Well. That was a Monday of basketball.
Wisconsin Badgers 69, Texas A&M Aggies 58
Kind of...: The Badgers got off to a miserable start, trailing 13-2 and 26-10, as everything was falling for the Aggies and UW’s offense looked far from crisp. Then everything changed, and over the middle 24 minutes of the game, UW outscored A&M 51-19. Punctuating this was a 20-3 run just before halftime and a 14-2 run early in the second half.
The Badgers are a young team, and a work in progress, but there is a clear identity emerging. Jonathan Davis is the most athletic Badger since Sam Dekker, and can score in multiple ways. Brad Davison and Steve Crowl offer complementary scoring ability (Crowl’s three-point form is, um, interesting, but he’s effective). Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl contribute pesky, active defense, and there are several decent options off the bench.
That said, Houston is probably going to poleaxe the Badgers today, but the third place game (Saint Mary’s/Oregon loser) will offer another chance for a solid win.
Up Next: vs. #12 Houston Cougars (Semifinals—Tuesday, 5pm, ESPN)
Ohio State Buckeyes 79, #21 Seton Hall Pirates 76
BoilerUp89: Ohio State hit a game winning three with 2.3 seconds left to defeat Seton Hall. Since Seton Hall beat Michigan AT Michigan and this one was in Fort Myers, that means OSU is better than Michigan, right? Well, maybe not. Ohio State shot 11 of 22 from 3 in this game which is a) much, much better than their 36.5% coming into last night and b) not something they can count on to occur every game moving forward. Lots of teams pull upsets when they make 50% of their 3s.
Meanwhile Seton Hall shot just 21.7% from behind the arc - bringing their season average down to 34.7%. So despite getting 15! more shots from the field than Ohio State in this game (and 2 more FTAs), the Pirates were unable to get the win as their shooting had an off night combined with Ohio State’s great shooting night.
On the positive side of things for Ohio State, this win goes on the resume for March. They also got to the line 25 times - and made 88% of their free throws. They also forced Seton Hall to get their points outside of the paint as the Pirates starting PF and C combined for just 6 points.
MaximumSam: I will disagree a bit here. Ohio State did shoot well, but they were also much more aggressive attacking the basket and generated a lot of good looks from three, especially for Justin Ahrens, who went 5-8 and scored 17. The flip side is they were missing all three of their wings and had no one who could guard Jared Rhoden, who went off for 29.
Up Next: vs. Florida Gators (Championship—Wednesday, 7:30pm, FS1)
Cincinnati Bearcats 71, #14 Illinois Fighting Illini 51
Thump: Ooooooooooooooo kayyyyyyyyyyyyy doooooooooooooo kayyyyyyyyyyyyy. Might be time to think in terms of what we need to do to get on the right side of the bubble. Two of our last five games have been all-time soul crushers. High NIT seed tho. Deep run possible.
BoilerUp89: Were the assistants the real secret to success last year?
Thump: Gentry actually was responsible for a lot of our strategy. Also, Ayo and to a much lesser extent Feliz were very good at scoring the ball in situations where we needed a basket. Our offense now is Kofi and threes. Beyond just “being really good,” Ayo opened up so much of the offense because he could score reliably from anywhere and needed attention at all times. Kofi can’t be guarded one-on-one by anyone, but anyone that can effectively double him can still blow us away if we’re not hitting threes. So then you’d figure we’d run last year’s Michigan offense, but Kofi is not a good enough passer to pull that off.
Things are looking bleak. There was an uncharacteristic lack of effort and focus in the second half of this game. It’s been a long time since I saw an Illini basketball team feel that defeated.
Up Next: vs. Kansas State Wildcats (Third Place Game—Tuesday, 4pm, ESPNN)
Penn State Nittany Lions 85, Cornell Big Red 74
BoilerUp89: Seth Lundy and Sam Sessoms combined for 11 made three-pointers, Jalen Pickett got to the free throw line 11 times, and Penn State held off the Big Red. All 5 Penn State starters logged heavy minutes in this one (32+) and only 8 Nittany Lions played total with two of those logging just 3 and 8 minutes respectively. Shrewsberry appears to be shortening the bench rather early in the season, but that may be out of necessity. This was a 2 point game with 4 minutes to go, but the Big Red went on a scoring drought late and Penn State was able to pull away at the end.
Lafayette Leopards 53, Rutgers Scarlet Knights 51
Stew: Wait, I’m being told that Lafayette is rated around 300 in KenPom? No that can’t be right, rutger is supposed to be excellent. Surely KenPom has no actual predictive success!
RU in VA: I would like massive congratulations on my clairvoyance to post in the preview “Rutgers will not cover -19 against Lafayette”.
Iowa Hawkeyes 109, Western Michigan Broncos 61
Stew: Keegan Murray continued his breakout putting up 29 points on 14 shots in 21 minutes, along with a handful of rebounds, steals, and blocks. He scored the first 15 points for Iowa, and just was a force.
But here’s the thing. The Broncos are TERRIBLE. Easily the worst team I’ve seen so far this year. How bad? Well, Jordan Bohannon managed 3 steals.
Providence Friars 77, Northwestern Wildcats 72
BoilerUp89: Boo Buie and Pete Nance scored 23 and 20 respectively, but the Wildcats didn’t have a third reliable scorer and were unable to pull off the win. Providence outrebounded Northwestern by 8 and led a large portion of this game by 10ish points before the Wildcats made a late push in the last minute to close the margin to 5. The 4 minute scoring drought early in the second half for the Wildcats was the difference maker in this one.
MNW: That reliable third scorer is Chase Audige, who is hurt but clearly champing at the bit to return.
What I’d add as the key here was Northwestern’s inability to close out shooters on the three-point line. After Friars C Nate Watson got going early, the ‘Cats gave Ryan Young some help inside, sagging an extra defender into the lane...and Providence succeeded in kicking the ball out, finding an open shooter, and making 14 (!) of 29 (!) threes, assisting a stupid 21 of their 25 makes. It was a testament to what a team Ed Cooley has here.
The ‘Cats, to their credit, shot almost 50% from deep, but Providence did a fantastic job running them off the line and playing a tough half-court defense. The hope is that Audige’s return, whenever that is, will help the ‘Cats overcome some of this. In the meantime, let’s see if they can stop the bleeding against Georgia later today.
Up Next: vs. Georgia Bulldogs (Consolation Game—Tuesday, 4pm, ESPN2)
Give us your thoughts from Day 1—we’ll have previews of Day 2 up early this afternoon.