ATB: Absolute MADNESS – Chaos Ensues As Round of 64 Concludes…Posted by EJacoby on March 17th, 2012
Tonight’s Lede – Thursday was a fairly slow first day of NCAA Tournament action, producing just two total upsets and leaving much to be desired in terms of thrilling finishes. Friday was a completely different story – two #15 seeds won on the same day for the first time ever, with the results coming just a couple of hours apart. We also saw a #13, #12, #11, and two #10 seeds come out victorious in one of the craziest days in Big Dance history. Half of the games on the schedule resulted in upsets, including seven of the final nine contests on this freaky Friday night. Without further ado, we provide everything you need to know in this installment of After The Buzzer…
Your Watercooler Moment. #15 Norfolk State Stuns #2 Missouri.
It was supposed to be the late afternoon game to fill the only quiet block of the evening. #15-seed Norfolk State against #2 Missouri, the exciting up-tempo team that produced the most efficient offense in the country this season with its four-guard attack. Mizzou was a very popular Final Four pick, considered the team with the greatest upside in the West Region. But then things got interesting; pesky Norfolk State was hanging around and had the game tied at halftime. Every time you looked up at the scoreboard in the second half, Norfolk was ahead or behind by a couple of points and that’s when it was time to tell all your friends that we might have a serious bracket-buster taking place. Sure enough, it happened. The Spartans of the MEAC conference became the first #15-seed to win an NCAA Tournament game in 11 years since a fellow MEAC school did it in the form of Hampton University over Iowa State in 2001. This year, it was dominant big man Kyle O’Quinn who paced the way with a monster double-double for a team that shot 54.2% from the field and went 10-19 from three. Missouri played fine offensively, shooting 52.7% itself, but the Tigers allowed the tournament’s least-efficient offense to hit shots from everywhere on the floor as well as out-hustle them to loose balls and open rebounds. Little did we know, the madness was only beginning on this night.
Also Worth Chatting About. Hours Later, #15 Lehigh Makes History
Most brackets were busted from Missouri’s loss alone, but those who happened to have the Tigers falling early in their pools surely didn’t survive the rest of the night, either. The 7:00 PM ET block of games blew the roof off of this tournament, beginning with the little guys from the Patriot League. #15 Lehigh had a terrific year led by mid-major star guard C.J. McCollum, but nobody thought this team had a chance against Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils, the most successful NCAA Tournament team of the past 20 years. #2-seed Duke, though, was vulnerable because of an injury to starting forward Ryan Kelly and an overall trend of weak recent play thanks to a porous defense. The Mountain Hawks took advantage early and often, leading this game early in the first half and continuing to put the pressure on Duke’s ‘D’. McCollum was the star of the show, Duke wasn’t hitting from the perimeter, and Lehigh really had a chance to win this game. Late in the second half it was anyone’s game, but McCollum made big play after big play while no Duke guard could counter. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, and Andre Dawkins combined to shoot 4-19 from three. Gabe Knutson matched Mason Plumlee inside going for 17 points on 5-5 shooting. And when the buzzer sounded, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks were winners in a thorough victory that made history. For the first time ever, two #15 seeds won in the same year of the NCAA Tournament. And it all happened on the same evening, just two-and-a-half hours apart.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- #13 Ohio Beats #4 Michigan at its Own Game. Nothing went as planned on Friday night, but a matchup between the #13-seed Ohio Bobcats and favored #4-seed Michigan Wolverines lived up to its expected billing. Coming in, Ohio was a difficult matchup for the #4-seed because the Bobcats had a killer perimeter defense and a playmaking guard of their own, matching Michigan eye-for-eye with its gameplan for success. The Wolverines win games with their penetrating guards and three-point shooting, so Ohio knew that it could win this game if it just executed its plan to perfection. That’s exactly what happened, as it looked like the Bobcats understood the scouting report more than the Wolverines did. D.J. Cooper was the star of the game, scoring 21 points for Ohio on 7-11 shooting with five assists and playing his patented strong perimeter defense, constantly cutting off driving lanes from the outside for Trey Burke and company. Michigan shot just 40.7% from the field including 7-23 from three, and Ohio did exactly what the prognosticators thought it could. The Bobcats had successfully beaten Michigan at its own game, and the Bobcats used their own more effective perimeter game and outside shooting to come away with a 65-60 victory, another big upset on a wacky night.
- #12 South Florida Grinds Out Another Win. Admit it, you hate watching USF play. You can’t understand how the Bulls even made the NCAA Tournament, and you certainly don’t like watching their snail-paced games. Well, we wouldn’t blame anyone if this was the case, but there is actually some great beauty to the way South Florida plays. In this game, the #12-seeded Bulls swarmed #5 Temple with their patented physical defense, which threw off the Owls in what seemed like yet another unprepared team for USF’s style. The Bulls shot under 20% from the field in the first half but kept Temple from doing anything offensively, either, so they were only down by four at the break. The second half was all South Florida as emerging freshman point guard Anthony Collins controlled this game and was better than any of the Owls’ three star guards. These two teams combined to shoot under 35% from the field in an ugly battle, but the underdogs were far happier with this style of play. USF comes out victorious, 58-44, as the underdog #12-seed advances in yet another upset.
- #11 N.C. State Stays Red Hot. Merely on the bubble just 10 days ago, the N.C. State Wolfpack have since started to peak with a tremendous offensive run that’s led into the NCAA’s. On Friday, N.C. State matched up with #6 San Diego State, a strong team with good guards but an undersized front line. Mark Gottfried’s team took advantage, going inside early and often to forwards Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie. The two combined for 37 points and SDSU had no answer to N.C. State’s efficient offense. The lower seed shot over 58% from the field for the night while the Aztecs were under 38%. Call it an upset because of the seed difference, but N.C. State was a slight Vegas favorite in the game and the better team from the outset. Continuing the theme of lower seeds advancing, the #11 Wolfpack came out with the 79-65 win and will advance to play #3 Georgetown on Sunday.
… and Misses
- #9 Alabama’s Late-Game Execution. Down by one with the ball, under 10 seconds remaining. This is the moment that all players live for, a chance to win an NCAA Tournament game with a buzzer-beater. But the Crimson Tide were not able to capitalize on the opportunity, thanks to a poor set of play calls for the final shot and no help from the referees on a potential foul on the final attempt. #9 Alabama was unable to come up with the winning play against #8 Creighton, and Doug McDermott and the Bluejays survive to take on #1 North Carolina on Sunday. See the final play below and judge for yourself whether or not a foul should have been called on the shot.
- #14 St. Bonaventure Can’t Seal the Deal. Before upsets galore were taking place during the evening, what we all thought was the biggest shocker of the day was taking place in Nashville as #14-seed St. Bonaventure led for much of the way against #3 Florida State. The Bonnies grabbed a six-point halftime lead and led for much of the second half before cold shooting doomed the upset bid. The Seminoles capitalized on St. Bonaventure’s inability to push the lead, and a late run by FSU sent the #14 seed packing. The Bonnies had every opportunity in this game and were not beaten by the ‘better’ team and instead just fell victim to a poor final 10 minutes of play. Star forward Andrew Nicholson had 20 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks but did not get enough help from teammates. The Bonnies even had the ball on the final possession down by three points, but they were discombobulated and shot up two-pointers when they needed a three. #3 Florida State wins, moving on to play #6 Cincinnati on Sunday.
- Late-Game Mistakes. St. Bonaventure wasn’t the only team that blew an opportunity with a boneheaded end-of-game play. The Bonnies went for twos when they trailed by three with under five seconds remaining, but that may not have been the most egregious error of the day. We discussed Alabama’s ineptitude above, as the Crimson Tide toyed with timeouts and left themselves with one shot that didn’t even reach the rim on their final possession, which started with the ball and with two timeouts with over 15 seconds remaining. Later, #7 St. Mary’s had completed a tremendous late-game comeback to take the lead over #10 Purdue with under a minute remaining, but the Gaels committed an out of bounds travelling violation by running with the ball from under the basket, something only allowed after a made shot. SMC turned it over and allowed Purdue to take the lead on the ensuing possession, with the Boilermakers down by one with the ball. And finally, #7 Notre Dame committed a lane violation on the first shot of a one-and-one free throw when the Irish were at the line, down by two with under five seconds remaining. They gave the ball back to #10 Xavier as a result of that play, and the game was effectively over after that. That’s a lot to take in, but read over this paragraph to get a sense of how four different teams all blew their games with late-game errors.
Survive and Advance – The round of 64 has so many games that it’s impossible to mention all of them in the top storylines. But we have the complete rundown of all 16 games from Friday, with quick summaries of each region’s games:
- SOUTH – The only two games on Friday were from the bottom pod, as #15 Lehigh knocked off #2 Duke in the historic upset and #10 Xavier held on to beat #7 Notre Dame in the final game of the night. Those two teams will match up on Sunday.
- WEST – #1-seed Michigan State rolled #16 LIU-Brooklyn and #9 Saint Louis used defense to oust #8 Memphis, a popular sleeper pick in the bracket. On the other end of the region, #15 Norfolk State completed the historic upset of #2 Missouri and #7 Florida throttled #10 Virginia, as the Gators meet the #15-seed in the next round.
- EAST – The anomaly of the NCAA Tournament thus far, the East Region produced not a single upset in the round of 64. On Friday, #6 Cincinnati knocked off #11 Texas and #3 Florida State survived the upset bid from #14 St. Bonaventure. Every top seed advanced.
- MIDWEST – The entire Midwest Region was in action on Friday, and it created a wild scene. The #1 (North Carolina) and #2 (Kansas) seeds advanced with ease, but everything else went bonkers. The #3-seed Georgetown played a great game to thwart #14 Belmont’s upset bid, but the same can’t be said about the next four top seeds. #4 Michigan fell victim to #13 Ohio’s perimeter game, #5 Temple was dropped by #12 South Florida’s physical defense, and #6 San Diego State couldn’t compete with #11 N.C. State’s offensive attack. #7 St. Mary’s made a fantastic late-game comeback that was all for naught as #10 Purdue survived for the win, and #8 Creighton held on to beat #9 Alabama on the final shot.
- C.J. McCollum, Lehigh (Co-NPOY) - No words can describe this guy’s performance, as the mid-major star was the best player on the floor in the #15-#2 game against Duke. Lehigh advances thanks to 30 points, six rebounds, and six assists from McCollum, who also added two steals and hit clutch shot after clutch shot while playing 39 out of 40 minutes.
- Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State (Co-NPOY) - There’s no way to distinguish who was more impressive, so we award Co-National Player of the Year (Night) to O’Quinn, as well, who went for 26 points and 14 rebounds as the most dominant player on the floor for #15 Norfolk State’s upset of #2 Missouri. The big man was 10-16 from the field and added two assists and two blocks in a performance that will be remembered for years.
- Draymond Green, Michigan State - The versatile, do-it-all Spartans big man recorded the first triple-double in the NCAA Tournament since… Draymond Green. That’s right, Green has recorded each of the last two triple-doubles in the Big Dance, one coming last year and the latest coming on Friday night. Green had 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists as #1 Michigan State disposed of #16 LIU-Brooklyn.
- Tu Holloway, Xavier - Give this guy a lot of credit. Widely considered perhaps the best point guard in the country early in the season, Holloway struggled for a chunk of 2012 while Xavier struggled to recover from the December brawl that shook the whole team up after some suspensions. Holloway led his team to a run in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and is now doing it again in the Big Dance, as Friday night saw the point guard record 25 points on 10-15 shooting including a bank shot in the final minute that proved to be the game-winning shot for #10 Xavier.
- D.J. Cooper, Ohio - This little guard shows up big when it matters most, such as Friday evening against #4 Michigan. The #13 Ohio Bobcats got 21 points, five assists, and great perimeter defense from their star Cooper as the lower seed advanced with the upset.