NO SHINING MOMENT … for the selection committee, it seems. With all due apologies to the event’s signature “cheese” and Chuck Barkley-fueled commercialization to promote it, gotta say, the peeps who put the pieces in place this year didn’t have the most stellar performance. Yeah, sure, upsets are bound to happen, even freakish ones such as Middle Tennessee State taking out one of the consensus “title picks” in Michigan State, and some well-known squads having down seasons may advance at times (hello, Syracuse), but, c’mon, some of the seedings were wacky.
For starters, no 11 seeds should be forced to play in the First Four. Clearly, if they’re among the top 44 teams in the country, they have no business being treated as being part of the final few getting into the 68-team field and given play-in duty. But more on that later.
Nos. 14 Stephen F. Austin, 13 Hawaii, 12 Yale, 11 Northern Iowa and 10 Virginia Commonwealth, clearly, were downgraded from what they deserved, falling prey to the outta sight/outta mind syndrome courtesy of mid-major status or no TV coverage whatsoever. Was especially ridiculous considering SFA, Northern Iowa and VCU all have proven themselves in past NCAA tourneys. Hell, freakin’ VCU has a streak of six straight appearances and reached the Final Four in 2011.
The Rams, as well as the other four, all posted first-round upsets against higher seeds.
ROAD WARRIORS … has to be the tag given the Wichita State Shockers. Along with Michigan, they emerged from the First Four 11-seed screw job to get a first-round date against a 6-seed. Greg Marshall’s crew handled its business in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday and then Providence, R.I., but ran outta gas on Saturday against 3-seed Miami.
Pretty ridiculous the route the Shockers had to take. They just reached the Final Four in 2013 and played a game for the ages against eventual national runner-up Kentucky a year later, and they’re relegated to playing an extra game just to qualify this time? Pure insanity. Ron Baker, Fred Van Fleet and Co., as you’d expect, had no legs to start against the Hurricanes, falling behind 27-6 in the opening minutes. After that, they expended so much energy to get back into the game, and even take the lead 43-42, that they had nothing left to finish off yet another upset en route to a 65-57 loss.
The Wolverines’ legs went even earlier. After jumping on Notre Dame Friday night, grabbing a 41-29 halftime advantage, they flatlined down the stretch in a 70-63 loss.
NO OFFENSE … buy you gotta close the deal when you have the chance, Northern Iowa. Up 12 with 33 seconds to go in regulation, and you lose in double overtime? It doesn’t even seem possible.
But the Panthers, while acting as if they’d never seen a full-court press before, managed to turn the ball over four times, miss a shot and make one while 3-seed Texas A&M buried all seven shots it took from the field, including a 3-pointer, and a free throw to knot things at 71-all.
Not bad enough? Well, they also took three separate leads in the first OT, and another in the second, and blew them all. That’s hardcore brutal right there.
Saint Joseph’s meltdown in the final four minutes against top-seeded Oregon in the weekend’s final matchup, coughing up a seven-point lead (and in possession of the ball) with usually clutch forward DeAndre Bembry playing a key role en route to a 69-64 loss, wasn’t much better.
MOST IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE … if anyone doubted the legitimacy of Villanova being one of the nation’s best teams, they’d be wise to watch some tape of the Wildcats’ first-half dismantling of former top-5 team Iowa. They led by 34 at one before the break before coasting to an 87-68 victory. No. 11 Gonzaga’s impressive wins against Nos. 6 Seton Hall and 3 Utah in the Midwest rank up there, too.
MOST MISLEADING SCORE … of the tournament thus far was No. 10 Syracuse’s 70-51 first-round, mini-upset of Dayton in the Midwest Region. Not debating the Orange deserving the win, but when the opposing team makes Swiss cheese of your vaunted zone defense only to miss a reported 15 layups, it’s hardly cause to claim domination.