Get your dancing shoes dusted off, it’s time to party. The crashers are in the building and the party has only just begun! Day one of the NCAA tournament is underway, and people are already throwing away their brackets. The number ones are fine, but the twos are sweating bullets and the threes want no part of the fourteens.
Let’s start with the upsets:
The first one of the tournament belongs to Old Dominion as the 11-seed. They took down No. 6 Notre Dame 51-50. In a game that set basketball back about 40 years… The Irish held a 30-22 lead early in the second half before ODU went on a 9-0 run to take the lead. It was back and forth the rest of the way… Minus the three minutes from 5:51-2:51 when neither team could score a point while tied at 43.
Notre Dame jumped out to an early 15-6, making eight of their first 17 shots, when Old Dominion was in man-to-man defense… But the Monarchs switched to a zone defense and changed the complexion of the game. The Fighting Irish couldn’t fight the zone, making just 13 of their next 42 shots. Luke Harangody was nowhere to be found, as he finally scored his first points with 12.6 seconds left. A pathetic and sad finish to what was a pretty good career. But no one should be surprised by Old Dominion’s victory. They took down Georgetown earlier this year…
Speaking of Georgetown, say goodbye to the Hoyas. They just got the crap kicked out of them by Ohio 97-83. The Bobcats, who went just 7-9 in MAC play, have been on a tear since the MAC tournament. They road a 4-game winning streak in the conference tournament to make the big dance, and kept it going today. Georgetown, which had been playing some very good basketball, will now be watching from the stands.
The Hoyas looked great in the Big East tournament, making it to the conference final before falling to West Virginia. Coach John Thompson III said the team was playing it’s best basketball heading into the big dance. So much for that…
The Bobcats jumped out to an early lead thanks to some very efficient 3-point shooting and never looked back. They led by as many as 19 points before the Hoyas cut the lead to seven with 5:47 left. But Ohio would not let it get any closer, and a team that looked like it had a chance to make the Final Four is the highest seed to lose today… but just barely.
Bad day for the SEC.
Florida and BYU had an all-out war today, going to double overtime before the Cougars took down the Gators, 99-92. Not an upset, because BYU was the seven seed in the 7-10 game. But it set the tone for the SEC that Vanderbilt wanted no part off as the 4-seed.
The Commodores took on 13-seed Murray State in a game where you could tell only one game came to play… and it wasn’t Vanderbilt. Murray St, who was picked by President Barack Obama to escape the first round, made a profit out of the President. They held a 36-32 halftime lead, but then had to make a comeback of their own as they trailed 65-64 with 4.2 seconds left…
That’s when Senior Danero Thomas became a hero.
The Racers were doing just that in the final seconds. Racing around the court, looking like a chicken with its head cut off. Trailing by one with 12.7 seconds to go, they jacked up a rushed 3-pointer, which missed and went out of bounds. But not before it went off a Vandy player, giving Murray St. one last chance. And once again, the Racers were rcing around. The first option was shot, the second option was shot, so the ball went to the third option who took the shot. And it was a shot the Racers and all their fans will remember for the rest of their lives.
Pondexter hits with 1.7 for the Huskies.
Quincy Pondexter and the 11th-seed Washington Huskies continue their surprisingly-good play with an 80-78 victory over 6-seed Marquette. The Huskies, who won the Pac-10 tournament over regular-season champion Cal, will keep their dancing shoes on thanks to a gutty performance. Marquette is tournament-tested, and always a tough-out. But with the game tied at 78, Pondexter drove the lane and hit a bank-shot with 1.7 seconds left to give the Huskies the win. Pondexter finished with 18 points and Isaiah Thomas finished with 19 to keep the Pac-10 in the tournament. (they only garnered two spots in the dance).
Gaels fly high for first time in 50 years.
The 10th-seeded Saint Mary Gaels took down 7-seed Richmond 80-71 to advance in the Big Dance for the first time since 1959. The Gaels, who have been bridesmaids to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference for years, are finally making a name for themselves and their conference. The WCC has been laughed at for years, until Gonzaga started making a name for themselves in the NCAA Tournament by knocking off much more accomplished programs.
And now it’s St. Mary’s who’s taking down the bigger schools. And they have a real shot to continue their strong play as they take on No. 2 Villanova who barely survived.
The Wildcats, who were in the Final Four last year, were almost one-and-done this year. Taking on 15-seed Robert Morris, Villanova played down to their competition and almost paid dearly for it. It’s easy to do when you play a 15-seed, especially when you consider the fact that only four 15-seeds have ever won in the history of the tournament and none since 2001.
But it was almost one. Robert Morris jumped on the Wildcats right away and led 29-22 at the half. Villanova coach Jay Wright benched his leading scorer, Scottie Reynolds as a “teaching point”, and was almost taught a lesson himself. Instead, it was Reynolds who got the message and with his team trailing 55-47 with a little over four minutes left, Reynolds hit some big free throws down the stretch to force overtime. And the Wildcats took it from their, surviving 73-70 in OT to move on to the second round.
The rest of the games went pretty much as expected. The ones moved on easily as Kentucky dismantled East Tennessee St 100-71, and Kansas took care of LeHigh 90-74. Two-seed Kansas St dropped 15-seed North Texas by 20. Fifth-seeded Butler survived the 12-5 upset, 77-59 over UTEP. Sixth-seeded Tennessee held on against 11-seed San Diego State, 62-59. New Mexico was able to hold off Montana 62-57. That’s a three taking down a 14. Third-seeded Baylor used a strong second half to defeat 14-seed Sam Houston State. And 9th-seed University of Northern Iowa took down 8th-seed UNLV 69-66.
And then there’s Texas and Wake Forest.
Both of these teams are schizophrenic. Texas started the season 17-0 and were No 1 in the country. They looked like one of the best teams in the land. But went on a downward spiral after that and finished 24-10 and 9-7 in the Big 12. Meanwhile Wake Forest has looked great at times and horrendous at other times. You couldn’t have a more perfect 8-9 battle. And these two provided one hell of a show. You had a feeling it would go to overtime before the game even started and they didn’t disappoint.
It was a one-point game at halftime, and a tie-game after regulation. And in overtime Texas struck first with a 3-pointer. Then stole the inbound-pass and dropped another three to go up 74-68 with 3 minutes left. They looked like they were going to steamroll the Demon Deacons and face Kentucky in the 2nd round. But Wake Forest was not done yet. They fought back and after hitting a three with 15 seconds left, trailed by just one. And with 1.3 seconds left, Ishmael Smith drained a jumper to give Wake Forest the 81-80 victory to send Texas home with their tails between their legs.
So day-one is in the books. And it could not have gone better. Three overtime games, a couple of buzzer-beaters, upsets left-and-right and a whole bunch of people holding their breaths.
Like I said, this is the best time of the year.