Notes from the NCAA Tournament: Round 2, Day 2
What was that I said about not enough madness yesterday? Yeah, forget all that. Friday’s action was insane!
We had yet ANOTHER #2 seed, the seventh ever in history and the third in two years, to go down to a #15 seed and the bracket alignment ensures us either a #12 or #13 seed will be moving on to the Sweet Sixteen.
It’s all commented on below, and if you watched the games, you can probably guess which ones I’m about to talk about. But that doesn’t lessen my urge for jibber jabber on the subject, so let’s get into it.
Anyone whose followed March Madness over the years knows that Georgetown has a nasty habit of premature exits in the big dance. But THIS exit, to #15 Florida Gulf Coast, is an all-new low.
Let me tell you about Florida Gulf Coast. When I tweeted a tidbit earlier this season about how VCU ran them off the floor, a fellow tweeter — who lives IN FLORIDA — said he’d never heard of the school. THAT is how “prestigious” this basketball program is. THAT is how big this upset was.
More impressive, though, was the fact that Georgetown nearly came back. You could say many things about this Hoyas squad, but being able to erase large deficits isn’t one of them. When FGCU was up 17 points, the game should have been over. Still, G’town found a way to close the gap.
Ultimately, though, the Hoyas couldn’t get it done. And now, in the wake of the worst tournament loss of his coaching tenure, we have to start wondering if John Thompson III’s job is in jeopardy. After all only one Final Four run isn’t enough to cancel out every embarrassing exit his team has had over the years.
By the end of this tournament, you’re either going to love Marshall Henderson or hate him. However, you WILL know him and you will DEFINITELY have an opinion on him. The loud, brash, in-your-face score-monger with the memory of a goldfish when it comes to his missed shots will be one of the most polarizing figures in this year’s tournament. And he may just be getting started.
Ole Miss’ loss to dreadful Mississippi State feels like it was light years ago, and the Rebels have that swagger of a team that, a, doesn’t know its breaking tournament norms, and, b, doesn’t particularly care.
If you’re looking for an explanation LOGICALLY how the Rebels can go deep into this tournament, I don’t have one for you, but the onus is on you for relying on logic. That ship sailed when a depleted Ivy League roster sent the Mountain West champs packing after one game.
A Near KU D’etat
When Florida Golf Coast knocked off Georgetown, the parody Twitter account @NOTSportsCenter said that a 12, 13, 14, and 15-seed had all won in this tournament, and Kansas shouldn’t try to fight fate. But when Western Kentucky went into the half up one over the Jayhawks, we weren’t laughing. We were speechless.
Kansas, of course, dodged the bullet, but I can’t help but to point out that the two teams that I thought were overrated as #1 seeds (Kansas and Gonzaga) were also the two top seeds that nearly became enshrined in infamy.
What the near-loss does is whet the appetite of UNC and every other team Kansas faces while they remain alive in this tournament. A win may be a win, and, yes, Kansas, unlike a handful of other high seeds, are moving on, but surviving and advancing is all about limiting the ammunition for motivation your opponent has. When it comes to that little nugget, the Jayhawks have handed their future foes a loaded gun.
In my March Madness preview article, I put Boise State up as a potential Cinderella and I nearly did the same for La Salle. Why didn’t I? Because I thought it was petty to put up two teams pitted against one another in the first round. Now, though, I have seen the error in my ways.
La Salle made a reputation during the regular season as a bona fide giant killer and the Explorers are up to their old antics. They gave K-State quite the rude greeting in the first half of their second round game and hung in there to pull off the upset.
Now La Salle has to do something different: beat one of their own. Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss sent Wisconsin packing, which means there’s no power conference powerhouse currently in the way for either of these teams. Just each other.
And one of them will be advancing to Los Angeles. That much is guaranteed.
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