Friday, March 21, 2014

Underway At The NCAAs

The defending champ got off to a solid start on Day 1 of this year's NCAA event, even if there is a long, long way to go and repeating won't be easy.

TigerBlog is talking about fencing, of course. Not basketball.

Since you brought it up, though, Day 1 of the NCAA basketball tournament was pretty good, if not rivetingly great. And there's a reason for that.

Time was that wins by an 11 and two 12s on the first day of the tournament, as well as a third 12 who lost by only three, would have been epic. In 2014, it's happened so many times before and the gap between the seeds has narrowed so much that it's hardly shocking anymore.

In fact, the No. 12 beats the No. 5 so many times of late that all pre-tournament discussion is about which No. 12 seeds will win, not IF one can win.

Still, some of the games were great. The best one was 11th-seeded Dayton's win over Ohio State, which had a pair of big-time clutch shots in the final 15 seconds, first by Ohio State's Aaron Craft and then the winner by Dee Sanford of Dayton.

North Dakota State's win over Oklahoma was another great moment. The 12th-seeded Bison forced overtime with a late three-pointer and then pulled away for an 80-75 win.

One of the best parts of the tournament, far better than the Final Four, is the idea that teams from small conferences can beat teams from big conferences. During the season, the power conference teams have every advantage - their home court (Oklahoma would never play at North Dakota State unless it had a player from Fargo), their officials.

North Dakota State is having a pretty good year, what with another FCS footbal championship and now the win over Oklahoma. It was 10 days earlier, by the way, that NDSU thumped Denver and Princeton alum Joe Scott in the Horizon semifinals.

The Bison won the Summit League regular-season by two games. They then put the Summit League on the map with the win over Oklahoma. Can anyone remember who NDSU beat in the Summit final? No. The answer is IUPU-Fort Wayne. What is Ft. Wayne had won the Summit final? Hey, it would have been a 15-second highlight somewhere.

Could Ft. Wayne have won an opening round NCAA game? For starters, it would have been lower than a 12 seed, so it wouldn't have been as favorable a matchup. Did the Patriot League's American win? No offense to Mike Brennan, a TB favorite, but the Eagles lost by 40 in the first round to Wisconsin. Would regular-season champ Boston University have been a 15 seed?

The Horizon League representative was UW-Milwaukee, who went 7-9 in the league during the year, got hot and stole the tournament, earned a 15-seed and got blown out by 20 by Villanova. Wisconsin-Green Bay went 24-6 in the regular season and 14-2 in the league and probably would have been a 12 seed. How did the 12 seeds do again?

You get TB's point. If you don't, it's that conference tournaments in one-bid leagues are a dumb idea.

Harvard, the Ivy League champion, won again in the first round, defeating Cincinnati of the AAC. The Crimson win was no fluke; Harvard was in control the entire way. It shows what happens when you send your best team to the NCAA tournament.

As for the rest of the Ivy League, it's been a pretty good week.

Of the 16 Ivy League basketball teams, eight made it to the postseason. Harvard men and Penn women to the NCAA tournament, Princeton and Harvard women to the WNIT, Princeton men to the CBI and Columbia, Yale and Brown men to the CIT.

Of those eight teams, seven have already played - and six have won. The only loss was by Brown to Holy Cross 68-65 in the CIT opener. Everyone else has won, including the Princeton men and women.

The Tiger women, playing without a senior as Kristen Helmstetter and Nicole Hung were out with injuries, defeated a very good VCU team 94-76, advancing to Sunday's second round at Seton Hall. It was the first postseason game played at Jadwin Gym since the men's 2010 CBI against Duquesne and before that when the men defeated Georgetown in the 1999 NIT in a game where only five players played for the Tigers.

It was also the second postseason win for Princeton's women, who went 1-2 in the National Women's Invitational Tournament in Texas in an event that wasn't one-and-done.

While the Princeton women will be driving up the turnpike, the men will be flying to California to take on Fresno Monday night.

While Ohio State was losing to Dayton, it was also serving as the host school for the NCAA fencing championships. Princeton, the defending champion, is in first place after Day 1 of the four-day event, though repeating is hardly a guarantee.

The NCAA fencing championships are co-ed, something that TB doesn't quite understand.

The women complete their turn today, with the last two rounds for the team competition and then the individual national championships, which feature the top four in each of the three weapons. The men will then have the same schedule tomorrow and Sunday.

The NCAA champ will be the team that has the most combined points.

Princeton has the top women's program in the country and needs to have a solid lead after today for the team to win the combined team championship. The men are strong, but not the top team.

In the meantime, it's also the rest of the opening round for the basketball tournament.

There's one more No. 12 seed in action, Stephen F. Austin, who plays Virginia Commonwealth. SF Austin hasn't lost since November and is 31-2.

Good think for the Southland it didn't slip up in the conference tournament.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In competition such as fencing, why doesn't the NCAA award the championship site to the defending champs?