1-2 punch for Villanova, Virginia
Loses by Wildcats and Cavaliers marked first time in 11 years that a regionls top two seeds were out before the regional round.
IF VILLANOVA'S loss was upsetting Saturday night, it got worse yesterday as the East bracket continued to blow up when No. 2 seed Virginia lost to Michigan State. It is the first time in 11 years that the top two seeds were out before the regional round.
It was offense that beat 'Nova and UVa. The Wildcats tried too hard when shots did not fall early. The Cavaliers withstood the loss of Justin Anderson for a while, but hit the wall late, even when Anderson finally returned. UVa shot just 17-for-57 (29.8 percent), 2-for-17 from the arc in its loss to the Spartans.
Shockers still shocking
Anybody who is surprised that No. 7 Wichita State dominated the second half and knocked No. 2 Kansas out of the tournament yesterday has not been paying attention for the last 2 years. KU has the name and the recruits, Wichita the record - Final Four in 2013, 35-0 last year, veterans of those runs all over the roster. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker are my favorite backcourt in the game. They have combined for 71 points in wins over Indiana and KU. More than that, they are always the coolest guys in the building.
KU does not schedule Wichita. This 78-65 Wichita win probably is not going to encourage a game in the future. But if Kentucky decided to play Louisville 30 years ago, Kansas can play Wichita.
The Izzo factor
Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (48 wins) and UCLA's John Wooden (47) have the best records after their first 60 NCAA games. Roy Williams and Rick Pitino won 44. All four men are in the Hall of Fame. Michigan State's Tom Izzo (44) should be joining them soon.
The Spartans held Georgia and Virginia to 36-for-114 (31.6 percent) shooting. This is not a great Spartans team, but Izzo's team is playing great in March - again.
Smoking hot Duke
No team was any sharper than Duke in the first two games. The Blue Devils shot 64-for-109 (58.7 percent) and 16-for-35 from three. Their inside/outside stars played great. Big man Jahlil Okafor was 21-for-27 and scored 47 points. Quinn Cook was 9-for-18 from three and scored 37.
The tournament is the great separator for teams and conferences. The ACC and Pac-12 had six of the top 16 seeds. They will have eight of the Sweet 16. Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and North Carolina were expected from the ACC. North Carolina State was not. Arizona and Utah were expected from the Pac-12. UCLA was not. The leagues are 19-2.
Rest of the leagues
The Big East got off to a great start, but then faded to 5-5, with only Xavier, benefitting from a great second-game matchup with Georgia State, still alive.
The Big Ten is 7-5 after Maryland's loss to West Virginia last night.
The Big 12 went 0-3 the first day, including two 3-seed losers. It went 3-0 on the second day and was 2-1 yesterday (Oklahoma and West Virginia won, Kansas lost).
There is only one team left from the SEC, which was supposed to be better but really didn't play like it. That team was 50-1 to finish with a perfect record when the season began. Kentucky is the first team to be 36-0 and still the big favorite to win the championship.
The Wildcats were not sharp offensively in their two games, but their defense was ridiculous against two offensively challenged opponents. Hampton and Cincinnati shot a combined 37-for-122 (30.3 percent), 6-for-30 from three. UK blocked 14 shots and allowed just 107 points on 137 possessions. By the way, UK is 18-3 in NCAA games since 2010.
So much for seeds
It is an annual exercise that the talking heads shriek about the 12-5 upsets. What they don't do is look at the actual matchups.
An enterprising bettor, who did not care about seeds and liked the matchups, could have gotten 3-1 on the proposition that all of the 5 seeds would win. West Virginia, Arkansas, Northern Iowa and Utah did exactly that and a mythical investor may have cashed a nice wager while getting four favorites home without any of them having to actually cover the spread.
Two of the country's best freshmen, Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell and Arizona's Stanley Johnson, just 3 months from the NBA lottery, could hardly make a shot Saturday. Russell was 3-for-19, Johnson 1-for-12. Arizona won easily.
This and that
Two great local high school players are still alive. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Chester) had 34 points and 20 rebounds in Arizona's two wins. Steve Vasturia (St. Joseph's Prep) had 20 in Notre Dame's win over Butler, including a game-changing three with 1:25 left on OT . . . Xavier and Georgia State shot a combined 61.3 percent. "X" shot 67.6 percent. They got so many of their few misses that Georgia State got just 12 rebounds . . . Utah outscored Georgetown 65-41 in their game's last 27 minutes . . . You could have gotten 10-1 that Kentucky will win its six games by double digits. Four to go . . . Underdogs covered each of the first 10 games and were 24-12 through Friday, a great result for those holding the action. The public always loves favorites.