NCAA First Weekend Awards

On the eve of the Sweet Sixteen, let’s take a quick look back at how we got here.  Jam-packed into not even 90 hours, there were 1950 game minutes of hoops this weekend, most of which Doogan and I (with a lot of help from friends, booze, and modern technology) got to see.  They all blend together, but there are some things that stuck out to me during the weekend.

Most Impressive Team:  Cornell
With all due respect to N. Iowa, who beat Kansas, and Kentucky and Syracuse, who blew out both opponents, we are looking for a team that won two games impressively against two good teams.  With that criterion, it was narrowed down to St. Mary’s and Cornell.  We gave the edge to Cornell because they were never even threatened in either round.

Least Impressive Team:  Georgetown
That was absolutely embarrassing.  Yes, Vandy, Temple, and Notre Dame got hit with upsets, but they at least lost to some really good double-digit seeds.  Georgetown got absolutely hammered by the 9th place team in the MAC.

Least Impressive Surviving Team:  Baylor
This is most certainly a survive-and-advance tournament, so technically Baylor was just as impressive as Kentucky or Syracuse, who waltzed into the Sweet 16, but the Bears struggled in the first round against 14-seed Sam Houston St. and then barely survived 11-seed Old Dominion.  Granted SHSU can really score and ODU was under-seeded at 11, but still, with a shot to get to the Regionals in your home state, you would think that the Bears would win a little more comfortably.  Then again, they hadn’t won a tournament game since 1950, so any win is a good win.

Most Heartbreaking Loss (tie):  Maryland and Texas A&M
Both teams lost on last-second shots in the second round with more than just a Sweet 16 appearance on the line.  Maryland watched UNI knock off Kansas, which opened up a much easier route to the Elite Eight.  Then, they watched as Kalin Lucas went down with injury early in the second-half, but they eventually watched as Cory Luscious (Lucas’s replacement) hit a buzzer-beating three to beat them.  Texas A&M got the draw of a Hummel-less Purdue in the second round, but blew a late lead in regulation and then in OT to lose.  It was devastating to A&M because their regional is in Houston, where it would be basically a home game against Duke in the Sweet 16.  Oh, and I had $10 on A&M to make the Final Four at 18-to-1.  So, I know the pain.

Best Coached Game:  Michigan St. vs. Maryland, second round
Anyone who reads anything I ever write about college basketball probably knows my irrational love affair with Tom Izzo’s coaching abilities.  You may also know how much I usually dislike Gary Williams.  But, watching this game, particularly in the second half, really shows you why these guys are so successful.  Izzo had injuries to Chris Allen and Kalin Lucas.  Plus, they had a hobbled Delvon Green.  Yet, Izzo was able to brilliantly use the bench and different matchups to win the game.  Williams, on the other bench, may have had the talent advantage, but his team was falling out of it time and time again.  Williams was ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT in his use of timeouts.  Usually, I don’t really think that timeouts do all that much to quell runs, but Williams nearly won this game by himself from merely his choice of timeouts and set plays.  It was a clinic.

Best Played Game:  Richmond vs. St. Mary’s, first round
This game made basketball into an art form.  Both teams are so well-coached and so prepared.  Both teams played solid, fundamental basketball.  The only difference was that St. Mary’s has a legit big man and they are well-coached and disciplined enough to take advantage of him.

Worst Played Game:  Texas vs. Wake Forest, first round
I have never been so uninterested in a 1-point overtime NCAA tournament game.  And, I even had money on it!  This game was a pretty pathetic display of two teams that have way too much talent to be this incredibly bad.  I don’t want to think about it ever again.

Worst Officiated Game:  Villanova vs. Robert Morris, first round
This was an absolute joke.  Yes, the officials were not the reason Robert Morris lost–it was more the fact that they just stopped playing offense with about 6 minutes left–but they certainly didn’t help.  These calls were absolutely ridiculous and made it basically impossible for the outmanned 15-seeded Colonials to pull off the big upset. 

Best Late-Game Possession:  Murray St. vs. Vanderbilt, first round
Murray St. coach Billy Kennedy called an gutsy inbounds play and watched as his unselfish seniors improvised around some good Vandy defense, got the ball to the play’s third option, Danero Thomas, who drained an 18-footer at the buzzer to beat the Commodores.

Worst Late-Game Possession:  Murray St. vs. Butler, second round
Not even 48 hours after a phenomenal buzzer-beater, Murray St. could not have looked any worse on a potentially game-winning possession against Butler.  Down 2 with the shot-clock off, the Racers never even got off a shot, as their season ended 2 points shy of the school’s first-ever Sweet 16 appearance.

Biggest Morons:  The Selection Committee
Again, I hate ripping the Committee, but they did such an abysmal job at seeding this year, that I have to bring it up again.  Notre Dame a 6-seed?  N. Iowa a 9?  Cornell a 12?  Now, yes, some of the underseeded teams played their way into the Sweet Sixteen anyway, but some did not.  BYU was a 7-seed, but got screwed by facing a tough K-State team in the second round and now they’re done.  If Temple had gotten the 3-seed it deserved, they probably would have won any of those 3/6 pods.  If Richmond and/or St. Mary’s had gotten the seeds they both deserved, they might be facing each other THIS Thursday instead of last Thursday.  Thanks, guys.

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