BX NCAA Tournament Notebook: Recapping the First and Second Rounds

BX NCAA Tournament Notebook:  Recapping the First and Second Rounds
Mar 26, 2008, 11:10 am

-I’m 36-13 with my game-by-game picks so far. I actually went 13-3 in the second round, and had Butler picked over Tennessee, but the Bulldogs couldn’t finish them off. I also had Duke over West Virginia and Purdue over Xavier. Obviously, I’m not all that upset that I didn’t get the Purdue game right.

My original bracket still has 12 of the Sweet Sixteen and all of the Elite Eight in it, but I had some damaging misses. I had BYU over UCLA. The Cougars didn’t even make it out of the first round, but Texas A&M nearly pulled the upset in their place. Had that happened it wouldn’t have helped my score, but it sure as hell would have hurt everyone else’s. It’s a good thing I’m not in a jackpot because I don’t think I’d be taking home any money this year, but who knows?? The last time I was allowed to be in it, I won it with just nine Sweet Sixteen teams. I had everything correct from the Elite Eight on, though.


-Davidson has been the story of the tournament so far. They had to come from behind to win both of their games. I’m not surprised that they beat Georgetown because I actually picked them to win that game, but I am surprised at how they won. Once Georgetown jumped out to an early double-digit lead I thought Davidson was toast, but they were able to come back. Steffan Curry has been the most impressive individual in the tournament so far. Some of his critics pointed out that his statistical accomplishments were skewed because of the weak competition he face in conference. Georgetown is anything but weak competition, and he lit them up for thirty points. They’ll be facing Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen, which is another good defensive team. I originally had Davidson losing that game, but I’m starting to like their chances.

-Butler was another team that came from behind after falling behind big early to Tennessee. They missed several lay-ups down the stretch and even had a shot to win at the end of regulation, but couldn’t quite get over the top against Volunteers. They had a lead in overtime with just over a minute to go, but the Vols pulled out another close one. Tennessee has been in quite a few tight games lately against teams that one would expect them to destroy. Butler is obviously very good, but American played them tough, Arkansas beat them, and South Carolina and Kentucky nearly beat them as well. It’s good that they can win close games, but their next opponent is much tougher than anyone they’ve struggled against in that recent stretch. They could be in big trouble against Louisville in their next game.

-Western Kentucky and San Diego were two other Cinderellas who pulled off big first round upsets and had to face each other in the second round. Western Kentucky is a very athletic, fast paced team, so it has been interesting to watch both of their games against Drake and San Diego, because both of their opponents had such differing styles. They opened up a big 16 point lead against Drake and appeared to be putting the game away, but because the game was played at such a fast pace Drake was able to come back and force overtime. WKU then hit what is the shot of the tournament to win the game at the buzzer and move on to the second round. It was the same story against San Diego where WKU built up a big lead, but then ended up losing it. The most important thing is that they won and advanced. They’ll face UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen. It’s the farthest WKU has been since 1993.

-In 2004 two #1 seeds lost in the second round. None have lost that early since then, although we’ve seen some incredibly close calls. This year we saw two.

UCLA trailed by as much as ten in the second half against Texas A&M, but the Aggies went dry in the final minutes. TAMU still had a chance to pull it off, but a very controversial no-call at the end of the game on what looked to be a foul on UCLA pretty much ended their chances and the Bruins advanced.

Missed freethrows nearly cost Memphis a chance of advancing as Mississippi State came from behind to almost force overtime, but missed a shot at the buzzer and came up just short.

North Carolina and Kansas both won without too much trouble. They’ve both looked very impressive in the tournament so far.

I’ve heard many people say they’d rather be a #11 seed than a #8 or #9 seed because they feel that not having to face the #1 seed in the second round will make it easier to go on a run. While I understand the logic, I completely disagree that a #11 seed is better. For starters, those teams have much tougher first round opponents than a #8/9 seed. Secondly, the #1 seeds are vulnerable in the second round. Chances are they were able to sleepwalk through their first game. In addition to that, they aren’t entirely sure who they’re going to play, whereas the winner of the #8vs#9 game is. The arena is also going to get behind the #8/#9 seed if they’re able to keep it close, and if they can win that game the bracket is suddenly lined up in their advantage.

If it’s trivia you want, a #11 seed has only been to the Final Four twice, the most recent being George Mason in 2006, who also had to beat a #1 seed to get there. A #8 seed has actually won a national championship, and multiple others have made Final Fours The #8/9 seed also has a winning record in the Sweet Sixteen. The #11 could arguably buy a team one more round, but more often than not it costs them a shot at the second round. Historically the #11 seed has a losing record in the first round. Although a #8/9 hasn’t won since 2004, we had two very close calls each of the last two years. It will happen again. It’s not THAT unusual. We’ll most likely see many more 8/9 seeds in the Elite Eight over the next five years than we will #10/11/12 seeds.

-One of the teams that I thought would put up a fight and didn’t was Cornell, who was absolutely blasted by Stanford in their first round game. That’s an example of a team looking better than they really are for most of the season because of who they play in conference. Cornell, which was an excellent shooting team all year, couldn’t hit anything against Stanford.

Stanford head coach Trent Johnson was ejected from their second round game against Marquette, which was very uncharacteristic of him. That game was much closer and Stanford needed a last second shot to win that one. Both teams played an outstanding game, and it was a crushing loss for Marquette. The only heartbreaking thing about a great game is that one of the teams will play great and still not win. That’s what happened to Marquette.

-Belmont nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history when they were within reach of Duke in the final minutes, but came up empty on their final four possessions of the game. Duke held on to win 71-70. That especially stings for Belmont because I’m sure those players and coaches will be replaying each of those final four possessions over and over in their heads for a long time. If they convert on one of them they probably win that game.

Duke followed up that game with a rather unimpressive second round showing against West Virginia. Not to take anything away from the Mountaineers because they did play pretty well. They overcame a second half deficit to basically put themselves in control for the last ten minutes of the game. It was never out of reach of Duke, but it was always in control of the Mountaineers.

West Virginia will face Xavier, which is another team in this tournament that has gotten into the habit of falling behind early, but coming back to win. Purdue scored the first nine points of the game against Xavier, but Xavier pretty much dominated after that. Xavier also trailed Georgia by 11 in the second half, but dominated the final fifteen minutes of that game to win by twelve. It’s possible (although it doesn’t appear to be all that likely) that Xavier will face Western Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Wouldn’t that be interesting?? A team that falls behind early, but comes back to win squaring off against a team that jumps out to early leads and blows it, but still manages to hold on and win.

-Lastly, Louisville and North Carolina have clearly looked like the most dominant teams. Boise State, who is better than many probably realized, stayed with Louisville for about thirty seconds. Oklahoma didn’t even last that long. Louisville has breezed through the first two rounds, and their fans are among the few that haven’t even had to sweat anything out yet. They’ll face Tennessee this Thursday. As good as Tennessee is, if the Vols don’t play better than they have in the past three weeks that game might not be close either.

North Carolina blew out Mount Saint Mary’s, which really didn’t surprise anyone, and then blew out what appeared to be a fairly solid Arkansas team. Neither game was all that close after the first media timeout. They’ll face a very tough defensive Washington State team in their next game and should get a battle out of the Cougars. Wazzu isn’t great on offense, but they’re certainly more than efficient, and they are VEEERRRY tough on defense. They completely shut down Notre Dame in their second round win. Wazzu is under the radar, but they blew through their first two games as well. Their fans may be among the few that still have all their fingernails left.

I’ve also been very impressed with Wisconsin, but that isn’t too much of a surprise. They haven’t had too much trouble dusting off their first and second round opponents either, and did a great job defending what was a talented Kansas State team in their last game. They’ll face Davidson, who has been one of the most exciting teams to watch in the tournament this year. I can’t wait to see that match-up.

-I’ll have my Sweet Sixteen Rundown and Picks posted late tonight/early tomorrow.

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