March Madness is in full-swing and it was a great Thursday of games. My excitement may also be because so far I’m doing just fine in my brackets. A few bumps, but hey, what are you going to do.
With that said, I have a few reactions to Thursday’s action that I would like to share.
1. Wisconsin vs. Oregon will be very, VERY fun to watch: I am ecstatic that we get treated to two of the best offenses in college basketball going head-to-head, trying to outscore the other. These two teams run the floor at a frenetic pace and are just overall two of the most fun teams to watch in college basketball. Be ready boys and girls, that game will be a barn burner.
2. Syracuse looks like they are back: I understand it was a small sample size, however Syracuse took down a very underrated Western Michigan squad that some experts picked to win. They didn’t count on ‘Cuse guard Tyler Cooney getting out of his shooting slump, which consequently happened during Syracuse’s downward spiral during the end of the season.
With Cooney, Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant all looking at their best and a favorable matchup against Dayton, I think Jim Boeheim’s team could make some noise in this tournament. Watch out, ‘Cuse looks like they are back to the powerhouse they were just a little over a month ago.
3. Pitt has Florida sweating: Wow, Pitt looks good. Let me back up a bit. See, I wrote a piece earlier in the week breaking down the Pitt vs. Colorado matchup. I looked at all the stats and did the eye test and I picked Pitt to win. I thought it would be an easy win for Pitt.
Well, it was easy alright. Pitt took the Buffaloes behind the woodshed, beating Colorado 77-48. Florida, on the other hand looked lethargic, lazy and overall just bad. They did just enough to beat 16-seed Albany, although there were times in the game where Albany had it very close.
Pitt will take on Florida in the next round and they could give the Gators some trouble. Personally, I saw how disappointed Florida coach Billy Donovan was with his team. I see him waking his team up before the game and beating Pitt in a close, hard-fought battle. However, I’d keep an eye on the Panthers, if they win this game they may just coast to the Elite Eight, at the least.
4. One great player can elevate a team to a win…if they finish: Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I found it interesting that the N.C. State vs. St. Louis game and the UConn vs. St. Joe’s game were going on simultaneously. Both UConn and N.C. State have one really excellent player. UConn’s Shabazz Napier and N.C. State’s T.J. Warren are in the discussion for the player of the year award.
Both are dynamic talents, but the difference, one was clutch, the other was not. St. Joe’s had a lead on UConn, but Napier led the charge and UConn forced overtime. In overtime, Napier helped UConn get past St. Joe’s and move on to the next round. Warren, on the other hand, blew the game. N.C. State had St. Louis beat the whole entire game until the last few minutes, when Warren failed to make his free throws.
The Billikens’ duo of Rob Loe and Jordair Jett overcame the deficit and in OT, Warren continued to miss his free throws and fouled out with 27 seconds left. In the end, both Warren and Napier are very talented, but one was clutch the other was not. Keep that in mind when you pick your bracket next year and pick a team to win because they have a “star.”
5. Say goodbye to the coolest kid in college basketball: Yeah, I was pulling for St. Joe’s because of my bracket, but I’m sad to see this four year old go, watch this and you will see why. All credit for the video goes to Jeff Garrett: Here’s the video:
6. I LOVE North Dakota State: While St. Joe’s and N.C. State decided to stab my bracket, North Dakota State came in and stopped the bleeding. The Bison shocked Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners, taking them down in overtime. One tidbit that I thought was interesting was that NDSU star Taylor Braun had a poor game, going 3 for 11 from the field.
The slack was picked up by Lawrence Alexander who scored 28 points, while TrayVonn Wright and Marshall Bjorkoulund combined for 27 points. This is telling because it looks like the Bison can beat tough teams without Braun playing well. If Braun can come out next game and play well the Bison could have a good run in this tournament, especially with the West Region being such a wild card.
7. You can play great defense and force another team to take a bad shot, BUT you must get the rebound: Arizona State vs. Texas was a great back and forth game that was epic to watch. However, Arizona State made one VERY costly error. With the game tied, Texas came down with the ball and forced a 3-point shot. The shot missed and that’s where this should end right?
Well, Arizona State failed to get the defensive rebound to lock up overtime and Texas center Cameron Ridley grabbed the ball and put it back up to beat the buzzer and shock the Sun Devils.
8. There’s one 4 seed left…Watch out UCLA: Michigan State got by Delaware, Louisville struggled but ultimately beat Manhattan and San Diego State held on in overtime to top New Mexico State. That means there is one 4 seed left to play, UCLA. I mentioned in my last piece that I thought Tulsa would be the 13 seed to take down the 4 this year.
For six straight years a 4 seed has gone down to a 13. Only two things can happen from here:
1. A trend is broken
2. I look like a genius
Overall, It was a great first day to the tournament and I’m sure Friday will be just as good. The Madness has just begun.
What did you think about the first day of March Madness? Comment below and we can discuss.
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