Since my wife asked me if I could do something productive instead of just sitting in my Lazy Boy watching ball games night in and night out, (Thank you ESPN Gameplan), I've decided to give y'all a recap on some of the better games. Color me productive. And since the Madness is descending upon us in two short weeks, I'll try to tie these top 25 games into what they'll mean for seeding.
#11 Xavier loses 71-66 at St. Joe's.
The St. Joe's Red Hawks rode the hot shooting of Pat Calathes and Tasheed Carr to an upset over the Musketeers in front of famous Red Hawk alums/fans, Jameer Nelson, Jack "In this League" Ramsey, and the Red Hawk mascot that flaps his wings the entire game (no shit). The game featured an emotional and surprisingly athletic St. Joe's club who challenged Xavier's stars Josh Duncan and Drew Lavender holding them to just 5-13 shooting and coming away with 7 steals. To be fair, Lavender is playing on a bad ankle and the injury was apparent in his inability to get into the paint and create for his teammates. The loss likely drops XU to a 3 seed giving teams like Louisville and Wisconsin the chance to jump to the second line in any given regional.
Giving you the bird for 40 minutes a night.
#14 UCONN loses 85-76 at Providence.
I don't know what is more surprising, UCONN losing after getting 20 offensive rebounds, or Brian Ollie turning out to be a better player than Covington Cormier. Well, I suppose the former isn't that surprising when you consider UCONN turned it over 21 times and shot just 39.4% from the field. Still, if you're a Friars fan, you have to wonder where that performance has been all year. With that kind of talent, it's piss poor that Providence fans had to endure a 15-14 season especially after a 9-3 start. As for UCONN, this loss likely drops them off the 4 line opening the door for someone like Marquette or Michigan State to move up the seeding ladder.
#18 Michigan State takes care of Illinois 59-51.
In a trap game evidenced by Vegas making the Spartans a small dog on the road, Michigan State controlled the second half of the contest with its trademark suffocating half court defense which was aided by customarily inept Illini foul shooting (9-19). Don't look now but the resurgent Spartans have won 4 of their last 5 and will be in a great position to grab a 4 seed if they can beat Ohio State on the road this Sunday.
#2 UCLA steals one from #7 Stanford in OT 77-67
In one of the weirdest games I've ever seen, especially if you like to wager, the UCLA Bruins managed to overcome a 9 point deficit with under 5 minutes to go, forcing overtime before outscoring the Tree with a 14-4 spurt in the extra period. The last 3 minutes of regulation were particularly interesting as UCLA was bailed out on several misses with ticky tack calls which led to 8 Bruin foul shots. The last two free throws to tie the game with just 2 seconds left came after one of the worst examples of over-officiating I've seen in a big time college basketball game. We're talking Munich Olympics bad. Darrin Collison, the Bruins star point guard raced up the floor and was forced to jump stop to the block and pivot over his left shoulder to attempt a game tying shot. Forward Lawrence Hill of Stanford contested and cleanly blocked the attempt, according to live game action, replays, and Fox Sports announcers themselves. The bail out gave the Bruins life, and Collison took advantage.
Next time Howland should use a gun.
In overtime, the Bruins smashed the disheartened Cardinal 14-4, with the last points coming off a layup with no time on the clock, after a length of the court inbounds pass with 1.4 seconds left in the ball game. The final layup covered the 8.5 point number and a slight cheer was audible just after the score. Curious, to say the least.
A quick perusal of the boxscore paints a pretty damning picture for those arguing against any homecooking. The Bruins shot 24 free throws to Stanford's 8. That's right, UCLA shot 3 times as many foul shots as the team that was ahead the entire time in regulation. That same team deploys an offense that is almost exclusively run on the interior, evidenced by eight 3 point attempts and a personnel group that includes two future NBA post players. The Lopez twins shot 6 combined foul shots. UCLA forwards Josh Shipp and Russell Westbrook each had more attempts than the two 7 footers combined. Yikes. If you stayed up to watch this one, you'd probably agree that there were two sets of whistles.
In any case, it was a great win for UCLA, almost putting a strangle hold on a 1 seed. For Stanford, it costs them any outside chance it had at a 1, and certainly prevents them from sliding into the 2 line vacated by Xavier. At least for now.
Certainly an interesting and late night for me. And one that was anything but unproductive.
Thoughts from Storming The Floor here.