What’s Trending: NCAA Tournament Edition

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 25th, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Looking back at the first two rounds of the 2019 NCAA Tournament has to begin with the opening weekend’s most memorable game. In Sunday afternoon’s UCF vs. Duke game, there was much more to it than the average #1 vs. #9 match-up. How would the battle of Zion Williamson vs. Tacko Fall unfold? How would the pupil (Johnny Dawkins) fare against his teacher (Coach K)? Williamson definitely had to earn his 32 points — the superstar freshman shot just 9-of-17 on his two-point attempts, representing the first time he has been under 60 percent inside the arc since a 4-of-7 performance on January 12 against Florida State.

Despite falling behind by as many as eight points in the second half, UCF rallied to take a four-point lead with under two minutes to go. The Knights were racing upcourt with a chance to extend the lead, but a failed alley-oop followed by a Cam Reddish three-pointer cut the lead to a single point.

Push off? Verticality? Down three points in the dying seconds, Duke put the ball in Williamson’s hands and he made a play.

Zion went on to miss the game-tying free-throw, but the ball ultimately ended up in the hands of R.J. Barrett, who put in a bunny to give Duke a one-point lead. While many were arguing that Barrett pushed off to get the rebound, the bigger grievance with a missed call on this play came with this missed hook and hold. An emphasis was placed on this call all season long, yet it appears to have been blatantly missed here. This is a call that would have all but ensured the end of Duke’s season…

Even with that no call, UCF was only down one point and still had a chance to win the game. First there was B.J. Taylor’s shot that bounced off the rim, followed by an Aubrey Dawkins tip did that everything but fall in the bucket…

A look inside the postgame UCF locker room reveals the beauty of this tournament. While what immediately follows an agonizing defeat is pure sadness, all that is left on the floor is what makes watching the NCAA Tournament better than anything else in sports.

While Dawkins was rightfully praised for his message following defeat, Tom Izzo’s in-game fiery approach with Michigan State‘s Aaron Henry last week did not get the same reaction.

While some felt Izzo was too hard on Henry, many others came to Izzo’s defense and felt that the outcry was absurd. Scott Van Pelt used his “One Big Thing” to give his take on the situation.

While social media was ablaze on the topic, Aaron Henry gave his own take on the matter:

In Tennessee’s nail-biting overtime win against Iowa on Sunday, senior leader Admiral Schofield found himself nailed to the bench. While there were questions swirling about why Schofield was not playing, he noted after the game that he pleaded with Rick Barnes to continue to play Kyle Alexander at his position. Schofield put the team first and a selfless team like that could be very dangerous as Tennessee continues to play in the tournament.

The NCAA Tournament is always an event for the stars of the game to truly shine. Murray State’s Ja Morant did just that both on and off of the court this weekend. In the Racers’ opening round win against Marquette, Morant put up 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out 16 assists…

Morant’s impact on this tournament continued even after Murray State was had been defeated by Florida State. This particular assist will be remembered far longer than any of the dozens of others Morant dished out during the season….

https://twitter.com/SInow/status/1109641468807954433

While Fairleigh Dickinson found itself trailing by 40 points in the final minute against Gonzaga, this basket by Nadi Beciri was a moment that had the entire Knights’ bench on their feet…

The opening round of the tournament also included history. Wofford’s Fletcher Magee became the NCAA’s all-time leader in three-pointers made over the weekend. While the senior guard would go on to shoot a miserable 0-of-12 in the Terriers’ next game against Kentucky, this moment against Seton Hall is one that will be remembered…

Like Morant and Magee, LSU’s Tremont Waters was another big-time player who made a big-time play over the weekend. As LSU saw its lead whittle away against Maryland, it relied on Waters to be the difference in the end…

While upsets were not common in the opening rounds of the tournament this year, it does set up some very enticing match-ups moving forward. The teams that were expected to do well at the start of the season are the teams that are shining brightest now…

While all four #1 eeds reached the Elite Eight in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, only two advanced to the Final Four. With the same seeding advancing in this tournament, will the top seeds fare better this time around? That tournament ended with the Tar Heels defeating Michigan State in the National Championship game, might we be seeing a repeat of that?

Matthew Eisenberg (80 Posts)


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