Despite the fact that this is the “second round” of the NCAA tournament, we all know that today was day one. Tuesday and Wednesday didn’t mean much, although St. Mary’s nearly came up with the big win over Josh Pastner’s Memphis Tigers.
While we of course cheer Arizona’s huge win over Belmont in another post, we should take a look at what else happened today.
The Pac-12 Rules, Earns Its Respect
Everyone seemed to know on Selection Sunday that Oregon was vastly underseeded, but most of the experts seemed to agree that Oklahoma State was still the better team and still likely to win. Not so fast. Oregon, whose in-season slump occurred when its point guard, Dominic Artis, went out with an injury, dominated an overmatched and overwhelmed Oklahoma State, who never got close in the second half.
That was not so surprising. Cal’s win over UNLV was more of an eye-opener. Cal ended up with a 12 seed for logistical reasons, but an 11 seed seemed fairly appropriate. Cal had a really amazing stretch at the tail end of the conference season but then lost to Stanford at home and a bad Utah team in the Pac-12 tournament. UNLV played pretty well all year on the backs of its superstars. And although it had a couple of bad losses, it already beat Cal once at Cal. This is not the same Cal team that UNLV played back on December 9th, and Cal held on for a win. Cal looked quite good throughout the game, leading by 3-8 points throughout the majority of the second half.
Couple these two wins with Arizona’s huge win over Belmont, a game where many so-called experts picked the upset based on a number of factors including Belmont’s shooting (and Ken Pomeroy addressed this issue pretty well in a post that is interesting to read in the game’s post mortem), and the Pac-12 surprised the majority of the country in going 3-0 today. No one in Pac-12 country should be surprised, though. We saw these teams quite a bit throughout the season, and we know how good they are.
March Madness Is Sort of Mad
Until we got to the Pac-12 games, the tournament felt a little underwhelming. No game was in question until the fifth game of the day when St. Mary’s nearly pulled off the upset on the last shot (and had Dellavedova’s shot fallen, that would have been the highlight of the day, but alas). Marquette made a last-second layup to avoid the upset-minded Davidson Wildcats.
The two real stunners were how close Gonzaga’s game was with Southern and Harvard’s upset of New Mexico. We cover the latter game here. As for Gonzaga’s game, Southern got close but couldn’t close out the game. Southern tied up the game with 3:45 left before giving up a huge three-pointer by Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos. The Bulldogs never looked back.
Hopefully, tomorrow’s action has a few actual buzzer beaters.
A Player’s Game
The NCAA tournament featured a number of great individual performances today. Here the ten best so far:
- Russ Smith (Louisville): 23 pts, 10/16 FG, 8 steals, 3 assists
- Derrick Nix (Michigan State): 23 pts, 15 boards, 2 steals
- Brayden Carlson (South Dakota State): 20 pts, 8/12 FG, 3/6 3P, 8 boards, 4 assists, 40 mins
- Arsalan Kazemi (Oregon): 11 pts, 17 boards, 2 steals
- Joe Willman (Bucknell): 20 pts, 10/16 FG, 6 boards, 3 blocks
- Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga): 21 pts, 10 boards
- Tim Hardaway, Jr. (Michigan): 21 pts, 8/13 FG, 5/7 3P, 4 boards
- Glenn Robinson, III (Michigan): 21 pts, 8/9 FG, 3/3 3P, 6 boards
- Allen Crabbe (California): 19 pts, 9 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals
- Mark Lyons (Arizona): 23 pts, 4 boards
Saturday Look Ahead
#5 VCU vs. #4 Michigan, 9:15 am, Auburn Hills
#6 Memphis vs #3 Michigan State, 11:45 am, Auburn Hills
#8 Colorado St vs #1 Louisville, 2:15 pm, Lexington
#14 Harvard vs #6 Arizona, 3:10 pm, Salt Lake City
#12 Oregon vs #4 St. Louis, 4:10 pm, San Jose
#6 Butler vs #3 Marquette, 4:45 pm, Lexington
#9 Witchita St vs #1 Gonzaga, 5:40 pm, Salt Lake City
#12 Cal vs #4 Syracuse, 6:40 pm, San Jose
There are some very interesting matchups here. VCU and Michigan, airing without competition, may be the most intriguing of the day. Michigan has superstars and NBA talent, VCU has a crazy defense that usually works.
Can Oregon and Cal keep working together in San Jose to net another pair of Pac-12 wins? Syracuse is probably more beatable than St. Louis, but as is so often the case, basketball is a game of matchups. Can Cal shoot over the vicious Syracuse zone? Can Oregon’s offense stay hot?
Southern couldn’t close the deal over Gonzaga, but Wichita State is a far more capable opponent. Butler and Marquette each had to avoid their own upsets on Thursday, how will they play on Saturday? Can Michigan State and Louisville keep rolling (the answer to that one is probably).
March Madness. The NCAA tournament. Gotta love it!