Top seeds stumble as March Madness begins
What a weekend. There were upsets, overtime games and enough buzzer beaters to give animated CBS broadcaster Gus Johnson a heart attack.
Here are some highlights, lowlights and a few predictions going forward.
There are 11 different conferences being represented in the Sweet 16. Usually when people badmouth college basketball, they talk about the disparity between the bigger schools and the mid-majors, saying that the latter can’t compete. Ask Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Villanova, Wisconsin and Kansas if the mid-majors can compete.
The amount of buzzer-beating shots over the weekend was unreal. Danero Thomas hit a 15-foot shot as time expired for Murray State to knock off Vanderbilt. Chris Kramer of Purdue hit a lay-up with no time left to send Purdue to the Sweet 16. Korie Lucious hit a three-pointer as time expired for Michigan State to knock off Maryland and Washington Huskies forward Quincy Pondexter hit a bank shot with 1.7 seconds left to eliminate Marquette. Big shots were falling left and right as almost every game came down to the last few minutes.
Just like in the NBA, the officiating in the NCAA is awful. There were a lot of bad calls and a lot of non-calls that cost teams games. First there were the phantom calls in the Villanova-Robert Morris game as every time Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds touched the ball the whistle blew. This allowed Villanova to get back in the game and eventually win it at the free-throw line. Then there was the lane violation call in the final 20 seconds of the Michigan State-New Mexico State game that allowed MSU to increase their lead to three points, forcing New Mexico State to go for a three-pointer instead of a two. Overall, it was poor refereeing.
The upsets. Not because the mid majors won –I’m fine with that– but a lot of these big schools have really talented players that fans won’t get to see because their teams are out. Sheron Collins of Kansas, Reynolds of Villanova, Greg Monroe of Georgetown and Damion James of Texas are just a few of the incredibly talented players that were eliminated in the first two rounds.
Of all the insanely close games that came down to the wire, Gus Johnson got none of them. He is the most exciting commentator in sports, and all the games he covered were blowouts or were never close at the end. The fact that he didn’t cover a single game on Friday is mind-boggling. We were all robbed.
I might not be the most qualified person to be giving predictions since my bracket has pretty much been destroyed (thanks Georgetown, Villanova and Kansas) but here are some teams to look out for.
Pick to Win it All
Kentucky – Now that Kansas is gone, it’s Kentucky’s tournament to lose. They have the most talent of any team remaining and they can play either a half-court style grind-it-out game or they can push the pace and win with their athleticism.
Cinderella Most Likely to Keep on Dancing
Northern Iowa – The Panthers got lucky that their next opponent (MSU) is likely going to be without their best player Kalin Lucas, who is out with an ankle injury. They already knocked out the number one overall seed in the tournament when they beat Kansas 69-67; and senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh has hit some monster shots and has been the most clutch player through two rounds.
NI is also the second-best defensive team in the NCAA holding opponents to just 54.8 points per game. As long as they stay focused and don’t buy into their own hype, the Panthers should keep rolling all the way to the Elite Eight and maybe further.