A rundown of the “action” on a slow-paced Friday…
Ohio State 70, Davidson 60 [68 possessions] – The Buckeyes put together another strugglicious performance on 3s (5-22), but only committed four turnovers and steadily pulled away in the second half.
Northwestern State 64, Iowa 63  – The March Madness Moment of ‘06. A classic case of putting yourself in position to lose. After a couple of free throws by Doug Thomas, Iowa led 56-42 with 7:29 left. The normally impenetrable Hawkeye D allows the Demons to score 22 points the rest of the way.
Arizona 94, Wisconsin 75  –When this Arizona team is on, they can be scary. This was the most impressive offensive performance of the first round, with the Cats going off for 63.6% eFG on a solid defense. The Pac-10 is looking great with three easy wins.
Bucknell 59, Arkansas 55  – Remember when I told you to pick Arkansas to go all the way? Well, you weren’t going to win the ESPN pool by picking UConn over Duke anyway. You might think the Arkansas offense was the reason for the loss, but Bucknell has a terrific defense (they’re #1 in the raw version of defensive efficiency). Giving up a point per possession and 51.1% eFG to the Bison was the Hogs undoing.
Georgetown 54, Northern Iowa 49  – The slowest game of the first round. The Hoyas get all of two points from leading scorer Jeff Green, but still win comfortably. Big East gets to 1-3.
West Virginia 64, Southern Illinois 46  – Very impressive win by the Mountaineers. A big deal was made of their poor finish, but their conference schedule was heavily back-loaded with tough games. Just an average 3-point shooting game for them (11 for 32).
Memphis 94, Oral Roberts 78  – To my surprise, Memphis looked the best of all the 1-seeds. Oral Bob did what it wanted to do offensively. They also did what they wanted to do defensively, but Memphis hit its jumpers with regularity (11 for 22 on 3s), and hit the offensive boards on misses (41% OR).
Villanova 58, Monmouth 45  – What was it with slow games on Friday? Just an ugly, ugly win, but the Big East gets back to .500.
Pitt 79, Kent State 64  – I confess to not having seen a minute of this game. Pitt posts a 73.9% eFG, with two starters having a 6-for-6 shooting night.
George Mason 75, Michigan State 65  – A fitting end to the season for Sparty. Michigan State never got its rebounding and defensive issues totally solved, and they go down to a CAA team that was missing a starter. They got just 6 offensive rebounds and 5 FTAs, compared to 10 and 26 for Mason.
N.C. State 58, California 52  – The Pac-10 falls from perfection thanks to a late Cam Bennerman 3-ball. Bet Texas is really looking forward to another 55 possession game in the second round.
UConn 72, Albany 59  – So the only true 16-seed scare comes against UConn. I’m sure a lot of fluky things happened in Albany’s favor, but Marcus Williams, 14 of 42 on 3s coming in, going 5 of 7 was definitely a nice surprise for the Huskies. The most shocking stat is Albany hitting 20 of 37 (54.1%) from 2 with only 5 blocked shots against a team that held opponents to 40.5% from 2 on the season. The Big East finishes the first round at 5-3.
North Carolina 69, Murray State 65  – Man, we couldn’t even get a fast-paced game out of UNC. See the Iowa game above: The Tar Heels put themselves in position to lose and dodged the bullet that the Hawkeyes couldn’t.
Bradley 77, Kansas 73  – The only fast game of the day. I had mentioned on Tuesday that Bradley could give KU trouble. Looking at it the other way, Kansas didn’t give Bradley much trouble in this one. I’ll regret not seeing a Pitt/Kansas game, but Pitt/Bradley is almost as compelling. We’ll have a game featuring two of the best seven-footers in the country, Gray vs. O’Bryant. I don’t like to make predictions, but I’m guessing Pitt doesn’t shoot 73% on Sunday. The Braves salvage a 2-2 record for the Valley.
Texas 60, Penn 55  – In a sign of things to come, Aldridge and Tucker play all 40 minutes. Might the day be coming where Mike Williams spends the entire game on the bench? No, but Rick Barnes would get away with it if he could.
Kentucky 69, UAB 64  – You might not want to believe it, but Kentucky relied on its offense for wins all season, and they did so again in this one. In fact, this game was vintage Kentucky. They shot horribly (19-61, 31.1%), but they did enough of the other 3 factors (44.4% OR, 12.7% TO, 26-30 FTs) to have an efficient night against a decent defense. Their offense has been ugly but very effective since Randolph Morris returned.
Missouri State 76, Stanford 67  – OK, not an NCAA Tournament game, but any objective evidence out there said that Mo State had a better case for an at-large than Seton Hall, Air Force, or Utah State. I realize the NIT isn’t a fair proving ground for snubbed teams, what with the home sites and some teams mentally checking out. But I got the Bears going all the way in my NIT bracket. Next up: a Monday game hosting Houston.
The first round is in the books. It didn’t provide the volume of upsets I expected, but nine of the top 12 teams had a challenge.
I’m looking forward to GW/Duke and Illinois/Washington today.