It's kinda fun when a boring day turns exciting, isn't it?
The day started with five straight blowouts. Then things got pretty interesting.
PHILADELPHIA -- The day started with a blowout followed by a blowout followed by three more blowouts, and I was bored out of my mind. March Madness, my ass. This felt more like watching Gonzaga's West Coast Conference schedule on a loop. It looked more like LeBron James vs. Jason Terry in a dunk contest. Or an anything contest.
But then Marquette-Butler tipped.
Man, what a game.
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The Golden Eagles and Bulldogs went back and forth and matched each other shot for shot just like they did in Maui in November. But this game didn't end with a miracle make from Butler's Rotnei Clark. This game ended with an awkward miss from Butler's Andrew Smith. Final score: Marquette 74, Butler 72. So Buzz Williams is in the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, and he might just dance all the way to Washington DC.
Did you miss that?
Did you miss anything?
No need to worry. I've got you covered.
Let's go over what happened and what happens next.
Game of the day: It was, like I said, Marquette's 74-72 win that featured questionable calls, unimaginable turnovers and a brilliant performance from Vander Blue (29 points and four steals). Butler led for most of the second half. But Marquette took the lead on two free throws from Jamil Wilson with 48 ticks remaining and led 74-70 with 4.7 seconds left. Game over, right? Wrong. Butler inbounded the ball all the way down the court, scored and then created a turnover with 2.9 seconds remaining. Suddenly, somehow, the Bulldogs were in a position to force OT or win. But the inbounds pass went to Smith, who stumbled and missed a bad shot badly to let Marquette escape. Then Buzz danced.
Upset of the day: A top-seed losing in the Round of 32 would've received top billing if not for the drama connected to Marquette-Butler. But, yeah, a top-seed lost. It was Gonzaga. (Insert WCC jokes here.) Wichita State bounced the Zags 76-70 and became just the fifth No. 9 seed to make the Sweet 16 since the NCAA started seeding teams, and I know what you're thinking: "See, Gonzaga should've never been a No. 1 seed!" To that, I say, shut up. Gonzaga's body of work was worthy of a top seed. Everything that happened after Selection Sunday doesn't change that. Bottom line, Mark Few ran into a team that made 14 of 28 3-point attempts, including seven in the final 12 minutes, and I don't care if you're 2013 Gonzaga, 2012 Kentucky or 2009 North Carolina, you're at risk when an opponent shoots jumpers like that. So Gonzaga lost ... a 40-minute game to a team that made 14 3-pointers. You'd be unwise to make it into anything more than that.
Wichita State, Ole Miss or La Salle will be in the Elite Eight: How crazy is that? The West Regional has unfolded in an unpredictable way, and Wichita State's win over Gonzaga means either the Shockers, Rebels or Explorers will play in the Elite Eight with a chance to go to the Final Four. Read that again. Either Wichita State, Ole Miss or La Salle is now guaranteed to make the Elite Eight. Is this tournament a trip or what?
The Atlantic 10's great run took a bad turn: The league that's good (but that's losing Butler and Xavier to the new Big East) put five schools in the Field of 68 and started 6-0 in this event. It was impressive. But Saturday was a step in the wrong direction. In addition to Butler losing by four to Marquette, VCU lost by 25 to Michigan while Saint Louis lost by 17 to Oregon. So the only two A-10 teams left are the teams that were widely regarded as the fourth-best and fifth-best teams in the league, and both of them (Temple and La Salle) are underdogs Sunday (to Indiana and Ole Miss) in their Round of 32 games.
The state of Michigan is doing OK: Indeed it is. The Wolverines and Spartans are both in the Sweet 16 in the same year for the first time ... ever? Yes, ever. Hard as that is to believe, it's true. Michigan, again, got there by beating VCU's heads in. Michigan State got there by beating Memphis' heads in and winning 70-48. So Josh Pastner's fourth season with the Tigers ends with 31 wins against five defeats. As recently as one month ago, some Memphis fans wondered if he was worthy to be their coach. Now those same fans are worried he might leave for UCLA or USC. (Note to Memphis fans: Pastner would probably be on the shortlist for both jobs, I'm told.)
Louisville is ridiculous: The Cards overwhelmed Colorado State in an 82-56 victory that pushed them to the Sweet 16. Louisville has now won its two games by a combined 57 points. So, yeah, Rick Pitino's team might lose at some point, but I'm not predicting it.
The smart guys lost and the not-so-smart (across the board) guys won: Arizona handled Harvard easily. The final was 74-51. Meantime, Syracuse, among the leaders in high-profile suspensions related to academics, beat California 66-60. It was a nice win that allowed for an improbable backdoor cover. Folks who had California plus-7 were thrilled when Syracuse didn't try to score in the final seconds while the Bears declined to foul. That was the most interesting developmeant about an otherwise forgettable matchup.
Final thought: Among the weird things about this Saturday of the tournament is that we still only know one Sweet 16 matchup. It's Louisville-Oregon. The seven other games that'll be played Thursday and Friday remain undetermined because we have a Saturday winner waiting on a Sunday winner in each case, which means seven Sweet 16 matchups will feature one team playing on an extra day of rest.
Does that really matter?
I don't know.
But it should be noted that this happened in four of the eight Sweet 16 games last season, and that the team with the most rest won three of those four games. So take that for what it's worth. Or to your bookie. Or just dismiss it completely. Whatever.
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