Monday, March 25, 2013

Quick recap of the opening weekend

Here's a quick look at what I took away from the opening weekend of the 2013 NCAA Tournament-


Best Game:  There wasn't a great game per se in this region so I'll go with Florida Gulf Coast defeating Georgetown in the opening round.  Probably the most remarkable thing was what FGCU did in the second half.  Enjoy the dunks and lobs ut 54 points in the 2nd half  against a team that relied on its defense to win a share of the Big East and earn a #2 seed.

Team Redeem:  After the brackets were released, Michigan became a somewhat trendy pick to lose to Nate Wolters and South Dakota State.  Reality was, it was a real good matchup for the Wolverines who easily handled the Jackrabbits.  Some pundit named Jay Bilas picked VCU out of this bracket.  By halftime of the Round of 32, the Rams were already beaten and looking ahead.  As is often the case, the matchup was awful for VCU and perfect for Michigan who took advantage to return to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994, or when 3/5th of the Fab Five were still playing.

Individual Breakout:  FGCU players will be waxed about nostalgic years from now but Michigan FROSH Mitch McGary dominated VCU with 21 points and 14 rebounds and reminded people why after his junior year in HS he was a top-5 recruit.

Laying Eggs:  Georgetown was over seeded and over rated but the problem is, their results dictated where they ended up.  It's probably not fair to criticize them but 2-seeds shouldn't get blown out.


Best Game:  In another region of mediocore games, I'll take Louisville's performance over Colorado State.  It wasn't close but Louisville dominated a team full of seniors and lead by 12 at halfrime despite CSU shooting near 60%.  It was a clinic in Rick Pitino basketball.

Team Redeem:  The Oregon Ducks last made the dance in 2008 when Ernie Kent was head coach.  Their last Sweet 16 was in 2007.  After Kent was canned in 2010, Oregon dropped a wide net in its coaching search including delusions of grandeur trying to sway Tom Izzo.  In the end, they got Dana Altman.  The 1st two years were okay but little was expected of the Ducks in 2012-13.  In the end, Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament.  Underseeded as 12, they dfeated Oklahoma State and easily dispatched a very good St. Louis team to return to the Sweet 16

Individual Breakout:  Oregin FROSH Damyean Dotson went 5-6 from deep and scored 23 points to help lead the Ducks past the Billikens.

Laying Eggs:  There would have been no shame in St. Louis losing to Oregon but they did so without doing the things that made them so good during the regular season.  The 74-57 score indicates how lopsided the game was.


Best Game:  Marquette over Butler highlighted a tense weekend for the Golden Eagles.  This game was played at a higher level than their win over Davidson.  Both teams played well in a hard fought game.  In the end, Vander Blue was too much and despite tryng to throw it away, Marquette did enough.

Team Redeem:  Syracuse punked Seth Davis who picked Montana by running them off the court and then doing enough to comfortably win over California in San Jose, no simple task.  A Sweet 16 was no sure bet for this enigmatic team entering the tournament.

Individual Breakout:  I profiled Vander Blue earlier and his past two games reinforced what I thought of him as a player.  A game winner against Davidson, he was even more special against Butler leading the way with 29 that included a crucial late 3, something unheard of prior to this year. 

Laying Eggs:  2012-13 will be one of incredible frustration for UNLV and their exit in the round of 64 exemplifies that best.  This would be a good time to include the Mountain West who basically no showed.  As a conference, they have a measly 4 Sweet 16's in their history. 


Best Game:  Ohio State over Iowa State.  Iowa State were down double digits with about 8 minutes left when they stormed back to tie the Buckeyes.  In the end, Aaron Craft won the game on a 3 inthe final second but the game was so much more than Craft being "clutch".  Craft did not have a good second half but that's not the narrative.  Iowa State had a chance to lead by 4 but a brutal charge call (Almost all charge calls are brutal, especially in the B1G) gave the ball back to Ohio State.  It was absolute heartbreak for the Cyclones in a year "Chalk" full of them.

Team Redeem:  Way to go Arizona.  You survived Belmont and beat an overmatched Harvard team.  Is there a more underrated insufferable fan base?  I don't think so.

Individual Breakout:  LaQuinton Ross did a good job in helping the Buckeyes withstand a barrage of Cyclone 3's by scoring 17 points and could be a key player for them this next week.  Also deserving of mention are La Salle's Ty Garland who hit the game winner in amongst the trees against Ole Miss to finish off his 17 point performance and Wichita State's Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker who each hit 4 3's to help upend the Zags season.

Laying Eggs:  Speaking of the 'Zags, it's hard not to say the moment was simply too big for them.  They were too good to struggle with Southern and even after taking a 9-point lead against the Shockers they never put their foot on the throat.  When I profiled them in late January, I said perhaps Illinois provided the blueprint in beating them by raining 3's and that's what Wichita State did.  And Wichita State is a below average team from deep.  March happens but what happened was, it further embeds those seeds of doubt about both the Zags and mid-majors in the future, fair or not.

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