Friday Tournament Review: The Madness Finally Begins

March 21st, 2009
Recent history led many to believe that Friday would supply the crazy happenings that college basketball fans look for every March. It began with a Byron Eaton three-point play with seven seconds remaining to advance Oklahoma State and ended with Siena’s Ronald Moore knocking down a three to knock off Ohio State. But neither of those matched the magnitude of thirteen-seed Cleveland State dominating Wake Forest from start to finish in the final game from Miami.


The Vikings made a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 in their last tournament appearance (1986), only to have things fall apart within four years. NCAA probation and your head coach getting pulled over driving away from a crack house will do that to a program. But Gary Waters has Cleveland State back in the Big Dance and they’re making some noise as well. J’Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson led the way, combining for forty points in the 84-69 win. Let’s just say that the Demon Deacons had the same amount of energy that the many empty seats (more on that later) in American Airlines Arena had: none.


“We had to hit them early in order to be in that game because they're a very, very talented group, and I think what we did was we surprised them,” said Coach Waters after the game. “It took them a while to realize what was occurring out there, and then it became a ballgame.” Wake got to within six at 55-49, but the run was more fool’s gold than anything else. The Vikings forced eighteen Wake Forest turnovers while committing just six themselves. Alley-oops, crossover dribbles and stout defense dominated the evening…and none of that excitement came from the favored team. Here are some of the other key happenings on the second day of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.


1. Byron Eaton sends Tennessee home. But don’t forget about the play of Marshall Moses.


It was Eaton, who survived three first-half fouls, who made the decisive play with seven seconds remaining to give the Cowboys the 77-75 win over Tennessee. But it would be unfair to point out the play of the Pokes’ lone interior player, Marshall Moses. Moses had sixteen points and eleven rebounds while Tennessee’s Wayne Chism shot 4-14 from the field. Given how small Travis Ford’s team is Moses has to be involved if they’re to take out teams like Tennessee and second-round opponent Pittsburgh. Three other Cowboys scored in double figures (Eaton leading the way with twenty), and Oklahoma State outrebounded the Volunteers 30-25.


As for Bruce Pearl’s team you have to wonder what could have been with this team. Top 10 expectations before the season began, and it all ends in Dayton in the 8/9 game. On paper the Vols had the look of a possible Final Four contender; the only crown they can claim this season is a share of the SEC East. And we saw just how much respect the selection committee had for that honor.


2. Dayton takes out West Virginia, thanks in large part to the high-flying Chris Wright.


Wright’s one of those players who gets a lot of hits on YouTube and for good reason. Some of the dunks he threw down in the Flyers’ 68-60 win over West Virginia could be described as “thunderous”, and Dayton did a good job of limiting Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff. But when Wright flew to the rim the effect was more than just two points, something that teammate Charles Little touched on in the postgame press conference.


And those plays are heartbreaking to them, they think they are getting close, they are climbing back up and Chris drops the hammer. And that's deflating,” said Little. Devin Ebanks and Darryl Bryant both had solid games for the Mountaineers, but they were fighting a losing battle thanks to Wright’s career-high twenty seven points and ten rebounds. The Flyers, one of the best defensive teams in the country, held West Virginia to 36.7% shooting from the field (25% from behind the arc) in what was a very physical game. But it’s Dayton, who limped into the NCAA Tournament, that moves on to the second round to take on Kansas.


3. Arizona and Wisconsin were told by many that they didn’t belong. So they’ve decided to stick around.


After all of the bellyaching regarding the last teams in and the first teams left out it was all about matchups. And it wasn’t too difficult to see that the Mountain West champion Utah Utes were in serious trouble with Arizona on the schedule. The Wildcats are a more athletic team, and they were able to harass the Utes into eighteen turnovers. And when you’re one player that can change the tone of the game (center Luke Nevill) gets hit with two fouls before the first TV timeout, chances are you’re going to be fighting uphill. Arizona got twenty-nine from Nic Wise (21 after the half), twenty from Chase Budinger and another double-double (17 points, 13 rebounds) from Jordan Hill in the 84-71 win. Tyler Kepkay led the Utes with nineteen points, but the Mountain West’s last hope for a win couldn’t take care of the basketball (nineteen turnovers).


As for the Badgers, things did not look good at halftime. Down 31-19 they were in serious danger of being sent home by Florida State. But Bo Ryan’s team was able to get back into the game, thanks to the bench contributions of Jordan Taylor and Keaton Nankivil (14 points). Jason Bohanon hit some big shots, most importantly a three late in regulation to put Wisconsin up two (52-50). And it was star guard Trevon Hughes making up for four turnovers (the Badgers as a team finished with nine) with a three-point play with just seconds remaining to advance the Badgers to the second round. Toney Douglas (26 points) was sensational for the Seminoles but he didn’t get much help from anyone outside of Chris Singleton in the defeat. Less than a week removed from being told by many that they shouldn’t be in the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats and Badgers find themselves one win away from the Sweet 16.


4. USC and Arizona State help carry the Pac-10 banner into the second round.


The Pac-10 finished round one with a 5-1 record, sitting behind only the Big East (6-1) and Big 12 (6-0). And the two teams who played for the conference title last Saturday advanced, albeit in slightly different ways. The Trojans rode a 10-for-10 performance from the field by Taj Gibson to a surprisingly easy 72-55 win over Boston College in Minneapolis. DeMar Derozan and Dwight Lewis also played well on the offensive end, and the Trojans were able to shut down Tyrese Rice (4-for-11, 9 points). Daniel Hackett played solid defense on Rakim Sanders, and the Eagles shot just 32.7% from the field as a team. Once left for dead, the Pac-10 Tournament champions could very well go on a run in their suddenly disheveled Midwest Region.


Arizona State had to deal with the offensive struggles of James Harden (1-for-8, 9 points) along with Temple’s Dionte Christmas going off for twenty-nine, so they must have been headed back to Tempe right? Well, Derek Glasser and Jeff Pendergraph (22 points apiece) came through offensively, and no Owl outside of Christmas had a good day (Temple shot 37.3% from the field) thanks in large part to the Sun Devils’ matchup zone. “I thought we had a couple of really great looks, the ball just did not go in the basket,” said Temple head coach Fran Dunphy. “Semaj [Inge] took it to the basket one time and Lavoy [Allen] got a great offensive rebound. I thought he was [going to] make that stick-back. I thought we had some very good looks at the basket; it just didn't happen for us. Some of that is us and some of that is Arizona State.”


Both have stiff tests, with Arizona taking on Syracuse and USC going up against Michigan State. But all in all, it’s been a good first two days for the Pac-10.


5. Siena beats an opponent from a BCS league for the second consecutive season.


Despite twenty-two turnovers the Saints march on to the second round, where they will face top-seed Louisville in Dayton Sunday afternoon. Nothing went right for Siena in the first half, with many open looks not going into the basket. But they kept fighting, outrebounding the larger Buckeyes 51-34 (four starters had at least seven rebounds) and hanging around until four unanswered points from Kenny Hasbrouck sent the game into overtime. The next hero would be Ronald Moore, who failed to make a three-pointer for the first forty-four minutes of the game, but still had the guts to fire away with the Saints down three in the final seconds of the first overtime.


Ohio State head coach Thad Matta wanted P.J. Hill to foul, but it didn’t get done and the Buckeyes would play dearly for the miscommunication. Shot good; let’s play five more minutes. After an Evan Turner layup put Ohio State up one (72-71), it was time for Moore to work his magic once again. The junior from just outside of Philadelphia knocked down another shot from behind the arc with twelve seconds remaining to give the Saints a 74-72 lead. Turner would miss a contested jumper in the final seconds, giving the Saints another NCAA Tournament victory. But in order to beat Louisville on Sunday, that turnover number must come down.


6. Friday Superlatives


Players of the Day: North Dakota State G Ben Woodside (37 points) and Kansas G Sherron Collins (32 points, 8 assists)


Team of the Day: Cleveland State


Clutch Performance of the Day: Siena G Ronald Moore (two critical three pointers in the Saints’ win over Ohio State)


Worst Environment: Miami. It’s not even close. Yes, there’s no dominant college basketball program in the area. But when you don’t even sell out Heat games why the NCAA would think you’d show up to watch eight teams that you have little connection to is beyond me.


Newsworthy ailments (part two): North Carolina G Ty Lawson (toe) is a game-time decision for the Tar Heels’ game against LSU in Greensboro Saturday. Meanwhile, Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun (dehydration) will be on the sidelines for their game Saturday against Texas A&M in Philadelphia.


Quote of the Day: “And I want everybody to note that we messed up Obama's bracket, and I'm a DC native, so I'm kind of upset he did pick Ohio State over us.”

- Siena G Kenny Hasbrouck


Friday’s Scores


East Region

Boise: #4 Xavier 77, #13 Portland State 59; #12 Wisconsin 61, #5 Florida State 59 (OT)

Dayton: #8 Oklahoma State 77, #9 Tennessee 75; #1 Pittsburgh 72, #16 East Tennessee State 62


Midwest Region

Dayton: #1 Louisville 74, #16 Morehead State 54; #9 Siena 74, #8 Ohio State 72 (2OT)

Miami: #12 Arizona 84, #5 Utah 71; #13 Cleveland State 84, #4 Wake Forest 69

Minneapolis: #3 Kansas 84, #14 North Dakota State 74; #11 Dayton 68, #6 West Virginia 60; #10 USC 72, #7 Boston College 55; #2 Michigan State 77, #15 Robert Morris 62


South Region

Miami: #3 Syracuse 59, #14 Stephen F. Austin 44; #6 Arizona State 66, #11 Temple 57


West Region

Boise: #6 Marquette 58, #11 Utah State 57; #3 Missouri 78, #14 Cornell 59