March Madness Roars To Life: 20 Thoughts On Round One

With round one is in the books, I've got 20 thought on the first set of games and what's on tap this weekend.... Share your own in the comments below.

1.  The Big 12 was a perfect 6-0 in the first round, with 5 of those wins by 13 points or more (OSU beat TN by just 2). Big 12 teams outscored their opponents by a combined 86 points.

2.  After a mostly tame Thursday, things got nutty on Friday -- especially in the Midwest, where the 9 seed (Siena), 10 seed (USC), 11 seed (Dayton), 12 seed (Arizona) and 13 seed (Cleveland State) all advanced. I picked Siena, USC and Arizona in my bracket, and warned you about Wake Forest... but Dayton's strong win caught me by surprise. They looked great.

3.  Not in Austin this year, I haven't paid much attention to this year's SXSW line up, but I'm skeptical anything in the 8-11 p.m. hour can sniff what college hoops fans were treated to in the final session of Round 1. Cleveland State provides the tourney's biggest upset by seed, Wisconsin slips by Florida State at the buzzer in overtime, and Siena drains a three to beat Ohio State in double overtime.

4.  Speaking of which...  Florida State could not have better defended Wisconsin's Trevon Hughes on his game winning shot with two seconds remaining. It was just a spectacular, and spectacularly difficult, shot.

5.  And to wrap up the Midwest chatter, how about Siena's Ronald Moore? Hitting a three pointer to send the game to overtime made him an instant hero. Hitting another to win the game in double-overtime makes him a March legend.

6.  The Big East went 6-1 but it was a struggle. Dayton cocmfortably handled West Virginia from start to finish, Villanova fell behind 13 points to American, Louisville led a play-in team by 2 at the half, Marquette was fortunate to eek out a one-point win over Utah State, and ETSU gave Pitt the game I thought they could. And while Connecticut rolled their 16-seed, even fans of Syracuse(15-point winners over SFA) winced a bit. After those performances, what are the big takeaways heading into the weekend? Just one, of course: The Big East has six teams in the round of 32. All together now: Survive and advance. Survive and advance...

7.  As the brackets were announced, we all nodded with relative contentment at Texas' draw -- in the first place because the 'Horns seemed to have been paired against the most manageable 10 seed. Safe to say that was correct -- Maryland knocked off Cal, USC slaughtered Boston College, and Michigan took care of Clemson.

8.  After today can I assume more Texas fans will join my position that Pittsburgh was the least scary #1 seed to see in our region?

9.  Outside California's flop to Maryland, the Pac 10 had the kind of strong showing the conference hoped to see. Arizona easily outpaced Utah, UCLA survived a tough mid-major challenger, USC absolutely throttled Boston College, and both Washington and Arizona State cruised past underdogs.

10.  More than a few pundits weren't happy about San Diego State missing the tournament, but the Selection Committee was more than vindicated by the Round 1 results. Representing the Mountain West, #8 BYU was routed by Texas A&M while #5 Utah was waxed by... Arizona, the team which allegedly stole SDSU's bid.

11.  The SEC regular champion LSU Tigers didn't get much seeding love from the Committee -- but Marcus Thorton and Co.'s win over Butler was among the toughest of Round 1. Their reward? North Carolina. Like I said, no love.

12.  It was a tough opening round for the ACC, which lost four teams before the weekend -- all favored seeds. Florida State, Clemson, Boston College, and Wake Forest are all gone, leaving Duke, UNC, and Maryland to represent the conference.

13. Congrats to Western Kentucky and Ken McDonald -- a former assistant coach to Rick Barnes at Texas -- for their win over #5 Illinois. Next up a winnable game against Gonzaga.

14. I didn't catch much of Michigan's win over Clemson since it ran opposite the 'Horns, but Sooners fans should be anxious about their second round match up against Beilein's 1-3-1. Though Oklahoma is the more talented team, they aren't a disciplined one. They'll need to be patient and avoid settling for jumpers, attacking Michigan in the paint where the Wolverines are most vulnerable.

15. I may be suffering from recency bias, but it feels like this is one of the stronger group of winners from the 8-9 games that I can remember. Or maybe I'm just not in love with the tournament's top seeds. Ask me again on Monday.

16. Does Texas A&M have a shot against Connecticut? I like the Aggies' frontcourt and don't think much of Connecticut's offense. If Carter can keep the Huskies' honest with a few buckets to extend the defense and the forwards can pull Thabeet away from the rim with ballscreens, I think they've got a chance.

17. Many of us, myself included, thought Kansas would get dumped in the second round by West Virginia. The Mountaineers are out, but Kansas isn't in the clear. Dayton has athletes at all five positions and is absolutely capable of knocking out KU.

18. About 90% of the basketball I've watched the last two days has been without volume. Though I did miss the sounds of the crowd and the action on the floor, it was blissful to be commentator-free. Some day (hopefully soon), someone will figure out that less is more.

19. If you love great athletes who defend and rebound, you'll want to make sure you catch USC-Michigan State on Sunday. Izzo versus Floyd -- talk about a physical game...

20. Whatever happens tomorrow, Texas won't fail for lack of preparation. Texas played nine tournament teams this season, and all nine were winners in round one. Is it tip time yet?

 

 

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