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2008 NCAA Tournament: Day Two Debriefing

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Just as I suspected, I kept my hopes down headed into the second day of the tournament, and there was exciting basketball action all over CBS today. IN the 16 games that were played today, the top half (teams seeded 1-8) went 10-6.

Tampa was the city to be in tonight, as all four of the games that took place there were won by the team with the double-digit seed, and two of the games went to overtime. Here's an abridged sampling of what you missed:

  • 7th-seeded Gonzaga's star guard Josh Heytvelt drained a three-pointer five minutes into the second half to give the Bulldogs an 11 point lead, but Davidson's Stephen Curry – son of former NBA player Dell Curry –  scored 30 of his 40 points (two shy of a new career high) in the second half and led the Wildcats to an 82-76 victory.
  • In the one true barn-burner of the night, #5 Drake and #12 Western Kentucky came out shooting for the stars, as the two teams combined to shoot 30-of-70 from behind the three point line. Things were looking good for the WKU Hilltoppers as they had built up a 15 point lead with just under eight minutes left. Unfortunately, the went cold, finishing regulation 3-for-8 from the field and allowing Drake to rally and take the game to overtime. Western Kentucky had just enough left in the tank, as Ty Rogers hit a three-pointer from several feet beyond NBA range with two seconds left to clinch a win for the Hilltoppers.
  • Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun put it best when he said that his #4 seed Huskies' biggest mistake was allowing 13 seed San Diego to think that they had a fighting chance. UConn lost guard A.J. Price, their leading scorer, to a knee injury nine minutes into the game, and it was a dogfight from there on out. The Toreros had their top two scorers foul out of the game before overtime, yet still got a jumper from De'Jon Jackson with two seconds left in overtime to clinch a 70-69 victory.
  • On the other end of the Big East spectrum, 12 seed Villanova looked impressive tonight. The Wildcats trailed 5th-seeded Clemson 36-18 with five minutes left in the first quarter, but went on to erase that deficit by the time they were five minutes into the second half en route to a 75-69 victory. 

That leaves what was probably the most unexpected game of the day for last. 4th-seeded Vanderbilt was said to be facing a 13 seed in Siena that could be very dangerous, but I for one put no stock in the comment, beause things like that get said every year and then proven wrong. Unfortunately, this one was completely true, as the Saints sure came marching into this year's madness with a purpose.

Siena led the entire game, and the only time the outcome was in question was when Vanderbilt pulled the game to 50-43 with 12:50 remaining in the second half. Even that was short-lived, though, as the Commodores looked up at the scoreboard a minute later and the lead had gone right back up to 13 points. Vandy never got closer than 10 points for the rest of the game, and pretty much gave up in the last two minutes.

This is an incredible win for Siena, especially when you consider the fact that this was coach Fran McCaffrey's fourth year with the team, and the Saints went 6-24 in year one. They have a very good chance of making a Sweet 16 appearance now that they'll face Villanova on Sunday, but what they can pull off against Kansas if they make it to next weekend is anybody's guess.

I'll finish off Day Two by discussing Memphis a little bit. They won their matchup against Texas-Arlington by a final of 83-72, but they were certainly the least impressive #1 seed in the first round. I think it is fair to say that, generally speaking, in a matchup between a #1 seed and a #16 seed, it should not be difficult for the top team to put their opponent far behind them early and coast to a win.

To me, that means getting up by 20 or more points fairly early on and cruising from there. North Carolina only led by 13 with two minutes left in the first half, but then got hot, built a 27 point pead two minutes into the second half, and went on to win by 39. Kansas was up by 23 by halftime and cruised to a 24 point victory. UCLA cracked a 20 point lead with several minutes left in the first half and wound up winning by 41.

The Memphis Tigers didn't look quite as good as all that. They didn't touch a 20 point lead until the final seven minutes of the game, and a big part of that was UTA shooting 5-for-23 from the floor over the last 12 minutes. Up until that point, Memphis allowed their middling opponent to shoot an incredible 59% from the field, which allowed the Mavericks to hang around in that "not really dead yet" grey area for far too long.

Perhaps it was Memphis toying with a truly inferior opponent, but even if that's the case, it isn't a good sign for the Tigers to be that cocky. They also have the burden of shooting 60% from the free throw line as a team. They are lucky that their next opponent, Mississippi State, is just as bad at it as they are, but after seeing their lazy play today, I am convinced that their gradually facing teams that are better defensively and at the free throw line will doom them at some point before the Final Four.

Here's to Day Three, Long Live the Double-Digit Seed!

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