With all apologies to Hugh M. Hefner and the always fabulous ladies that occupy the Playboy Mansion each August for their annual midsummer bash, this was my personal Shangrila.
Not one, not two, but three overtime games took place–all of them in prime time, and all of them on cable.
First in Buffalo, St. Joseph’s nearly pulled it off leading most of the way but UConn won going away at the free-throw line 89-81.
Secondly in the O-Zone at Orlando, the first of a pair of 12 seeds worked their magic with Jordair Jett (looking almost just as impressive as Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Poloalamolu) delivering key baskets to slay off North Carolina State by a close shave 83-80 score.
Finally in Spokane, a bigger shocker–as North Dakota State used a stifling defense and forced Oklahoma to only 35 percent shooting. The Bison won going away from the free-throw line in the extra session, 80-75. Lawrence Alexander led the way with 28 points in the Bison’s first ever Tournament win.
Not to be outdone…
Two other special performances from Michigan State and Texas
Adreian Payne of the Spartans was almost a one man wrecking crew for Tom Izzo’s bunch. He scored 41 of the team’s 93 points in their decisive 15 point win over Delaware. He also joined Bill Bradley of Princeton fame in 1965 to score 40 points, shoot 67% from the field and not miss a single free throw. The big man shot all 17 of his attempts from the charity stripe, and made every one of them. Payne also etches his name in the Spartans’ record books, passing legendary center Greg Kelser when he deposited 35 in an early round game during MSU’s title run in 1979.
And moments before CBS went off the air and back to late night comedy fare…
Texas survived a furious comeback at the hands of Arizona State. Truly a “wild” game, as appropriately characterized by excitable play-by-play man Ian Eagle. In the final seconds, Jonathan Holmes tossed up a 21 foot 3 point attempt that went badly awry, but out of the mini-rugby scrum was Cameron Ridley. His soft touch ala Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Lew Alcindor just had enough arc to get it past 7’2″ Calgary, Alberta born and senior center Jordan Bachynski. The shot did count at the buzzer when the ball banked off the rim a few times before bouncing in. Ridley finished with a double-double (17 points and 15 rebounds). Their 87-85 madcap win sets up a Saturday clash with Michigan. Clearly, the Longhorns will have to clean up the fouling since they let the Sun Devils hang around by giving them 33 attempts from the charity stripe and ASU converted on 23 of them.
The rest of the games were mostly double digit affairs as Syracuse, Villanova, and Oregon all moved on to the Round of 32 with relative ease. Also, unlike in 2006–Albany simply ran out of gas with 8 minutes left and Florida won going away by 12.
The final pair of games ended well past midnight, with the defending champions of Louisville in a major tussel with the Jaspers of Manhattan in a classic teacher vs. student matchup at Orlando. Also in Spokane, the 13 seed of New Mexico State was looking to give a major scare to Steve Fisher and the Aztecs of San Diego State.
Hope to update those games if they turn out to be instant classic by early Friday afternoon.
Speaking of Friday’s action, CBS leads off with Duke playing host to Mercer on the campus of North Carolina State. Yes, normally the Blue Devils would be on in prime time.
Rather, that honor instead will go to the other school down Tobacco Road–North Carolina, and also the only undefeated team left in this 2013-2014 season, the Wichita State Shockers.
Kentucky and Kansas will also be on in the late afternoon, and the final number one seed in Virginia has the late night slot. First time participant North Carolina Central also will be on late at night on TNT.
Hope to see you then.