#1 Seeds Go Riverwalking
Villanova took care of business yesterday in a workmanlike effort, but there was nothing in it to make you think the Wildcats can’t cut down the nets next Monday. The real test will be against the Jayhawks on Saturday. What a game to look forward to!
Kansas and Duke did not disappoint yesterday, a thriller that reminded us of why we watch. It was the game of the tournament. Bill Self’s group played with a joy and confidence that has been missing in other recent tourney appearances. Out rebounding the vaunted Duke front court by 15 was key. And while some of Malik Newman’s shot choices had us yelling “no”, plenty of them went in in a 32 point performance. Great stuff.
Is Texas Ready For Sister Jean?
On to San Antonio for Loyola-Chicago and it is well deserved. They’ve arguably been the better team in each game they’ve played – and there can be no argument about last night’s methodical work against a very good K State squad. The Ramblers will have to be less careless with the ball against Michigan, but how can anyone count them out at this point?
And speaking of Michigan, after putting up 99 points on Thursday, last night they survived a rock fight at the Staples Center. FSU is relentless, long, tall, and with a deep bench, but you occasionally need to score. Michigan did just enough, showing toughness and some defense of their own, and extending their winning streak to 13 games. They’ll match up vs. Loyola’s own 14 game streak in a national semi-final no one could have seen coming.
You can argue that the Syracuse D was as effective as ever as Duke shot poorly last night, but the Blue Devils played enough defense themselves to prevail and set up a battle of the titans with Kansas tomorrow. Having Marvin Bagley III didn’t hurt either.
And how about Chris Beard sending a higher seeded Purdue team home for the second time in three years, this time leading the dangerous Raiders of Texas Tech into elite territory for the first time ever. This under publicized team, talented, well coached, and battle tested in the Big 12, will be ready for the big stage Sunday vs. Villanova. Can’t wait to watch.
Thursday Night Ramblings
There may be no denying Loyola-Chicago. This is a cohesive, tough group, with experienced guards who put on a layup clinic this evening. What a story. In the second game in Atlanta, a virtual home game for Big Blue Nation, the Kentucky kids proved they just didn’t have the consistency for a tourney run.
In LA John Beilein’s March reputation grows by the game. Someone on the left side of the brackets will play for the championship. Why not the Wolverines? In the later action Gonzaga sorely missed injured Killian Tillie in the post, and Leonard Hamilton has his Florida State Seminoles headed into uncharted territory.
Duke, ‘Nova, Kansas take the floor Friday. Are there even bigger upsets ahead?
How Sweet It Is
Well, so much for resolve from Sunday’s high seeds. Syracuse’s zone was again the difference maker vs. the potent Spartans, and Cincy’s high achieving senior class went out in the most heartbreaking manner.
Is Texas A&M going to prove itself the tournament’s biggest surprise? That isn’t the team we saw this winter, and their defense has been at championship level. Things get much tougher against Michigan tonight.
Tale of Two Tourneys
The first weekend is as much about the stories as the games, and when has there been a better story than Loyola-Chicago and their divine 98 year old chaplain? They’ll continue dancing in Atlanta next weekend. Will UMBC join them in what would be the all time busted bracket?
Meanwhile the big boys were flexing their muscles yesterday as Duke and Villanova showed they’ve got their eyes fixed on the ultimate prize. NC, Xavier, Cincinnati, and Michigan State will try to show the same resolve today.
Is the Carnage Over?
Competitive games, exciting finishes, and the requisite number of upsets was turned upside down late Friday with the Virginia stunner. Does the chalk take over now as the potential national championship contenders get focused?
Buffalo and Loyola-Chicago in action today as strong Sweet 16 bracket busting candidates. And don’t sleep on an athletic Nevada squad tomorrow if Cincy doesn’t bring their A game.
Wish I’d Been in Boise
Never thought I’d type that! The first day of games, from an OT opener to a late night shocker brought us plenty of the thrills and stories that only March Madness can provide. If you happened to be in Idaho you saw three terrific, competitive games with the higher seeds finally prevailing, and a finale with the Buffalo Bears demonstrating the kind of tough and experienced guard play that makes some mid-majors so dangerous. And it helped that they shot the lights out.
Today Should Be a Holiday!
Tourney time – who will shock us today?
Syracuse can defend and rebound, you have to give them credit for that after the toughness they showed last night. And Oshae Brissett deserves all the accolades he gets.
How ‘Bout Those Bonnies!
Teamwork, experience, and defense for a team with one loss in 8 weeks. Watch out Gators, these guys aren’t done.
Does Davidson steal one last bid today in the A-10 final? And who loses if the Wildcats win? Creighton or Marquette from the Big East? Texas? Here’s hoping it’s not the A-10’s own Bonnies, who had a 13 game winning streak snapped in yesterday’s semi final.
Holding Their Breath
My favorite dark horse, Middle Tennessee State, stumbled in overtime last night against Southern Miss. Now they’ll wait until Sunday, uncertain of what should be a much deserved bid. If they do receive an invite the room on the bubble gets a bit smaller.
And did Notre Dame and Marquette, both defeated yesterday, do enough? The Friars of Providence might be one team that can relax, at least a little, after their thrilling victory over Creighton.
March 9, 2018
Amway Center Magic?
The University of Connecticut Huskies have done it here before. Can they dare to dream again this week? Probably not, but today’s SMU match up could be a confidence builder.
March 8, 2018
Survive and Advance
That was the theme for Syracuse and Notre Dame yesterday, neither of whom can afford a stumble in Brooklyn. The Irish needed Bonzie Colson’s 19 points to escape a tussle with a Pitt squad that went winless in ACC play this year.
6th ranked Gonzaga made short work of BYU in the WCC final. Will that bump them to the 4 line, or above? Big East, Big 12, Pac 12, C-USA, A-10, and others all tip off today as the calendar is jammed. UNLV opens the Mountain West tourney in the friendly confines of the Thomas & Mack Center, where the very dangerous Wolf Pack of Nevada will be favorites to cut down the nets.
And finally, it’s championship night in the Patriot, where the Bucknell Bison will try to take care of business vs. Colgate.
March 7, 2018
Can Cleveland State turn a 22 loss season into an automatic Horizon League bid? They put up 89 in a win over #1 seed Northern Kentucky, then won a game where a total of 87 points were scored. They could be a tough out for the Raiders from Wright State tonight.
March 6, 2018
Championship Week, Let the Fun Begin
Congratulations to Lipscomb, riding a 60 point first half to their first dance appearance ever. Marquette, Texas, Syracuse, and UCLA all posted key wins on Saturday and look poised to squeak in to the First Four matchups, but some of those bids always seem to vanish with surprises in the conference tourneys.
And speaking of surprises, carnage in the always competitive MAAC has produced an Iona (4 seed) and Fairfield (6) final tonight that no one could have predicted.
March 5, 2018
This is such an exciting couple of weeks, and I love the one bid league tourneys where everything is on the line in each game. The Atlantic Sun began last night and if favorites prevail we’ll have a Florida Gulf Coast vs. Lipscomb match up in the finals. The Big South and Patriot debut today. If heavy favorite Bucknell gets through in the Patriot League they could mean trouble for a higher seed come March – they’ve done it before.
Feb 27, 2018
This and That
Is this a sad day for college sports, or is the spotlight that is finally shining on the corrupt system going to mean some long awaited meaningful reform? I’m going to be optimistic, for now, in the hope that a way is found to compensate these remarkable athletes within the rules. The hypocrisy of it all is at last becoming too much to sustain.
Happier, and more local news – How about those Drexel Dragons! Hannah would be smiling as her alma mater shocked the basketball world last night (not to mention the poor Blue Hens of Delaware), overcoming a 34 point deficit on the way to a thrilling 85-83 W, the largest comeback in D1 hoop history.
And very close to home, let’s recognize the Hartford Hawks, winners of 3 in a row and 6 of 7. At 17-11, and tied for 2nd place at 10-4 in America East, the Hawks are poised to equal or break the school D1 record of 18 wins.
Feb 23, 2018
Who Wants a #1 Seed?
Three L’s in a row for Purdue is shaking up that top line of the brackets. Cincinnati’s loss in Houston didn’t help clarify things either, although the Cougars are tough at home, remaining undefeated. Michigan State? Auburn? Anyone?
And at the other end of the invites, can Penn State overcome a dreadful out of conference slate with a strong finish? Crushing the 1st place Buckeyes certainly helped.
Feb 16, 2018
Big East Thoughts
Can Villanova right the ship and keep that #1 seed? There is still time to get healthy, and this weekend’s match up with Xavier looms large – and they are still 23 – 3. But 3’s don’t always fall, and last night 17 of 20 didn’t. It is hard to shoot your way into April exclusively from long distance.
And how about the most improbable winning streak in many seasons? The Johnnies are above .500 with 4 wins in a row, and apparently Chris Mullin can coach, at least with Shamorie Ponds on the floor. An NIT invite and a run through the tourney back to Madison Square would put quite a bow on a fascinating season.
Feb 15, 2018
Previewing the Regions
On the major conference side, UNC looks to clinch the top overall see with a strong performance in the ACC tournament, while UCLA hopes to have a strong performance out west to cement a place on the top two lines after a lackluster performance last night.
Best two weeks of the year are upcoming folks, make sure to stay informed and involved, and hopefully you’ve saved up those sick days from work.
March 5, 2017
A new college basketball season is upon us and that means that we will soon reach the in season milestones such as the beginning of conference play, conference tournaments, and eventually The Big Dance. Arizona and Sean Miller had a huge win on Friday night despite multiple injuries, Indiana beat fellow blue blood Kansas, Villanova started their title defense and hopeful march towards being the first repeat champ since Florida in ’07, and Wagner started their season with an unexpected upset of UConn in Storrs. The Jimmy V classic will have us all focused on The Garden and Duke (undefeated?) in just over three weeks, and we’re just 118 days away from Selection Sunday.