NCAA Tournament Day 2 blog: Bracket-filler reactions and analysis
Charlie Riedel, AP
Matt (5:22 p.m.): Illinois-Colorado did its best to out-ugly the Wisconsin-Ole Miss game. As bad as Illinois ended up from long distance (8-for-31), the Buffaloes couldn't take advantage, shooting only slightly better. The difference? Free throws. Illinois ended up with 11 more attempts.
All but four of the Round of 32 matchups are set, it's time to take stock of team stock.
Louisville: In a bracket as wide open as this year's, the Cardinals provided the kind of dominance you want to see from a No. 1 seed. Kansas did their part too, but Lousiville was just dominant. A good sign, early on.
Harvard: Nothing's more dangerous than a team with nothing to lose and unreasonable momentum/support behind it. The Crimson fit the bill.
Oregon: The Pac-12 tourney champs are peaking at the right time, and their 13-point win over No. 5 OSU headlined a great first day from the underestimated conference. Arsalan Kazemi is the beast headlining a team that sacrifices efficiency for ferocity.
Syracuse: Holy smackdown. It's doubtful the Orange mangle their future opponents as easily as they did Montana, but you can't start off the Big Dance with a better first step than they did.
Gonzaga: Anytime you barely hold off a No. 16 seed, there are questions. The biggest one the Bulldogs face? What do they do when they meet a frontcourt defense that knows how to rotate/help on Olynyk?
Marquette: The Golden Eagles' narrow win over No. 14 Davidson was hopefully a one-night fluke from the field. After shooting 46 percent on the season, they were an atrocious 20-of-58 (34.5 percent) on Day 1.
Illinois: I hope you didn't have the Illini going far, not if panic-induced 3-point shooting sprees is their response to adversity. Panic is the last thing they need against an on-target Miami team.
Matt (4:30 p.m.): Count Illinois among the Day 2 teams unwilling to realize they should stop shooting threes (6-for-27 and counting). You're never going to believe this, but when they started shooting more threes, they lost their 16-point halftime lead.
Impressively, Colorado didn't stage this comeback just by running out on long rebounds. They're executing. They're riding momentum and execution. Killer combo.
You know what else is impressive? The number of struck-out schools and wrong marks on my bracket. It looks like one of my old college exams. I get encouraged counting up the right answers, then increasingly depressed as I realize the wrong ones more than make up for them.
Landon (4:10 p.m.): If there's one thing we've all learned from this NCAA tournament field, it's that whoever made the picks got them all wrong.
Let's recap. Three 12-seeds, a 13-seed and a 14-seed are going to advance, and the first round still isn't even over yet. What does that tell you?
First, there's far more parity in this year's college teams than we've seen in the last 10 years. Second, way too much preference was given to the traditional powerhouse programs and the Mountain West Conference. Even I got caught up in how supposedly awesome the MWC was, and as a whole, the conference has simply fallen flat.
You talk about keeping your head in a tough situation, and you're right. I'm continually amazed at the propensity teams have in these situations to play not to lose the game rather than to go for the win. I am 100 percent convinced that's the mentality K-State assumed the moment it took the lead.
"Ok, we've come all the way back. Let's not blow this again" is vastly inferior to "Yeah! We've come all the way back and we're going to keep this thing rolling!"
Maybe that's what I'll tell my bracket if it's ever able to claw its way back. But really, at this point, there's little hope. We're a day and a half in, and two of my final four teams are out.
Matt (3:30 p.m.): The last 60 seconds provided two of the worst game-saving shot attempts I've ever seen. A fading, double-teamed 3-pointer (Cincinnatti) and a floater from behind the backboard (Kansas State)? Pure panic mode.
That's probably the only time another position in another sport deals with the pressure of a quarterback in football. You desperately hope the guard makes the right decision, that he'll look up as the seconds are winding down and see the guy wide open in the corner (which Cincy didn't), or at the very least, reset and look for another way (KSU didn't).
Instead the other four guys for each team watched, called for the ball in vain, and in the end, weren't even considered as an option to save their respective teams' season.
Which is really sad, since the two losing teams had a combined 23 seconds left to work with.
That and I picked both of them to win. Awesome.
Matt (3:05 p.m.): We're in channel-flipping mode as KSU has obliterated La Salle's 19-point lead and Cincy-Creighton is down to the wire. Impressive if Creighton wins despite Bearcats getting (as of right now) 16 more field goal attempts. Yet another example of small-ball winning out
I still think McDermott's going to need A) to raise his game another gears and/or B) get more help if the Bluejays want a deep run.
Oh, and La Salle gets an A+ for impersonating Wisconsin's let's-fall-in-love-with-the-three strategy to give away the game.
Matt (2:45 p.m.): K-State's comeback explained: after Southwell's 3-pointer to open the half, all their points have come from layups, dunks and free throws. True story.
Meanwhile La Salle started the half chucking threes, missed, let it get to their heads and started missing some bunnies.
These emotional swings are why I've got Louisville taking the whole thing. Their pressure defense gets opponents doubting themselves, passes, shot selection, everything. The Tournament is a mental rollercoaster, and nobody can adjust the controls of the opposing team like Lousiville can.
Landon (2:29 p.m.): Wow. Harvey here in the office coached your rec league hoops team when you were five? Harvey looks a lot younger than you suggest he is... Oh, different Harvey. I get it now.
This tournament for Harvey here at work is definitely Candyland. Have you seen this guy? He's been bouncing off the walls all morning long. ... And we're the sports guys. Maybe I should focus a little more on work or he may become the sports content manager before long.
Oh yeah... This tournament is my work.
As if on cue, Kansas State is coming back a little. They've got it to within 12 with 15 minutes left. Hopefully they can pull this one out a la Marquette yesterday, except hopefully they go on a 30-2 run, leaving no doubt that I knew what I was talking about when I picked them.
Matt (2:15 p.m.): Harvey's the rec league hoops coach I had when I was five. Made you feel like a stud even if you only played two minutes. Always roots for the little engine that (maybe) can. This year's Tournament is Candyland for him.
This La Salle game isn't the fluke the seeds make it seem. They shoot 45 percent as a team (including 37.6 percent from deep). They've got four guys averaging double figures in scoring. They can ball.
The general thinking, of course, was KSU could ball too. They've got a true point guard and they can rebound better.
Rebounding/paint-oriented teams just aren't getting it done, though. Ole Miss played small better and won. Ditto (so far) for La Salle. Olynyk played great for Gonzaga yesterday, but they didn't pull away until their little man (Pangos) matched Southern's guards.
Landon (2 p.m.): Pardon the extended absence. You know, they do ask that I do actual work once in a while when I'm at work. The audacity, right?
If UNLV torched my bracket, Wisconsin's first-round flame-out decimated it, and this upset watch on K-state will make it reminiscent of the Hindenberg.
You weren't that far off the mark when you described the decline in interest here in our office. Only Harvey, aka Spunky the Upset Lover, and Rob Jackson, aka that guy who picked Ole Miss, are still jazzed about today's matchups so far. Everyone else is like, "Oh yeah... There's a tournament today? That's cool... whatever..."
I never would have imagined that three 12-seeds would have advanced in the first two days. One I could see, and maybe two, but three?! What's more, how about La Salle. Up by 18 on K-State at the half?! There's another game that is going to have whatever brackets weren't destroyed torn to pieces.
If your bracket is going to survive today, tweet me now, because I will want to see your bracket before I believe it...
Matt (1:33 p.m.): It's only Day 2 of the Tournament, and the workplace is 79 percent less interested because everyone's bracket is shot. That's what happens when three No. 12 seeds and a No. 14 seed advance (and a No. 13 if La Salle keeps owning Kansas State).
We shouldn't have expected anything different. We saw, what, seven different top-5 teams lose in a span of a month toward the end of the regular season? That right there proved anyone can lose, especially this year.
In a playing field like that, you can't help but cling to the few strings of consistency, with one big one jumping in front of the rest: head coaches. In such a wide open tournament, don't you feel a little better picking the guys who have been there and done that? Coach K. Izzo. The Roy Williams.
Speaking of which, isn't the possibility of a Williams-Self matchup in the Round of 32 worth a rehashed two-hour pregame show? In an age where anything LeBron James or says or tweets gets news coverage, it's impossible not to repeatedly over-analyze Williams' departure from Kansas to Chapel Hill before the two programs play each other in the big dance.
Matt (1:02 p.m.): I've never been a big cheese fan, and now I know why. Thanks, Wisconsin, for busting my bracket by attempting nine of your final 12 field goals from beyond the arc despite trailing by only four-to-six points. Well played.
Hard not to be bitter toward the lucky/inspired bracket-fillers who pegged three No. 12 seeds to get out of the Round of 64. If you're one of them, feel free to rub it in our faces via Twitter (our handles are below) or the comment feed (ditto).
With NC-State and Miami firmly in control, Creighton-Cincinnatti becomes the next split-pick game on the slate. I picked the Bearcats simply because known stars are big targets come tourney time. McDermott can shoot lights out, but so could Larry Bird and Kevin Durant. Bird and Durant were way better players on way better teams, neither of them advanced as far as they could have. Why? Because they were hounded in the Tournament.
Matt (12:30 p.m.): It's easier to swallow wrong bracket picks if one team simply outplays its opponent. It's a lot harder to accept when the team you picked pulls a Dr. Jekyll.
Kudos to Wisconsin for doing just that with the following train of thought: "Hey, I know we only shot 33 percent as a team from 3-point range this season, but let's jack up seven treys out of our last nine shots in crunch time against an Ole Miss team that thrives on long rebounds and transition offense."
Matt (12:18 p.m.): Nothing changes workplace dynamics quite like March Madness. Guys you never socialize with suddenly become your bracket buddies/enemies.
This hit home againt now that we're officially on upset watch. Ole Miss is more athletic. Wisconsin can't let this turn into a track meet in the closing stages. That steal-layup to put the Rebels up one elicited moans from nearly the entire room...and one obnoxious cheer from someone who had just walked in.
Bad enough that he was outnumbered, but then he actually tried to back up his pick in the face of overwhelming opposition.
He beat a hasty retreat to the next room.
Matt (12:00 p.m.): I feel bad for the fans who paid to see Wisconsin-Mississippi. 31 percent shooting by both teams? Terrible. Again, though, Wisconsin is made to win games like this.
Temple-NC State is underway in the first 8/9 matchup today. Pretty sure 8/9 is terrible for everyone involved. For fans, there's no big risk/big reward for picking either team. For either team, advancing is "rewarded" by playing a No. 1 seed. For the No. 1 seed, they run a serious risk of a second-round upset if 1) they're not on top of their game or 2) the 8/9 was underseeded on Selection Sunday.
Matt (11:20 a.m.): Can't ignore how public in general has pumped up the MWC while saying in the same breath Pac-12's reign has been declining. Day 1 couldn't have disagreed more.
Looking at Wisconsin right now, I'm a little concerned. Again, they're my lowest-seeded Final Four pick, but they've got 9 first-half turnovers and just 27 percent shooting against Ole Miss near the end of the first half.
The one thing I think will keep them in every game: rebounding. They've got four guys snagging better than five boards per game, and playing ugly (and frustrating your opponent in the process) is the best way to knock off the heavyweights.
Landon (11:06 a.m.): (Landon says nothing. Instead, faint noises of weeping coming from the corner of the room where Landon finds himself in the fetal position, mourning the demise of his bracket.)
I was perfect yesterday until I left work. In the final four games of the day, I went 1-for-4, and UNLV's loss roasted me. Stick a fork in me; I'm done.
Suffice it to say, never again will I put my bracket faith in the Mountain West Conference. The only team that came through for me yesterday from the MWC was Colorado State. The MWC is just rotten all around.
Matt (10:45 a.m.): Welcome to Day 2 of our March Madness reaction blog, where Landon and I plan on saying what the average bracket-filler thinks as he sees his picks picked apart by reality.
Yesterday was rough if only because Landon's bracket kept preening over my own. He was Miami. He couldn't lose. He was like me, only opposite.
Then Harvard and California happened.
Cal's win was actually the bigger equalizer, since Landon had UNLV winning the entire thing. True story. As for me, the only game that affected my bracket beyone the Round of 32 was the Oregon-OSU game. I know Oregon looked good in the Pac-12 tournament, but I was scared to death of overestimating them after them so much while helping cover Utah. It's easy to get a better opinion of a team you see a lot, as opposed to one you've rarely watched.
So far Duke's doing what they should, but I've got my Final Four darling Badgers under close watch the entire way. Wisconsin is to me what UNLV was to Landon: the big-risk Cinderella pick you have to nail in March.
Matt Petersen is the Sports Web Editor and Landon Hemsley is Sports Content Manager for DeseretNews.com. You can follow them on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen and @EarlOfHemsley respectively.
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