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NCAA Tourney Begins with Fireworks
We didn’t have to wait long for the thrills and excitement of March Madness to capture the attention of college basketball fans everywhere.
In the first three games of the 2010 NCAA tournament we witnessed an upset, overtime and a double-overtime. Not a bad start.
The luck of the Irish was not on display as #6 Seed Notre Dame was shocked by #11 seed Old Dominion. Senior forward Luke Harangody who had been averaging over 20 points per game this season and was one of the best scorers in the country was limited to only 4 points and this poor showing will hurt his draft stock going forward.
Meanwhile #7 seed BYU is breathing a sigh of relief after pulling away in OT against #10 Florida. BYU deserves credit for collecting themselves at the end of regulation and pushing through to the next round. I don’t think they’ll be nearly as lucky against #2 Kansas State (assuming #15 North Texas doesn’t find additional motivation from #15 Robert Morris’s outstanding performance against Villanova and pull off an incredible upset).
Speaking of Nova-Robert Morris, this was an outstanding game… for Robert Morris. Villanova coach Jay Wright started the game with starting guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher on the bench. There was not much information available as to why. They entered the game after about 4 minutes. The Wildcats were behind most of the game finally tying the score with under a minute and a half remaining.
After an intense first OT, Robert Morris lost their third play via foul-out and just did not have the depth to compete. That did not stop the Colonials from giving it everything they had. A last second 3-point attempt that would have tied the game in double OT was off which sealed the victory for Villanova.
Nova leader Scottie Reynolds was solid from the free throw line, but had an absolutely horrible game otherwise, with 15 of his 20 points coming from the foul line (15-16). He shot 2 of 15 from the field and 1-8 from beyond the 3 point arc with only 2 assists. Everyone has an off game and perhaps being benched to start the game hurt his ability to get into the flow of the game but #2 seed Villanova can not survive long in the tournament without solid production from their seasoned leader.
Continuing the great action, we witnessed our second upset of the day as #13 Murray State upended #4 Vanderbilt with a buzzer-beater. Ranked in the top 25 most of the season, many, myself included, expected to see Vandy advance not only to the winner of Butler/UTEP, but to the Sweet 16 against #1 seed Syracuse. Murray State won with an exhilarating last second shot to win the game and piled on to the far end of the court, but what really stands out about that last play is that they seemed calm and made the extra pass to take the best shot available.
With a flurry of close games by low seeds early in the tournament, I find myself wondering about the idea of “mid-majors” stacking up against big schools. Are smaller schools improving their recruiting? Is this the effect of better coaching? (And will we be seeing the coach of Robert Morris parlay near upset to a new contract at a larger school?) Are we seeing parity at the collegiate level as a result of talent leaving for the NBA and pro-careers abroad at earlier ages? What do you think?
PHOTO: Old Dominion forward Frank Hassel (21) out rebounds Notre Dame Forward Tyrone Nash (1) during the second half of their 2010 Division I men’s NCAA basketball tournament game in New Orleans, Louisiana March 18, 2010. Old Dominion won the game 51-50.REUTERS/Sean Gardner