One day in, and we're getting a tournament that whilst not rife with huge upsets, is most certainly generating great basketball.
Biggest upset: On paper, it would have to be 11-seeded Kansas State over #6 USC. I don't think those seeds were representative have how close these teams were in terms of regular season records, and success within their own conferences. USC's better seed was probably a result of the PAC-10 love this year. Facebook/CBS poolers didn't think that much of the seeding, as over 40% of the participants picked Kansas State.
I got to watch most of this game, though I hadn't seen much of Kansas State or USC prior to this game. Going in, obviously, the talk was about two of the super-freshmen playing against each other--Michael Beasley for K-State, and O.J. Mayo for USC. Both played well, but don't overlook K-State's guard play. Jacob Pullen (another freshman) looked poised coming off the bench--knowing when to shoot deep, when to penetrate, and when to kick the ball to Beasley or fellow "small-forward" freshman (red-shirted) Bill Walker, who was an absolute tank. K-State looked far more dangerous and multi-dimensional that I had expected (and I picked them to win this game in the IDYFT pool).
Biggest Almost Upset: A No-Brainer, here. #15 Duke escaping #2 Belmont (really, fucking Belmont), 71-70. Though Georgia gets an honorable mention for scaring the shit out of Xavier for like 35 minutes. Duke can thank their lucky stars that Gerald Henderson decided he wanted one more year of being a big fish in a medium pond, because he saved them tonight. He made the key offensive and defensive plays at the end of the game that gave Duke the win. In my mind, he had some help from Belmont's transition defense, that let him cruise coast to coast without anyone getting in his way. I would have loved to have seen Duke exit early, but I think anyone who had this team in the Final Four, or even Elite 8 should be very, very nervous.
Most Disappointing Game: I'm not talking about my own private prejudices here. I just mean games that I thought would be compelling and didn't end up being so. Some of these are because of my own inflated expectations, yes. But I'm not saying the winner is disappointing--just that the game wasn't close as I thought it might be. There are lots of nominees here. I thought the Golden Flashes of Kent State could win a tempo battle with UNLV. I was very, very wrong, (as were 47% of the CBS challenge participants) as Kent State managed a horrific 10 points in the first half. Game over. I thought that if Drew Neitzel had a bad game, Temple would beat Michigan State. Neitzel had a bad game, but Michigan State won easily. Never did I think that Purdue would hang 90 points on Baylor. But I think the winner has to go to Winthrop and Washington State. First of all, my love for Winthrop, dating back well more than a year, in well documented. Secondly, the game was tied at the half, 29-29. Somehow, a Dick Bennett team scored 40 points in a half, and less surprsingly, held my boys at Winthrop to 11 points in the 2nd half, for an absolute blowout.
Best Players You Didn't See: I'm tempted to throw in Arizona Forward/Center sophomore Jordan Hill, who had a hell of a game, but you probably did see him, as it was a West Coast Vs. East Coast game. We suckers in the Midwest didn't get much of that game, but Hill has quietly put together a very good year at Arizona, and he had a very solid game tonight-- 10 points, 16 rebounds (the rest of the entire team gathered up 16 boards). There were a couple of players on the upperclassmen heavy roster of Cal-State Fullerton that I'm sorry I won't get to see again. There was waterbug Josh Akognon, who poured in 31 points (though taking 23 shots to do it); there was also Frank Robinson (no, not that Frank Robinson) who only scored 11, but had maybe the most impressive highlight of the late brace of games, jumping into and over goofy whitey Krabbenhoft. There were two players from George Mason from their Final Four run two years ago. Folarin Campbell played brilliantly that time. Not so much tonight. And that's a shame. Folarin Campbell is a good player, who just had an awful night (1-12 shooting is a bad, bad night).
Storylines: Expect to hear about the Big 10 going 3-0 on day one, with wins from Michigan State, Wisconsin and Purdue. There should probably also be some discussion on the overrating of the Pac-10, that went 3-2, (winners: UCLA, Washington State, Stanford; losers: USC, Arizona). Maybe Arizona didn't deserve to make it in after all! (That #10 was always overly generous) The Big 12 and the Big East also acquitted themselves well--Marquette, West Virginia, Notre Dame, and Pitt all winning for the Big East. "Small Conference" winners: Xavier, UNLV.
Things you missed watching the NCAA Tournie: Lost was all about Michael, and ended with one hell of a cliffhanger. The US Olympic Soccer team beat the dirty Canadians 3-0, thanks to Freddy Adu's two dead ball goals. You know how you think you heard all about Freddy Adu years ago, when he was a young up and comer, and he's gotta be like 21 years by now, which is still young, but wasn't he supposed to be hot shit by now? He's 18. Pros Vs. Joes started their semi-finals, which we promise to cover in depth this weekend, at some point.
Yeah, the more time passes, the more those Indiana Championships look like a fluke of good team chemistry. Knight looks less like a grand maestro and more like a regular, successful, coach.
I like Coach K's style better and he wins with a mix of different teams.
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