West Virginia 77 Morgan State 50
Missouri 86 Clemson 78
After a big run through the Big East tournament, West Virginia’s De’Sean Butler was nowhere to be found for the NCAA opener. No matter, as Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones carried the load in an easy win. Clemson turned the ball over 20 times, showing the way you can lose when you outrebound your opponent and hit twelve treys.
West Virginia vs. Missouri—Butler needs to be in full gear for this one. Tiger star Kim English played well in the opener with 20 points, and the Mountaineers need an effective answer to spare Bob Huggins another NCAA disappointment.
Wisconsin 53 Wofford 49
Cornell 78 Temple 65
Wisconsin was outrebounded and hit only 1-of-9 on treys. But a 12-6 advantage in free-throw scoring loomed large in a close low-scoring game, as did the fact Wofford had their opportunities from the stripe and kept missing. Cornell played a very complete basketball game, owning Temple in every statistical category. Chris Wroblewski knocked down 21 and dished 7 assists. And a familiar name to middle-aged Big Ten fans stepped up—Ryan Wittman, who had 20. He’s the son of former Indiana star Randy Wittman, who was a starter on IU’s 1981 national championship team.
Wisconsin vs. Cornell—The one Big Ten school that plays at an Ivy League pace now takes on the Ivy champ. Get ready for a teeth-grinder.
Duke 73 UA-Pine Bluff 44
Cal 77 Louisville 62
Duke’s win was pretty well par for the course. Nothing you’re going to get overly impressed with, but no hidden alarm bells either. Kyle Singler keeps playing well, with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Cal shot 51 percent from the floor and got big games from Jerome Randle outside and Theo Robertson inside. A tumultuous season for Louisville, that began with Rick Pitino’s summer scandals, comes to an all-too-appropriate exit.
Duke vs. Cal--The last time these schools hooked up was the 1993 second round, with Bobby Hurley and Jason Kidd and the Golden Bears ruined Duke’s hopes of a three-peat. I’ve been saying it all year with Cal—they have the talent to compete with most people and they have a proven coach in Mike Montgomery. They’ve been inconsistent though. Just enough to tantalize and take the weak Pac-10. If they put it together, this one comes down to the wire. But if they’re not mentally prepared to play and satisfied with beating Louisville, it will become ugly fast.
Purdue 72 Siena 64
Texas A&M 69 Utah State 53
Siena was such a trendy upset pick, including by yours truly, that #4 seed Purdue’s victory almost seems like the shocker of the day. JaJuan Johnson did what big-time players do when their team is reeling. He took a basketball game over by himself. 23 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks. Texas A&M’s Donald Sloan is normally the leading man, but three starters outscored him, showing what a team effort the Aggies bring to each game. A nice overachieving story continues into Sunday.
Purdue vs. Texas A&M--As great as Johnson was Friday, he hasn’t always strung together successive games like this. For both him and point guard E’Twaun Moore, their next shaky outing will be their last. Together, they are enough to hold off A&M. By themselves, without Robbie Hummel, they are not.
Georgia Tech 64 Oklahoma State 59
Ohio State 68 UC-Santa Barbara 51
The two best players in the country, Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Oklahoma State’s James Anderson were on display and they scored 20 points. Combined. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they had a weak opponent and a lot of help from Jon Diebler, who scored 23 and hit seven of his team’s ten treys. Okie State wasn’t so fortunate. Georgia Tech’s frontcourt tandem of Derrick Favors and Ganai Lawal easily kept Matt Pilgrim off the glass and out of the bucket, as the Jackets churned out a workmanlike win and made the ACC 2-1 against the Big 12 in the opening round.
Georgia Tech vs. Ohio State—Can the Jackets shut down a second star in a three-day span? That’s what this one is about. Ohio State is much more explosive than their opponent and if Turner finds his form, they can blow this open. They could also win a tight game if it comes down to that, but Thad Matta would clearly not prefer that.
Maryland 89 Houston 77
Michigan State 70 New Mexico State 67
The Terps’ freshman forward Jordan Williams was one of the biggest stars of the entire first round, with 21 points and 17 rebounds. The latter keyed a complete Maryland dominance of the glass. For your useless historical tidbit, this game gave the University of Maryland revenge for the 1976 Cotton Bowl, when Houston ended their unbeaten season, one of the many games that will be discussed in my forthcoming book The Last New Years’, that will debut here on the Notebook Family during college football season. That’s my most shameless promo blurb. Back in the world of 21st century basketball, Michigan State needed every bit of their 23-13 free-throwing scoring edge to hold off New Mexico State.
Maryland vs. Michigan State—After a December in which the Big Ten beat the ACC in their annual challenge for the first time ever, the leagues now have two showdowns in the Midwest bracket of March, including the game above. Maryland’s the better team in this one, but they’ll need to be better defensively than they were in the opener.
Syracuse 79 Vermont 56
Gonzaga 67 Florida State 60
In the tradition of picking nits on #1 seeds playing warmup games, point guard Andy Rautins had four turnovers alone for the Orange, who had 16 as a team. Too many against an opponent not capable of forcing them. Gonzaga lost the turnover battle themselves, but a balanced offense got them by a mediocre team.
Syracuse vs. Gonzaga—Like Duke, Syracuse could end up with everything they can handle in this one. The Zags aren’t as physical as Syracuse, although few teams—if any—are. But they are physical enough to be competitive if Syracuse is unfocused. And 16 turnovers against Vermont, coming off a first-round loss in the Big East tournament is my definition of unfocused. Syracuse has their fate in their hands, but they won’t sleepwalk to a win here.
Pitt 89 Oakland 66
Xavier 65 Minnesota 54
Pitt’s six players in double figures gave them the most balanced lineup of the first round. Xavier didn’t dominate anywhere in particular, but was better in all areas, from floor shooting, to three-pointers, to the free-throw line to the boards to taking care of the ball. An efficient team showing, helped by one spectacular individual—Jordan Crawford, who poured in 28.
Pitt vs. Xavier—A rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 game in Boston, where Xavier seemed to have the Panthers under control, before letting it slip away. Neither team is as talented this year, but the game can be just as good.
That’s a wrap on the first round. See you tomorrow to recap today’s eight second-round games. You can see the post below for the brief snippet previews on those games. And baseball fans can hop over to that arm of the Notebook Family to find a preview for the St. Louis Cardinals later this afternoon that will be up until Monday. Previews from earlier in the week include playoff contenders like the Rays, Giants and White Sox.