Before I get into the meat of this post, we need to just go ahead and thanks Butler and Marquette, as well as Wichita State and Gonzaga.
Because for much of Saturday — and, for that matter, basically the entire non-Florida Gulf Coast portion of this tournament — the basketball was a complete bore. The first five games of the day, and there were only eight total, were duds. Blow outs. Decided more or less before the first half was over. Memphis made a run at the end of the first half and VCU made a run to start the second, but generally speaking, Saturday started out as a disaster.
It was March Mollywhoppings.
And then Butler and Marquette came along and had their ridiculous finish. And Wichita State came along and upset the first No. 1 seed to go down in this year’s tournament. And by the time we were done, it ended up being a pretty good night of basketball, even if the first six hours left a lot to the imagination.
TEAM OF THE DAY: Wichita State
The Shockers pulled off the biggest upset of the day on Saturday, as they hit seven threes in the final 12 minutes to knock off No. 1 seed Gonzaga. The most impressive part? Wichita State made the run at a time when it looked like the Zags had grabbed complete control. Gonzaga was on an extended, 36-15 run. They had taken a 49-41 lead and finally had Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk playing well.
And then Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet caught fire, leading the Shockers back to their first Sweet 16 since 2006 and Gregg Marshall’s first Sweet 16 in his career. And if that wasn’t enough, Wichita State will lock horns with the winner of No. 12 seed Ole Miss and No. 13 seed La Salle next weekend, meaning that they are going to have a very real shot at getting to the Elite 8 and having a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four. How about that?
Who else was impressive?:
- Louisville: Louisville dominated Colorado State. Just flat out dominated them. The Rams didn’t have one possession while the score was in reach where they looked comfortable offensively. No. 1 seed Louisville will advance to the Sweet 16 as a result and play Oregon.
- Oregon: Speaking of Oregon, the No. 12 seed Ducks blew out heavy favorite St. Louis by 17 points on Saturday afternoon, rolling into the Sweet 16 despite being arguably the most under-seeded team in the entire tournament.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Vander Blue, Marquette
Blue was nothing short of sensational on Saturday night, finishing with 29 points on 9-15 shooting to outduel Rotnei Clarke and lead Marquette to a come-from-behind win over No. 6 seed Butler. Perhaps the most impressive part about Blue’s performance is the fact that he shot 3-4 from three, hitting a number of big jumpers for the second night in a row. Blue also made a couple of enormous plays in the passing lanes to get layups at the other end. It was a terrific performance, and it came on the heels of a game-winner he hit to beat Davidson. The win moves the Golden Eagles into the Sweet 16.
Who else was good?:
- Russ Smith, Louisville: Smith took over Russ Arena on Saturday night, scoring 27 points on 7-15 shooting to lead the Cards past Colorado State.
- Mark Lyons, Arizona: Lyons went for 27 points as well, setting the tone early as Arizona smoked Harvard, jumping out to a 30-9 lead before the Crimson were able to wake up.
- Mitch McGary, Michigan: McGary was the best player on the floor for the Wolverines as they moved on to the Sweet 16 with a dominating win over VCU on Saturday. He finished with 21 points and 14 boards while hitting 10-11 from the field.
- Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon: Kazemi is one of my favorite players in the country to watch. He finished with 16 boards (seven offensive), three assists, two steals and two blocks to go along with eight points in the win over St. Louis.
- Ron Baker, Wichita State: The freshman Baker, who missed 21 games prior to the start of MVC tournament play, finished with 16 points, six boards and four assists — with 11 points and two assists coming in the final 12 minutes — to lead the Shockers to a win over Gonzaga.
1) Adreian Payne should be a first round pick: The idea that this draft is weak is incorrect. There aren’t franchise-changing talents at the top of the draft board, but there is a lot of talent in the mid-to-late first round. Payne is one of those guys. With his size, athleticism and shooting ability — and with the way he played this weekend — Payne could end up being the breakout star of this NCAA tournament.
2) Brandon Triche struggled again: Thursday’s beatdown of Montana made it seem like Triche had gotten over his slump, but after shooting 1-8 from the floor on Saturday night in a win over No. 12 seed Cal, it’s still a concern. The Orange need him to be a factor offensively.
3) Dominic Artis struggled again, too: Artis seemed to finally snap out of his funk on Thursday, scoring 13 points in 17 minutes, the most impressive work he’s done since injuring his foot. But he regressed again on Saturday, shooting 0-7 from the floor while Jonathan Loyd went for nine points, six assists, four steals and five boards.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.