SOUTH BEND, In. — With their top two players out and zero wins at the Carrier Dome in over 10 years, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a tough match-up against a very athletic Syracuse Orange team, who had wins over teams like University of Connecticut, Georgetown and Virginia Tech in non-conference play.
1. The NOT SO Wild West
The complete West Regional was in action on Thursday.
Let’s just someone left the chalk out.
In eight games, just one featured a lower seed prevailing victoriously; #11 Xavier defeated #6 Maryland, 76-65.
Though, is an Edmond Sumner-less Musketeers beating an overrated Terrapins team an upset?
Bracket brainiacs know Xavier OWNS City Beautiful, aka Orlando, Florida. Since November 2015, Chris Mack’s squad is 7-0 with two early season tournament championships (2015 Advocare Invitational and 2016 Tire Pros Tip-Off) in Orange County (Florida). Equally impressive is the individual play of the junior sensation Bluiett, underneath the Florida sun, is averaging 17 points per game in Orlando during his collegiate career.
Despite defeat, mid-major scoring guards lived up to their expectations. #13 Bucknell sophomore Kimbal Mackenzie netted 23 points (7-of-15 shooting), #14 Florida Gulf Coast junior Brandon Goodwin finished with 28 points (12-of-27 shooting) and 7 rebounds and #15 North Dakota senior Quinton Hooker had 25 points (10-of-21 shooting). Though, a common denominator, outside of defeat, is all three had shooting percentages under 50 percent.
Efficient performances are imperative for star mid-major guards if one wants to advance to the next round.
2. #5 Virginia and #4 Florida kill upset fun
When the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced, the Virginia Cavaliers and Florida Gators were immediately put on upset alert. Both lost the first game of their respective conference tournaments and appeared to be sitting ducks (No pun intended, Oregon) for #12 UNC Wilmington and #13 East Tennessee State.
It’s always sunny in Orlando.
The two higher seeds held off competitive showings from their opponents to force a Saturday night showdown for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
For a second straight game, Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers struggled to string stops together on the defensive end. Against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, Virginia gave up 71 points, which is the same amount the Seahawks posted.
Upperclassmen London Perrantes and Marial Shayok outshined the heralded UNC Wilmington duo of C.J. Bryce and Chris Flemmings, combining for 47 points on 17-of-28 shooting as opposed to the latter’s 9-of-27, 26-point total.
One positive Virginia can take away on defense is the blanket they threw on Bryce. The Seahawks leading scorer, normally responsible for about 18 points per game, was limited to 8 points.
While Cavalier Nation had to sweat out 40 minutes, the heartbeat of the Florida faithful raised very little. The Gators exploited East Tennessee State’s lack of athleticism and frontcourt size in route to an 80-65 victory.
Devin Robinson did it all. The junior stuffed the stat sheet via a 27-point, 7-rebound, 2-block performance. Senior Kasey Hill neutralized the impact of Buccaneers guard T.J. Cromer (19 points) with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
3. #12 Nevada caged by poor shooting
Two years ago, Marcus Marshall and Jordan Caroline both wore maroon.
Marshall, who was the star on Missouri State, and Caroline, a freshman at Southern Illinois, started their collegiate careers within the Missouri Valley Conference.
Then, the mass transfer exodus of 2015 occurred. Marshall and Caroline, along with other big names, like Illinois State’s Reggie Lynch and SIU’s Deion Lavender, grabbed their sneakers and headed elsewhere.
On a day when Lynch’s NCAA Tournament title aspirations evaporated with Minnesota, Marshall and Caroline had a chance to seize a win over #5 Iowa State.
11-of-32 shooting will NEVER get the job done.
Although the tandem scored 36 points, missed field goals turned into wasted possessions for Nevada, resulting in an 84-73 defeat.
The Wolfpack did a very good job causing turnovers — they forced the Cyclones to spin into 14. However, they failed to rebound against Iowa State’s Big 12 bodies, losing the rebounding battle, 38-28, and was taxed to exhaustion due to a lack of depth.
Nevada only went six deep. In comparison, Iowa State played eight with FIVE chipping in at least 12 points. Cyclones senior Monte Morris pushed the envelope for a triple-double, yet was two rebounds and two assists shy (19 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists).
Iowa State will face arguably the nation’s best frontcourt, #4 Purdue’s Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan, on Saturday.
4. The blossom of a perineal mid-major
If there was one school every bracket brainiac despised last season, it was none other than #12 Middle Tennessee. As a 15-seed, the Blue Raiders burned a multitude of brackets by defeating Michigan State in the opening round.
This year, Middle Tennessee had a chance to be its haters’ best friend with a win over #5 Minnesota.
A villain was turned hero.
Led by scary seniors JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw, not to mention junior Giddy Potts, Middle Tennessee stayed one step ahead of Minnesota to defeat its second Big Ten NCAA Tournament opponent in 12 months.
All three members of the trio posted double-digits. Upshaw seized the spotlight with 19 points and 9 rebounds against the Golden Gophers, who are known for their rebounding ability (via Reggie Lynch).
Thursday’s win for Middle Tennessee has solidified their reputation as a bona fide bracket buster. With Belmont and Monmouth falling to the NIT, Middle Tennessee, outside of Wichita State and Gonzaga, may be the most dominant mid-major of the 2016-17 season.
New will meet old on Saturday; past mid-major and current Big East team #4 Butler will face the new kids on the block for a berth to the Sweet 16 on the line.
1. Trevon Bluiett (#11 Xavier)
21 points (7-15), 4 rebounds, 4 assists.
Averaging 17 PPG in games played within Orange County (Fla.).
2. Bryant McIntosh (#8 Northwestern)
25 points (10-16), 4 rebounds, 3 assists.
Made pair of free throws to give Wildcats 1-point lead with 15 seconds left.
3. Reggie Upshaw (#12 Middle Tennessee)
19 points (7-13), 9 rebounds.
Averaging 18.3 PPG and 7.8 RPG since start of Conference USA Tournament.
4. Donte DiVincenzo (#1 Villanova)
21 points (9-15), 13 rebounds.
1st double-double of collegiate career.
5. Dwayne Bacon (#3 Florida State)
25 points (11-17), 9 rebounds.
Has posted double-figures points in 33-of-34 games this season.
Stay tuned for more Wesner 4-point plays as the NCAA Tournament continues to supply madness in March.
ORLANDO, Fla. — It may have been the second game of the NCAA Tournament, but it also provided fans with another exciting finish.
Coming into the 2017 NCAA Tournament, the UNC Wilmington Seahawks were a trendy upset pick against the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Seahawks came into the afternoon averaging a shade over 85 points per contest, good for 10th in the nation. On the flip side, Virginia makes their mark on the defensive end of the floor.
Early on, it looked as though the Seahawks’ offense was going to break the defense of the Cavaliers. An early 16-2 run gave UNC Wilmington a 26-11 lead with 7:25 to play in the opening frame.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett made a lineup change, going with a smaller lineup. It worked.
The Seahawks were held without a field goal the rest of the way in the first half, and the Cavaliers took a one-point lead into the break. In the second half, the teams went back and forth, but it was the play of a senior guard that pushed Virginia to the win.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a tremendous start to their ACC campaign that included big wins against Syracuse, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
However, the Irish have run into a little bit of a dry spell, losing their last three games to Virginia, Georgia Tech at the buzzer, and now the Duke Blue Devils.
Notre Dame has to suffered to 6-4 in conference play and have dropped to fifth place in the ACC standings after a long stint in first place. However, with the ACC as deep as it is, the Irish were bound to lose a few games.
In the last few seasons, the Fighting Irish have been victorious in their series with the Blue Devils, winning both games last season, and winning two out of the three games the season before that, including a huge win to advance to the ACC conference championships in which they went on to win for the first time in program history.
Duke currently sits at 6th in the ACC, losing to Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, Florida State and an early season two point loss to the Kansas Jaw Hawks. On the other hand, they have destroyed Georgia Tech, beaten a struggling Michigan State team as well as nationally ranked Florida.
One of the nations most scrutinized players, Grayson Allen has been notorious for his unsportsmanlike behaviour on his opponents. The Duke guard is constantly the centre of attention when it comes to college basketball as every game seems to have a new incident of him kicking or knocking down a player. The fans in South Bend experienced it first hand, and Mike Brey was not pleased.
After ending their losing streak against Syracuse, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish could not end their other drought against the Virginia Cavaliers losing 71-54 at home.
The series between Virginia and Notre Dame may be in the Irish’s favour when it comes to football, but in basketball, the Cavaliers have won the last nine games, with yesterday’s game being number 10.
Before yesterday’s game, the Cavaliers were 9-1 in the all time series, with Notre Dame’s only win coming from the 1980-81 season in which the Irish won 57-56.
Since entering the ACC, Notre Dame has been able to take care of ACC powerhouses like Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina, but have struggled immensely against Virginia.
Yesterday’s loss against the Virginia Cavaliers has taken a hit to the Irish’s position in the ACC standings. Notre Dame and Virginia are now tied for second with North Carolina and Florida State sharing the number one spot.
In a conference where talented teams stretch from first to last, Notre Dame remains the leader of the ACC conference after a dominating win over the Syracuse Orangemen 84-66.
Syracuse has had a tough season thus, with a win-loss record of 11-9, but regardless still possess talented players and draw in talented recruits each year that make them a threat in every game.
6-9 forward Tyler Lydon can be dangerous in the paint as he averages 13.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, giving 6-5 forward Bonzie Colson a tall task. No pun intended.
Notre Dame hasn’t beaten the Orangemen in four seasons, with the Irish losing 81-66 in last years matchup and 65-60 two seasons ago when Syracuse last played in South Bend. Notre Dame’s last win against the Orangemen was back in 2011-12 when the Irish knocked off Syracuse at home 67-58.
Notre Dame beat a good Syracuse team that year that eventually finished their season in the Elite 8
Following the game, a smiling Mike Brey said:
“I think for us, maybe we needed to exercise some Syracuse demons, they’ve had our number”.