I had to break my Ph.D. hiatus (I am not writing about basketball until this Ph.D. is done, but it is SO hard- Google Chinanu Onuaku’s free throw).
However, last night’s Oklahoma- Kansas game illustrates my “make your freaking fouls shots” philosophy so perfectly, I had to make an exception.
This was going to be a fun game to watch- #1 playing #2, in the same conference, in January- there is so much on the line and these athletes played their hearts out.
It was a fast-paced, all-out race to the finish from the technical foul assessed to the KU bench 4 seconds into the game or that almost technical in the 1st OT for having 6 players on the court. It is the kind of ball I like to watch.
But after 3 OT Kansas proved they deserved the #1 spot in the land (AP poll had them at #1, but the coaches poll gave Oklahoma the #1 nod).
If Oklahoma had just made their free throws at the end of regulation, when the game was tied, there would have been no OT and they could have been giant killers.
But alas, it is free throw shots that win, and squander, games and KU nudged past Oklahoma at the line. Kansas made 78% (18/23)of their free throws to the Sooners 75% (18/24), but that is not the whole story. If Oklahoma would have won in regulation they would have kept the Jayhawks off the line 17 times as KU only had 6 free throw opportunities in the first 40 minutes. Oklahoma made 16/22 in regulation, but that leaves 6 points on the line. A comfortable margin to have knocked off a #1.
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!