As always, Round 1 and Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament provided some great underdog moments. It also provided disappointing moments. Check out my March Madness First and Second Round Recap.
March Madness First and Second Round Recap
Most Impressive Teams
1 Kansas, Midwest Region – After TCU upset Kansas 85 to 82 in the Big 12 Tournament, many believed that the Jayhawks would come out swinging in the NCAA Tournament. I didn’t. I thought the loss was a sign that the Jayhawks weren’t ready for the NCAA Tournament.
Was I wrong or what? Kansas is the best team I’ve seen play so far in the 2017 NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. Other teams I’ve placed in this category have impressed me. But none of them has impressed me as much as Kansas.
The Jayhawks took no prisoners in their 100 to 62 win over UC Davis. Yes, 22.5 points favored Kansas. But the way that Rock Chalk blasted the Aggies was ultra-impressive. Then, in Round 2 as a -7.5 favorite, the Jayhawks obliterated Michigan State 90 to 70. The great thing about that win was how Kansas just turned it on in the second half versus a tough Spartans’ squad.
2 Kentucky, South Region – I though Wichita State was going to beat Kentucky. This is especially true after watching Kentucky slop their way through a 79 to 70 win over Northern Kentucky as a 20-point favorite. The Wildcats didn’t look as dominant as I thought they’d look versus the Norse.
For most of their 65 to 62 win over Wichita State, Big Blue didn’t look that great either. Kentucky fell behind Wichita State multiple times in the game. But, the Wildcats came back each time. Kentucky really stepped it up by blocking 2 three-point shots that would have tied it in the last minute of the game.
3 Baylor, East Region – I was chilly on the Baylor Bears going into the NCAA Tournament. I thought that Baylor had peaked before 2017 while they terrorized teams in 2016. I was wrong. The Baylor team that outworked, out hustled, and out closed the USC Trojans in Round 2 is the Baylor team that can win the NCAA Tournament.
USC had beaten a good Providence team earlier in the week to get the bid to the tournament. The Trojans had beaten SMU 66 to 65 in Round 1. Once USC took the lead in the second half, I thought the game against Baylor was over. USC was going to march to the Sweet 16.
Then, Baylor came up huge. The Bears beat USC 82 to 78. What’s interesting about the win is that Baylor out rebounded USC 31 to 20. Why is that interesting? It’s interesting because USC has size while a lot of teams in the NCAA Tournament don’t.
2 Arizona, West Region – The Arizona Wildcats showed that their Pac 12 Tournament win wasn’t a fluke. In Round 1, Arizona beat North Dakota 100 to 82. It was a high-scoring affair. In Round 2, Arizona beat St. Mary’s 69 to 60. The Round 2 win was a low-scoring affair.
That’s what I love about the West Coast Wildcats. Arizona can play any style and win. If you want to run with the Cats, they’re going to bury you. If you want to try to slow it down and play a possession game, they’re going to wear you down before you wear them down.
Most Disappointing Teams
1 Villanova, East Region – The Villanova Wildcats entered the NCAA Tournament as the number 1 overall seed. Villanova, who was brilliant when winning the Final Four Championship last season, easily handled Mount St. Mary’s in Round 1, 76 to 56. But, Round 2 was a different story.
What happened to Villanova? They played one of the better teams in the East Region this year, the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin garnered an 8-seed even though they were 1 of only 2 teams from the Big Ten ranked for most of the season. The Wildcats ended up playing Wisconsin’s game. Not only that, but both Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, the 2 Badgers with the most tournament experience, dominated. Koenig scored 17. Hayes scored 19 and grabbed 8 boards.
2 Duke, East Region – The pre-tournament favorites at 6 to 1, Duke was supposed to run roughshod over their foes in the East Region until facing Villanova in the Elite Eight. The Blue Devils appeared destined for another Final Four appearance after winning the ACC Tournament.
But, reality set in for the Dookies and their fans on March 19. As a 6.5 favorite, Duke lost straight up to South Carolina, a team that had lost 69 to 85 to Kentucky, and 66 to 81 to Florida this season. What happened to Duke?
Duke’s freshman couldn’t hang with South Carolina’s strong, defensive-minded, players. 6’ 5” guard Sindarius Thornwell dominated Duke with 24 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists. The Gamecocks’ D held the Blue Devils to 41.5% from the field.
2 Louisville, Midwest Region – Louisville is yet another one of my Final Four teams that disappointed. I really thought Louisville might come up big for me this season. I had huge hopes when Louisville was up by 7 points versus Michigan in their Round 2 game. I was so confident that I stopped watching the game. I mean, Rick Pitino is still one of the best college basketball coaches in the nation, right?
No, Pitino isn’t. The Cardinals’ vaunted defense, which allows 40.1% from the field on average, let Michigan shoot 49% from the field in the Wolverine’s 73 to 69 win. The Cardinals allowed Michigan to shoot 35.3% from three.
3 Florida State, West Region – Florida State was probably overrated. All the teams from the ACC appear to have been overrated. Virginia got a 5-seed and they couldn’t score 40 points versus Florida in their 39 to 65 loss to the Gators in Round 2. North Carolina struggled to a 72 to 65 win over Arkansas in Round 2. I already wrote about Duke and Louisville.
How bad was Florida State? After impressively out dunking the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in Round 1 to an 86 to 80 win, Florida State could only muster 66 points versus Xavier in a 66 to 91 loss in Round 2. The Seminoles shot 40% from the field and 19% from three. Xavier, meanwhile, shot 55.6% from the field and 64.7% from three.
Best Underdog Teams
7 South Carolina, East Region – I already wrote about how South Carolina beat Duke straight up as a dog. But, the Gamecocks also beat Marquette 93 to 73 as a -1 favorite in Round 1. The Gamecocks are playing their best at the perfect time of the season.
8 Northwestern, West Region – Gonzaga bumped Northwestern from the NCAA Tournament 79 to 73. Northwestern could have won the game straight up if it wasn’t for a terrible non-goaltending call that was obviously a goal tend against Gonzaga. The Zags got lucky. So, Northwestern makes it to this category even though they didn’t get into the Sweet 16.
7 Michigan, Midwest Region – Michigan is so hot that they’re favored over Oregon, the 3-seed, in the Sweet 16. Michigan has won 7 games in a row. The Wolverines have gone 6 and 1 ATS in those 7 games.
11 Xavier, West Region – Just look at that score again…91 to 66 over Florida State. Wow.