The first weekend of the 2017 NCAA Tournament featured 48 games — the majority, closely contested — but no game had a defying buzzer-beater or overtime. That’s disappointing. However, there are 15 more games to be played over the next 12 days.
Meanwhile, String & Laces’ bracket is fucked. Had Duke winning the title; Duke’s recent history of being upset in March continues. My bracket has half the Sweet Sixteen remaining: Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, Purdue, Oregon, North Carolina, UCLA, and Kentucky. The left half of my bracket is an atrocity — Gonzaga and Arizona remain in the West Region; the East Region is totally wiped out. The right half (Midwest and South) is OK, just as long as Kansas, Oregon, North Carolina, and Kentucky make the next round. But knowing the insanity of this tournament, that probably will not happen.
So, another year, another bracket, and another failure. But remember, there’s a 1-in-9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance of picking a perfect bracket randomly with no priors.
Here is Strings & Laces’ notes from the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament:
Saturday, March 18:
West Virginia knocks off Notre Dame, 83 to 71; no luck for the Irish. Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson scores a game-high 27 points, hitting 10 of 15 shots, including four three-pointers. Colson has a bright future.
Defending champions (Villanova) don’t fair too well in the tournament; you were smart to choose Wisconsin, which made its fourth consecutive Sweet Sixteen. Villanova has Round of 32 misfortune — losses in 2010, 2014, 2015, and now 2017. Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes also makes his fourth-straight Sweet Sixteen; he was a beast against Villanova. Hayes made the game-winning left-handed reverse lay up across the baseline off a restart with 11 seconds remaining. Villanova’s Josh Hart (led the team in scoring) tried to tie the game on an aggressive drive, but got blocked low on the carry; like hitting a brick wall. Bronson Koenig continues to make timely shots for Wisconsin — one three-pointer tied the game at 57, and his next gave Wisconsin the lead, 62 to 59. Wisconsin is playing with house money.
Butler handles an impressive Middle Tennessee team. Brilliant showing from Butler so far; North Carolina will be on its heels during its game with Butler on Friday (see what I did there?!?).
No buzzer-beaters? No OTs? Ehh.
Florida blows out Virginia. Looks very bad for Virginia. Frankly, overall, looking very bad for the Atlantic Coast Conference — represented by nine teams in the tournament, and one (North Carolina) remains. “The ACC is the best conference in college basketball,” they said.
Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan against Iowa State’s Deonte Burton probably is the best one-on-one match up of the tournament so far. Burton, scoring a game-high 25 points, contributed to Iowa State’s 19-point come back; Swanigan (20 points, 12 rebounds) closed the deal. Stars got brighter for Swanigan and Burton; maybe we’ll see their talents in the NBA.
Sunday, March 19:
Openly competitive tournament, very few lopsided games. Having four different channels (CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV) broadcast the tournament assures focused viewing of every second half of every game. And how close the games have been this year, it’s easy to stay focused.
Interesting fact: Michigan State won by 20 points (over Miami) in the first round, and lost, to Kansas, by 20 points in the second round. If Strings & Laces’ math is correct, Kansas would beat Miami by 40 points.
Arkansas living the dream against North Carolina, scoring transition baskets off of steals and blocks. Lucky put back by Kennedy Meeks is the clinching point for North Carolina — the initial shot could have resulted in a charge/blocking foul call. The referees let the physicality go; the fans respect that. To Arkansas’s demise, Moses Kingsley missed two free throws, and Anton Beard missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game.
A lot of fireworks between Oregon and Rhode Island — bodies sliding across the floor, trash talk. Rhode Island has brimming confidence; sometimes that’s all you need. But Rhode Island’s Cinderella story will have to wait; Oregon dug deep.
Every four-seed (Florida, Purdue, Butler, West Virginia) made the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in NCAA Tournament history. Xavier, the 11-seed in the West Region, makes its sixth Sweet Sixteen appearance in nine years.
The monkey is off Baylor’s back. No longer a huge letdown. Looking balanced, and Terry Maston probably had the best blocked shot of the weekend.
WE WANT A BUZZER BEATER!
Well, if we can’t get one now, we’ll just re-watch this all-time shot from 2016.
South Carolina shot 20-percent (7-of-35) in the first half against Duke and ended up winning the game by seven points. How? By shooting 71-percent in the second half and forcing Duke into a season-high 18 turnovers. And when Duke tried to come back, South Carolina abused the full-court press with long passes for easy dunks — dudes were just waiting near the basket as Duke panicked, trying not to cry. First-ever Sweet Sixteen for South Carolina. Words are useless.