My bracket fared well in the first round — correctly picked 27 of 32 games. Losses by SMU and UNC Wilmington will hurt; I picked them to make the Sweet Sixteen. Losses by Miami, Nevada, and Kansas State won’t matter much; had those teams losing in the second round. Most of us thought that SMU was good for at least one win in the tournament, and Miami’s 20-point loss to Michigan State is odd.
Here are Strings & Laces’ notes from the First Round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament:
Thursday, March 16:
Northwestern’s great story — first ever tournament appearance — continued with a nail-biting victory (68-to-66) over Vanderbilt. The big misunderstanding here was when Vandy’s Matthew Fisher-Davis fouled Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh while he was taking the dribble up the court after Riley LaChance made a lay up to give Vandy the lead, 66-to-65. Disgustingly, Fisher-Davis didn’t know what the score was; Head Coach Bryce Drew looked like he was about to shit a brick. You can’t blame Fisher-Davis for everything (LaChance missed a three with 1.1 seconds remaining), but his mistake put Vandy behind the eight ball in the final moments. Fisher-Davis is going to need a friend.
Justin Jackson, of Maryland, is a top-contender for best two-handed rim rocker. Nice assist from the baseline, too.
Mount St. Mary’s slowed the tempo against Villanova, had a competitive first half, just like any competent 16-seed that had a good first half against a one-seed. And Mount St. Mary’s lost, just like any 16-seed. The average margin of victory in one-seed versus 16-seed games is 24.73.
Maryland freshman Kevin Huerter, who balled at local high school Shenendehowa, led Maryland in scoring with 19 points. That fact would mean a lot more if Xavier’s strong zone defense didn’t destroy Maryland.
Purdue needed prime execution against Vermont. And it can thank Caleb Swanigan, who scored, rebounded, and blocked his way to fame (16 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks). He’s big.
VCU and Saint Mary’s played a close, physical game. After taking an elbow to the nose, a VCU player was shown on the bench with an ice pack and plugs in his nose. Miserable. Props to JeQuan Lewis, who gave every ounce of energy that he had, scoring 30 points for VCU in the loss.
Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast was fast. The game never slowed. Florida State can dunk, too.
Iowa State’s Deonte Burton wears pink shoes, in honor of his mother, who was a victim of breast cancer. He had a big smile, a huge block, and an impressive hammer dunk. Relatively unknown, Iowa State has skill.
Friday, March 17:
Michigan versus Oklahoma State was FIRE. We watched the game at work; my boss, a Michigan fan, was hyped (he gave me a hug). Both teams shot over 50-percent, and Michigan sank 16 three-pointers. Both teams scored 90 points, which is unheard of for a college basketball game. Michigan, 92, Oklahoma State, 91. Both teams can’t win.
SMU versus USC was beautiful. Milton, SMU, drains a long three. Boatwright, USC, hits a three. Milton, another three. USC turnover followed by an SMU turnover. Stewart, USC, three (he made six in the game). Ben Moore, big offensive rebound for SMU, made one free throw. USC misses free throw, SMU prepares for game-winning opportunity…Milton splits two defenders, but his teardrop shot bounces off the front of the rim at the buzzer.
Dayton versus Wichita State had great atmosphere in Indianapolis — Dayton is 100 miles away. The arena was loud; it got crazy. But if a team (Dayton) misses four straight lay ups during one possession, does it deserve to win?