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10 bracket-buster observations after first weekend of NCAA Tournament
My NCAA Tournament bracket, like many others on KUsports.com and across the country, is running on fumes after the first weekend of basketball mayhem.
A top seed is already done, two schools that call Richmond, Va. home are in the Sweet 16 and four double-digit seeds still have their dancing shoes on.
Here are 10 bracket-buster observations from the first weekend of games:
1. Penciling in Kansas to the Final Four would be somewhat premature, given the unpredictable nature of the first weekend. With the Jayhawks' draw, though, anything less than a trip to Houston would likely result in disappointment from the KU fan base.
KU will face No. 12 seed Richmond on Friday in San Antonio (6:27 p.m. on TBS). If I did one thing right this year in my bracket, it was forecasting this matchup. Should the Jayhawks win, they would face the winner of No. 10 Florida State and No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth (not No. 2 Notre Dame or No. 3 Purdue). I'll pose the question to our KUsports.com readers: Anything less than a Final Four = disappointment?
2. Craziest ending to a game from first weekend: No. 8 Butler 71, No. 1 Pittsburgh 70 in Washington, D.C. I really hope Butler junior guard Shelvin Mack found the nearest gas station after the game and demanded tickets to the D.C. lottery. He'd probably win the powerball with the luck that was on his side on Saturday.
With Butler ahead by one in the final seconds, Mack inexplicably fouled Gilbert Brown near midcourt — almost 50 feet away from the basket — with 1.4 seconds left. Brown sank his first free throw, but missed the second. Butler's Matt Howard grabbed the rebound and heaved an awkward-looking, desperation full-court shot, only to be slapped on the arm by Pittsburgh's Nasir Robinson ... roughly 90 feet away from the basket on a foul that was even more mind-boggling than the one that preceded it. Howard naturally sank the first charity to give Butler a one-point lead and intentionally clanked the second off the rim to end the game.
3. Second-craziest ending to a game from first weekend: No. 5 Arizona 70, No. 4 Texas 69 in Tulsa, Okla. Fitting this game was on TNT, which claims the slogan, 'We know drama.' This game was packed with more drama than any Law & Order or Bones episode you'd come across during the station's daytime programming hours.
First question: Should a five-second violation have been called on Texas guard Cory Joseph with 14.5 seconds remaining? Texas led by two before the call gave possession to Arizona, which converted a three-point play to win the game.
Keep an eye on the ref. It really appeared Joseph called timeout around the time the ref's count hit four.
Controversy ensued on the final possession, when UT's J'Covan Brown drove hard to the bucket and received no foul call. Ditto for Gary Johnson on an attempted game-winning put-back. Looking at the replay, I didn't have any problem with the officiating on the final possession. Brown ran into minor contact that probably shouldn't have warranted a foul, and Johnson was hacked after the buzzer, so that's irrelevant. Joseph, however, has a legitimate case to prosecute the Wildcats (or the ref) for getting away with March Madness murder.
4. Can anyone make any sense of No. 10 Florida State, No. 11 Marquette, No. 11 VCU and No. 12 Richmond in the Sweet 16? My bracket has 10 Sweet 16 teams left, five Elite Eight teams remaining, and two Final Four teams left. Far from ideal.
5. Big 12 outlook after first weekend: It's all up to Kansas. Texas A&M and Missouri faltered in the round of 64, while Texas and Kansas State couldn't make it out of the round of 32. This has to be considered an under-performing effort from league squads.
Breakdown of Sweet 16 teams, by conference: ACC 3 (Duke, North Carolina, Florida State); Big East 2 (Connecticut, Marquette); Big Ten 2 (Ohio State, Wisconsin); SEC 2 (Florida, Kentucky); Mountain West 2 (San Diego State, BYU); Big 12 1 (Kansas); Pac-10 1 (Arizona); Atlantic 10 1 (Richmond); Colonial Athletic 1 (VCU); Horizon 1 (Butler).
6. Most valuable player of first weekend: Derrick Williams, Arizona.
Williams' 22 points and 10 rebounds against Memphis were impressive, as were the 17 points and nine boards against Texas. But, most importantly, Williams blocked the potential game-tying shot in the closing seconds against Memphis, and completed the game-winning three-point play against Texas. The Wildcats would be watching the tourney from their couches if not for the ultra-clutch Williams, a 6-foot-8, 241-pound sophomore from La Mirada, Calif.
7. Runners-up for MVP after first weekend: Kemba Walker, Connecticut; Jimmer Fredette, BYU.
Walker had 18 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds against Bucknell; he followed that up with 33 points, five assists and six boards against Cincinnati. The Huskies don't look tired after playing five games in five days two weeks ago to win the Big East tournament. Walker, a 6-1, 172-pound junior, has been near unstoppable.
Fredette has 66 points in two games, and has to be one the most conditioned athletes in the field. He's played all but one minute in the Cougars' two NCAA victories. Fredette drilled seven of 12 threes on Saturday, when he lit up Gonzaga for 34 points.
8. Biggest surprise after first weekend: VCU. No contest. The Rams, who snuck into the expanded 68-team field, beat USC in the tournament's First Four round, then smoked Georgetown (74-56) and Purdue (94-76) to reach the Sweet 16. VCU's best victory during the regular season was a triumph over UCLA way back on Nov. 26, 2010. The Rams went 12-6 and finished fourth in the Colonial Athletic Conference. Where did they come from?
9. Best Gus Johnson call after first weekend: George Mason's victory over Villanova. Johnson went crazy in the final few minutes after Mike Morrison followed a missed shot with a dunk that gave Mason the lead with 55 seconds remaining. Johnson quickly proclaimed that the Patriots were "Hustlin' ... fightin' ... scrappin' ... jammin!'" on the way to commercial break. What would the tournament be without Gus?
10. Who's your call to win it all, after seeing what happened in the first few rounds? Ohio State and Kansas looked the best. Duke looked good, especially with Kyrie Irving back, but the Blue Devils let Michigan hang around way too long on Sunday. KU fans have to love the Jayhawks' draw, however, with Richmond, and then either VCU/Florida State. And with Pittsburgh knocked out, the only teams standing in KU's way of making the championship game would be Butler, Wisconsin, BYU or Florida.
That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.