March Madness – Day One: From the Bird’s Nest
Well, the fIrst day of the NCAA Tournament is in the books and, all in all, it wasn't what you'd call exciting. Of the sixteen games played, half or more were pretty much over at halftime. And, there were just a few that went down to the final moments.
My bracket isn't shattered, although my upset pick to reach the sweet sixteen went out in the first round. Here are some of my thoughts for game one.
Can anyone score? One of the things that caught my eye was some teams played themselves right out of the game in the first half with their inability to score the basketball. Five teams scored twenty or fewer points in the first half. All five were lower seeds. All five lost pretty handily. Belmont (20) Valparaiso (18), New Mexico State (16), Montana (15) and Bucknell (14) just couldn't throw it in the ocean. Fourteen of the 32 teams failed to score 60 points.
How did Davidson find a way to lose? Up by seven with 1:33 to go, Davidson got outscored 13-5 the rest of the way. Marquette hit three triples during that span after getting just one for twelve the entire game. Then, the big turnover with fewer than seven seconds left was the hemlock, as Marquette hit a layup with 1.0 seconds left. Davidson, who led Division I in free throw percentage (80%), hit just 14-23 for the game. Marquette certainly deserves credit for their comeback, but how did this happen without Davidson's help? It didn't.
The 5/12 pairing does it again- For the 26th time in the last 29 years, a #12 seed has beaten a #5 seed. And, it happened twice yesterday. Before we pat ourselves on the back for our picks, however, let's be honest. These weren't exactly upsets. Oregon was the Pac-12 champion and grossly underseeded at #12. Cal had played UNLV during the regular season and lost by just one point. I said in my preview Oregon had the best chance of pulling off the lower seed win.
So much for my first round darlings: When you're two picks for big first round upsets score 34 points in the first half--combined--you're probably not going to hit either one of them. Credit to Arizona and Butler for their defense, sure. But Bucknell and Belmont are a lot better than they showed, especially with their ability to score. Ouch.
One for the little guy: We had to wait until the end of the night to finally get our first really big upset of the tournament. Harvard won it's first ever NCAA tournament game, beating New Mexico. The Lobos were a trendy Final Four pick this year. There were a lot of brackets that got busted with this one.
Yes to the A-10, No to the Mountain West: The two non-power conferences that got more bids than either the ACC or SEC have had mixed results. The Atlantic 10 is 4-0, with LaSalle winning a First Four game plus Butler, Saint Louis and VCU all winning and winning impressively. LaSalle gets another chance this afternoon against Kansas State, and Temple plays its first game against a dangerous North Carolina State team. Conversely, the Mountain West has staggered, with Boise State losing to LaSalle, and UNM and UNLV both falling as well. Only Colorado State made Commissioner Craig Thompson smile, as the Rams took care of Mizzou. San Diego State is in action today, taking on Oklahoma.
Of the games today, a couple of 7/10 matchups are really interesting: Cincinnati against Creighton and Colorado against Illinois (more Pac-12 magic?) And, of course, Western Kentucky and Northwestern State are in action as well.