The College Basketball Notebook

March 19, 2010 11:00 AM

What A First Day!

Wow, what a first day of action. Three overtime games out of a possible 16 and several more down to the final minutes. It was an adventure at the Notebook too. Those of you that checked in before the games to see my official picks surely noticed they weren’t there. A scheduling error on my part resulted in the post not being published until 2 PM (the good folks here at Typepad make it possible to write posts in advance and then schedule when they appear, a great benefit to those of whose work schedules are sometimes prohibitive). Then my national championship pick in Georgetown got absolutely buried, removing any doubt that I had secretly waited until games started to get an inside edge.

Let’s do a quick run through of the games to see what mattered most and briefly look ahead to the Saturday matchups that resulted. In going through the boxscores, the first thing that did hit me in general was that free-throw scoring edge was decisive in several of these, more so than I saw during the regular season. We’ll go bracket-by-bracket.

Kentucky 100 East Tennessee State 71
Wake Forest 81 Texas 80 (OT)

Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe lit it up from three. He hit 8-of-9 behind the arc and Kentucky led 54-26 at the half. Wake was a big winner on the glass, with a 56-31 edge. Al-Faroung Aminu was the main hero with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Ishamel Smith scored 19 and crashed the boards from the backcourt to the tune of 12 rebounds.

Kentucky vs. Wake Forest: DeMarcus Couisins needs to play better than he did in the opener, or the Wildcats will be beaten on the boards.

Washington 80 Marquette 78
New Mexico 62 Montana 57

Both Washington and Marquette shot the ball well and the Huskie duo of Quincy Pondexter at forward and Isaiah Thomas at guard, along with Lazar Hayward at Marquette, all lived up to their press clippings. New Mexico took very good care of the ball with only six turnovers.

New Mexico vs. Washington: The Huskies are playing much better than an #11 seed right now. After a college bowl season where the Mountain West beat up the Pac-10, this is the power conference’s chance to reclaim a little pride.

Baylor 68 Sam Houston State 59
Old Dominion 51 Notre Dame 50

ODU’s defense shut down Luke Harangody and held him to four points. The Irish were 6-of-26 on treys. Baylor was lucky to escape. Ekpe Udoh had 20 points and 13 rebounds, keying the rebounding edge that saved them.

Baylor vs. Old Dominion: The Bears backcourt needs to show up for this one, or the Monarchs will be marching on.

Villanova 73 Robert Morris 70 (OT)
St. Mary’s 62 Richmond 50

Robert Morris’ near-miss seems a bigger story than any of the big upsets we’ve yet to discuss. A 31-21 free-throw advantage gave ‘Nova the escape. St. Mary’s destroyed the Spiders on the glass.

Villanova vs. St. Mary’s: The Vatican will have this East-West Catholic showdown on the tube. How far Villanova’s slump goes is the only real question.

Kansas 90 Lehigh 74
Northern Iowa 69 UNLV 66

Jayhawks didn’t play well defensively, but did rebound. Marcus Morris had a 26/10 line to lead the way. UNLV only got seven points from the free-throw line.

Kansas vs. Northern Iowa: A true battle for the soul of the heartland, midmajor up-and-comer versus traditional national power.

Tennessee 62 San Diego State 59
Ohio 97 Georgetown 83

The Tennessee win was the most even box score I’ve seen all year. Both teams were 20-of-52 from the field and were almost dead even in rebounds and turnovers. Which of course makes sense, since those are the areas extra shots would come from. The Vols hit eight treys though and that was the difference. As for Ohio, what a show by the backcourt! Armon Bassett and D.J. Cooper combined for 55 points in pulling this shocker.

Tennessee vs. Ohio: Hot streaks tend to last a weekend, so the Vols better beware Bassett and Cooper. It might not last beyond Saturday, but beyond that isn’t Bruce Pearl’s concern.

Butler 77 UTEP 59
Murray State 66 Vanderbilt 65

Like Villanova, Vandy was a team slumping coming in, but was not fortunate enough to escape. Murray State had a narrow edge in rebounding, thanks to their guards crashing from the outside. The Commodores were one of the few teams with a free-throw point advantage to lose yesterday. Butler coasted him pretty easy, thanks to 24 turnovers by UTEP.

Butler vs. Murray State: An ugly matchup in what was already an ugly foursome.

BYU 99 Florida 92 (2 OT)
Kansas State 82 North Texas 62

Jimmer Fredette was really all that, as he nailed 37 points. Florida committed 21 turnovers, seven of them by Ervin Walker. Kansas State was balanced, with four players between 12-17 points and held North Texas to 29 percent shooting.

Kansas State vs. BYU: I’m intrigued by this one. It’s a two-seed that may have overachieved against a hungry mid-major with tournament experience. One of the better matchups to come out of Thursday’s games.

Enjoy today’s games. See you here tomorrow to look at the results and the attendant second-round matchups. And The Baseball Notebook will have a preview for the Chicago White Sox up later today.

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