Day one of the NCAA tournament did not disappoint. Boston College, a final four pick for many people, nearly got sent home in a double overtime thriller, and games scheduled at Cox Arena at San Diego were postponed due to a suspicious package found early in preparation to open the arena. There was two overtime games on the day, one which was a double OT, and four upsets according to seeds.
7th place team in the Big East Seton Hall took on the Missouri Valley Conference champs Wichita State. The strength of the MVC is always in question, which led to many believing Seton Hall, from the stronger conference would pull out the victory, but that wasn’t the case. Wichita State took it to Seton Hall in a 20 point blow out that wasn’t close from the get go, giving the MVC some validity. Sean Ogirri led the Shockers with 23 points while big man Kelly Whitney paced the Pirates with 18 points.
Wisconsin-Milawukee is an a 11 seed this year, but they proved again that they’re a team to be delt with as they knocked off the 6th seed in their region Oklahoma. Wis-Mil was ahead most of the game as they dictated the pace offensively and were also able to get Tahj Gray, Oklahoma’s best big man, in foul trouble. Wis-Mil defense caused 18 turnovers while offensively they were lead by Boo Davis’ 26 and Joah Tucker’s 24. Terrell Everett was the only Sooner that got going as he had 21 points and was able to pull the Sooners within single digits late in the 2nd half, but didn’t pull any closer after Tahj Gray fouled out, killing their comeback hopes.
In the game of the day in a double overtime thriller, Pacific almost sent 4 seed Boston College, a favorite to get to the final four, home in the first round. Christian Maraker led the Tigers with 30 points, but Pacific just couldn’t put the Eagles away when they seemed to be down for the count. Boston College found themselves down by 6 with two minutes to go the first overtime session, but they were able to come back and send it to a second overtime with two clutch free throws by senior Craig Smith. The story of the second overtime was sophomore Sean Williams, who had 4 points big points to go along with two rebounds and a huge block that put an end to Pacific’s near upset.
It didn’t happen right away, but Florida eventually pulled away against South Alabama and it was all over from there. Florida got a good sign as sophomore Al Horford found his touch from outside the paint and began hitting jump shots. He also chipped in 13 boards and 5 assists while big man Joakim Noah had a team high 7 assists and 5 blocks for the Gators as they get ready for Wisconsin Milwaukee.
Marquette, led by senior Steve Novak, faltered in the first round against a tough Alabama team. Though Alabama only has 7 scholarship players, they’re no easy out. Scorching Marquette out of their zone defense, Jean Felix had 8 three pointers to lead the Crimson Tide with 31 points. Big man Jermareo Davidson had mismatches all game and took advantage as he roughed up the Golden Eagles with 21 points and 12 boards. Steve Novak had just 17 points and missed his easiest look of the night from 3 point land that would have tied the game with under a minute to go.
Many people felt Tennessee wasn’t deserving of the 2 seed the received, and the Volunteers didn’t prove otherwise Thursday night. They struggled mightily against a very good Winthrop team that nearly had the game won. Both teams went very cold the last 11 minutes of the game, but it was Tennessee’s Chris Lofton who was the hero today. Chris’ jump shot with 2.9 seconds left on the clock put the Winthrop Eagles down for good.
Montana’s balanced attack proved to be too much for the lopsided Nevada Wolf Pack. Marcelus Kemp and Nick Fazekas combined for 58 points, but it wasn’t enough to match the four scorers who had at least 16 points for the Grizzlies. Montana led pretty much the entire way as Nevada was only able to get a total of 21 points from the rest of their team.
The UCLA Bruins were down early, then never again. The UCLA Bruins dominated the Belmont Bruins in a 34 point victory in which UCLA had 3 scorers in double figures to Belmont’s zero. Belmont goes home, while UCLA gets ready to take on a thin but talented Alabama team.
George Washington’s poor strength of schedule and the health of Pops Mensah-Bonsu got them an 8th seed, and a first round match up that gave them all they wanted and more. GW seemed to be overwhelmed by NC Wilmington, but they battled back from an 18 point second half deficit and were able to pull out the victory in overtime. Maureece Rice led the Colonials with 20 points, while 5 others pitched in at least 10 to overcome the Seahawks, led by TJ Carter’s 25.
LSU, like some of the other top teams in today’s action, took awhile to get going, but once they got going it was over. Glenn Davis used a strong second half to get the majority of his 22 points and 13 rebounds as his LSU tigers beat the Iona Gaels by 16. Standout freshman Tyrus Thomas got back in action today, playing 19 minutes while contributing 19 points, 8 boards, and 3 blocks. This is a good sign for LSU as Thomas will need to be at the top of his game if they plan on going as deep in the tournament as they are capable of.
Xavier was about to be the latest team to upset Gonzaga early in the tournament, but Adam Morrison didn’t let that happen this year. Xavier was up the majority of the game until about 2 minutes in the second half when Adam Morrison ensured that his team wouldn’t be faltering this early. JP Batisa, who had some questions concerning his health, pitched in 18 and 8 as the Bulldogs overcame the Musketeers, Stanley Burrell’s 22.
Air Force’s bid to the NCAA tournament was the most controversial as it was hard to justify them getting in over Cincinnati and a few other teams, but they still played tough. Outmatched by one of the nation’s top teams in Illinois, they lost by just 9 points and stayed within striking distance the majority of the game but in the end freshman Jamaar Smith’s 20 points and Illinois were just too much for the Air Force Academy to overcome. Antoine Hood paced the Falcons with 17 points.
Mike Davis isn’t done at Indiana just yet, as the Hoosiers were able to top the Aztecs with a late rally. San Diego State played tough and seemed poise to send the Hoosiers home in the first, led by Mohamed Akubar’s 24 points. Indiana’s solid contributions from Calloway, Killingsworth, and Vaden were too much for SDST to withstand as the Hoosiers will have one more game under Mike Davis.
Duke didn’t dominate like you’d expect an overall one seed to do in the first round, but they got the victory. They won by 16, but Southern hung tough the majority of the game. Duke was led by senior all American’s JJ Reddick and Sheldon Williams who each had 29, while receiving just 12 points from the rest of the entire Duke squad. Chris Alexander had 19 points for the Jaguars, but they were just unable to contain Duke’s 2 stars, as the majority of the nation is. If Duke’s going to make the National Championship push that they want to, they’re going to have to get more of a contribution from their surrounding cast.
Gerry McNamara left his heroics in the Big East tournament, as Syracuse lost by 8 to the Texas A&M Aggies. Syracuse got a solid contributions from big men Terrance Roberts and Darryl Watkins, but it wasn’t enough. The Orangemen go as Gerry McNamara goes, so when he goes 0-6, they go home. Acie Law IV’s 23 led the Aggies as they continue what’s been a great season as they look forward to a strong recruiting class.
In the only 12-5 match up that didn’t lead to an upset, Washington handled Utah State, beating them by 14 points. Bradon Roy led the Huskies with 28 points while Nate Harris and Jaycee Carroll had a total of 40 points for the Aggies. Brandon Roy and Washington gear up now for a tough Illinois team led by fellow nba guard prospect Dee Brown.
That’s it for an amazing day 1, as day 2 is looking to be just as good. Bucknell will battle Arkansas, Northern Iowa will look to surprise Georgetown, and N.C state will attempt to get back to their winning ways against a tough California team along with many other great games.