Day one of the mens NCAA basketball tournament is in the books. My bracket meanwhile, is already in the garbage.
WEST: (14) Harvard 68 (3) New Mexico 62: I fell for it. I fell for all the hype of the Mountain West Conference. I fell for all the hype that New Mexico brought to the table. I fell for the NBA potential of Tony Snell. I fell for their 29-5 record. New Mexico fell in round one to Harvard. What has two thumbs and selected New Mexico to go to the Final Four? This guy.
Steve Alford and the Lobos learned a tough NCAA tournament lesson, don’t sleep on the Ivy League. On this day, Harvard’s 11-3 Ivy League was worth more than New Mexico’s 13-3 MWC (and it’s high Conference RPI) record.
Behind 8 three pointers, 5 from Laurent Rivard, the Crimson shot the Lobos right back to Albuquerque. Wesley Saunders led Harvard with 18 pts. In addition to behind the arc, the Crimson out-shot New Mexico from the field and from the charity stripe. Four of their five starters finished in double figures, the starter who didn’t, -PG Siyani Chambers, pitched in with 7 assists.
Harvard will face (6)Arizona next who defeated (11)Belmont 81-64.
The top of the West bracket wasn’t kind to me either. My sneaky sweet 16 team was going to be the Pitt Panthers. (9)Wichita St. smashed (8)Pitt 73-55. The Shockers made Pitt look like a squad that didn’t belong in the Big East or ACC.
(1)Gonzaga did prove my theory that they are very vulnerable. They managed to hang on 64-58, but the SWAC Champions (16)Southern gave them all they could handle.
Wichita St. vrs. Gonzaga Saturday night is an instant “upset watch” game. We’ll figure out pretty quickly if Gonzaga was given a wake-up call tonight or if it was a prelude to being put to sleep by the Shockers.
SOUTH: (5) Virginia Commonwealth 88 (12) Akron 42: The most impressive team in day one was VCU. Team havoc forced 21 turnovers and shot a sizzling 54% from the floor, absolutely dismantling the Zips. Shaka Smart’s Rams enter this tournament as a legitimate threat to crash the party in the South Region.
The 46 point destruction of Akron has officially put them to the front of the list of “teams you do not want to play.” Troy Daniels flexed the three point goggles six times on the night, finishing with a team high 23 points. Juvonte Reddic chipped in 21 and snatched 6 boards.
The most impressive thing about the Rams was their depth. VCU played 11 players, all of whom played over 10 minutes each. The 42 points was a season low for Akron who was swallowed up from the opening tip. Shaka Smart’s boys are good enough to hang with anyone in the country.
VCU will meet (4)Michigan in round two after the Wolverines downed (13)South Dakota St. 71-56. Michigan’s talent will be on full display against the heart and havoc of VCU Saturday night. That could prove to be one of the better games in the entire tournament. VCU has more depth, but the Wolverines boast Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr. and potential Wooden Award winner Trey Burke. Burke was off in round one against the Jack Rabbits, getting “well” against VCU may prove to be a tough task.
THE REST OF DAY ONE:
(1)Louisville 79 (16)NC A&T 48>>#1 overall Cardinals breeze.
(8)Colorado St. 84 (9)Missouri 72>> The Rams saved some face for the MWC.
(12)Oregon 68 (5)Oklahoma St. 55>> The Ducks oust Frosh phenom Marcus Smart for the 12/5 upset.
(4)St.Louis 64 (13)New Mexico St. 44>> St. Louis looks strong. Bad day for the state of New Mexico.
(6)Memphis 54 (11)St.Mary’s 52>> John Calipari lost in the NIT, his old team is heading to round 2 of the NCAA’s.
(3)Michigan St. 65 (14)Valpo 54>> It’s Tom Izzo’s time of year. Derrick Nix is his kind of player: 23 pts 15 boards against Valpo.
(12)California 64 (5)UNLV 61>> Cal becomes second Pac-12 #12 to advance. UNLV continues MWC woes.
(4)Syracuse 81 (13)Montana 34>> Syracuse had a lot of points, Montana- not so much.
(6)Butler 68 (11)Bucknell 56>> The Bulldogs always play well in March. They open by beating an underrated Bucknell squad.
(3)Marquette 59 (14)Davidson 58>> Squeaker of the day. Davidson nearly pulled off a “Harvard.”