Saturday, March 20, 2010

NCAA Tournament Running Commentary: Saturday Afternoon Edition

Note: I will be in and out today/tonight with some observations from the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Feel free to comment and be aware that the MOST RECENT updates will be found at the top of the post, although nothing will be deleted from earlier action.

7:20 PM

3 game currently on tap, 2 at the half and one 5 minutes to go in the 1st. Scroll DOWN to get re-caps of today's earlier action.

-Old Dominion has rallied to tie Baylor at 47. An early 11-2 run got the Monarchs right back in the game. ODU is 5-10 from behind the arc including a pair (3 total) from Ben Finney. Baylor has gone cold (as I fortold) and the pace has shored up to ODU. Nevertheless, do you favor the Monarchs in a game that may reach the 70s? ODU takes its first lead at 49-47 with 12:21 left. Baylor seems rattled.

Northern Iowa leads Kansas 52-43 in the second half as we're nearing the under-8 timeout. Because I'm a girlish corward, I've avoided watching the game. When does this become Must See TV? A lead with 5 minutes left? Or is it already now? Northern Iowa has maintained a 8-12 point lead the entire second half. Is a MAJOR story developing? I still have too many doubts...

Washington is controlling New Mexico 44-34 as we're 2 minutes into the second half. While New Mexico made a run against Montana on Thursday, the pace of this game completely favors the Huskies. Nevertheless, if this lead is under 8 with less than 10 to go, the Lobos should have plenty of chances.

6:45 PM
Careful to put up the finger too quickly. Kansas can put a 10-0 run together in less than 60 seconds far too easily. Especially if Aldrich starts blocking shots left and right.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

3 game currently on tap, 2 at the half and one 5 minutes to go in the 1st.

Washington has controlled the pace and is shooting 60% from the field against the Lobos of New Mexico. The Lobos are 3-11 from the behind the arc and are playing uglier than Steve Alford's jacket. Ouch. Isaiah Thomas Jr. and Quincy Pondexter already have combined for 17 in the 1st half.
Both also have 2 fouls. Washington leads 34-25 with 4:412 to go.

Northern Iowa leads #1-overall seed Kansas (I know, do I need to add that?) at the half 36-28. The first 5 minutes of the second-half will be HUGE. If Northern Iowa wants to make the loudest statement of the tournament thus far, they must: value possessions, hit over 50% of open 3s, limit fast break opportunities for the Jayhawks, and not allow Collins to have an and-1 festival when attacking the hoop. That shouldn't be too hard, right?

leads ODU 38-28 at the half. The Bears have this game at the EXACT pace they want. Question is: when Baylor goes cold for 4-6 minutes (and believe me, they will), can ODU turn possessions into points??? The Monarchs don't hit 3s, but they can pass the ball well from the post - specifically through Gerald Lee - and leave themselves with wide open perimeter looks. ODU can't afford this lead to spread to 15+. They did trail Notre Dame by 6 at the half, but in a much lower scoring affair.

6:15 PM

As much as he's tortured Big East opponents, Scottie Reynolds will still be missed.
He's Villanova's finest guard - in my book - since Kerry Kittles.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

So there are 32 teams still alive, with far fewer possessing legit Final Four aspirations. Then again, crazier things have happened.

On the docket today is a lot of the excitement remaining from Thursday's MUST-SEE schedule (Friday was so-so at best, to be honest).

While my bracket is in pieces (2 Final Four teams = GONE), Syracuse took the #1 seeds to 104-0 against the lowly 16s. Gus Johnson seemed totally devastated Vermont didn't bury a barrage of 3s early on the in the second half to make it another "Game for the Ages". Oh well, Gus.

As for Gonzaga/Cuse, I am worried about Onuaku's absence. Rick Jackson will have to play a TON of minutes and not commit fouls. The outside shooting of Rautins, Jardine, Johnson, and (somehow) Triche should end up being a MAJOR factor. We shall see, I suppose.

As for today...let's check in.

The Vols' defense led them to victory today.
A matchup with Naismith-frontrunner Evan Turner next is likely.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

The weather in central Virginia (R-I-C!) has been absolutely stellar today and between softball practice (@11), lunch with some teammates, and a trip to Dick's for some new cleats...I haven't seen a ton of early action. Fear not, I'll be with you until the conclusion of tonight's matchups. Thanks, Five Hour Energy!!!

Currently in progress...
Old Dominion
can't be happy with the pace of their game early on against Baylor. Trying to play a game in the 50s, Baylor is attacking the hoop early and holds an early 20-8 lead with 11+minutes left in the half. ODU can't afford to fall too far behind early on, as they aren't an efficient 3-point shooting team; especially considering Baylor's ability today thus far to use their team speed to attack the hoop at will.

Northern Iowa is shooting the ball very well and playing confidently against #1-overall seed Kansas. The Jayhawks started quietly on Thursday night and should have far too much size and athleticism - specifically via Collins and the Morris twins - to allow Northern Iowa to shoot themselves into a big enough lead to worry Rock, Chalk nation. Northern Iowa leads 19-15 mid-way through the 1st half.

New Mexico and Washington may be a more entertaining game than you think, although you may need a satellite to see it from your house (especially on the East Coast). The Lobos started poorly on Thursday, though they are an uber-talented team who shouldn't be dismissed because of their conference affiliation. My eyes will be on Washington's Quincy Pondexter, who single-handedly took over their matchup against Marquette down the stretch, sealing the game with less than 2 seconds with an impressive runner to secure the W for the Pac-10's Huskies. Could the Pac 10 join the WCC with a 3-0 record after 3 days? The game is tie at 19 nearing the 10-minute mark in the first half. This game could have plenty of fireworks.

Later tonight...
-In the East, Kentucky looks to keep it going against Wake Forest. How DeMarcus Cousins handles the duo of Yellow Jacket big men is of the utmost importance for Coach Cal.
-In the West, BYU tries to make the trip to Salt Lake City for the regional semi-final. However, red hot Kansas State - one of the most impressive performers of the opening day's games - has an extremely talented backcourt of their own and must be the early favorite to advance.

South Region
#2 Villanova vs. #10 St. Mary's
Fortunately I caught the last 10 minutes of each of the halves of Villanova and St. Mary's. Many people ignored Nova's recent struggles - and a complete LACK of rebounding an interior presence - and decided their region was weak enough to allow the Wildcats to return to the Final Four. No so much. Scottie Reynolds struggled all day, reverting to far too much 1-on-1 play in the closing possessions, as St. Mary's became the first team to punch a ticket to the Sweet Sixteen, defeating the 2-seeded Wildcats 75-68.

Omar Samhan, who makes Sam Perkins circa-96 look like he had LeBron's vertical, may be the emerging star of the tournament thus far. After completely dominating the Spiders of Richmond in the opening round (29 and 12), Villanova had ABSOLUTELY no answer for Samhan (32 and 7 on 13-16 shooting from the field). Samhan sealed the game with a late block as well. The Gaels leave the WCC 3-0 and should be considered a legit contender out of the South region in Houston next weekend.

Midwest Region
#6 Tennessee vs. #14 Ohio
It may be difficult to think of a team who played a more complete game - on both sides of the ball - than the Bobcats did in the opening round; especially considering their opponent (Georgetown). That momentum couldn't be carried over against the Volunteers, who led by 11 at the half and kept that lead for the majority of the second half - outside of one brief spurt by Ohio that cut the Tennessee lead to 5 - due to the Vols' superior athletes and shooting 55% from the field. 12 missed free throws (14-26) from the Bobcats certainly didn't help.

If you had Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen after Tyler Smith's exit from the are far more adept than I am. The true question is if Bruce Pearl and the Vols can finally advance to the Elite Eight, after being frequent second weekend participants in years past.

West Region
#5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State
This one will sting for the Racers. Leading by 3 with less than 90 seconds to go, the charity stripe was good to Butler; meanwhile Murray State struggled to find quality shots. On the last possession of the game, the Racers failed to get off a 3, thanks in large party to gritty, tenacious defense from the Bulldogs behind the 3-point line. Cinderella took a backseat unfortunately as this game slipped away from the underdog.

2 comments: said...

The tournament has been exciting so far. As for Villanova, they played like garbage in Thursday's game against Robert Morris and played horribly again today. I'm disappointed that they hurt my bracket, but really they do not deserve to be in the tournament any longer. Congrats to the Gaels!

Clement said...

From what I saw of Villanova today, I have three comments:
1) They have NO inside presence whatsoever. Jay Wright knew this, but couldn't fix it late in the Big East schedule.
2) Villanova avoided a milestone-loss on Thursday and prove on Saturday that they weren't a worthy 2-seed, even in parity-laden field.
3) St. Mary's is playing as well as anyone in this entire tournament. Samhan is unguarable and the outside shooting for the Gaels has been spot-on.

On a side note, Raftery's call on the bank shot-3 was classic.

I need to find a clip of it. Who doesn't love that guy?