completely busted

Today, with losses by both Michigan State and Arizona, my bracket is completely busted.  I had those two in the final with the Spartans taking it all.  I don’t love any of the final four teams.  Kentucky wears that garish shade of blue, plays dirty ball, and relies to hard on the one and done players- blah, no thank you.  Billy Donovan and his Gators lost it for me with his piss poor coaching against UConn in their loss to the Huskies.  UConn has been a perennial “no thank you” but with their new coach, the time they have spent in “no post-season” purgatory, and the on-court leadership from Shabazz Napier this season they may be the best of a lack luster choice. (I also saw Napier’s mom saying “good job” to the MSU players as they walked into the locker room today- good sportsmanship is learned early and that was nice to see).  I own two dachshunds and it is just hard to root for the Badgers.

On a better note, the Lady Heels won against that other “Carolina” and will be meeting Stanford in the elite eight.  If they get another win, Coach Haskell will be meeting the ladies in Nashville.  Go Carolina!

As Arizona is out, we no longer get to see Rondae Hollis-Jefferson do this:

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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!


Ups and downs of college basketball

Part of what I love about college basketball is the fast pace.   The ups and downs of the court can be mirrored by emotions on a night when plenty of ball is being played.

UNCG lost a heartbreaker to the Pirates of ECU.  After starting the game with a 10-0 lead and leading for most of the game, ECU pulled up close and on a foul won the game.  UNCG was up by two in the final seconds of the game and Nick Paulos fouled a Pirate three pointer.  The basket did not connect, but all three of the foul shots did.  ECU topped the Spartans 85-84 in a tough loss for the Spartans.  Kayel Locke looked strong under the basket.  He fouled out of the game, but left it all on the floor when he did.

The player of the night, however, was Tevon Saddler.  The first year player racked up 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.  In my last post, I wondered if he was going to grow or be a ball hog?  If this game is a suggestion, he is leaning toward growth.  His play against HPU was sloppy, but last night he had tightened up his movements and was making good shooting as well as passing decisions.  He was also a respectable 14-19 from the line (73%).  Another first year player, Tyrone Outlaw, was 5-6 from the line as well.  His foul shout has such a beautiful arc to it- he should be teaching lessons!

For the game, the Pirates shot 89% from the free throw line.  UNCG connected 74% of the time- good, but those extra points matter in a close game.  Overall, we would be good to remember that games can be won AND LOST on the foul line!

In other games from last night:

Michigan State topped Kentucky.  MSU was the only team in the top five that I wanted to win last night!  While I am always happy to report a L for DookKansas is not my favorite team either.  (My mom taught me to be suspicious of all teams that play basketball in the particular shade of blue favored by Dook/Kentucky/Kansas).  Wiggins and the Jayhawks outplayed hometown boy Parker and the Blue Devils in the second half.  But remember, the season is in its infancy, all of these teams are poised for a great year of basketball.

Does anyone else get distracted by Andrew Wiggins’ name?  I really hope that his parents were big sci fi fans because every time I hear it I think of Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin from Orson Scott Card’s short story and novel Ender’s Game.  As a character, Ender is chosen because he is “one the enemy would never expect.”  With all of the hype around Wiggins, there are expectations, but will he grow into a leader like Ender?


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!)