At around 4:30pm Friday evening, I began thinking how boring this year's version of "One Shining Moment" would be. Mainly due to the lack of mid-majors represented. I would not get to see the intensity on a 6-4 power forwards face after they stunned a powerhouse. Sure VCU beat Witchita State, but really...VCU is becoming a force in itself. And as far as all the other "upsets," the higher seeds still represented big-time programs. I began to feel pity for the CBS editor, who would have to compile clips of this uneventful, Cinderellaless tournament.
And then the world came crashing down.
Not literally of course, (Still have nine months until that happens) but for most brackets, the implosion began. First Missouri, who many pundits (including me) had in the Final Four, lost to 15 seeded Norfolk State. Then, a few hours later, Duke was stunned by 15 seed Lehigh, followed by 13 seed Ohio knocking off Michigan. Cinderella had arrived.
Fortunately for...well...the entire world, there is no need to panic. Besides the parents and friends of Norfolk St. and Lehigh, everyone's bracket is destroyed, which in turn means, everyone is doing equally awful.
A few comments about the First Round:
- The refereeing is atrocious! I went on a ten minute tirade last night via Twitter, blasting the referees after watching them decide yet another game. Two games decided by lane violations on free throws. Another decided by a blatant inbounds infraction, which was missed. Several others by questionable foul calls. I understand the rules are in place for a reason, but some of these calls were appalling. Let the kids decide the game. I don't like the overdramatic block call, or the "ax-chop" and one call. People did not fill up the arena to see you! Stop trying to be a showman and do your job. The best referees are the ones you don't notice. I never got along well with referees. Not as a player, not as a coach, and certainly not as a fan. I need to write an entire article on this subject in the next few weeks. Violet Palmer prepare yourself now.
- Royce White is a beast! The transfer from Minnesota was one of the most impressive players in the first round. His ability to penetrate, along with his size and strength, make him a legitimate force. From the start of Iowa State's matchup with UCONN, White established himself, and his team, as the frontrunner. White's next matchup is against a school which recruited him heavily a few years back, in Kentucky.
- The East bracket did not have one upset. Although Syracuse can thank the men in black and white for that.
- Temple endured another early exit from the NCAA tournament. When I initially filled out my bracket, I talked to a friend of mine about my concerns for Temple. I did not like their matchup. USF is a Big East team and California plays in the Pac-10. Yet his confidence in Temple persuaded me to follow my heart and take the Owls. That game hurt the most.
- Kyle O' Quinn of Norfolk State had the best post-game comments of all time. It is refreshing to see there are still basketball players who are grateful for the opportunities they have.
The second round now presents some interesting matchups. In the event you are in a pick by round tournament, or would like to double down on your loses, here are some of my picks for the Second Round.
#1 Kentucky vs. #8 Iowa State
My favorite match-up of Round Two. Iowa State looked very impressive against UCONN and I expect them to impress against Kentucky. I think this game could officially stick a dagger into any remaining brackets if Iowa State pulls off the upset. Expect this to be a close game, with Kentucky pulling it out late.
#1 Syracuse vs #8 Kansas State
Kansas St. has some impressive victories on their resume this year, including a victory against Missouri. Syracuse lost center Fab Melo a day before the Tournament began, and needed a bailout from the referees to get by 16 seed UNC Asheville. This may be the upset of the day.
#7 Gonzaga vs #2 Ohio State
Gonzaga surprised everyone by destroying the Mountaineers of West Virginia in Round One. Ohio St. is a much more imposing team. Expect Jared Sullinger to put the Buckeyes on his back and pull this game out for Ohio State.
#1 UNC vs #8 Creighton
You see a pattern developing here? Creighton can flat out shoot the ball. Although UNC is the superior team, the hot handed Jays may be able to knock off the Tar Heels in a shooting contest. In the end it will come down to Creighton's ability to stop UNC star Tyler Zeller.
Enjoy March Madness everyone, and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day...I know Notre Dame will not.