During the first half of the Xavier-Notre Dame game in the final time slot of last night, CBS’ Jim Nantz noted the game would spill over into St. Patrick’s Day in the East, and that perhaps Xavier would be well-advised to put the game away early, lest some funny things start happening in Greensboro on behalf of the Fighting Irish. As we’ll see in the recaps, not only did that not work for Notre Dame, but any St. Paddy’s day doings in the wee hours came up and bit them in the posterior. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t green-laden ironies. Amidst a day noted for its stunning upsets, the single best performance of the day was turned in by Florida, coached by Billy Donovan. And the top individual player was Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn. TheSportsNotebook gets some closure on the first round with a quick-hitting recap of all 16 games on Friday…
Cincinnati 65 Texas 59: Young teams break your heart, as Texas fans learned. The Longhorns fought back in the second half and got in position to win it, but Cincy, strengthened by 45 percent shooting survived. It was another case of UT coming up a day late and a dollar short—but as long as J’Covan Brown comes back next year, they’re going to be a serious contender. Cincy fans, we’ll talk more about your team in Sunday’s preview.
Florida State 66 St. Bonaventure 63: Another upset special of mine (I also had Texas) comes up just short. The Bonnies led much of the way, but ultimately Florida State survived because Bernard James was able to battle Andrew Nicholson to more or less a draw in the low post. Nicholson had 20 points and 7 rebounds for St. Bonaventure, but James put up a 19/9 and negated the one clear edge the underdog had.
Lehigh 75 Duke 70: Later this morning at 11 AM ET, I’ll be podcasting at Prime Sports Network with Greg DePalma, and I’ll have to pay homage for his picking of Lehigh when we did our brackets on the air Wednesday. With my own bracket in tatters, I’m going to piggyback and point out that I did have Duke going out in the second round and had identified the Blue Devils’ obvious vulnerability—they were way too dependent on the trey, and they went cold last night going 6-for-26. Great performance from Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, whose 30 points put him in the running for best player of the night.
Xavier 67 Notre Dame 63: This is the scenario with less than five seconds to play. Notre Dame’s down by two, at the line for a one-and-one. The first attempt is made, but Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant lined up in the backcourt crosses the three-point line as the players moved in to prepare for the rebounding. Apparently this is a lane violation now, and the free throw disallowed and Xavier given the ball, effectively wrapping it up. Charles Barkley went off about the call in the postgame show. I have mixed feelings. I completely understand where Sir Charles is coming from. It’s a tough way to decide a game and there was obviously no benefit accrued to Notre Dame by Grant taking a couple steps forward. But a rule’s a rule. How far should officials go in deciding when violations cease to be because of a game situation? We could do a whole article on that covering all sports, but for now let’s just say I can see both sides.
Florida 71 Virginia 45: Florida shot 52 percent from the floor. The owned the glass to the tune of 36-21. Virginia’s Mike Scott, the one man who could beat them got 15 points, but didn’t go off and nobody else was in double-digits. That’s called a complete team performance and it only got better for Florida when the two-seed they were supposed to face went out in the game we look at next.
Norfolk State 86 Missouri 84: O’Quinn had 26 points and 14 rebounds, and was the reason why Norfolk controlled the rebounding battle. And that battle was the reason they won the war, because both teams shot the ball extremely well, both inside and outside the arc. A great point made by Barkley and fellow analyst Kenny Smith was that Missouri and Duke, along with Michigan, whose demise we’ll also check in on, were all backcourt teams with serious problems inside—and that the area where power conferences can still distinguish themselves from the midmajors is getting muscle. Without it, anything can happen, and anything did yesterday afternoon.
St. Louis 61 Memphis 54: Great job from St. Louis point guard Kwamain Mitchell, who scored 22 points and controlled backcourt action. And Billiken garbagemen, Dwayne Evans, grabbed 11 rebounds. In yesterday’s hockey outlook I noted that the city of St. Louis has had the Cardinals win the World Series, might have the Blues win the Stanley Cup and have Missouri make the Final Four. Just got the wrong basketball team.
Michigan State 89 Long Island 67: Sparty dominates the boards the way a #1 seed should, and Draymond Green has an exquisite 24 points/12 rebounds/10 assists line.
N.C. State 79 San Diego State 65: The Aztec backcourt of Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley was great, but the Wolfpack had much more team balance and shot 58 percent to boot. N.C. State was in control the whole way.
Georgetown 74 Belmont 59: I would be a little worried if I were a Georgetown fan. They didn’t impose their will on a smallish Belmont team, and it took 61 percent shooting and a good game from guard Jason Clark, who had 21 points, to pull away with this one. Clark is good, and it’s not like him playing well is a fluke, but when you have the interior presence of the Hoyas, it’s concerning they had to rely on a finesse game to win.
Creighton 58 Alabama 57: I picked Creighton to win this game, but Alabama was robbed. On the game’s final possession Trevor Releford was clearly fouled on a game-winning three-point attempt, and his shot ended up woefully short. This is an example where an official goes way too far with the “let them play at the end of the game theory” and in effect decides a game by *not* blowing a whistle. Maybe it’s some sort of justice for the Alabama football team getting as many chances as they needed to beat LSU, but this no-call was a joke.
North Carolina 77 Vermont 58: Forward John Henson didn’t play for the Tar Heels with the wrist injury that’s still going day-to-day. I’m not surprise and expect him to play on Sunday against Creighton, but Roy Williams still can’t find it acceptable that his team was outrebounded by Vermont. The size advantage for Carolina likely accounted for a big edge in free throw attempts (24-8) that created a 13-point margin in points from the line, but this was not a championship effort from UNC.
Ohio 65 Michigan 60: I’m just kicking myself from here to kingdom come. I wrote in the previews yesterday how vulnerable Michigan was because they were soft inside, but that they would survive Ohio. So in the games with Michigan and Duke, I danced around the upset without quite picking it. In the Florida State game, I did pick the upset, was right there to get it and just missed. I feel like the betting equivalent of the guy whom every girl likes but wants to be just friends with.
South Florida 58 Temple 44: South Florida trailed at the half, but the ugly 19-15 score told you it was going the Bulls way. When they make it ugly, they win. Step aside Derrick Rose and Chicago, you aren’t the only Bulls team playing some lockdown D right now.
Purdue 72 St. Mary’s 69: The Gaels controlled the glass, but Purdue used narrow edges in all other facets of play to overcome it and get the win. Both teams’ best players, Robbie Hummel for Purdue and Matthew Dellavedova for St. Mary’s, had off-nights, but the Boilermakers were bailed out by great backcourt play form Lewis Jackson and a surprising 21-point night from Terone Johnson.
Kansas 65 Detroit 50: Like North Carolina, Kansas is another favorite who can’t gripe too much, because they were spared the upset bug. But how does a team with Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey down low, get fought to essentially a draw on the glass. And calling it draw is giving Kansas the benefit of the doubt, because Detroit won rebounding 39-38. Can’t happen again if you’re Bill Self.