Sunday, March 24, 2013

Grading Sunday’s games: Tough to catch my breath during best day so far

From buzzer beaters to record-breaking upsets to back-and-forth games. Sunday had it all.

The day starts with a 3-pointer with time winding down for West No. 2 Ohio State as it survived No. 10 Iowa State.

It continued with the No. 1 matchups. And although both No. 1 seeds moved on, it wasn’t easy for South No. 1 Kansas or East No. 1 Indiana. Both teams had to battle until the end to make the Sweet 16.

Then we have West No. 13 La Salle winning with a layup with five seconds remaining, and then we had East No. 2 Miami (Fla.) and No. 7 Illinois battle until the final minutes. Great stuff.

I couldn’t catch my breath. I would say that six of the eight games were a B- or higher, with South No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast becoming the lowest seed to make the Sweet 16.

This was not only madness, it was a dream for basketball fans. Surprisingly, I also went 6-2 with picks making me 11-5 in the third round (35-13 overall). I am happy with those predictions this season.

Here are the grades for Sunday.


No. 2 Duke (W) vs. No. 7 Creighton – C

When the game was close, I thought this could finally be a nice ending to a day of games – which hasn’t been the case all weekend.

But Creighton’s poor 3-point shooting ultimately took the fun out of this game. Duke didn’t even necessarily play well, but it is hard to lose when your opponent’s strength is outside shooting and it goes 2-for-18 (11 percent).

MIDWEST grade – C

The only game was close for much of the way, but the ending left little drama and little excitement. It was another letdown in a bracket of mismatches.

MIDWEST weekend grade – C-

This was by far the worst bracket of games, but there were some nice storylines with No. 12 Oregon proving they should be a higher seed.

Still, I found myself not really watching this bracket as intently as the others. But I think No. 1 Louisville/No. 12 Oregon and No. 2 Duke/No. 3 Michigan State will redeem this bracket next week.


No. 1 Kansas (W) vs. No. 8 North Carolina – B

North Carolina looked like it had Kansas on the ropes, and then senior center Jeff Withey went beast mode on the Tar Heels.

He not only had electrifying blocks, but he had dunks that shook the arena. Withey single-handedly stole the momentum, and the upset potential became the distant memory.

Withey had 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. That great performance was worth watching.

No. 3 Florida (W) vs. No. 11 Minnesota – C

Florida led for most of this game, and it was apparent Minnesota was overmatched a bit.

But Minnesota battled, and it made a late run to give hope for Gophers fans. Unfortunately, a scoring drought of over five minutes ended that hope.

This game wasn’t very good in terms of excitement, and it was by far the worst of the group of games Sunday. However, it still wasn’t a blowout and was OK to watch.

No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (W) – A

Not only did Florida Gulf Coast become the first No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16, but it also made a name for itself.

This team is legit, and it was great to see their execution and passion as they made shots, battled for 50-50 balls and halted San Diego State enough on defense to pull away in the end.

It will be really interesting to see the matchup against No. 3 Florida next week.

SOUTH grade – B+

What a set of games from this bracket Sunday. After the terrible Michigan/VCU game Saturday, this bracket came alive with close games and history from Florida Gulf Coast.

SOUTH weekend grade – B+

Overall, this was a great bracket of matchups with great storylines shaping up. I am very excited for Kansas/Michigan and Florida/Florida Gulf Coast next week.


No. 1 Indiana (W) vs. No. 9 Temple – B+

Another No. 1 seed that moved on with a battle on its hands. Temple was close to the upset here, but Indiana didn’t back down at the end.

The Hoosiers played a skilled, athletic game on defense at the end and just willed their way to a win.

The back-and-forth contest was fun to watch, and this was just the beginning of a great day of games.

No. 2 Miami (Fla) (W) vs. No. 7 Illinois – B

Syracuse jumped ahead early, and it controlled the entire game. It seemed like a blowout in the making, but California kept fighting.

And a couple of late runs, including back-to-back 3-pointers and a forced turnover, made this game fun.

It wasn’t the best, but compared to the first games, this was a B.

EAST grade – B+

I definitely enjoyed these games, despite no upsets. We could have very easily had two upsets Sunday, and that is all you can ask for.

EAST weekend grade – B

There were some really good games in this bracket, but there were a few really bad ones too. Plus, this is the only bracket with the No. 1 through No. 4 seeds moving on. Still, I am excited for Indiana/Syracuse and Miami (Fla.)/Marquette next week.


No. 2 Ohio State (W) vs. No. 10 Iowa State – A

I was craving good basketball after the one-sided games that began Saturday, and that craving was fulfilled with the opening game of Sunday.

Iowa State is a fast team with skilled players that can make plays happen even when there is nothing there, and Ohio State is a team out of the Big 10 with athleticism and methodical play.

The way this game went back-and-forth was good enough. But to have it end with a 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds set the tone for a crazy day.

No. 12 Ole Mississippi vs. No. 13 La Salle (W) – A

What a nice story with La Salle. This game was not only fun with both teams making runs and hitting key shots down the stretch, but it also had another upset with the Atlantic 10’s La Salle moving to the Sweet 16.

And to have it done with a running layup through a tough zone with two seconds left just put an exclamation point on this one.

La Salle has not had success like this since 1955.

WEST grade – A

This bracket was again one of the better ones to see. The madness has hit this side more than the rest of the bracket with a No. 2, No. 6, No. 9 and a No. 13 in the Sweet 16.

WEST weekend grade – A-

There were some bad moments, but this was by far the best bracket to watch. And it has a guaranteed seed of No. 9 or lower that will make the Elite 8. I am interested in No. 9 Wichita State and No. 13 La Salle. No. 2 Ohio State and No. 6 Arizona should be a good one too.

OVERALL Sunday grade – A

This was the best day of the tournament since Thursday, and it might have been the best because I kept watching all the games. I definitely hope this trend continues next week.

OVERALL weekend grade – B+

There were a few moments that I wondered why I was even watching these games, but there were so many great storylines and so many great moments, that I would call the first weekend of the NCAA mens basketball tournament a success for fans and for parity.

Some really interesting matchups came out of the first weekend, and the rest of the tournament is shaping up to be something special.  

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