Bracket Broken?

Is your bracket broken yet?  I’m sure that it is…this has been a day of upsets.  It has also been a day of OT play.  Last year there was only one game that went into overtime.  This year there has already been four.  This is what we live for.  This is March Madness!

The North Dakota State Bison beat Oklahoma in overtime.  Looking at stats, the Bison did not match up well with the Sooners, but their defense held them in check, making jump shots harder to make.  The surprise star of the night was first year player, Carlin Dupree.  He did not play in regulation, but got put into the game in OT because of a reach-in foul by Taylor Braun.  After less than a minute on the floor, Dupree was calmly sinking foul shots like a pro (they win and loose games, people) leading NDSU to the win.

NC State blew a 16 point lead to loose in OT to St. Louis.  A win seem assured for the Pack with five minutes left in regulation, but St. Louis (what they heck is their mascot, anyway) steadily, play-by-play, tied the game and took the game into overtime.  During the regular season, St. Louis was 2-0 in OT and State split their OT 1-1.  Derrick did assure me that State was not going to loose this game by text as they set up for the extra minutes, but alas poor foul shooting was the undoing of this game.  TJ Warren, ACC player of the year, alone was around 30% from the line and the Pack overall left 17 points on the floor (20-37).  Missing foul shots makes your season much shorter.  Coach G should rest assured, the pack is young and he has TJ Warren and 4 freshmen in rotation.  They will do nothing but get better.

For the first time since 2009, Ohio State is going home after one tournament game.  PJ had them in the Final Four on his bracket, but the Dayton Flyers had other ideas.  With the OSU senior, Aaron Craft, missing his last second shot the 11 seed won the game by one point.  Throughout the year, the Buckeyes had played with strokes of brilliance, but tonight they did not play to any potential.  The game was not a disaster, but Ohio State could have played every part of this game better.

Texas held off Arizona State with a last minute buzzer beater to win.  I had ASU beating Texas, so while this is not an upset I was a little surprised that the Longhorns pulled this one off.  After a missed three pointer center Cameron Ridley scooped up the offensive rebound for a quick put-back.  The officials had to review the play.  He got it off before the buzzer, so the Longhorns survive to play another round.

I could not watch the Louisville- Manhattan match up.  The game started with the commentators recounting fact that Manhattan head coach, Steve Masiello, has ball boyed for, played for, and coach with Rick Pitino.  Manhattan runs the same style as Louisville and Masiello’s coaching style is most similar to anyone else in Pitino’s coaching tree. (It was fun that reporters heard him calling out Louisville’s plays during the game)  Pitino is on record saying he cared less about the #4 seed (one I think he deserved) than that the NCAA made him coach against is protege.  That sounds like whining at its finest.  You should coach against those in your coaching tree.  It is something to be proud of not something to whine about.  Louisville won the game, but just barely.  It took 8 straight points by Luke Hancock to lift the Cards to a 71-64 win.  Last year’s champs weather this game, but I’m not going to loose any sleep when St. Louis sends them home in the next round.

In a night of upsets and close calls, perhaps the most surprising (except to my Mom who had Harvard winning on her bracket) was Harvard’s win over the #5 Bearcats.  Last year, Harvard was a surprise winner, but this year they shouldn’t have been.  Harvard has steadily been recruiting well and playing basketball at a higher caliber.  Even Pres. Obama picked this upset, though he does not have the Crimson beating the Spartans in the next round.  For tonight, the Ivy League champs have their upset and go into the next game with experience and momentum on their side.  (Though, I do agree with the president and have MSU winning it all- they are looking health and playing at the level the need to be playing right now).

As foul shots can make or break a win (I’m looking at you NC State), I have to mention Michigan State’s Adreine Payne.  He went 17-0 from the free throw line tonight in the Spartan’s win over the Delaware Blue Hens.  Payne was on fire in all aspects of his game tonight (though his conditioning could be a bit better), but going 100% from the line is impressive.  That is how you win games during the Big Dance.  Harvard can’t match them for size and I think they have the best chance for playing through their region and winning the whole thing (beating Arizona).

Ohhh, it’s March Madness….my favorite time of the year!

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Sunday Funday

I have some work I need to do for school, but it is hard to get anything done when today is the day the Big Dance brackets are set and my favorite app opens for the post season!  There’s about 45 minutes until the ACC championship tip-off, Go Cavs, beat dook!- but there are so many good basketball  stories swirling in the air right now.  Who’s gonna get that fourth #1 seed (maybe Virginia if they knock off the devils)? Is Wichita State gonna go perfect for the season (unlikely unless you are the Lady Huskies)?  Is this the year that a #16 beast a #1?  It’s never happened, but one of these years….

As we wait for the ACC to start so that they can finish, there were some good stories from conference championships around the country.  Perhaps as not a surprise, but worth commenting on nonetheless Louisville beat UConn in fairly spectacular fashion.  I have no love lost for Rick Pitino (and the particular shade of blue that the Cardinals play in hurts my eyes), but their run through the AAC tournament (does AAC tournament sound made up to anyone else?) has been thorough.  They beat Rutgers by 61 points and the 10 points they beat the Huskies by belies a much harder game that was played.  This was the fifth meeting in a row where the Cardinals beat the Huskies in double digits.

I was rather surprised that UCLA routed #4 Arizona, though I guess I shouldn’t have been.  They are both strong teams and the rivalry growing between them  leads to passionate play on both sides.  Arizona’s defense was just ineffective against the Bruin’s quick offense.  I am going to ignore the Wear twins in all future discussions of UCLA, for obvious reasons, but they were effective from mid-court for this game.  UCLA won this game by 4 points, play was fast and fun, but the Wildcats did miss 6 free throws in the game.  Those points left on the court could make all the difference between going to the Big Dance and going to the Big Dance as a #1 seed.

The shocker of the day was Providence’s 65-58 win over Creighton.  I thought Creighton had that one, no problem.  The Blue Jays have been hot and Buckets McDermott (click on this link you will not be disappointed) is an offensive machine.  This game was a study in how a steady game wins the race.  A good mantra to mediate on as we enter the live or die moments of the post season- you have to show up to the game and play a full 40 minutes (I’m looking at you Carolina) to win the title.


The Basketball world has become more predictable

We still have time for some upsets tonight, but yesterday not much happened that was super surprising.

Yes, Michigan upset Kansas in overtime.  It was a great last shot to send them into extra minutes and I was rooting for Big Blue to knock off #1 Kansas.  But it was not a huge surprise that they won. Both are good teams, from power conferences….

As for the rest, Louisville beat Oregon…man, I was going for those Ducks…to be the last #1 standing.

Dook out defended the Spartans.  Defense is what won the devils that game (I know Curry shot 29 points, blah, blah, blah), but without their defensive game  Michigan State’s played good enough on the offensive end to win.

Saddest of all was that Florida beat FGCU ending their Cinderella run.  The beginning of the first half, the Eagles went on a 8-0 run and maintained a double digit lead.  However, with some substitutions and a little practice Billy Donovan figured out what his Gators needed to do to dominate the court.  The first half ended with a 16-2 run for Florida, then Florida started the second with a 5-0 run.  That was a blow that FGCU couldn’t overcome.  This team played great ball, works fantastically as a team, and has more than done their job for the season.  It will be interesting to see: 1) how much easier it will be to recuit to FGCU and 2) How much general interest and enrollment spikes for this young school!

At this point, I am ABD (Anybody but Duke…and Louisville can lose too!)


Do you wanna be coached hard?

I got a bit of a surprise today when my class got out early. On my way home I was behind a Lotus and at first mistook it for an Eclipse with a bad body kit on it!  Oops, not sure that the Lotus folks would like that…

When I turned on ESPNU there was live feed from the NCSU practice facility, Coach Gottfried was miked up, and there was running commentary from experts.  I did not know that live practice on ESPN was a thing, but it was an enjoyable way to maximize the free time that I did not anticipate having.  Coach was telling Calvin Leslie (he does not call him CJ) to make himself better with every exercise and the Pack was concentrating on defense in anticipation of the UConn game.  This game is the culmination of Jimmy V week and in honor of the 30th anniversary of NCSU winning the National Championship led by Coach Valvano.  The players will be wearing a commemorative jersey that honors that win.  In place of their names on the back the quote, “don’t ever give up” will be displayed.  I think that is not a bad idea.  It can help remind your players, in the words of UNCG’s Wes Miller, “it’s the name on the front [of the jersey] and not on the back that counts.”  Team play is important even when you have superstar players on the team (think Tyler Hansbrough,  Michael Jordan, or even Cody Zeller).  Being reminded of that is important.  That came through in Coach Gottfried’s practice today.  He asked his athletes, “do you want to be coached hard?”  At first, I thought that was an odd question.  As an elite college player in a premier league, I thought getting coached hard would be a given.  With reflection, and a little chatter from the EPSN commentators, many of these players have been the stars of their high schools or league and don’t know the difference between being coached and being critiqued (something I see in many of my own classrooms).  I like that Coach G is taking the time to work on that concept!

This is a busy time of year for me- as a student, as an instructor, and as an employee-but there is so much basketball going on!  Last night, the Spartans dropped a game 90-79 to cross town rivals NC A&T.  There was lots of hustle on the court, but UNCG could not get simple shots to fall.  I think layup practice might be in order for the Spartans.  Kelvin McNeil showed some strong Spartan leadership on the court last night, both offensively and defensively   I am pretty sad that we only get to watch this smart player for one year.  Another stand out was first year player Kayel Locke.  He scored a career high 22 points and had hustle on both ends of the court.  I look forward to watching Locke mature as a player and team leader.  Both teams were respectable in their free throw  percentages:  NC A&T at 72% and UNCG at 75%, but as a testament to the hard fought game the Aggies attempted 47 FT (making 34) and the Spartans attempted 40 (making 30).  The ref’s whistles got a workout last night!

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge wrapped up with it’s first ever tie. So the series stands at 10 for the ACC, 3 for the Big Ten and this year’s 6-6 toss up. So, the rules state that in an event of a tie the previous year’s winner (Big Ten) retain the title.  ACC needs to work a little harder to get that one back!  Of course, what the ACC is going to look like this time next year is anyone’s guess.  Yesterday, Louisville was taken into the ACC on the heels of the Maryland exit.  That means that I have to watch more of Coach Patino (ugg), but hopefully this means the conference shuffle is over.  I guess this is fine, as conferences are leaving their regional roots, but I don’t want to loose things like in-state rivals and traditional venues.