kyrie Irving should be playing? Yes, he's missed a lot of time and yes, it may bog down the offense short term, but the guy is the presumptive #1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. You don't hold him out because you're runnign smoothly without him. You're not looking to make the Elite 8/Final Four, you're looking to win the whole thing, and you need Kyrie Irving in some form to do that. How is this even a question?

Likewise, Ohio State has been labeled the #1 seed least likely to lose to a team they shouldn't going into this tournament, and they were never in trouble against the third of the four First Four graduates.

The Memphis-Arizona game was interesting (and one of only 2 games that came down to the end). Arizona had the better talent, but Memphis used their speed to jump out to a big early lead, and then hung around as Arizona found themselves and came back to hold a small lead for most of the rest of the way. Memphis fought hard, but their lack of size doomed them, as seen by their final shot getting blocked by AZ's best player. Good fight, and you have to root for them now that Hurricane Calipari has left light recruiting classes, sanctions, and vacated Final Fours in his wake.

The Florida State-Texas A&M game was mostly a defensive struggle. Florida State's defense is legit, they are quick and they are dogged. A&M responded at first by simply raining 3-pointers, and were able to hold a lead at halftime with this strategy. FSU adjusted to a zone to take away the three pointer (which is interesting, as your basic zone usually gives up a lot of outside looks), but A&M didn't have any sort of post game and by the time FSU went back to their man-to-man, A&M lost any sort of touch from behind the arc. Not the prettiest of games, and the Notre Dame-FSU matchup next round will be interesting, as Notre Dame has an elite offense to counter Florida State's elite D.

And as I post this Bill Self's Kansas team is struggling to pull away from Boston University. No, not Boston College, BU. And no, I'm not watching hockey. Color me unsurprised.

Day 2, very early games

Texas in the end takes care of business, but let Oakland hang around with a shot longer than intended. Texas has always been an inconsistent team under coach Rick Barnes, who's startegy is to simply accumulate talent and hope it meshes together. Guy's a terrific recruiter, but not the best in-game coach. They'll usually take care of business, but won't usually go much further than the chalk says they should.

I like Bruce Pearl, and I like their run-and-gun style, but if you're an athletic director, and you are hoping to have a good tournament, you don't publicly say that your coach's job security is uncertain two days before your first tournament game. As soon as I saw that I couldn't fill in Michigan's name quickly enough in my bracket. You don't create chaos if you're hoping for a strong showing, that's just assinine. This leads me to believe they wanted to fire Pearl and were hoping to avoid a strong showing that might lead to public support being too high to do so.

ANd while I like Pearl and his personality, I won't shed any tears for him if/when he is fired (A 30-point loss should bring the axe quickly). He lied to NCAA investigators, that should be a fireable offense. Giving coaches like him and Jim Tressel a slap on the wrist says, break all the rules you want, just win. I'm not naive, and college athletics is big business, but I believe there's a difference between walking the line between just complying and just not complying, and lying (or pretending it away, in Tressel's case) when confronted with accusations.

Day 1, final segment

Cincinnati made short work of Missouri. The Bearcats were just too big and bullied Mizzou on the offensive end, and their brawn outdid Mizzou's speed and took Mizzou out of the game emotionally and mentally by a few minutes after halftime. Granted St. John's is an entirely different team outside of Madison Square Garden, but that was impressive. Not the win, but the way they took it to SJ and dominated them. And it wasn't just one or two guys, but a full team effort at both ends that brought down the Red Storm.

And Michigan State's up and down season ends with a first round ouster after back-to-back Final 4 berths. And this looked like another snoozer, but, true to a Tom Izzo-led team, MSU never quit. They kept pushing and pushing, and finally showed the hard-nosed rebounding team they've always been, and took a 23-point defecit down to a 4 point defecit with 30 seconds remaining. They eventually got it down to 2 points, but were not able to get all the way to even, and 2 points was their final margin of defeat. I would never have continued watching this game, except for how much I enjoy and respect Tom Izzo's teams, and this time it paid off as this was the best game of the 4 late ones. Also noted from this game, good lord is UCLA's Smith a house.

Finally, Kansas State pressured Utah State out of their offense, and held on for the win. I almost picked this team to make the Final Four, and I'm very interested in the potential K-State-Pitt Sweet 16 matchup. I still don't buy Wisconsin as a real team, as real teams never get held to 33 points.

Usually only one of the two first days is actually filled with chaos and upsets. Today featured 3 upsets, but a 4 seed was one of them, so I'm not sure if we should expect more upsets tomorrow, or a boring day where the only upsets are of the 8-9 and 7-10 variety. Hopefully the former.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 1, segment 3

Wofford really showed me something, though BYU certainly could have played better in the first 8 minutes of the game. It seemed like BYU was determined to prove it was more than a one-man team (especially in the wake of the Brandon Davies dismissal), and was forcing the issue and not even giving Jimmer the ball for handfuls of consecutive possessions. Wofford missed a big chance just before halftime, down 2 they got a 2-shot foul and 2 shots for a technical. Their best post presence, #42, missed 3/4 free throws (he's allegedly a 76% FT shooter), with quite possibly the most ridiculous free throw motion I've ever seen. He kind of looked like a snake coming out of a pot for a snake charmer. And apparently he's better shooting that way than he is shooting like a normal person. Who knew. Also, I'm curious as to whether there's anything in BYU's honor code about technical fouls? Those seem worse than tea, no?

UConn absolutely crushed Bucknell. Once again, the Patriot League = Ivy League without the academic presumption...or apparently basketball acumen.

Wisconsin beat Belmont 72-58, which wouldn't be newsworthy, except that that's more than double the amount of points they scored in their last game (a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament. Yes, you read that right. 33 40 minutes. Wisconsin plays at a slow rate, but that sets both offensive basketball and the 21st century, back decades. I'm embarassed for them, and the football conference that is the Big Ten.

Finally, Vanderbilt lived up to its rep of being an academic-minded institution that somehow found itself in the SEC. CLearly, Mr. Vanderbilt should have gone west, instead of south. They played a tight game with 12-seed Richmond, saw the SPiders make a couple more plays down the stretch, and in the end, didn't even get a shot off while down 3 with 3 seconds left.

Day 1, rest of the early schedule

Morehead State (urge to...nevermind) had one reason for you to know who they are, just one, Kenneth Faried (aka, the next Dennis Rodman...or, if you're veyr young, the next Kevin Love). I even read a feature article about Faried about a month ago...and I still had no idea who Morehead State was. Turns out, neither did Louisville. It took Rick Pitino's squad over 6 minutes to score, always a bad omen, but they did come storming back behind the usual Pitino team strengths, turnovers and 3-pointers. However, they never pulled away. It didn't help that one of their starters (Knowles) went down with an injury, or that another (Siva) gave them 3 whole points all game. But Siva had 3 straight possessions down the stretch with brilliant assists, giving Louisville the lead. Then MSU hit a 3 with 4 seconds left, and Louisville's last second attempt was stuffed, something you rarely see.

Then we came to Penn State-Temple. Penn State is from the Big Ten, so I naturally assumed they don't play basketball well. Well, they at least have one guy who can ball: Talor Battle, who hit a 3 from over 25 feet to tie the game with < 20 seconds left. Temple didn't really do much with their last possession, but Juan Fernandez hit a ridiculous off-balance shot to send Temple on.

3 buzzer beaters in 3 games. THIS, Jim Nantz, is March Madness.

When I switched over to Kentucky-Princeton, the first play I saw was a Kentucky player throw the ball off of a Princeton player while falling out-of-bounds. Normal play in a basketball game, but it got me thinking. When you trick a Princeton player, do you feel embarassed, that as a basketball giant you need to resort to things like that against a minnow like Princeton? Or are you overly proud of yourself for tricking an Ivy Leaguer? I think it's more pride. Princeton hung around till the end, but Kentucky made the last play and advances for a rematch of last year's regional final with West Virginia.

Pitt ended up beating first four graduate UNC Asheville by 20+, but that game was within 5-7 for almost 30 minutes, which doesn't make those who have supported Pitt in the face of their doubters since the bracket was published feel that great. Pitt-Butler could be interesting, as Butler plays great defense and Pitt has never been mistaken for an elite offense.

Florida must have heard everyone openly questioning their #2 seed, as they rocked UCSB. Incidentally, Celinda made a very good point, what are the odds of 2 G-mascots playing each other (Gators vs Gauchos)? Are there even other G-mascots? Yeah, this game was boring.

The other 2 seed who played in this slot was San Diego State, who quietly took care of business, sitting up by low double digits for a good portion of the game. Never quite ran away with it, but never seemed in any danger either. Northern Colorado? Thanks for playing.

Day 1, very early games

Clemson came out roaring early, but this time they were playing a team that belonged in the tournament. Once West Virginia established their offense and defense, Clemson was not able to score enough points to stay even. They made a push at the end, but then on 3 straight possessions, West Virginia's Dalton Pepper stole the ball three times on the exact same pass each time. Amazing individual job closing that game out.

Butler and ODU played tough, hard-nosed basketball for all 40 minutes . ODU was billed as a possible upset winner over Pitt in round 2 (well, round 3 this year, stupid First Four*), and whenever I watched, it looked like they were getting offensive rebounds galore. In the end though, Butler out-offensive rebounded them, including Matt Howard's putback as time expired for the 2-point win.

* And can we please stop calling this round being played today the second round? If 64/68 teams get byes through the "first round", it's not a real round.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The First Four (Part 1)

Well, one game into the tournament and we already got an overtime game. As Jim Nantz said (in one of his cuter hard-sells) "March Madness is upon us!" Well...kind of. I mean, this was 2 16-seeds "slugging" it out, and one of them didn't make a field goal for the last 6 minutes of regulation or the entire 5-minute overtime period. And still the other team a) needed OT and b) only won by 4. Did it get the juices flowing? Yes, a close tournament game is a close tournament game. But it felt kind of like Jim Nantz trying to get us psyched up for the Masters a month early during a close basketball game.

As for the second game...hey, that's Mike Davis coaching UAB. You may rememeber him as the guy who succeeded Bobby Knight at Indiana and took a 5-seed Hoosiers team to the final game back in 2002. Best moment of that tournament? Indiana leads #1 seed Duke 74-70 with less than 10 seconds left, and one of their players fouls Jason Williams while he's shooting a 3...which goes in! Mike Davis essentially collapses into his chair yelling "What are you doing!!!" while crying. But Williams misses the free throw and Indiana hangs on to continue their run. (I tried to find a clip, but the only clip is the entire archived game here:

This game (Clemson-UAB) was awful. Around halfway through the first half UAB had more turnovers (8) than points (7). They were decimated inside defensively by Clemson's superior size.

Remember back in 2006, when many (most notably CBS lead analyst at the time Billy Packer) crushed the NCAA committee for letting too many mid majors in like George Mason, who then made the final four and made everyone look stupid? Yeah, well this situation with UAB is the exact opposite of that: people said they didn't belong...and they didn't.