ed. — Last year’s daily preview post is now a daily wrap-up post as we look back on what made each crazy day special during this most wonderful and unexplainable sports time of the year.
The tweet seen above, from the ever-steady second studio host of the CBS/Turner all-star team which brings us the NCAA Tournament each year, encapsulates what has to be seen as a disappointing first Friday of March Madness. Certainly disappointing in comparison to last year’s crazy-ass Friday.
The last first Friday of the tournament produced this moment, which alone shot that day into the upper annals of the greatest days ever in March Madness history. No such luck this time though.
If not for ever-lovable Dayton (No. 11) knocking off No. 6 seed Providence in the day’s final contest then Friday would have went down as the only day in the 64+ team history of the tournament (1985 and on) where nothing but higher seeds won, no upsets in other words… I’ll gladly speak for the greater college basketball-watching public in saying that’s not what we’re here for at all.
And before I go on, a quick crushing of the whole “it’s unfair that Dayton is playing early tournament games at home and in near-by Columbus:” you can definitely say that but what would be patiently unfair would be the Flyers having to play anywhere outside of Ohio this week given that Sunday’s game against No. 3 seed Oklahoma will be their third in five days and that scheduling quirk is the by-product of this 2014 Elite Eight qualifier being seen as the last worthy at-large team for the tournament.
Let’s check out the awesome performances so far from such higher-seeded teams as No. 9 Iowa St (L to UAB), No. 18 Arkansas (dominating 3-point victory over Wofford) and No. 28 VCU (L to Ohio St… losing to an Ohio school outside of freakin’ Ohio, what are they on?) and compare their mettle to that of Dayton.
Lets face it, Dayton has a team that knows how to be successful and how to maximize its efforts in March — not many teams can say that and ask any of those failing teams why they have a problem doing so and I’ll bet none will give any mention to not being able to play within their state’s boundaries.
But back to the lesson at hand — sure, Dayton stood out again Friday because they were able to do the unexpected, but in a tournament where having a day where all underdogs lose is against the norm there is something to be said for being a team that doesn’t disappoint.
Below we give the 5 most non-disappointing teams from Friday:
1. Duke — No Nae-Naeing at their expense this year: the Dukies took down Robert Morris with ease featuring double-digit performances from five different players, awesome shooting from Quinn Cook and space-eating domination from Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow — basically everything that makes Duke scary as hell right now.
2. Kansas — A tempting pick for a top-2 seed that will not exit the first weekend, the Jayhawks put a rain check on having the fear of God put into them. That can now happen no sooner than Sunday in their much-anticipated round of 32 meeting with Wichita State.
As for Friday, we saw Bill Self handle his depth well against New Mexico State, playing eight players for 19 minutes or more but certified leader Perry Ellis only went 4 for 10 in his 23 minutes and no one scored in double digits beyond Frank Mason III (17). Don’t think those things will work against a motivated-as-hell in state rival you’ve been playing to the side for the last two decades.
3. Wisconsin — Wisky had the biggest win of their initial day in the tourney last year. That didn’t go down again this year but they managed to control things most of the way in their first game as a regional No. 1 seed, an 86-72 win over Coastal Carolina.
Not as big a win as we’ve seen from the other No. 1s but the Badgers never lead by less than 10 in the second half, they continued to score and score a lot and Frank Kaminsky’s line (27 points, 12 rebounds) shows just how down he is for that tournament Most Outstanding Player award should the Badgers put themselves in position to win it all. Oregon stands to ramp things up for them some on Sunday but it’s still hard to see anyone outside of Kentucky or maybe Duke being as productive in the post as Wisconsin can be.
4. Northern Iowa — Wichita State will play a big role in Sunday’s games and so will their conference (Missouri Valley) partner in excellence after their 17-point breezing past Larry Nance’s kid and the Cowboys of Wyoming. The Panthers used an 11-1 run to start the second half and get themselves up 21 points in taking control of the game. UNI is a tough, veteran team with a nine-player rotation that can produce different performers at any time.
Their leading scorer Friday, Paul Jesperson, only averaged 5.4 points a game this season, he also is a sharp-shooting marvel from out the Northwoods of Wisconsin who this writer first saw perform as a freshman for Merrill High School. Definitely interested in seeing how far he and the Panthers can go even if they and Wichita’s continued success continually eats at this old Saluki‘s heart.
5. Iowa — What’s really going on in the Hawkeye state? Well, beyond they and UNI bringing valor back to the state after Iowa State’s tough loss Thursday, the team from Iowa City showed out in an 83-52 win over Davidson. 31-point wins aren’t supposed to come from Iowa in the 2015 NCAA tournament and they rarely come from 7/10 match-ups.
Look, even though I’m a Big Ten guy I’m not gonna act like I’ve looked that much into Iowa’s program this season — they’ve never been seen as a conference contender, let alone a national contender, but Friday they showed that they have a money player in Aaron White (26 points, 11 of 14 shooting) and despite the team’s abundance of inter-changeable parts if White and fellow consistent scorer Jarrod Uthoff continue to show life in the Hawkeyes’ front court they may do more than represent the conference well against Gonzaga, they could show their program’s own superiority for the first time in a minute.
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