NCAA Tournament Coverage: Mercer Breaks The Bracket
The NCAA Tournament’s Round of 64 completed on Friday, and after a building crescendo of decent upsets on Thursday, the sound you heard early Friday afternoon was brackets shattering, as 3-seed Duke falls to Mercer.
Most of the “upsets” in this year’s field are more of the 12 over 5 variety (one more of those came on Friday), which are really not as big as the seed differential makes it look, or the 11 over 6, which in my view is barely an upset. Or the 10 over 7, which isn’t at all. The reason being is that in most of those games, if you weren’t given a seed number and just looked at each team’s talent and resume, it would be hard to find a notable distinction.
But when teams seeded fourth or higher fall, it’s a huge deal, and Duke was the one team of those projected to reach the Sweet 16 to fail to get out of the first round. Here’s a look back on all of Friday’s games, going region-by-region.
Virginia 70 Coastal Carolina 59: My bold upset pick looked good for a while, as Coastal led 32-24 early and by five at the half. The Chanticleers hit 9/19 from behind the arc and held their own with the Cavaliers on the glass. But Virginia got to the foul line—20-8 edge in free throw scoring—and got 17 points off the bench from Anthony Gill.
Memphis 71 George Washington 66: Each team had a key player struggle, in Maurice Creek for Georgetown and Shaq Goodwin for Memphis. The Tigers got the big performance from someone off the bench, as Michael Dixon Jr. score 19 points in 18 minutes.
Iowa State 93 UNC-Central 75: This Cyclone team is just sizzling. After shooting over 50 percent in all three games of their run through the Big 12 tournament, they kept it rolling last night with a 64 percent performance from the floor. Georges Niang was high scorer at 24, but all five starters had at least 15.
READ ABOUT THE MODERN HISTORY OF THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Download Memories Of March Madness from Amazon today
North Carolina 79 Providence 77: A really good finish, with Providence’s LaDontae Henton narrowly missing a driving layup in traffic, followed by UNC’s James Michael McAdoo making a play, getting fouled and breaking a tie game at the line with seconds to play. Bryce Cotton poured in 36 for the Friars, but a 40-26 rebounding advantage for the Tar Heels was too much to overcome.
Sunday’s games will be Virginia-Memphis and Iowa State-North Carolina
UCLA 76 Tulsa 59: Tough defensive outing from the Bruins, who forced Tulsa’s trio of starting guards into a combined 6-for-23 shooting. Jordan Adams gets 21 points/8 rebounds for UCLA.
Stephen Austin 77 Virginia Commonwealth 75: A big shoutout to the Lumberjacks. They busted my bracket (I had VCU upsetting Florida and reaching the regional final), but Stephen Austin was last year’s small conference team that lost a heartbreaker in their league tourney and failed to get an NCAA bid while undeserving power conference teams went in. And, as a text message from a friend reminded me, those of us who are fans of the Washington Redskins can remember that Mark Moseley, our kicker in the early years of the Joe Gibbs era and NFL MVP in 1982, was an SFA grad.
Oh, the game—Stephen Austin shot it well—52 percent—but not an impossible-to-repeat lights-out showing. The backcourt of Desmond Haymond and Thomas Walkup, combined to scoop up 17 rebounds. That’s hustle.
Stanford 58 New Mexico 53: Two teams with talent to be better than their seed saw the 10-seed in Stanford advance. Two of New Mexico’s Big Three—Alex Kirk at center and Kendall Williams at guard—had really rough days, while outstanding Stanford guard Chasson Randle went off for 24.
Kansas 80 Eastern Kentucky 69: If Kansas is going to miss Joel Embid it wasn’t going to be in this game. KU won rebounding by a 43-19 margin and reserve forward Jamari Taylor took full advantage of the available minutes to get 17 points/14 rebounds. And when the favorite shoots 60 percent from the floor, you know any upset bid is going out the window.
We’ll see UCLA-Stephen Austin and Stanford-Kansas tip off on Sunday.
Wichita State 64 Cal-Poly 37: Wichita State forced Cal-Poly into 21 percent shooting and held them to 13 points in the first half.
Kentucky 56 Kansas State 49: This was as simple as Kentucky having the best player on the floor in Julius Randle and him being a man among boys. The Wildcat power forward went for a 19/15 night and carried his team to the second round.
Mercer 78 Duke 71: Which of these teams is the power conference dynasty and which was the one from the small conference? I ask, because Duke tried 37 treys, while Mercer limited themselves to 13 and instead did their damage inside the arc, where they shot 55 percent. When you’re Duke, you’re not supposed to be dependent on the three-ball against Mercer, but that’s where this program has been for several years and it’s why they’ve lost in this round twice in the last three years.
Tennessee 86 UMass 67: The Vols might be the lower seed, but they have more talent and it showed here. The forward combo of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon was too much, and they combined for a 37/25. UMass doesn’t have the horses to match up with that and Tennessee is a very dangerous team now that they seem to have put it all together.
Looking ahead, we’ll see Wichita State-Kentucky and Mercer-Tennessee go on Sunday.
Arizona 68 Weber State 59: Weber State hung around, but only shot 30 percent, while the Wildcats hit 55 percent from the floor. Nick Johnson went for 18, but if I’m Arizona coach Sean Miller, I’m concerned that Weber State forward Joel Bomoboy had his way inside with 16 rebounds.
Gonzaga 85 Oklahoma State 77: It was a sadly appropriate finish to a disappointing Oklahoma State season. They lost to a team with less talent. Marcus Smart got his numbers, with 23 points, but on 5-for-14 shooting was inefficient. Gonzaga shot 9-for-18 behind the arc and got a bucket every time they needed it in keeping Okie State at arm’s length throughout the game.
Creighton 76 UL-Lafayette 66: This was all about Doug McDermott, who scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Baylor 74 Nebraska 60: This was one of two games I watched start-to-finish (Oklahoma State-Gonzaga being the other) and Baylor just dominated in every way. The Bears defense frustrated Nebraska star Terran Pettway, who missed all seven trey attempts and Baylor completely got under the skin of Nebraska coach Tim Miles, who got two technical and was tossed. Royce O’Neal’s ten rebounds led control of the glass for the Bears who just played an excellent basketball game.
It’ll be Arizona-Gonzaga and Creighton-Baylor on Sunday.
The Round of 32 goes the next two days. TheSportsNotebook’s NCAA Tournament coverage will come back tomorrow morning for a look at these eight games that are the Saturday agenda…
Pitt-Florida (12:15 PM ET, CBS)
St. Louis-Louisville (2:45 PM ET, CBS)
Texas-Michigan (5:15 PM ET, CBS)
North Dakota State-San Diego State (6:10 PM ET, TNT)
Dayton-Syracuse (7:10 PM ET, TBS)
Oregon-Wisconsin (7:45 PM ET, CBS)
Harvard-Michigan State (8:40 PM ET, TNT)
UConn-Villanova (9:40 PM ET, TBS)