As the various tournaments have wound their way down towards the crowning of a champion, it has been easier for me to actually witness game action on TV and follow the "lesser" tournaments on TV.
I wrote about Bentley's D2 women's championship and more in Sunday Musings #140 but there has been a number of other tourney developments that I wanted to babble on about as well.
I saw bits and pieces of the first three games of the Sweet 16 of the women's tournament. The first two games saw Baylor and Notre Dame advance relatively easy.
Surprisingly, it was the UConn vs. BYU that held people in suspense...at least for a little while.
The BYU team trailed by only 1 point at halftime, they were solid defensively and unlike a lot of teams didn't play in fear of the Lady Huskies. Sadly, a 5 minute streak of no offense in the second half doomed them and UConn came away with a 19 point win.
I didn't see the Texas A&M game against DePaul but they won by 19 points.
Today's games to close out the Sweet 16 and set up the Elite Eight should prove very interesting. Those games are:
South Carolina vs. North Carolina, Penn State vs. Stanford, Louisville vs. West Virginia and Tennessee vs. Maryland.
Florida knocked off this year's Cinderella, Dayton, by 10 points. It looked like they were going to have a cake walk with a 14 point lead and all the momentum going into halftime but the Flyers made more of a game of things in the 2nd half.
But it would be hard to top the Wisconsin-Arizona overtime thriller in the late game yesterday. I didn't see the whole game but both teams were matching each other shot for shot throughout the game.
A controversial call ended up helping the Badgers pick up the 64-63 win, but regardless of how it ended, it was one hell of a game.
So Florida and Wisconsin are onto the Final Four. I had both of them getting their so my bracket is still very much alive.
Today's games are Michigan State vs. UConn (by seeding, the new Cinderella) and Michigan vs. Kentucky. I have a feeling these are going to be barn burner type of games. The Midwest Region is dead for me since I had Louisville advancing to the Final Four, but if Michigan State wins I'd have 3 of the last four correct.
And thus far, I'm still in 1st place in the YouGabSports group bracket challenge on ESPN.
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL INVITATIONAL
The WBI tournament final saw the Illinois-Chicago Flames defeat the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks 73-64 to capture the championship.
Last season, the Flames finished 9-21. With a final record of 26-9, the completed the best turnaround in Division 1 this season.
Rachel Story (pictured below 1st) scored 27 points in her final game to help lead UIC to the win, but it was Ruvanna Campbell (pictured below 2nd) earning MVP honors with 18 points, 12 rebounds and a tourney record 8 blocks.
Your 2014 WBI Champions:
MEN'S DIVISION 2 NCAA
Daylen Robinson scored 21 points and Dillon Deck had 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Central Missouri Mules beat West Liberty 84-77 to capture their second ever Division 2 national championship.
Defense played a huge role in the now 30-5 CMU win, as they held West Liberty 24 points below their average.
There was a lot of basketball action on Saturday. You had the women's tourney kicking off, the men's tourney setting half of the Sweet 16 brackets, and you had title games in Division 3.
In the Men's NIT, there was only one game schedule. Louisiana Tech beat Georgia by 8 points and with that win cost me the second of my Final Four picks.
The Women's NIT had 2 games on Saturday. I got them both correct when Colorado beat Southern Utah and Indiana beat Marquette.
In the men's Division 3 championship game, the Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks wrapped up a 29-4 season in thrilling faction. Quardell Young drove the length of the floor, made the game winning basket with 0.9 seconds left in the game to give his team its second national championship in 3 years, beating Williams 75-73.
In the women's Division 3 championship, the FDU-Florham Devils learned what perfection is all about. They completed a 33-0 season with an 80-72 victory over Whitman and are the first NCAA women's basketball champions from the state of New Jersey.
The women's NCAA tournament ran close to form in Day 1 action yesterday. There were two upsets of note and overall I went 13-3 for the day.
In the Lincoln bracket, North Carolina State became the latest victim of the 5-12 curse that seems to affect the NCAA tournaments. They lost 72-57 to #12 BYU. There wasn't much else of note in this region except to note that the 104-100 final score in the DePaul-Oklahoma game indicates defense wasn't much of a priority for either team.
In the Stanford bracket, Florida State upset Iowa State 55-44. I saw the Seminoles play once this year when they crushed Boston College. Perhaps I should've had more faith in their abilities come tourney time.
The Notre Dame bracket played all 8 of their games yesterday and everything ran to form with the higher seed winning each game. Kentucky scored 106 points against Wright State and Oklahoma State had to go to overtime to beat FGCU by a point.
In the Louisville bracket, only 2 games were played. St. John's beat USC (the non-upset loss on my ledger) while my Tennessee Lady Vols beat Northwestern State 70-46.
In the first half of the game, Tennessee couldn't separate from NSU and led 22-20 at the break. They exploded for 48 points in the second half and their opponents couldn't keep up.
Isabelle Harrison, Mercedes Russell and Meighan Simmons (pictured below #10) each scored 12 points to lead the Lady Vols offense. Bashaara Graves had a game high 12 rebounds.
Tennessee coach Holly Warlick missed the team's shootaround due to food poisoning but was on the sideline for the game.
The Lady Vols are now 53-0 all time in home games played during the NCAA tournament.
The post game press conference with coach Warlick is below.
In the men's NCAA tourney, the first candidate for the Cinderella moniker stepped forward and we had both boring and exciting basketball to watch.
In the South region, Florida rather easily beat Pittsburgh, while the Dayton Flyers got fitted for a glass slipper. In an ugly display of offensive, they managed to hang on and stun Syracuse 55-53 to advance to the Sweet 16. I had picked Syracuse to get to the Sweet 16 but after the way their regular season collapsed maybe I should've known better.
In the West Region, San Diego State dispatched North Dakota State by 19 points. The game was rather run of the mill and I ended up turning it off towards the end. Wisconsin managed to beat Oregon 85-77 to advance.
The Midwest region saw two butt-numbing games as Louisville beat Saint Louis and Michigan fully controlled Texas.
The East region was the wild and wooly action of the day portion of the bracket. Being an old fart, I fell asleep and missed the UConn upset of Villanova. But I did watch the Michigan State-Harvard game.
And while I have the Spartans in my Final Four bracket, I was rooting for Harvard as a home-stater should. When Harvard was down big, I was figuring it was just going to get worse for them. But they rallied back, basically punching the big bad bully Michigan State in the mouth. When Harvard hit a huge three pointer to take a 62-60 lead, I screamed my fool head off.
Unfortunately, the bully then laid the beatdown on the downtrodden as the Spartans went on an 8-0 run and never looked back. Final score was 80-73 in favor of Michigan State. Eh, I'm still alive in my bracket so that's good but I'm glad that Harvard showed they can play with anyone. There may not be moral victories come tourney time, but if you can't win...putting up a solid fight in front of a national audience is the next best thing.
In the WNIT bracket I've got going, the first round is now complete and I went 25-7 in the first round. Not bad overall, but not great. I lost two of the teams I had picked for the Elite Eight.
In the NIT bracket, I was 11-5 in the first round. I know that it is rather pathetic. Worse yet was I lost one of the Final Four picks and an Elite Eight choice as well.
And now for the Men's NCAA tourney action from Friday.
In the South region, Stanford pulled a mild upset when they knocked off New Mexico. Kansas advanced despite having a little trouble with Eastern Kentucky for the entire first half. UCLA beat Tulsa handily.
But the game of the night was VCU-Stephen F. Austin. In the final 5-12 game of the tourney, it was SFAU pulling off a 77-75 overtime win after being down by 11 points. I wish I could say I watched the game like I had planned to, but old fart that I am, I fell asleep. As usual, this meant I missed a hell of a game.
In the West region, Baylor advanced over Nebraska by 14 points. Nebraska coach Tim Miles was making his first appearance in the tourney and got ejected after he got called for a 2nd technical foul. While he earned the first one, the 2nd tech was given while he was trying to alert the refs that the shot clock wasn't working properly.
Creighton advanced over Louisiana-Lafayette. I saw the end of this game and while the 10 point margin was probably closer than Creighton would've liked, they seemed to be in control as the game wound down and I didn't feel like they were in danger of having to hold off a comeback.
Arizona had a close game with Weber State, winning by just 9 points. I watched the Gonzaga-Oklahoma State game and that was pretty entertaining as the Zags ended up holding off the Cowboys.
In the Midwest region, Wichita State easily advanced over Cal Poly. Kentucky had a close game against Kansas State but advanced.
But the real action of the day was in the Raleigh, North Carolina pod. UMass laid an egg against Tennessee and lost by 19 points. They were getting bombed from the beginning and were never really in the game despite being the higher seed. Being a Massachusetts team, I'm bummed that they did not give a good accounting for themselves. As for the Volunteers, they seem to be peaking at just the right time.
But it was the Mercer-Duke game that had everyone buzzing for the whole day. Mercer upset the Blue Devils 78-71 by playing a fantastic game. I joked online that instead of the pre-tournament whining Coach K did about the Atlantic 10 conference getting so many teams into the tournament, he should've focused his attention more on the Atlantic Sun conference that Mercer came out of.
Another sign that it wasn't a good day for the Blue Devils was who showed up to root them on:
Seriously, when "fans" that are so incompetent at their job show up to root you on in your job, it is just begging for a bad result.
In the East region, Virginia and Memphis advanced in close games while Iowa State cruised by North Carolina Central.
But the game of the nighttime slate had to be the Providence-UNC game. I picked UNC to win the game but was pulling for Providence to win in a temporary solidarity move with my buddy Brian who is a rabid PC men's basketball fan.
Unfortunately, Providence couldn't hold on to their late game lead and UNC picked up the two point win from the foul line. But the Friars really put on a show for a national audience. And senior Bryce Cotton had a monster game with 36 points. I don't think I've ever been more disappointed to win a game on the bracket, because I would've loved to have seen this "Iron Man" brand of basketball that Providence has played all season continue onward.
In the men's NCAA tournament on Thursday, there was a bunch of exciting games and results throughout the entire day.
In the South region, Florida struggled with Albany but came away with a 12 point win. The funniest thing was the post game interview where Gator coach Billy Donovan told the sideline reporter, "I have no idea what's going on with my team."
Pittsburgh slaughtered Colorado and launched more than a few columns about the seeding process. This despite the fact that it was an 8-9 game and anything can happen in those games.
Dayton was the first team to pull off an upset on Thursday when they kicked Ohio State out the tourney 60-59. Syracuse won their first round game going away over Western Michigan.
In the East region, Villanova won easily over Milwaukee. UConn trailed St. Joseph's but came back and won in overtime.
My lack of faith in Harvard for bracket picking purposes didn't pay off because the Crimson beat fifth seeded Cincinnati 61-57. Despite messing up my bracket a little, I was still happy for Harvard.
I watched the second half of the Michigan State game and despite a valiant effort from Delaware, the Spartans exerted their dominance to win handily.
In the West Region, San Diego State (a Final Four pick of my buddy Brian) beat New Mexico State in a tight game. Oregon easily beat BYU.
When Wisconsin was down 7 points to American, I saw a Badgers fan complaining about Wisconsin's defense. I wonder how that fan felt after Bo Ryan's team turned things around and waxed their opponent by 40 points.
I saw the end of the North Dakota State - Oklahoma game. And was very happy as I picked the Bison to upset the Sooners.
In the Midwest, Michigan handled Wofford easily. Texas beat Arizona State by 2 points. Louisville got by Manhattan by 7 points in a tough game.
I watched the Saint Louis - NC State game and was disgusted by the finish by the Wolfpack. They were up by 16 points and then managed to lose in overtime because they forgot a basic tenet of the game. "Free throws win ball games".
Overall, I went 13-3 on Day 1 of the official part of the tournament.
The women's NCAA and NIT brackets were released last night and despite my fandom for women's hoops in general, I'm not really all that enthused about either tournament.
Of the teams I follow, only Tennessee made postseason play. They are a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney. And let's face it, barring a rather miraculous set of circumstances, there is no mystery to the tournament.
I haven't seen most of the teams in the WNIT so there is no real rooting interest there for me.
So here's a really brief look at the two brackets.
After going through the bracket, I have Minnesota, Washington, Michigan and Mississippi State in the Final Four. Of course, I have zero confidence in these picks, but that's another story.
The Harvard women's team made the WNIT, so I would like to see them do well, but don't really see that happening.
I have UConn, Stanford, Notre Dame and Tennessee making the Final Four. See I told you, no mystery here. I have UConn repeating by knocking off Notre Dame.
A couple of first round games have piqued my interest though.
Middle Tennessee takes on Oregon State. I read a good article on Oregon State, about how they'd come from nearly being shut down after coach abuse allegations to making the tourney. I'd like to see them make a good showing for themselves.
And the California vs. Fordham game has my interest with Fordham having been so bloody bad in recent years and now making the Big Dance.
But otherwise, that's about it, not counting Tennessee's games of course.