We’re pared down to 32 teams left in the NCAA Tournament as our wild four-day ride enters the second half. There’s now “only” eight games each day, and TheSportsNotebook continues its daily sports focus during March Madness of first laying out the TV agenda of the day ahead, then cleaning up with some notes on Friday’s first-round results.
SATURDAY’S AFTERNOON WARMUPS
Virginia Commonwealth-Michigan (12:15 PM ET, CBS)
Memphis-Michigan State (2:45 PM ET, CBS)
Comment: These are the “warm-ups” not because of the quality of the games. Both of them are pretty good, particularly VCU-Michigan. But these are the games that will mostly have a captive audience before TNT and TBS get in on the act by the early part of the evening. Both early games are from the Palace in Auburn Hills, so Michigan and Michigan State will have partisan crowds cheering them on.
Colorado State-Louisville (5:15 PM ET, CBS)
Harvard-Arizona (6:10 PM ET, TNT)
Comment: Both of these games have blowout written all over them.
Oregon-St. Louis (7:10 PM ET, TBS)
Butler-Marquette (7:45 PM ET, CBS)
Comment: The Butler-Marquette game looks like a great matchup. Marquette didn’t get a lot of respect as a 3-seed and their narrow escape over Davidson probably didn’t make the critics go away.
Wichita State-Gonzaga (8:40 PM ET, TNT)
Cal-Syracuse (9:40 PM ET, TBS)
Comment: There’s no reason for anyone who picked Gonzaga to be feeling exceptionally confident, after the way the Zags struggled past Southern, although I have my doubts that Wichita is the team to exploit any weakness. Furthermore, the winner of that game will get a Sweet 16 date with the Ole Miss-LaSalle winner on Sunday. You get the feeling the door is opening wide for Gonzaga to make the Final Four. Cal is my longshot pick in the East—I had them reaching the regional final in my bracket and liked them at 60-1 odds to get to Atlanta.
FRIDAY’S FIRST-ROUND MADNESS
Indiana 83 James Madison 62—The Hoosiers were up 21 at the half and coasted home.
Temple 76 N.C. State 72—If you’d have told me N.C. State would shoot 56 % and control the glass to the tune of 34-22, I wouldn’t have picked Temple to win this game. But the Owls made up for it at the line with a 21-10 scoring edge and by only turning it over five times. Khalif Wyatt knocks down 31 to lead the way.
Miami 78 Pacific 49—The Hurricanes play well and get needed contributions from players who have to step up. Durand Scott scored 21 and up-and-down center Reggie Johnson grabbed ten rebounds. Easy win for Miami in spite of a bad shooting game from Shane Larkin.
Illinois 57 Colorado 49—I watched this game as I worked on some MLB coverage for this site, and it seemed to me as a partially kept an eye on thing that it was a pretty ugly game. I went to the boxscore and found that the game’s top player was Brandon Paul, and he only hit 3-for-12 from the floor. Yeah, my impression was correct.
Kansas 64 Western Kentucky 57—Kansas has to be very alarmed. They were narrowly outrebounded by the Hilltoppers, something that can’t happen when you have a good seven-foot center in Jeff Withey. Kansas was 0-for-6 from trey range and while that’s obviously much lower than the norm, this isn’t a team that lights it up with the three-ball. If they don’t hit the boards on Sunday, they’re going home.
North Carolina 78 Villanova 71—The Tar Heels got out to a big lead before Villanova came back and made a game of it. It was all about the perimeter. Carolina knocked down 11 treys, while ‘Nova went 4-for-21 behind the arc. It’s the fourth time since 1982 that UNC has eliminated Villanova from the NCAA Tournament. The three other times all led to national championships.
Florida 79 Northwestern State 47—Florida let the underdog hang around in the first half, and it was 40-32 at intermission. Then it got ugly in the second half.
Minnesota 83 UCLA 63—Minnesota takes advantage of the reprieve the NCAA Tournament offers, plays lock down defense, shoots 51 percent from the floor and gets 28 from Andre Hollins. Forget all that about UCLA playing without Jordan Adams, who broke his ankle in the Pac-12 tournament. Adams is good, but you don’t use that as an excuse for losing by twenty.
Florida Gulf Coast 78 Georgetown 68—The upset that shocked the nation was predicted here at TheSportsNotebook.FGC played at a rapid tempo, led by Sherwood Brown and his 24 points. This team has already beaten Miami. With two wins over #2 seeds under their belt, should we get carried away and think about this team going deep into the Dance. Why not?
San Diego State 70 Oklahoma 55—The Aztecs controlled the glass, kept OU off the foul line (only four points on free throws for the Sooners) and OU forward Romero Osby was the only player who made any sort of positive impact.
Duke 73 Albany 61—Duke was never in danger of losing, but the Great Danes did hang around and ended up covering the spread, which I believe closed at Duke (-18). Good games from Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, at 23 and 26 points respectively, but the Blue Devils only hit four threes.
Creighton 67 Cincinnati 63—Doug McDermott looked the part of the best player in the country, with 27 points, 11 rebounds and his 11-for-11 on the free throw line keyed a big Bluejay edge here.
Ole Miss 57 Wisconsin 46—I’m a Badger fan and in more a state of resignation than anything. When you live by the three-ball you can die from it at any time and Wisconsin shot the ball poorly all the way around. Marshall Henderson was horrid for Ole Miss and his insistence on shooting kept Wisconsin in the game. Had the Rebels just gotten the ball to Murphy Holloway down low all game, this would have been an early blowout.
LaSalle 63 Kansas State 61—The Explorers led 44-26 at half, before nearly letting the game slip away. Ramon Galloway had 19 and LaSalle really got a lift from Jerrell Wright and his 21 points. K-State couldn’t overcome a bad shooting game from Rodney McGruder who went 5-for-17.
Ohio State 95 Iona 70—Good overall showing for the Buckeyes. Most heartening is forward Sam Thompson getting 20 points/10 rebounds. If Ohio State gets some rebounding down low, they’re going to be a tough out in a soft regional.
Iowa State 76 Notre Dame 58—Since I gloated about picking Florida Gulf Coast, I have to also point out that I picked Notre Dame to win this regional. Ironically, the ND game came on right after the FGC upset. What the bracket giveth, the bracket taketh away. Iowa State forced 14 turnovers in the first half and got a combined 36 points from forwards Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang.