Wow. Wow. Wow. A day like Friday requires a running diary:
11:40am ET: I’m reading various web blogs. The best comment: Thursday was March Monotony. We desperately need a better day of basketball.
12:10pm ET: The day tips off with #11 Texas vs #6 Cincinnati. If you had asked me to write a script for Texas vs Cincinnati based on what happened during the regular season, here is what I would have written. Cincinnati’s ball pressure will shock the Texas guards, the Texas freshmen will turn it over and fall behind. Eventually, because Texas has an efficient offense, the Longhorns will get back in the game. But since they’ve failed in almost every close game against a good team this year, Texas will come up short. The game followed the script almost perfectly.
1:00pm ET: I’m watching San Diego St. and NC State and wondering if anyone honestly believes SDSU is the favored team here. Yes the Aztecs beat California and Arizona early in the year. But by now we know that beating the Pac-12 was rather uninformative. Cal was crushed by USF in the First Four and Arizona fell to Bucknell in the NIT. If NC State wins, it won’t be an upset.
2:25pm ET: Last summer I was on the “free Richard Howell” bandwagon. Despite the fact that NC State was terrible at rebounding, and despite the fact that Howell was the best rebounder on the team, Sidney Lowe refused to play him. Thankfully Mark Gottfried discovered Howell’s talents, and the big man rewarded him by scoring 22 points on 10 of 12 shooting in his first NCAA tournament game. But a funny thing happened in this game. Even though Howell played well, NC State went on a run and broke the game open when Howell went to the bench with his 4th foul. Can a player be the star of the game if he isn’t on the floor for the game-deciding run?
3:25pm ET: Alabama has the ball down 1 in the final seconds against Creighton. I have all sorts of thoughts running through my head. Alabama’s offense has been horrible all year. Creighton’s defense has been horrible all year. Who will win? But the end-game sequence is butchered by some bizarre timeouts, and Alabama doesn’t even get a clean look at the basket.
3:29pm ET: I’m sick of that logistics commercial about the Duke/Kentucky pass. In fact, I’m sick of all the logistics commercials.
3:30pm ET: I am not shocked Virginia lost. When Assane Sene was declared ineligible by Tony Bennett, the season was over. I am shocked that Mike Davis was fired by UAB. He may have only made the NCAA tournament once, but he had UAB in the top 3 of CUSA on numerous occasions.
3:45pm ET: Andrew Nicholson is playing like the best player on the floor and St. Bonaventure has an early lead on Florida St. How many people have Florida St. going to the Final Four?
4:05pm ET: Remember when Florida played Kentucky during the regular season, and the Gators could barely get their three point shots off cleanly, let alone make those shots? Well, that was Belmont vs Georgetown. Belmont was a trendy upset pick based on their great perimeter shooting, but with Georgetown often fielding a lineup with four player 6’8” or taller, Belmont had multiple times when they couldn’t even get a clean look. Belmont was smart enough to keep passing, and they sometimes got clean looks in the chaos. But more often than not the extra passes led to a Belmont turnover. Belmont eventually settled into cross-court passes to try to get open threes, but Greg Whittington even blocked one of those threes late in the game. It turns out the way you stop a great three point shooting team is with size. Who knew it was that simple?
Offensively, Georgetown broke the game open with some nice backdoor cuts on passes from Nate Lubick in the post. For some reason, Belmont’s defensive scheme allowed Georgetown to feed its post players at will. Obviously Belmont was not afraid of Lubick beating them one-on-one, but when you allow a team to work inside-out, the offense almost always wins.
5:55pm ET: Crud, Florida St. just held off St. Bonaventure and again the losing team can’t get off a decent shot at the end. Today has been better, but it isn’t quite memorable yet.
6:20pm ET: Well, Norfolk St. is hanging tough with Missouri so at least I can watch that. I’ve shown splits at various times this year and the pattern is clear. Missouri plays to the level of their competition. They’ve played fantastic basketball against elite teams, and played “just good enough” against mediocre teams. But this feels like a fluke. Missouri is going to pull away late.
6:35pm ET: I’m starting to think Norfolk St. has a real chance to win when they hit a three to take a four point lead in the final four minutes. Then Marcus Denmon takes an utterly mind-boggling turnaround three pointer. Where did that shot come from? Now I’m really starting to think Norfolk St. has a chance.
6:45pm ET: Kyle O’Quinn tips the ball up in the air on a FT miss, and eventually ties up a Missouri player, giving Norfolk St. the possession arrow. The ball was hopping up in the air so long, I was wondering if time might expire on a FT miss.
6:50pm ET: Missouri is down two in the final seconds. St. John’s ran a play earlier this year against Cincinnati that allowed them to score a floater in the lane in less than 2 seconds. Missouri runs essentially the same play, but they start it further from the basket, and Phil Pressey puts up a three pointer.
6:51pm ET: The Missouri mascot covers his eyes on the sidelines. The shot misses. Norfolk St. wins. A 15-seed has defeated a 2-seed.
6:55pm ET: Kyle O’Quinn, “If it wasn’t for the scholarship offer from Norfolk St., I don’t know where I would be today. I had to pay those coaches back.”
7:00pm ET: Greg Gumbel tries to introduce the evening’s slate of games on CBS. The rest of the crew treats him like he is Perd Hapley from NBC’s Parks and Recreation. “You want to talk about the upcoming games?! Don't you want to talk about Missouri losing to Norfolk St?” Gumbel, “So is Duke going to beat Lehigh?” Greg Anthony, “No, Duke isn’t going to beat Lehigh…”
7:02pm ET: Charles Barkley, “That interview that Kyle O’Quinn gave was fantastic. That is what college basketball is all about.”
7:10pm ET: My mom calls. “Thank goodness Florida St. came back to win. I have them going to the Final Four.” Me, “Did you see Missouri lost?” Her, “No!!!!!”
7:30pm ET: In one of the pregame shows, Seth Davis was asked about picking South Dakota St. and Belmont to pull upsets this week. Davis is shown with a SDSU wall-sticker and a Belmont wall-sticker. Davis, “Why don’t you show the video where I picked Norfolk St. to win?” Others, “Because it doesn’t exist."
8:35pm ET: Duke leads by 2 points at half-time, but there is something wrong with the net and they are restringing it on one end of the court. Mike Krzyzewski has this extremely painful expression on his face. The last thing he wants to do is stand here any longer with Lehigh within two points.
8:40pm ET: Four games are coming down to the wire simultaneously. My ability to process information is now seriously curtailed. Tarik Black fouls out for Memphis. That looks like it is going to hurt. If you’ve followed Memphis this year, you know they don’t have a lot of depth inside, and they just aren’t the same team with Black on the bench.
8:45pm ET: Duke’s Seth Curry gets called for an intentional foul after turning the ball over. It looked to me like he made a legitimate play on the ball. This is not Duke’s day.
9:10pm ET: St. Louis’ Kwamain Mitchell is on fire. And St. Louis holds off Memphis.
9:35pm ET: Two years after DJ Cooper led Ohio to an upset over Georgetown, he is doing it again. But this time Ohio runs into a scoring drought late in the game. Michigan is down three points and gets at least four attempts at a game-tying three. A week ago against Minnesota, John Beilein drew up a play that got Evan Smotrycz a wide-open three from deep that tied the game and sent it into OT. This time Beilein doesn’t call timeout and he lets his players try to win it on their own. Trey Burke gets a switch and is matched up with an Ohio forward. Burke is trying desperately to dribble into the lane, but he can’t get passed the defender. Ohio holds on for the upset.
9:35pm ET: Lehigh beats full court pressure for a wide open lay-up and 7 point lead. Is it possible, is a second 2-seed going to fall today?
9:45pm ET: Despite pulling within 3 points with 1 second left, Duke falls. Jim Nance is in shock. Every year he gets assigned to the equivalent of the Greensboro regional and has to sit through Duke and North Carolina winning easily in the first round. This year Duke fell. Of course, most college basketball experts believed Duke was going to lose early in the tournament. But it is still shocking to see it happen this early.
9:50pm ET: St. Mary’s has come back from 11 points down to take the lead on Purdue. Purdue has been a team that has blown leads this year. Purdue held a big lead against Xavier and lost. They held a big lead against Butler and lost. So Boilermaker fans have to be pulling their hair out.
Purdue is down one with a chance to take the lead, but they turn it over. Then the Gaels get called for a travel on the baseline. (You can only run the baseline after made baskets.) Lewis Jackson draws a foul and heads to the line with a chance to re-take the lead. Two years ago Jackson was a 44% free throw shooter, but he’s improved and he makes both free throws when it matters most. St. Mary’s airballs a three pointer and within moments, Purdue has won the game.
10pm ET: My brain is in shock. This is why people love the NCAA tournament.
11:30pm ET: South Florida is going to upset Temple thanks to another crazy defensive effort, but at this point the 12-5 upset doesn’t register with me. But I do notice that North Carolina’s road to the Elite Eight is looking very easy.
12:15am ET: Tu Holloway drives the lane and hits a fade-away jumper to give Xavier a late lead. But moments later, Notre Dame was at the line with a one-and-one and a chance to tie the game. And just one day after the NCAA clarified the rule about lane violations, it happens again. One of the Notre Dame guards starts towards the basket before the ball hit the rim, and the refs call the lane violation. The ball (and game) is awarded to Xavier.
12:16pm ET: Scott Martin is shown on the sideline holding back tears. I have to say, the video production teams are all over the crying players this year. I have seen at least 15 shots of players with towels on their heads or their jerseys over their face, and it is only Day 2.
Expected Wins (Excluding Opening Round)
Own: If you lose, your expected wins go to zero. If you win, your expected wins go up.
Other: Other team’s outcomes can also impact your expected wins.
Marg: The margin of victory for all tournament teams can impact your expected wins. This essentially reflects the daily change in the Pomeroy Rankings.
Obviously the losses by Duke and Missouri freed up a lot of wins for other teams in the field.
Lehigh, Norfolk St., and Ohio significantly improved their expected number of wins by advancing. Michigan St.’s win was mostly expected, so they did not improve their expectation much based on their “Own” win.
But the “Other” results helped. Michigan St., Marquette, and Florida, all saw a big jump in their expectation based on Missouri’s loss. And Baylor and Xavier benefited from Duke’s loss, but Duke wasn’t a terribly strong team this year, so that effect is smaller.
Florida’s huge margin-of-victory was a net benefit for the Gators, and it also helped Kentucky’s profile even though the Wildcats did not play. As a result, Kentucky is once again the tournament favorite.