Well, March Madness has finally arrived and there are a bunch of story lines to cover on the first day of the NCAA Tournament.
There is no story more prominent than the Yale Bulldogs 79-75 win over Big 12 behemoth, No.5 Baylor. No.12 Yale was led by little-known point guard Makai Mason’s 31-point outburst along with Ivy League Player of Year Justin Sears who added 18 points while helping the Bulldogs out-rebound the taller Baylor Bears.
The upset marked the 28th time a No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 since the NCAA Tournament bracket expanded in 1985.
The Bulldogs face the Duke Blue Devils on March 19 (TBD). No.4 Duke advanced by squeezing past N.C.-Wilmington 93-85 behind Mason Plumlee’s career-high 23 points (9-for-10 shooting).
Yale and Duke met earlier this season at Cameron Indoor Arena with the Blue Devils prevailing 80-61, but there are a number of factors why the final result may be different in the Second Round West Region rematch.
Duke is running on fumes as they have sorely missed the presence of Emile Jefferson in the low post. The Blue Devils had to expend a ton of energy in warding off a very pesky N.C.-Wilmington.
It is doubtful that the 7-foot Plumlee will be able to replicate his career-best scoring effort from the first round.
On the plus side, Yale is healthy, hungry and riding a wave of confidence after the first tournament win in school history, in spite of the controversy surrounding the dismissal of captain Jack Montague.
In addition, playing in Providence with a vocal pro-Yale crowd on hand could be like having an extra player on the floor.
Recently, Harvard and Cornell have had strong runs in the tournament. How about this headline, Yale in the Sweet Sixteen!
Huskies and Friars advance
It was a tale of two decidedly-different victories for the UConn Huskies and Providence Friars.
Coach Kevin Ollie’s Huskies came to life in the second half to beat No.8 Colorado 74-67.
Rodney Purvis led the way with 19 points while Daniel Hamilton added 17 points and Sterling Gibbs (fifth-year transfer from Seton Hall) chipped in with 12 (6-for-6 from the foul line).
No. 9 UConn will have the unenviable task of playing top-seeded Kansas who blasted Austin Peay 105-79.
Ollie has never lost in the NCAA Tournament and will be riding a seven- game winning streak against Bill Self’s Jayhawks.
Ed Cooley’s Friars beat No.8 USC 70-69 on Rodney Bullock’s layup at the buzzer for the first NCAA Tournament win in Cooley’s five-year reign at Providence.
The Friars will need a lot more than good luck as next up will be No. 1 North Carolina on March 19.
Pirates ousted; Whitehead’s last game
The Seton Hall Pirates saw their season come to a sudden end when they were ousted by No.11 Gonzaga 68-52. The Pirates had no answer for the Zags Domantas Sabonis, who scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the win.
Seton Hall suffered through a disastrous night from the floor shooting a dismal 32.3% (20-for-62).
The Pirates Isaiah Whitehead couldn’t buy a basket (4-for-24 shooting) and was held to just 10 points.
Senior guard Derrick Gordon also had 10 points in the loss for the Pirates.
After the game Whitehead did little to dispel the rumors that he will opt for the NBA draft. Various reports have it that Whitehead, who recently turned 21, is headed to the pro game.
At 21 Whitehead would be considered on the older-side for an NBA rookie, so a decision would appear to be imminent.
If Whitehead does leave, although a significant loss to the Seton Hall program, the cupboard is hardly empty.
Coach Kevin Willard has a ton of talent returning next season for what promises to be one of the best in recent memory.
The Pirates should be the favorite in the Big East and a serious candidate to make a Final Four run.
A salute to the big fella
The Stony Brook Seawolves had their cinderella-like dreams come crashing down when they lost to No.4 Kentucky 85-67 in the Round of 64.
Senior Jameel Warney (Plainfield, N.J.) closed out his illustrious Stony Brook career by scoring 23 points (10-for-23 shooting) and grabbing 15 rebounds in the loss.
Warney will go down in the Seawolves history books as one of the best-ever.
Warney’s 43-point gem in the America East Tournament final against Vermont was nothing but spectacular.
Monmouth settles for NIT
No question Coach King Rice and his Monmouth Hawks deserved a bid to the NCAA Tournament. What was the selection committee thinking with the likes of Vanderbilt, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Texas and Oregon State receiving bids and not the Hawks?
If it’s any consolation Monmouth is the top seed in a very strong NIT field and they should that they have no ill-effects from the snub by beating Bucknell 90-80.
Next up is George Washington at on March 21 at 7 p.m.
The Hawks are on a mission to get to Madison Square Garden…
Big 5 teams make their debut
Big East champion Villanova opens on March 18 against No. 15 N.C.-Asheville and if successful they could be headed for a Round of 32 game against No.10 Temple.
The Wildcats, with a veteran team, are determined to reverse their poor tournament record of the past two seasons.
Fran Dunphy’s Owls must first deal with No. 7 Iowa, who is not playing well going in to the tournament.
The St. Joseph Hawks play Cincinnati in what would appear to be a real physical battle between No.8/9 seeds.
Joe Martelli’s Hawks, with Isiah Miles and DeAndre Bembry leading the way, could be a real sleeper in the tournament.
Tweet of the tournament
“I wanted to thank all my fans know that Im ok. Glad to hear UVA coach Tony Bennett is fine after his fall. Congrats @UVAMensHoops on the win!”
That was a tweet from well-known 89-year old recording star Tony Bennett to UVA coach Tony Bennett who collapsed along the sideline from dehydration during the Cavaliers Round of 64 win vs. Hampton.
A parting shot
Former Michigan State star basketball player Mateen Cleaves was recently arraigned on sexual assault charges.
California assistant basketball coach Yann Hufnagel was fired amid sexual harassment accusations.
When will it stop?
Let the madness continue… Keep shooting!
(Various wire reports used in the compiling the column)
Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in college hoop happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob
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