Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament

A few thoughts on day 1 of the NCAA Tournament.

The Belmont Bruins were so close.

So close. Eleven seconds and one rebound short, it turns out.

Duke did what Jimmy V said you had to do in the NCAA Tournament — survive and advance. Every time it looked like Duke — a 20-point favorite — was finally going to put the game away, here came the Bruins right back, stunning the Blue Devils with 3-pointers, dazzling back-door cuts and brilliant play from speedy point guard Alex Renfroe.

It was just a wonderful NCCA game, one that gives the tournament its famous moniker. This game was indeed maddening — maddening for Duke fans to watch, and maddeningly deflating for the Bruins.

This was the game of the tournament, and while Devils’ fans and even Tar Heels’ fans are probably rethinking Duke’s chances in the tournament at this moment, this is the kind of game that seems to bring a team’s fortunes together. Remember when Mike Miller made the runner to lift Florida a few years back when the Gators advanced all the way to the finals? 

That’s the thing about the tournament. You just never know.

 

Remember when I wrote the other day that I hated the NCAA bracket that I filled out before the tournament started? 

I almost burned it at about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday.

That’s because Xavier was down by 11 points with 17 minutes to go against the first Cinderella from a major conference since 1985’s Villanova, Georgia. I have Xavier beating Duke in the Sweet 16 before losing to UCLA, so that would have wrecked things in a hurry.

Why do I like Xavier? Maybe because the Muskateers are so much like Duke. They have six players who can score in double figures, they can spread the floor and shoot it and they’re mentally tough. All of those things were on display in their second-half comeback to keep my bracket alive, through the first day at least.

 

I had Kent State beating UNLV and advancing to the second round. Then it was 27-6 and 31-10 at the half. 

 

I know it’s just Oral Roberts, but I came real close to taking Pitt all the way to the Final Four in Memphis’ bracket. I’d like to have that one back. I’d like to have Michigan State beating Pitt in the second round back as well. I’m an idiot.

 

I wish I could’ve seen O.J. Mayo play in the NCAA Tournament.

Thanks selection committee. One game to see either Mayo or Beasley for the entire tournament? One had to go home on the first day with a loss. Thanks for ensuring that would happen.

Thanks for playing, O.J. 

 

Duke and North Carolina fans can rejoice in one thing together — Kentucky is gone! Woo-hoo!

 

A lot — and I mean a lot — of people are picking Kansas to win this thing. I just don’t see it. But then again, I’m an idiot, so who knows?

 

Remember when teams would groan out loud after seeing on the selection show that they have to play Winthrop? 

Not anymore. Washington State’s 38-5 run in the first 16 minutes of the second half throttled the ’Throp.

 

Baylor went home on Thursday (another loss by me — hey I had to pick at least one upset, right?). Too bad. What an incredible story. Scott Drew has to be on the short list for step-up program hires, doesn’t he?

 

Does West Virginia have enough to upset Duke?

I don’t think so. I really don’t. While I like who they have on the sideline in Bob Huggins, I’m just not sure I see it. Plus, I think Duke shakes off shooting 6-for-21 behind the arc to make at least 10 3s against West Virginia on Saturday.

Still, the Mountaineers beat a team that may have two guys on its roster who will be playing in the NBA next year. Not a bad win at all.

 

UCLA held Mississippi Valley State to 29 points. I know it was a 1-16 matchup, but c’mon. 29 points?! Wow.

 

Nice solid win for Wisconsin over Cal State Fullerton. Sure, it’s a 3-seed beating a 14, but Fullerton likes to run, and Wisconsin just wouldn’t let it change the tempo at all in the second half. I have the Badgers making the Final Four, mostly becaue of coach Bo Ryan, and because you can’t win an office pool without picking something out of the ordinary correctly. Had to take a shot somewhere.

 

Any surprises in store for Friday?

I like Butler to find a way to beat South Alabama in its back yard. Butler was ranked in the top 10 and somehow it gets a No. 7 seed. That’s terrible. I worry about Clemson against Villanova, but still went with the Tigers even though they are a trendy pick this week. I don’t really have any surprises, though St. Joseph’s intrigues me and I do see Davidson beating Gonzaga.

As long as the Tar Heels don’t have a scare like the Devils went through, I’ll be happy. 

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Filed under ACC, College Basketball, Designated Hitter, Duke Blue Devils, NCAA Tournament, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, UNC Tar Heels

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