NCAA West Region First Round Recap: 1 Point for Ivy
How could you do this to me, Baylor? Better yet, how can you do this to your fans, the Big 12, and all of your family? If you’re living under a rock, you may not have heard that Baylor, some bum school in Texas, lost yet another first round opener to an inferior school. Now, all the credit in the world to Yale, but Baylor deserves some blame as well. They let Yale pretty much lead the entire game. Baylor’s two main guards, Al Freeman and Lester Medford, combined for eight points in the game. That’s inexcusable. Credit to Taurean Prince, who led the team with 28 points and hit plenty of clutch shots to try and keep the Bears in the game. Prince also provided us with this delicious soundbite that will live on the internet forever: Even in my state of depression, I was able to get a laugh out of this. As some of you may have read, I projected Baylor to win this region despite disappointing me in last year’s tournament. That dream would not become a reality, in part due to Makai Mason. Mason had 31 points, went 9/18 from the field, but more importantly went 11/11 from the chairty stripe. He’s an 80 percent free throw shooter, so surely he’d make all 11 of his free throws, because who likes statistical normality? Down the stretch, Mason couldn’t miss a shot if he tried. He was in the zone, and he picked a good day for it. Remind me to take “Makai” off the list of names for my future children. Moving right along, the other game that broke my heart was the Duke vs. UNC Wilmington game. Possibly the most gutsy pick I’ve made in this tournament fell flat, as Wilmington fell by the score of 93-85. I’ll give this kids credit, they faced adversity and kept the game close even when no one believed in them. They actually had a three point lead heading into halftime, but they couldn’t finish the job. Now, we can’t talk about this game without pointing out the free throw differential. Duke shot an astounding 43 free throws, while Wilmington only shot 19. Now, I’m not one to complain about the referees, in fact, I hate when people do that. That being said, there were way too many suspect calls in this game, and I believe UNC Wilmington was denied the win in large part to that. Now, if I were to credit anything else to Duke, it’s that they have Marshall Plumlee. Wilmington had no answer for Duke’s 7’1” goon, and during the 2nd half, Duke’s only offensive move was to get the ball to Plumlee for a dunk. Wilmington stuck with the full court press the entire game, but down the stretch, it just wasn’t working, and I wish they could have transitioned to a man-to-man defense. I honestly don’t know if they even have a man-to-man defense in their playbook, but they played the press well for the majority of the game. One game that is surprisingly noteworthy is Oklahoma’s win over Cal State Bakersfield. After seeing the 15 seed upset the 2 seed earlier in the day, fans began to wonder if Bakersfield could actually take down the mighty Sooners. Bakersfield actually kept the game for about 36 minutes. In the last four minutes, The Roadrunners were within four points. After two threes in a row from Jordan Woodard and Buddy Hield, the dream was done, and Oklahoma hung on by the skin of their teeth. The fact that CSU Bakersfield kept it close was a feat within itself. The selection committee was generous enough to place Oklahoma in Oklahoma City for their first two games, so this was essentially a home game for the Sooners. Credit to the Roadrunners for keeping it close when just about no one believed in them, however they’ll go home empty and winless in their first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. The round came to an end with some late night drama. First up, the Texas and Northern Iowa game seemed over early, but Texas found a way to come back. Down by 16 in the first half, Texas came roaring back in the 2nd half and had the lead with 14 minutes to go. The game was back and forth from there. With just under 12 seconds to go, chaos ensued for the best finish in the tournament yet: I’ll be honest, I had Texas winning that game in my bracket, and even I was hyped up when that went in. What a finish. Definitely one that will go into the archives of NCAA history. Paul Jesperson, congratulations! You just bought yourself a spot on the “One Shining Moment” montage. Not to be out done, the final finish of the day was crazy as well. Saint Joseph’s and Cincinnati was similar to the Texas vs. UNI game. Saint Joseph’s biggest lead was 12, but after the Bearcats overcame that, the game was back and forth right down to the wire. Saint Joe’s were down by 1 with 14 seconds to go. My boy Deandre Bembry found an open Isaiah Miles, who took a three point shot with about nine seconds left. As he’s putting the shot up, I’m yelling at my TV “what are you thinking, you don’t need a three.” But hey, you can’t argue with results. Miles was good on the three, setting up another dramatic finish: That. Close. Cincinnati fans, my heart goes out to you. Stay strong, that’s a tough way to lose. The finish between the Northern Iowa win and the Saint Joseph’s win was only about two or three minutes of real time. What a crazy way to end one of the craziest tournaments in recent memory. Wrapping up the West, VCU led for the majority of the game against Oregon State. The Beavers got close at the end, but VCU and their havoc defense would not be denied, as they won 75-67. Oregon and Texas A&M won easily and will also move on to the round of 32. The West survived the first round relatively unscathed, as the first four seeds are still vying for the title. As for that fifth seed, let’s not speak of them for a long, long time.