Friday, March 22, 2013

3/22: Thursday Wrap/Friday Preview, etc.

Greetings! Obviously, we have a lot to get to on the Friday morning of madness, so let's go...
  • There was one "major" upset in the tournament yesterday, and it didn't come until late night on the East Coast. #14-seed Harvard knocked off #3-seed New Mexico by a score of 68-62 to advance to Saturday. The Crimson shot 53% from the field on the night including 8-18 from three-point land, and overcame their size disadvantage (and subsequent rebounding issues) by holding the Lobos to 38% shooting. This wasn't a "shocking" loss on the level of most 3/14 upsets for me, because I thought Harvard was under-seeded a bit, but it's a big-time, double-digit underdog win and that's impressive. 
  • While we talk upsets, there were two near upsets that also doubled as the only "buzzer-beater" moments from Thursday. Marquette escaped a loss to Davidson with the help of three consecutive three-pointers in the last 90 seconds, overcoming a 7-point deficit, and clinching the win with a lay-up by Vander Blue with 1 second remaining. I thought Davidson was the better team, but they couldn't get a stop late, and it was inexplicable to allow that easy of a lay-up for the win. Also in the afternoon, St. Mary's mounted a massive late comeback to create a buzzer-beater opportunity at the end, but Matthew Dellavedova's 3-point heave went begging at the gun, and the Gaels fell to Memphis 54-52. 
  • The Pac-12 shined on Thursday, surging to a 3-0 record behind some 12-seed "upsets". Oregon cruised to a 13-point victory over #5-seeded Oklahoma State, pulsed by a massive 44-30 rebounding edge, and the fact that they held Marcus Smart to just 14 points. I thought Oregon was the worst seeding decision that the committee made (and said so post-selection), so it was nice to see them take care of business. Cal fought through a tough game with #5-seed UNLV, but came out with a 64-61 win. I thought UNLV was the much, much more talented team, but their guard play was atrocious, and they didn't execute in the slightest, especially in the second half. Finally, Arizona got an underrated win on the "impressive" scale by disposing of Belmont 81-64. Belmont was a legitimate opponent, but 'Zona shot the lights out (57% FG, 53% from three), and won the rebounding battle by an astounding 42-15 margin. 
  • #1-seed Gonzaga beat Southern yesterday. No story here, right? Well, the Zags nearly became the first 1-seed to lose in the first round ever as they allowed the Jaguars to get within 2 points with under 3 minutes to play before settling for a 6-point win. I'm not overly concerned about their performance, as they dominated the glass, and just didn't shoot the ball well, but it's not encouraging to see your champion pick on the brink of a historical first-round exit. 
  • The final note on Thursday's action comes in the form of two historic blow-outs. VCU took undermanned Akron to the woodshed with an 88-42 drubbing that set the record for most lopsided win in a 5/12 match-up. The Zips turned the ball over 21 times (to just 5 by VCU), and shot 35% from the field on the night, while VCU made 54% of their field goals and 50% of their threes. It was never competitive. Then later in the night, Syracuse set their own record by utterly destroying Montana 81-34. It was the most lopsided 4/13 match-up ever and Montana shot 20.4% from the field and 12.9% from three. For the game! Insanity. 
In non-tourney news...
  • The Denver Nuggets stretched their under-covered winning streak to 14 games with a 101-100 win over Philly. Corey Brewer went for 29 points in 33 minutes off of the bench, and the Nuggets created 22 turnovers to somehow win despite allowing Philly to shoot 55% from the field. Denver is now 31-3 at home on the season, and nobody wants to see them (and really, the Pepsi Center) in the playoffs. 
  • Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are reportedly both going to play against the Washington Wizards on Friday. That qualifies as news, I think?
  • Dodgers 3rd-baseman Hanley Ramirez will have surgery on his thumb and miss about 8 weeks. This is an updated timetable from a previous report, but LA's depth isn't great, and this one hurts them in the early going. 
What to watch for on a gauntlet of a Friday...
  • 12:15 - #15 Albany vs. #2 Duke (CBS) - Duke lost to a 15-seed in Lehigh last year. Something tells me that the 3-headed Senior trio of Kelly, Plumlee, and Curry aren't losing to another one. 
  • 12:40 - #12 Mississippi vs. #5 Wisconsin (TRU) - I'm in the tank for Bo Ryan and Wisconsin (again), and they'll have a plan for Marshall Henderson. 
  • 1:40 - #9 Temple vs. #8 NC State (TBS) - The Wolfpack are one of the most talented teams in the country, and they should win here. With that said, they are pretty enigmatic, so it wouldn't be shocking to see the Owls rise up and compete. 
  • 2:10 - #15 Pacific vs. #2 Miami (TNT) - We live in a world where the Miami Hurricanes are a 2-seed in the tournament. Anyway, they are head-and-shoulders better here and should cruise. 
  • 2:45 - #10 Cincinnati vs. #7 Creighton (CBS) - I love Doug McDermott. If you're not a college hoops diehard, you may not have seen him, and here's your chance. I like the Blue Jays. 
  • 3:10 - #13 La Salle vs. #4 Kansas State (TRU) - I think KSU is over-seeded, but I don't like La Salle enough to pick them, especially on two days rest. They do have the unique advantage of having been in Dayton for 4 days though. 
  • 4:10 - #16 James Madison vs. #1 Indiana (TBS) - And the dream is.... over for James Madison.
  • 4:40 - #10 Colorado vs. #7 Illinois (TNT) - It seems like everyone is on Colorado here, but I like Illinois. They are an enigma, but they survived the best league in the country, and Brandon Paul is legit. 
  • 6:50 - #15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. #2 Georgetown (TBS) - My hatred for Georgetown (and really, John Thompson III) is well-documented, and I wanted to pick FGCU. I just couldn't pull the trigger.
  • 7:15 - #15 Iona vs. #2 Ohio State (CBS) - I hate the Buckeyes, but Aaron Craft isn't letting them lose to a 15-seed. Not happening.
  • 7:20 - #9 Villanova vs. #8 North Carolina (TNT) - This is probably the game of the day. I'm really on 'Nova, but I thought UNC should've been a 5/6 seed, and they have been very, very good since Roy Williams decided to go small. 
  • 7:27 - #14 Northwestern State vs. #3 Florida (TRU) - I'm all-in on the Gators. All. In. 
  • 9:20 - #10 Oklahoma vs. #7 San Diego State (TBS) - I don't even know why OU is in the field, so that should tell you what I think about their chances here.
  • 9:45 - #10 Iowa State vs. #7 Notre Dame (CBS) - I have zero read on this game whatsoever. I'm taking ND because Iowa State is a hit-or-miss team (especially away from Hilton Coliseum), but I have no conviction in it. 
  • 9:50 - #16 Western Kentucky vs. #1 Kansas (TNT) - Yawn. 
  • 9:57 - #11 Minnesota vs. #6 UCLA (TRU) - The world (including me) is on Minnesota. UCLA lost one of their best players in Jordan Adams and, as a result, they're over-seeded as a 6. Minnesota is really inconsistent, but they are an elite rebounding team, and there's safety in that.

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