The “second round” is officially in the books, and there are only 32 teams that still have a chance to cut down the nets in New Orleans. The first two days of the NCAA tournament were not as action-packed as we would have hoped, but the games did provide us with some information that we may have overlooked or not been aware of.
We may have overlooked NC-State just a bit: At-large bids are supposed to be given out based on an entire season of work, strength of schedule and RPI. But sometimes teams with underwhelming records or SoS are given a spot because they are playing well at the right time. That’s what NC-State is doing. They’ve won five of their last six games, and just beat a talented but undersized San Diego State team by playing efficient basketball with a quality team effort. The Wolfpack were the last team mentioned during Selection Sunday, and the win may validate the committee’s decision. With heightened play by C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown and Scott Wood, this team has the capability to beat Georgetown in the Round of 32.
Talent is Overrated: Uconn is loaded with talented players brimming with NBA potential. But they lack cohesiveness and effort. Their lack of teamwork showed greatly in their 77-64 loss to Iowa State. In fact, the score doesn’t indicated how truly painful their performance was. But Jeremy Lamb summed it up best when he went in for a one-handed windmill dunk with his team trailing by 13. As the final buzzer sounded, Lamb clanked the ball off the back of the rim, and UConn’s season came to a fitting close. UNLV also got outworked by a Colorado team with much less talent. The Buffs led by 11 at the half and by as many as 20 and out-rebounded the Rebels by 13.
Syracuse isn’t playing like a No.1-Seed: Don’t chalk-up Syracuse’s close call to just the absence of Fab Melo. UNC-Asheville didn’t have a starter who checked in at 6-6 or above. This team looked rattled, and was unable to consistently play at a high level. Against Kansas State, Melo’s absence should be more noticeable, but if this team plays like they did against UNC-Asheville, it probably won’t matter.
Referees make mistakes too: At the end of the Syracuse/UNC-Asheville game the referees gave Syracuse the ball following a play in which the ball clearly touched Brandon Triche last. The Bulldogs were down three at the time and would have had a chance to tie the game. Instead, they ended up losing by five. At the end of the Alabama/Creighton game, Trevor Releford launched a three-pointer as the clock expired which would have won the game for the Crimson Tide, but the shot was blocked. Well, after taking a closer look at the play, it appears that Releford was fouled. Alabama was down one and would have gone to the line with a chance to win the game. But while these no-calls seemed to cost teams the game, the players made mistakes that put them in that position to begin with. Everybody makes mistakes.
Georgetown and Vanderbilt finally beat mid-majors in the tournament:
Up until the final buzzer went off, nobody was sure if Georgetown and Vanderbilt would be able to get out of their early tournament funk. Since 2008, the two teams were a combined 1-6 in tournament games, all coming against mid-major competition. But both teams look fairly dominant in their tournament openers on Friday, with Vandebilt defeating Harvard 79-70 and Georgetown defeating Belmont 74-59. Both teams have the potential to make deep runs in the tournament, and now that their biggest hurdles are out of the way, they could be here for a while. If you had these two teams making deep runs in your bracket, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief, for now.
Size was an issue for Missouri:
The one knock on Missouri all year was that they didn’t have any size. All season we worried that size would give Missouri issues, and all season we seemed to be wrong. But Norfolk State had the answer. His name was Kyle O’Quinn. The MEAC Player of the Year had 24 points and 16 rebounds. The Spartans out-rebounded the Tigers 35-23 and had 14 offensive rebounds to the Tigers’ six. For the first time all season, Kim English looked undersized at the power forward position. The Tiger’s didn’t play bad, but the Spartans played better.
A different kind of madness:
We think of the first week of March Madness as the time that produces the best buzzer-beaters. Thursday and Friday are known for the great finishes and unexpected endings. But Thursday provided nothing of great substance. Friday provided no wild finishes or epic buzzer-beaters. But Friday did provide us with history. For the first time in the history of the NCAA tournament, two No.15-seeds defeated two No.2-seeds in the same tournament, let alone the same day. Norfolk State’s victory over Missouri shocked the world, and Lehigh’s victory over Duke rocked it. Oh, and No.13-seed Ohio beat No.4-seed Michigan.
Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.