Florida and Xavier win in routs, ACC goes 0-3 on the day

SPECIAL NOTE:  This blog is dedicated to the man who famously brought rock and roll to that holly, jolly time of year with “Run, Run Rudolph”.  Chuck Berry died on Saturday afternoon in Missouri at the very respectable age of 90.  Everywhere he went, he was idolized and he had a lot of fun performing his hits.  Along with the famous way whenever he swung his hips, he perfected the craft during a time when Americans were just getting into that true rock and roll spirit.  He will be missed.

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Very little to report after the controversy in Salt Lake City involving the goaltending call that wasn’t in the cards for Northwestern.

Arizona held off St. Mary’s 69-60 and will take on the 11 seed of Xavier who whipped Florida State 91-66 in Orlando.  Trevon Bluiett led the Musketeers with 29 points.  Xavier will make their eighth Sweet 16 appearance since 2008.

Gonzaga on Thursday in San Jose will play West Virginia, who got by Notre Dame 83-71.  The Irish only shot 40 percent for the game, but their effort was still there–even with Bonzie Colson leading everyone with 29 points and 8 rebounds on Saturday afternoon at the Buffalo pod.  Florida routed Virginia 69-35 as the Gators held the Cavaliers to only 17 points in the first half.

In Milwaukee, Butler carved Middle Tennessee State like a surgeon in an operating room.  The Bulldogs cut, sliced, and diced the Blue Raiders to the tune of a 74-65 victory.  They will head to Memphis on Friday night and await the winner of North Carolina vs. Arkansas from Greenville.

The nightcap had Purdue surviving a furious rally by Iowa State to advance to Kansas City in the Midwest bracket by a count of 80-76.  Vincent Edwards came up huge for the Boilermakers scoring 21 points to go along with 10 rebounds and four assists.  For the Boilers, this will be their ninth trip overall to the Sweet 16 and first since 2010.

All the blue bloods will play on Sunday–Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, and UCLA.  Three double digit seeds are still alive, the 10 in Wichita State to play at 2:40 p.m. on CBS from Indianapolis against UK, while the pair of 11 seeds of Rhode Island and USC have some heady competition of their own.

The Rams will face off against the third seed of Oregon at the Sacramento pod.  That game will start shortly after CBS goes back to regular prime-time programming, 7:10 p.m. Eastern time on TBS.  About a half hour later, TruTV will do their final tournament game for another year as USC plays against Baylor in Tulsa.

Bottom line, none of the eight games are slouches.  There should be some top-notch competition from the early afternoon into the later part of the evening.

In my case, I will be spending the first three games mostly listening to Westwood One since my eyes still need a little break after all of the major watching from 11:15 a.m. Central time until shortly after 11:30 p.m. both on Thursday and Friday nights.  By the time the early evening rolls around, I will look forward to flipping around on the three Turner cable channels to see what is shaking at that particular time.

Illinois hires Brad Underwood

The man who helped briefly resurrect Oklahoma State is planning to work magical wonders for the Fighting Illini.  According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, the deal is worth over $3 million per year for six years to coach in Champaign/Urbana.  Every stop Coach Underwood has made in recent years, his teams have gone to the NCAA Tournament.  We will see what happens in the recruiting trail as he tries to assemble some assistant coaches in helping try to lure the best high school stars from the Chicago Public Schools, of which many key players in recent years have gone out of state to play their college ball.

Please have a good night, everyone.  Hope to see you all later on Sunday night once the Cincinnati/UCLA game ends in Sacramento.

Northwestern Can Hold Their Heads Up High, They Really Tried

SONG SELECTION:

“These Are Days”, by The 10,000 Maniacs

The day began with bountiful sunshine and over 70 degrees of mountain goodness in Salt Lake City.  At the SLC Center, there was a rally to get the alumni and fans fired up.

None bigger than the football coach who was the star linebacker of the 1995 Big Ten championship team which played in the Rose Bowl, Pat Fitzgerald which got the fans fired up by teaching them the true definition of his football team’s Wildcat Way:

“Go as hard as you can for as long as you can…It’s our job to stand up!”

What a season for Northwestern, falling valiantly to top seed Gonzaga 79-73 in the West Regional Second Round in Salt Lake City, Utah.  In the process, Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few won his 500th career game at the school.

Seven three pointers by the Wildcats, led again once more by Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey brought them back from a 22 point deficit.  Twice in the final minutes, Northwestern got the lead down to five but it was not enough.

The turning point came with 4:57 left, with Zach Collins putting his hand out through the rim to get a block against Dererk Pardon.  Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins motioned his displeasure rather wildly on the floor towards the referees, and therefore was immediately issued a technical foul.  At that point, the Wildcats could have trimmed the lead to three points.  Instead, the lead went back up to ten and the game was mostly out of reach–even though a few late buckets trimmed the lead to five inside the final minute of play.

“In my heart do I think if Dererk gets that call and we cut it to three (points), we have a great chance to win?  Yes…Referees are human beings.  They made the calls.  We have to live with them.”

Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins on taking the high road after the simply magical season in culminating with the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament ended in disappointment.

The fight Chris Collins and his boys did not only during this game but during the entire season, they showed the nation and practically the world how fun it is to play this game.  In the end, Gonzaga made the key plays and if this was their toughest effort en route to the school’s first Final Four appearance, I am sure they can look back and collectively say, “Boy, that was definitely a scare.”

In the end, I was also very thrilled to see that sophomore Charlie Hall, the walk-on and son of Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame got the chance to play in the final seconds.  His name appeared on the scorebook for only the seventh time in Northwestern’s magical 2016-2017 season.

They will only lose two seniors to graduation:  fifth year senior forward Sanjay Lumpkin who showed a lot of mental toughness (finished his final game with four points, four rebounds, and three steals) and Nate Taphorn who contributed six points on two treys off the bench in Saturday’s loss.

In terms of Chicago sports shortcomings, Northwestern will be mentioned in the same breath as their 1995 Big Ten football team, as well as the 1984 Chicago Cubs and 1983 Chicago White Sox–two baseball teams which had really magical regular seasons but it all came crashing down in the playoffs.

No question about it–Northwestern players, fans, and alumni can all hold their heads up high.  They held themselves in very high regard and played the game the way it is supposed to be played.

Maybe in the future, the Wildcats will get their shot at a Sweet 16 berth.  It just was not meant to be in 2017.

With Welsh-Ryan Arena being dominated by construction crews, it is Rosemont bound next November, I say.

UPSET ALERT: Wisconsin KO’s Villanova, There Will Be No Repeat Champion

SONG SELECTION:

Tokyo Police Club, “Feel The Effect”

Found on the Forcefield album, Released March 24, 2014 via Mom + Pop Records

Similar to last year when Duke was knocked off by Oregon in the West Regional Sweet 16 round, Villanova will not be back in the Final Four or repeat as national champion.

Wisconsin led most of the first 25 1/2 minutes of action, but Villanova rallied back to take a short lived 57-50 lead with 5:28 to play.  Thanks in large part to a balanced attack led by Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, both players combined to shoot 15 for 26 from the floor.  But it was center Ethan Happ’s three with two minutes left which proved to be the difference.

Hayes finished with 19, Koenig had 17, and center Ethan Happ had a nice game with 12 as the Badgers upset Villanova 65-62 in the East Regional Second Round game in Buffalo, New York.

Nigel Hayes scooped in a layup in traffic with 11.4 seconds left to put Wisconsin ahead 64-62.  As senior guard Josh Hart tried to tie the game, Happ stripped Hart of the ball and fouled Vitto Brown.  Brown split a pair of free throws with four seconds on the clock, but Villanova’s final heave from over half court fell short at the buzzer.

Josh Hart finished his college career leading the Wildcats with 19 points and sharing scoring honors with Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin.  Jalen Brunson chipped in with 11 points, but last year’s championship game hero Kris Jenkins managed to score only six points.

Wisconsin will head to Madison Square Garden next Friday night for a Sweet 16 encounter against either Virginia or Florida.

Meanwhile in Salt Lake City, Gonzaga had a 22 point lead in the first half before Northwestern made a game of it shredding the lead to only five points before Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins left the bench and got a technical foul.

The score is Gonzaga 69, Northwestern 59 with 2:50 to play.

More updates later.

Michigan State stuns Miami, South Carolina wins first tourney game since 1973

SONG SELECTION:

The Softies, “The Best Days” from Winter Pageant

Released January 21, 1997 on K Records

Michigan State used a 25-4 run towards the end of the first half as the Spartans rolled past Miami (Florida) 78-58 in Tulsa.  Equally as impressive, the Gamecocks of South Carolina State posted 54 points in the second half to turn a tight struggle with Marquette to another 20 point rout 93-73, winning their first NCAA Tournament game since the NBC era in 1973 over Southwest Louisiana State.

The only other game that ended up in single figures was the Norse of Northern Kentucky falling valiant to their bigger in-state rivals of the Kentucky Wildcats and their five McDonald’s All-Americans 79-70.

And yes, Happy Birthday to Tracy Wolfson:).  May this be your best year ever reporting for CBS Sports.

Kansas put up 100 on UC Davis, and before Duke put Troy to sleep, crews had to work on a piece of the floor in the first half which apparently ruptured.  I have heard in the past of tournament games being delayed due to floods, blizzards, and sometimes other strange oddities that life occasionally throws at us–but portions of the wood floor that the NCAA created just for these games?  Players and/or some cheerleaders could have gotten splintered feet over this.  Thankfully, the floor in Greenville was safe to play on and the game ended like any other game typical of the First Round.

As for my picks–I was 13-3 on the day, 25-7 thus far in the Big Dance.

One small coaching piece of news I missed on Wednesday and one prominent ACC school filled their position:

Lorenzo Romar was fired after 15 years leading the Washington Huskies.  So make that four coaches (two each in the Pac-12 and Big Ten each looking for new coaches).  But there was one opening filled on Friday, as North Carolina State lured away North Carolina State Head Coach Keith Keating.  Similar to what Brad Underwood did for a few years in establishing Stephen F. Austin as a mid-major power in 2015-2016, he took over at Oklahoma State and nearly pulled it out in an exciting game to start the day before finally losing by the slimmest of margins to Tracy Wolfson’s alma mater of Michigan.

Second Round has plenty of juicy encounters, but one game remains the one to watch on Saturday

No question, the game to watch on Saturday is on CBS at 5:15 p.m. Eastern time in Salt Lake City.
Will the magic ride by “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” that is Northwestern University planning to derail any dreams of the top seed out West in Gonzaga?

ESPN reporter Michelle Steele had some very interesting observations on her Twitter page late Thursday night.  When she called into the “Freddie and Fitz Show” on ESPN Radio, she remarked that even the taxi cab rides she took around the city, even the drivers did not know about the match-ups.  The question on her mind going into this game is how many more Gonzaga fans will actually show up.  Northwestern fans seemed to outnumber the Vanderbilt contingent by about 3 to 1, so it will be interesting to see in-between the periodic celebrity camera shots of Michael Wilbon, Brad Hall, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, among such special Northwestern alums rooting on their Wildcats every step of the way.

For the full second round schedule, just scroll down with your finger or your mouse to the next link below.

Thanks again for your support and I hope the above song selection is a nice and mellow album for you to sleep with.  Good night and pleasant dreams, everybody.

 

 

 

NCAA Tournament Second Round Schedule

Since 2011, the biggest change is having a good chunk of the games starting in the late afternoon and taking up all of the prime time hours–thanks to cable.

In the old CBS contract, we still had the one national game at 12:10 p.m. Eastern time.  After that, it was regional coverage split in two at around 2:40, then came three-way coverage at around 4:45.  The final two games would air around 7.

Sunday was more cut and dry.  One national game shortly after 12, then it was four-way coverage at around 1:40 and three-way coverage starting no later than 4:15 or 4:20.

At the very least, please keep your smartphones handy and have that TuneIn app ready to plug in and listen to the latest live coverage from Westwood One.

Here is the second round schedule for Saturday, all times Eastern:

12:10 p.m.:  West5. Notre Dame vs. West 4. West Virginia at Buffalo, N.Y. (CBS/Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce)

2:40 p.m.:  East8. Wisconsin vs. East 1. Villanova at Buffalo, N.Y. (CBS/Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce)

5:15 p.m.:  West8. Northwestern vs. West1. Gonzaga at Salt Lake City, Utah (CBS/Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas and Jamie Erdahl)

6:10 p.m.:  West11. Xavier vs. West3. Florida State at Orlando, Fla. (TNT/Ian Eagle, Steve Lavin and Evan Washburn)

7:10 p.m.:  South12. Middle Tennessee State vs. South4. Butler at Milwaukee, Wisc. (TBS/Carter Blackburn, Debbie Antonelli, Mike Gminski and Lisa Byington)

7:45 p.m.:  West7. St. Mary’s vs. West2. Arizona at Salt Lake City, Utah (CBS/Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas and Jamie Erdahl)

8:40 p.m.:  East5. Virginia vs. East4. Florida at Orlando, Fla. (TNT/Ian Eagle, Steve Lavin and Evan Washburn)

9:40 p.m.:  Midwest5. Iowa State vs. Midwest4. Purdue at Milwaukee, Wisc. (TBS/Carter Blackburn, Debbie Antonelli, Mike Gminski and Lisa Byington)

Here is the schedule for Sunday, March 19:

12:10 p.m.:  Midwest7. Michigan vs. Midwest2. Lousville at Indianapolis, Ind. (CBS/Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson)

2:40 p.m.:  South10. Wichita State vs. South2. Kentucky at Indianapolis, Ind. (CBS/Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson)

5:15 p.m.:  Midwest9. Michigan State vs. Midwest1. Kansas at Tulsa, Okla. (CBS/Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner, Reggie Miller and Dana Jacobson)

6:10 p.m:  South8. Arkansas vs. South1. North Carolina at Greenville, S.C. (TNT/Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lewis Johnson)

7:10 p.m.:  Midwest11. Rhode Island vs. Midwest3. Oregon at Sacramento, Calif, (TBS/Spero Dedes, Len Elmore, Steve Smith and Ros Gold-Onwude)

7:45 p.m.:  East11. USC vs. East3. Baylor at Tulsa, Okla. (truTV/Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner, Reggie Miller and Dana Jacobson)

8:40 p.m.:  East7. South Carolina vs. East2. Duke at Greenville, S.C. (TNT/Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lewis Johnson)

9:40 p.m.:  South6. Cincinnati vs. South3. UCLA at Sacramento, Calif, (TBS/Spero Dedes, Len Elmore, Steve Smith and Ros Gold-Onwude)

USC and Michigan pull it out, while Louisville toys around with Jacksonville State

SONG SELECTION:

Real Estate, “After The Moon” from the album In Mind

Released March 17, 2017 via Domino Recording Company

Michigan and Oklahoma State played one of those games that should be seen on ESPN Classic for decades to come.  Back and forth, neither team giving into the other.

Michigan made 15 treys and they needed every one of them, but Oklahoma State somehow hung around and kept fouling trying to get the likes of Derrick Walton, Jr. and Zach Ervin to miss.  It backfired, and the Wolverines continue their magical run squeezing out a hard-fought 92-91 win.

The weird thing about the CBS telecast occurred in the final minute.  A small power outage inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse cut off the primary mic.  This forced the Birthday Woman, sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson to do some play-by-play.  She briefly described two fouls and slowly got the audience to a commercial break during a time out.  A few seconds after that break, we see Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, and Jim Nantz holding one mic when Hill blurted out this statement:

“I feel like one of The Temptations.”

Next up for Jon Beilein and what Hill also said on the CBS telecast as “a team of destiny”, the second seeded Louisville Cardinals.  Jacksonville State scored the first 8 points of the game, including back-to-back threes.  However, the Cardinals kept pounding the offensive glass and got the ball inside and that proved to be Jacksonville State’s undoing in a nice 78-63 win.  Norbertas Giga had 30 points and nine rebounds in a losing cause for the first time NCAA participants.

USC keeps one streak alive

The Men of Troy went back and forth as well in the Tulsa pod, duking it out with SMU.  Bennie Boatwright hit a trey from the deep left corner to pull USC within two, but Elijah Stewart’s clutch three in the final 25 seconds proved to be the difference in a close-shave 66-65 win.  SMU had a chance in the final seconds to pull out the win, but their final shot fell off the front right side of the rim.

The streak I am referring to is that it marks seven straight years since any school who emerged out of the First Four round in Dayton has gone on to win at least one tournament game.  VCU of course parlayed that to a Final Four berth in 2011.

USC has won 13 straight games when they trailed by double digits.  But I am safely saying that this streak might come to an end Sunday when they more than likely will play against Duke.  Conventional wisdom says Coach K will win in a double digit rout, so we will see happens tonight against 15 seeded Troy.

The other hair-raising finish happened in Greenville, South Carolina.  A tense 8/9 battle ended with some controversy as a Seton Hall player tripped an Arkansas player with 15 seconds to go.  The officials ruled it as a Flagrant 1 foul, which meant that Arkansas was awarded two free throws and the ball out of bounds on the side.  That was the final difference in a final score of 77-71.

Other games in the afternoon session…

Baylor scored 53 points in the second half to rout the Aggies from New Mexico State, 91-53 and Oregon stifled Iona in a huge way 93-77 in Sacramento.

Finally, North Carolina led from the get-go and creamed Texas Southern to the tune of a 103-64 whipping in Greenville.  Rhode Island was leading Creighton by double digits in the final minutes of their first round game in Sacramento.  Will the Rams have enough moxie to get past Oregon without the Ducks’ leading shot blocker in Chris Boucher?

The game to watch tonight is shortly after 7 Eastern time on CBS, as Wichita State meets up with Dayton in a classic 7/10 showdown in Indianapolis.  I am expecting most of the other games to be blowouts by halftime, but we will see later on if Michigan State can keep it close against Miami in the Tulsa pod.  That game to air around 9:30 p.m. Eastern time on TNT.

Erin Go Bragh, enjoy U2 and The Cranberries on your streaming players of choice on this St. Patrick’s Day.  I will be back later tonight with a brief recap to end the first round.

Brief Prediction from Charles Barkley, just FYI

He said it during the short pregame show in the CBS Broadcast Center in New York:

“Auburn will make the NCAA Tournament next year.  And if they do, I will hope to get the day off.”

And yes, the current Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl is working the Big Dance down in Atlanta as part of the Turner Sports crew.

That will be another topic for me to explore when the leaves fall like this and another lovely edition of my annual College Basketball Preview arrives in your inbox:

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From 2011

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From 2013

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From 2015

This visual distraction brought to you today by the word Beautiful.

Enjoy the games.