Aren't you all so glad you're still watching this year's rendition of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament? The action has been riveting – "only" 18 of the 24 games in the first two rounds were decided by 16+ points. That had me all revved up for some truly exciting basketball now that most of the lesser seeds – and talent – had been weeded out. Once again, I got my hopes up and was disappointed.
It wasn't a total waste of a night, as the one "wrong" result came when #10 seed Davidson went to town on #3 seed Wisconsin and cruised to a 73-56 victory. Stephen Curry dropped another 33 points and now has tallied 103 total in his three tournament games, good for the second best total in tournament history. Add to that his being regularly fed the ball on assists by Jason Richards, the nation's leader in that category, and Andrew Lovedale keeping the Badgers from getting easy points inside the paint, and suddenly we have this year's Cinderella, a 10-seed in the Elite Eight.
The one other exciting game of the third round came Thursday evening, when #7 West Virginia took #3 Xavier to the wire. This was an absolutely crushing loss for West Virginia. They got another great game from Joe Alexander – 22 points and 10 rebounds despite missing one third of the first half with foul trouble. Unfortunately, Alexander missed the "and one" free throw on a layup with 14 seconds left, the game went to overtime, and West Virginia went 5-for-9 from the charity stripe, blowing a four-point lead over the last three minutes of overtime. With that many mistakes, it just wasn't meant to be.
The rest of the Sweet 16 was imminently forgettable, replete with blowouts and lazy basketball:
- UCLA cruised to a 21-point halftime lead over Western Kentucky, then came out dragging after the half and had to kick it back in gear to win by 10.
- Louisville managed to turn the ball over 20 times against Tennessee and still won by 19 points.
- North Carolina was never in jeopardy of losing to Washington State, though there was a four-minute stretch in the second half where the two teams combined to make one field goal.
- Kansas toyed with Villanova most of the first half and then hit cruise control to walk away with a "not as close as it appeared" 15-point margin of victory.
Perhaps the true highlight of just how fantastic the Sweet 16 games were came in the Michigan State-Memphis game. This game got so lopsided that at one point during the second half, the Spartans went on a 17-0 run…and still trailed by 17 points. Memphis also hit cruise control at that point en route to a nice, easy, 92-74 final score.
I found it interesting that on both days, the one truly competitive game was the earliest one. I can only hope that form holds true, because that means this weekend we'll get two competitive games out of four – perhaps the highest percentage of good basketball yet. These games will all be worth watching early, at the very least, because all four have equal potential to be close the entire time or never even a contest.