March Madness: Day 1 Recap

By: Josh Wasserman – Chief MLB Writer and March Madness Guru.

Though it had its fair share of upsets and bracket busters, Opening Day of the 2014 March Madness pretty much followed widely expected results (at least those expected here at FSLR). Editor-in-Chief Dylan Elder and I swapped some friendly banter about the intriguing upsets throughout the day such as Harvard over Cincinnati and North Dakota State over Oklahoma (both projected upsets by FSLR). Dayton also sent many people across the country into early pandemonium as they upset Ohio State in just the first game of the tournament, already busting the brackets of many unfortunate citizens. There were great performances and a handful of down-to-the-wire games, but the best part of it all is that we get to do it all again tomorrow. But first, a recap of the action.

11 Dayton defeats 6 Ohio State 60-59

The tournament commenced with a bang as Dayton toppled 6 seed Ohio State in a thriller, with the winning shot coming from the hand of Vee Sanford with about 3 seconds left. Interestingly, no one on Dayton really had a standout night. Forward Dyshawn Pierre led the team with 12 points and 8 rebounds and no other player came close to a double-double

On a sunny day in Marin County, it was the Wildcats who owned the gridiron. No, not the Marin Catholic ‘Cats, it was those of St. Ignatius, a rival high school with the same team name in the heart of San Francisco. After losses in 4 consecutive years to MC, SI finally got revenge on their Wildcat counterparts behind a strong connection from Seniors Ryan Hagfeldt and Dylan Elder as well as dominate play from an underrated defense. Elder, coming off a gruesome hip injury just last year, garnered a game high 8 catches for 101 yards. “I’m just excited to be playing football again” Elder said after the contest. “This was a total team effort and I’m glad I could be a part of it.”

Meanwhile, after allowing two early first quarter touchdowns, the SI defense clamped down and put up zeroes on the board for the Wildcats.

Furthermore, the team stats were about even across the board: each team had equal numbers of rebounds, assists, and steals, and essentially the same number of points, turnovers, and fouls. Both teams had pretty rough shooting nights, hitting at a less than 25% rate from beyond the arc and below 50% from the field.

LaQuinton Ross, the Buckeyes’ star player who I picked to have a disappointing game, had a rough outing, putting up just 10 points while coughing the ball up 5 times. Ohio State was almost able to hold off the upset, but they didn’t really deserve to win. And frankly, neither did Dayton. A well-executed shot at the perfect time sunk the favorites and put the Flyers, who have seen plenty of time in the top 25 this season, into the round of 32.

2 Wisconsin defeats 15 American 75-35

American had the lead for a little bit…and then Wisconsin turned it on and left them in the dust. Up 10 at half, the Badgers left the arena after smothering the Eagles in a resounding 75-35 win.

Two players scored in double figures for American, and no one on the bench scored a single point. Props to the Badgers for playing a stifling defense that allowed the Eagles to shoot just 29% from the field while also getting some nice performances out of unpublicized players such as guard Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust.

Sam Dekker, another pick to bust this tournament, had a decent line, whereas other Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky had a rough night shooting the ball. Nevertheless, despite being a little off at first, the Badgers roared back to an easy win against a team who was honestly just happy to be there.

Sam Dekker played well, but can he continue as the competition gets stiffer?

Sam Dekker played well, but can he continue as the competition gets stiffer?

The defense was solid, but if the Badgers want to convince the country they can make it to the Final Four, their offense is going to have to step up when they reach respectable opponents.

9 Pittsburgh defeats 8 Colorado 77-48

This game hardly qualifies as an upset as Pittsburgh was the overwhelming choice for the winner. Without Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffaloes just don’t provide enough of an offensive punch, and it showed as they got blown away 77-48.

However, Pittsburgh played a pretty impressive game. They missed just one free throw on the night (an invaluable aspect of college basketball), distributed the ball beautifully (18 assists), played tenacious defense (wrested 12 steals), and turned the ball over only three times.

All of those qualities are essential for a deep tournament run, and Coach Jamie Dixon has to be pleased with the effort and quality from his squad tonight.

This was even without stellar play from point guard Lamar Patterson, who I chose to perform well tonight. Regardless, if the Panthers keep up play like this, it won’t matter that they’re playing a team without their best player; they’ll be able to compete with the best of them.

12 Harvard defeats 5 Cincinnati 61-57

This one was hard to swallow for me. Having family in the Cincinnati area, I’ve followed Sean Kilpatrick the past few years lead the Bearcats to success they aren’t used to experiencing.

Alas, his hero powers weren’t capable of securing a first-round win over the pesky Crimson. Never one to deny credit where it’s deserved, I have to admit that the Harvard backcourt played a hell of a game, with Laurent Rivard, Siyani Chambers, and Wesley Saunders keeping up a high tempo and controlling the game well.

Cincinnati played decent defense, not their best, but alright for the circumstances. But their one-dimensional offense was crudely spotlighted tonight. Aside from Kilpatrick, senior Justin Jackson was really the only other offensive option on the night as the Bearcats shot a meager 37% from the field, and 68% from the line.

Kilpatrick was nonetheless effective even when defenders would come off of screens just to double him, but distribution isn’t his strong suit, which lead him to turn the ball over in crucial moments. The Crimson deserved this win, but I don’t foresee them pulling off another shocker next round.

3 Syracuse defeats 14 Western Michigan 77-53

Many expected the Orange to take this game despite their run of poor play as of late, seeing as how Western Michigan was a far inferior team to Syracuse. But Syracuse actually played like they had throughout the majority of the season.

Their lockdown 2-3 zone defense yielded a meager 34% field goal percentage and 22% 3-point percentage. And on the offensive half, Syracuse’s starters manipulated their strengths and put themselves in opportunities to take advantage of them. C.J. Fair put up a double-double, Trevor Cooney sunk 4 of his 8 three-point attempts, Tyler Ennis racked up 6 assists, and Jerami Grant added 16 points of his own.

CJ Fair has the Orange back on track

CJ Fair has the Orange back on track

When the Orange play at this level, they are unstoppable, as their unbeaten run demonstrated. However, they have nights where all of their key players struggle, and that leaves them vulnerable to a monumental upset.

7 Oregon defeats 10 BYU 87-68

Oregon came into the tournament scorching hot after a solid string of games at the end of the regular season and into the Pac-12 tournament. And their hot streak continued against BYU as they rolled to an 87-68 win.

Star guard Joseph Young was his typical penetrating, scoring self, but the star of the game was substitute Elgin Cook. Cook torched the Cougars for 23 points off 8-9 shooting from the field, and 7-10 shooting from the line. It didn’t matter that the Ducks made just two threes all night because they were so effective getting to the rim and around the paint that it easily made up for it.

Their defense also played a major role as they limited BYU to a 32% field goal percentage on the night. Watch for the Ducks to keep up their play well into the next round.

1 Florida defeats 16 Albany 67-55

Though the final score doesn’t show it, this game was a lot closer than it probably should’ve been. Ending 67-55 in favor of the Gators, Albany stuck with Florida for much of the game, even leading with a few minutes left in the second half.

DJ Evans had another monstrous game for the Great Danes, and Albany got a few uncharacteristically good performances out of John Puk and Gary Johnson, despite scoring leader Peter Hooley’s absolute disappearance.

Florida eked out the win by maintain a solid defense throughout and converting their close to mid-range shots. Similarly to the Ducks, the Gators converted just three three-pointers, but shot 51% from the field, showing a mark of true experience there by not relying upon the three.

Seniors Scotty Wilbekin, Patric Young, and Casey Prather led the attack for the Gators as sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith tied Prather for the team high in scoring tonight. It wasn’t necessarily a misstep for the Gators, but it was surely a wake-up call that the tournament won’t be as much of a cake walk for them as critics make it seem.

4 Michigan State defeats 13 Delaware 93-78

Adreian Payne might have just polished off one of the finest individual tournament performances in history. Finishing with an unbelievable 41 points, Payne missed just five shots all night as he went 17-17 from the line, 4-5 from beyond the arc, and 10-15 from the field. He also contributed 8 boards to the Spartans’ 93-78 blowout.

Adrien Payne's 41 points were the most in MSU tournament history

Adrien Payne’s 41 points were the most in MSU tournament history

The rest of Michigan State’s dazzling triumvirate, Keith Appling and Gary Harris, was largely unproductive, adding just 14 points and 5 assists to the onslaught.

One major red flag for the Spartans though is that they conceded 78 points to a thirteen seed.

Likewise, Michigan State can’t be relying on Payne to put up astronomical figures every time out, especially once the competition gets tougher. Harris and Appling will really need to find their game and support Payne if the Spartans are to fulfill the country’s high expectations for them.

7 UConn defeats 10 St. Joe’s 89-81 in OT

Although his shot was off for most of the night, UConn starlet Shabazz Napier showed up at the most crucial time, helping to seal the Huskies’ 89-81 win over a relentless St. Joe’s squad. One of my picks for star of the tournament, Napier contributed in all facets of the game, ending with 24 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals.

An all-around player like that is an integral part of a championship-winning team, one who can take over a game when it needs to be put away. The Huskies also received double digit scoring nights from three other starters in addition to Napier.

Poor free-throw shooting could have been the dagger for the Hawks as they shot 74% at the line despite shooting better from the field than UConn. UConn may just be able to ride Napier’s coattails to a deep tournament run, but the support of the rest of the starters is also very helpful.

2 Michigan defeats 15 Wofford 57-40

Wofford had absolutely no offense tonight. And when I say no offense, I mean less than scant. Shooting 34% from the field and 5.3% from three-point range (!), they made it easy for the Wolverines to take this game.

There was no concern radiating from the Michigan bench as they cruised to one of the simplest wins they’ll have all year. Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas led the way as usual and shot well, which is a good sign for the Wolverines, but it was hardly necessary.

With Wofford unable to hit water if they fell out of a boat, there was no chance Michigan was losing this game. Too easy for one of the top teams in the dance.

5 Saint Louis defeats NC State 83-80 in OT

My play-in boys almost pulled off the upset like I predicted. The Wolfpack followed T.J. Warren’s lead all night, who never faltered on his way to 28 points off of 11-22 shooting, but deadly three-point shooting (and a whole lot of intentional fouling) from the Bilikens ended up sinking NC State at the end.

Four of Saint Louis’ five starters had double-digit scoring nights, and they shot 50% as a team from beyond the arc. Combine that with good ball movement and good offensive control and Saint Louis were able to just squeak by a very good NC State team tonight.

I had expected the Bilikens to come out flat and continue their cold streak, and to a certain extent, they did. But to their credit, no matter the lead from NC State, St Louis always kept their composure and sure enough found a way to win in the end.

The Bilikens could very well lose in the next round, but this was an important win for a team that many picked to lose in the first round.

12 North Dakota State defeats 5 Oklahoma 80-75

E-I-C Dylan Elder had this pick right, and his Cinderella boys are still alive heading into the round of 32. Killer shooting and efficient free-throwing helped the Bison put away a highly overrated Sooners team.

The Bison struck from the field at a 52% clip and tacked on a 3-point percentage of 42%. Moreover, they held Oklahoma to just 34% shooting from the field, but a high volume of fouls and turnovers made the game closer than it needed to be.

Taylor Braun is the catalyst for the Bison: a cinderella in the making

Taylor Braun is the catalyst for the Bison: a cinderella in the making

Coming from an inexperienced underdog, turnovers and fouls are more or less expected. They’re lucky that their deadeye shooting kept them ahead though. Heading into the next rounds, they’ll have to cut down on those kinds of mistakes if they want to hang with the favorites of the tournament.

7 Texas defeats 10 Arizona State 87-85

The Sun Devils almost pulled out the upset in Milwaukee tonight. An unfortunate miscommunication and a failure to box out a horrendous final shot led to demise for a team that had played 40 minutes of hard basketball.

It was atypical of Arizona State and was hardly representative of the game, as it was a very skilled game between the two teams. Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski led the Sun Devils with 19 and 25 points respectively, and the team hit over 50% from three.

However, the Longhorns had six players in double figures and played terrific defense, tallying 6 steals and 5 blocks. It was a well-fought, high-octane, intense game, one of the best of the first round thus far.

2 Villanova defeats 15 Milwaukee 73-53

Similarly to the Michigan game, Villanova really just had to turn up their game in order to make this game a laugher. Milwaukee was only looking up at a four point deficit at half, but Villanova ramped up the energy on their way to picking up 8 steals, 10 blocks, and 47 rebounds.

Villanova shot mediocrely at best, especially struggling with the three-pointer that they usually depend on. But strong defense and proficient free-throw shooting fished them out.

The tenacity they showed will be important to overwhelm teams that aren’t expecting it. That type of hustle by the glass and effort on defense is what translates into postseason success.

4 Louisville defeats 13 Manhattan 71-64

Manhattan’s press was extremely productive in rushing the Louisville players to a tempo to which they were not at first attuned. Nonetheless, as the game went on, the Cardinals adapted and discovered the way to beat the high-energy defense.

Though they shot poorly, they were able to score buckets in relative transition as the Jaspers were hustling to recover on defense after the press was broken. Despite a team field goal percentage of 36%, Louisville had four starters in double figures for points, outrebounded Manhattan by 11, and picked up 3 more steals and blocks than the Jaspers.

Russ Smith and Louisville survived a minor scare tonight

Russ Smith and Louisville survived a minor scare tonight

Getting to the line was clutch, as Louisville shot 35 free throws off of 27 Manhattan fouls. That kind of quick evolution and adaptation to a new defense is demonstrative of the experienced Louisville squad under long-tenured coach Rick Pitino.

4 San Diego State defeats 13 New Mexico State 73-69

Also in the running for best game of the night, the Aztecs were able to hold off the 13-seeded Lobos and their colossal size down low. 7’5” New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar racked up 14 points and 2 blocks as four additional players contributed double-figure nights in the scoring column.

However, an exorbitant amount of fouls allowed the Aztecs to get to the line and further their lead at crucial moments. And Xavier Thames, one of my picks to flourish in the tournament, carried the team with 23 points on the night.

Though they rebounded well against a team that was unquestionably bigger than them, San Diego State will have to pick up their shooting percentages if they want to make a threatening run in this tournament.

All stats courtesy of espn.com

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