After a rather routine Friday the hope was that Saturday would provide even more surprises. But few people had in mind what the Northern Iowa Panthers did in Oklahoma City when it came to the shocker of the day. The Missouri Valley champions got off to a quick start early and did not let up until the game was decided, knocking off the top overall seed 69-67 to move on to the Sweet 16 next week in St. Louis. Ali Farokhmanesh led the way with 16 points, knocking down what has to be the shot of the Tournament thus far to give Northern Iowa a 66-62 lead with 34 seconds remaining.
Even though many acknowledged that the Cornell Big Red were underseeded in the aftermath of Selection Sunday, it was still a toss-up in regards to whether or not they would beat Temple. But in a game matching mentor (Fran Dunphy) and one-time assistant (Steve Donahue), it was Coach Donahue's team that took control of the game for good in the second half via the three-point shot (Ryan Wittman) on their way to the 78-65 win in Jacksonville.
In one of the wildest opening days in the history of the NCAA Tournament it took a lot to shock the college basketball world. And 97 points may qualify as "a lot", as in the number of points the MAC champion Ohio Bobcats scored in their 97-83 win over third-seeded Georgetown in a Midwest Region first round game in Providence. One-time Indiana Hoosier Armon Bassett scored 32 points while point guard D.J. Cooper added 23 points and eight assists in a dominant performance for John Groce's squad.
It's the worry of nearly every team on the bubble this time of the year: the bid thief. The team that had little or no chance of getting into the NCAA Tournament makes a run in its conference tournament, grabbing the automatic bid and possibly snatching a chair at the table from another team in college basketball's answer to "musical chairs". Houston (Conference USA) and New Mexico State (WAC) were the two teams to do that on Saturday, and the question now is which at-large candidates will be headed to the NIT as a result of these outcomes.
NEW YORK- Same play. Same person. Same result.
Before getting into Saturday's games, a congratulatory paragraph is in order for Lehigh, who became the most recent automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament with their 74-59 win over Lafayette in the Patriot League final. Zahir Carrington was a man possessed inside for the Mountain Hawks, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks while Patriot League Rookie of the Year C.J. McCollum led all scorers with 20 points (seven rebounds and three assists as well). Lafayette shot 3-for-23 from behind the arc and due to the presence of Carrington didn't have much hope inside either.
Montana was dead to rights late in the first half, trailing by 22 points and going into the locker room down 20 at intermission. No way could they come back on the road and keep Weber State from punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The final twenty minutes were supposed to be a coronation for the Wildcats, most of America thought.
Well, Anthony Johnson made sure that we all thought wrong.