Friday, March 29, 2013

Grading the Sweet 16 (first day): The day of the shellacking

There I was barely sitting on the couch with my gaze pulled into the television picture, wandering back to the computer, dragged back to the television. I was riveted, never blinking, laughing at how awesome the games were.

Then I woke up.

This was one of the more boring days of the NCAA Division 1 mens basketball tournament, and the latter half of the night was forgettable.

Still, we did get a really good game with East No. 2 Ohio State and No. 6 Arizona. And that is the one real highlight. But still, please give me a better night of games tomorrow.

Here are my grades for the first day of the Sweet 16.


No. 2 Ohio State (W) vs. No. 6 Arizona – A

Ohio State is becoming the 3-point, last-second darlings the last few games. Another game-winner with time winding down as LaQuinton Ross capped his 8-minute, 14-point finish from NBA range.

Ross finished with 17 points (14 of Ohio State’s final 17 points), and the Buckeyes needed that performance to get by a very skilled Arizona team.

The Wildcats had an early lead made possible with defense before some turnovers led to an Ohio State run. But just when we thought it was going to be over, Arizona makes a run that included a basket and a foul by Mark Lyons to tie the game before falling 73-70.

This game is everything you would expect in a Sweet 16. Ohio State is now a favorite to make the Final Four.

No. 9 Wichita State (W) vs. No. 13 La Salle – F

In one of the more unlikely matchups, it was one of the more forgettable games. Wichita State dominated this game.

Up 17-3, it kept abusing the paint and grabbing the boards. The Shockers had a 44-to-23 advantage on the glass. And that was only half the way they showed that they were the stronger team.

But at this point, I think Wichita State/Ohio State is primed to be a good one.

WEST grade – B

The Ohio State/Arizona game was good enough to keep me really liking this bracket. And don’t be surprised if Wichita State pushes the Buckeyes Saturday.

WEST overall grade (through Sweet 16) – A-

One bad game isn’t about to hurt the grade on this bracket’s games this year, and it has a chance to finish great with the next game. But I hope the Elite 8 brings better things.


No. 2 Miami (Fla.) vs. No. 3 Marquette (W) – D

The injury of Miami senior center Reggie Johnson was a big factor into why this game was never really a game.

It is a shame too, because I wanted to see what Johnson could do. And his loss hurt the chance of an exciting game.

Marquette was able to get easy looks inside, and it was able to edge Miami on the boards, something that is much harder to do with Johnson in the lineup.

Marquette won by 10, but it led by 21 at one point. A couple of late 3-pointers made the score closer than it seemed.

No. 1 Indiana  vs. No. 4 Syracuse (W) – C+

This game had potential in the middle, but Syracuse’s zone was a wall for Indiana. Syracuse had 11 blocks and stifled the Hoosiers.

And Syracuse hit some early shots to grab a big lead, finishing 21-for-48 (43 percent) from the field to Indiana’s 16-for-37 (34).

Indiana made a run and got to within six but didn’t have enough. The performance of Syracuse’s zone and the prowess of its defense was impressive, but this game was just a little better than average.

EAST grade – C-

I expected more from these games and was letdown. But the Marquette/Syracuse match is destined to be a really good one. I definitely see a possibility of an overtime game, which hasn’t happened yet during this tournament.

EAST overall grade (through Sweet 16) – B

What saves this bracket grade is the potential the Elite Eight is bringing. I expect this grade will go up Saturday.

SWEET 16 Day 1 grade –  C

There was one game out of four that was close into the last five minutes, and that game was won on a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds left.

That moment saved a below-average grade. I found myself shooting a rubber basketball into a hoop, doing set plays against pretend opponents, feeling like a lunatic.

The television was just in the background. I kind of want to sit on the couch tomorrow and say, “Oh!,” play-after-play. Here’s to good basketball.

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