Six of the first eight games in Second Round were decided by double digits
Outside of Yogi Ferrell’s key contributions in Indiana’s 63-57 upset of Kentucky in the Des Moines pod, most of the higher seeds won.
Earlier in the day, Wichita State battled back from a 13 point halftime deficit which later ballooned to 21 points. The Shockers took a brief lead after Ron Baker made two consecutive three pointers within a few seconds. But Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez came up big when he had to, scoring 28 points on 9 of 11 shooting from the field and 7 of 8 attempts from the charity stripe. Although Rodriguez had six turnovers, it was his steady play in setting up his teammates that also made the difference in Miami’s 65-57 win in Providence.
Wichita State could not find the range early, missing on 11 of their first 12 attempts from the field and finished a rather anemic 20 of 59 for 33.9 percent. Miami kept the hot pace throughout the entire 40 minutes of play, finishing at a blistering 21 of 38 for 55.3 percent. The loss ended the fabulous college careers of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. VanVleet leaves as the school’s all-time assist leader, and his 225 steals is also a school record. He finished tied with last year’s stud player in Tekele Cotton with 120 career wins, which is both a school record and a Missouri Valley Conference record. His final stat line on Saturday was nothing to write home about–12 points on 4 of 12 shooting to go along with 3 of 4 free throws and five rebounds in 35 minutes of game play. For Ron Baker’s final game, he had 11 points on similar 4 of 12 shooting to go along with two rebounds in 37 minutes of action. No doubt both of those guys will make awesome pros in the NBA.
Outside of Gonzaga shooting 55.7 percent (34 of 61 attempts) in their impressive wire-to-wire 82-59 blowout of the 3 seed Utah in snowy Denver, most of the games weren’t even close. Just fyi, Duke won handily over Yale and Kansas did the same early and often against miracle minded UConn. But unlike in 2011, the Huskies finally ran out of steam.
But what really impressed me on Saturday night the most was Gonzaga. If the Bulldogs get a similar effort from the likes of Eric McClellan leading the charge with 22 points, while Domantas Sabonis had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Kyle Wiltjer finding his shooting stroke again–nailing 3 of 4 shots all in the first half from long distance as part of his 17 point performance, Mark Few’s team will be a tough out when they occupy “The House That Michael Jordan” built for a Friday night showdown at the United Center in Chicago against another similar double digit seed in either the 10 seec of Syracuse or the biggest surprise still left in this 2016 tournament, the 15 of Middle Tennessee State in a rare double digit showdown about four hours south along the Stevenson Expressway in the Gateway City of Saint Louis on Sunday.
Also next Friday, Indiana will meet up once again in North Carolina in Philadelphia. Everyone knows when both schools were up against prior to the 1981 national championship game, when everyone was focused on other things that nearly postponed the action that particular night. Several hours later–led by Isaiah Thomas, the Hoosiers won their second of what would be three titles under Bobby Knight at the old Spectrum in what would turn out to be NBC’s final NCAA Tournament broadcast ever.
Three years later, a scrappy guard named Dan Dakich (yes, the same Dan Dakich that you see on ESPN giving his honest, no-holds-barred opinions) did a stalwart defensive number against Michael Jordan when the Hoosiers upset North Carolina in the 1984 then named Southeast Regional semifinal round at the old Omni in Atlanta.
And 32 years later, he we are again. North Carolina, then and now is still a number one seed. Indiana then and now. is the underdog. Will the outcome be reversed, or Indiana continue their mastery of their longtime rivals?
Also of note, Virginia held off Butler in a hotly contested game 77-69 in the Raleigh pod. Butler had several chances to pull away, but the Cavaliers were simply too much inside. Their next opponent in Chicago will be Iowa State, shaking off the doldrums of losing their last game under Fred Hoiberg, and led by Steve Prohm will get to play in Fred Hoiberg’s current place of employment, the United Center in Chicago. Georges Niang led a 28 point effort to dispose of Arkansas-Little Rock by a 78-61 count in the Denver pod.
Games to keep an eye out for on Sunday
CBS leads off in the early afternoon again with Iowa challenging Villanova in Brooklyn, while a few hours later Stephen F. Austin will try to upset Notre Dame also at the Barclays Center. Other double digit sees will be playing later in the day, including 10 seed VCU at Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, Hawaii on TBS at night vs. Maryland in the Spokane pod and truTV’s final game of the year will feature Northern Iowa against Texas A&M. The final number 1 seed plays late at night, around 9:45 or so on TBS when Oregon takes on the 8 seed of St. Joseph’s.
Unless any major upsets occur, I will be back to blog again late on Sunday night.
Please have a good night, everyone and continue to have pleasant dreams.