By Stacey Kilpatrick
At this time in the NCAA March Madness tourney there are going to be very rough losses; that’s just the way this works. Sunday brought nothing short of holding-your-breath-while-falling-off-your-couch-cushion-moments with defining wins and losses. Day four, in my opinion, proved that seeds don’t really matter. It’s simply about talent and if a team wants to win they’ll push themselves towards victory regardless of being an 11 or 3 seed, where two upsets were seen today.
I’ll classify this as the game of the day, but I’m sure many people beg to differ and consider it the upset. And I admit, seeing the first-seeded Blue Devils crumble against the #8 Michigan Wolverines would have equally put a smile on my face that their winning 73-71 did.
So Duke, last year’s NCAA champions, pushed away from a one, two possession lead here and there over the Wolverines to a 15-point lead at 10:51 in the second after a Kyle Singler free-throw. But Michigan pressured and performed until Duke’s Nolan Smith ran away with the final defensive rebound securing a spot for the Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 and another chance to take it all.
Nine seconds remained. Michigan’s Darius Morris received a pass down court from Zack Novak who managed the defensive rebound after Smith – an 81.7% free-throw shooter on the season — nailed one. Morris ran in the paint for a straight shot in front of the basket with 3.4 left, but he put too much ark in his throw and the ball didn’t sink.
With 1:26, Wolverine Tim Hardaway Jr. made it a one-point game, 70-69, with a 3-pointer.
Duke was then holding the ball, taking their time, and with less than 40 seconds Kyrie Irving made a field goal causing Michigan to take a full timeout.
19.3 remained and honestly it was anyone’s game.
Morris nailed a jumper with 10 seconds, making it a 72-71 game and the Wolves used their final timeout. With 8.7 to go, Morris fouled Smith and from then on it went Duke’s way.
Smith put down 24 points, nabbed four rebounds and made two assists. He went 8/13 in field goals, 2/4 with 3-pointers and 6/7 in free-throws. Singler scored 13, grabbed eight rebounds and made four assists. He was 5/12 on the court, 1/5 with 3-point shots and 2/5 at the line. Irving and Ryan Kelly both made 11 points off the bench.
For Michigan, Morris scored 16 with six assists, three rebounds and two steals, going 7/14 in field goals. Hardaway Jr. netted 15 points and made three rebounds and two assists and steals apiece. He went 5/12 on the court, 1/6 in 3’s and was 4/4 from the line. Evan Smotrycz, who fouled out at 6:25 in the second, made 13, Novak had 12 and five rebounds and Jordan Morgan put up 10.
Duke was 72% in free-throws to Michigan’s 90.9%, 51% in field goals to Michigan’s 50.9% and 25% in 3-point shooting to the Wolves’ 33.3%.
The upset of the day was a hard decision since there were a few contenders. #3 Purdue lost 94-76 to #11 VCU, who enters the Sweet 16 for the first time, and #4 Texas fell 70-69 to #5 Arizona in what some could have said was a missed foul call at the end. But, having to choose just one, I called #3 Syracuse.
The play that lost it for the Orange was when Dion Waiters’ foot passed into the backcourt as he attempted to catch a poorly thrown inbound pass at a 59-all game. #11 Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom then made a huge 3 with 25.1, putting the Golden Eagles up, 62-59. With 16.1 left, Junior Cadougan added two for Marquette after being fouled by ‘Cuse’s Scoop Jardine. 10.1 remained and Syracuse added a basket, closing the gap to 64-61. But Jae Crowder added two free-throws for Marquette. With 5.2 remaining at a 66-62 game, Jardine only made one of his two free-throws and Golden Eagle Dwight Buycks made the defensive rebound, securing Marquette’s 66-62 win and overall, it was a good win for Marquette. It wouldn’t be an interesting March Madness without upsets.
Statistic of the Day: Senior Buckeye David Lighty went heavy, (Ha. Ha. Ha.) on a handful of stats in his 30 minutes on the court during #1 overall seed Ohio State’s 98-66 crushing win over #8 George Mason. Lighty threw down 25 points (nine above GM’s top-scorer Cam Long with 16), four rebounds, three assists, one turnover, one offensive rebound, was 9/10 in field goals, 7/7 in 3-pointers and only 0/2 at the line. He averaged 11.7 points per game during the 2010-2011 season and only reached 20-something points 4/35 games.
Looking ahead to Thursday: The Sweet 16 has arrived. Three of the four number one seeds have survived (Duke, Kansas and Ohio State. Pitt fell 71-70 to #8 Butler). Will we be in for another #1 knock-off surprise? Don’t let yourself blink; you’ll want to stare at your television sets and computer screens — while the boss isn’t glaring — with open eyes. Okay, enough of those rhymes.
#2 SDSU, first-timers to the Sweet 16, play #3 UConn. Will the Aztecs have enough to beat the Huskies in Anaheim? I’m not sure. Haven’t seen much of San Diego State to be honest, so maybe they will come with a shock. Another solid two-three game will take place in New Orleans. #2 Florida fights for a spot in the Elite 8 against #3 BYU. BYU won last year in the first round. Can they repeat a victory and sink the Gators?