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Close calls, signals of dominance and other trends from the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament
After 52 NCAA Tournament games since Tuesday, the field is down to 16. And what a wild week it was.
When the next weekend starts, the players from Gonzaga -- and New Mexico and Georgetown and VCU and more -- will want what Florida Gulf Coast has.
The Sweet 16 will start with a bizarre field -- Sure, Michigan State-Duke, Indiana-Syracuse, Kansas-Michigan and Arizona-Ohio State are typical matchups. But who would have tabbed Wichita State-La Salle as a game for a trip to the Elite Eight. And never mind Florida-Florida Gulf Coast as a game for a regional final and a contest for the top team in the Sunshine State.
Here’s a look at the key numbers from the first week of Tournament games and a look at the Sweet 16.
4. Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16
The perception of the Big Ten being the top conference carried over into the postseason where four Big Ten teams (Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State) advanced to the second weekend, more than any other conference. Only one of the league’s seven bids to the Tournament lost in its first game (Wisconsin). On the negative side, the SEC still has bragging rights over the Big Ten as two SEC teams were responsible for knocking out Big Ten teams with Florida defeating Minnesota and Ole Miss defeating the Badgers.
Here’s the final conference tally for the multi-bid conferences:
|Conference||Record||Sweet 16 teams|
|Atlantic 10||7-4||La Salle|
|Big East||6-5||Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse|
|Big Ten||10-3||Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State|
|Missouri Valley||2-2||Wichita State|
And just for fun, here are the records for notable leagues' eventual lineups:
|Conference||Record||Sweet 16 teams|
|ACC||9-4||Duke, Louisville, Miami, Syracuse|
|Atlantic 10||5-2||La Salle|
|Big East/Conference TBA||2-3||None|
|Big East/Catholic 7||4-3||Marquette|
10. Dunks for Florida Gulf Coast on the way to the Sweet 16
Florida Gulf Coast is more than just the best Cinderella story in the Tournament. The Eagles are one of the most fun teams to watch. In becoming the first No. 15 seed to win two in a row to reach the Sweet 16, Florida Gulf Coast introduced the country to its exciting brand of play. The up-tempo game relying on lobs and an alley oops produced 10 total dunks -- five against Georgetown and five more against San Diego State. That’s only part of the story: Each game featured five FGCU players scoring in double figures. And in the win over San Diego State, point guard Brett Comer had an amazing 14 assists to three turnovers.
4. Coaches making their first appearance in the Sweet 16
The Sweet 16 has some of the usual suspects -- Duke, Florida, Kansas, Michigan State and Syracuse -- plus rebuilt national powers Arizona and Indiana. But a key storyline are the Sweet 16 first-timers from a coaching standpoint. Along with the fast rise by Florida Gulf Coast’s Andy Enfield, there’s Oregon’s Dana Altman, who is making his first Sweet 16 appearance in his 24-year career. La Salle’s John Giannini, meanwhile, is one-for-one in reaching the regional semifinal in his first NCAA appearance. That said, Giannini had to wait 16 seasons for his first Tournament. Wichita State's Gregg Marshall is also making his first Sweet 16 apperance after eight trips to the Tourney with Winthrop and the Shockers.
21.4. Turnovers per game for Louisville opponents in the postseason
Louisville already had one of Rick Pitino’s better defensive teams, but the Cardinals’ press has turned it up a notch in the postseason. North Carolina A&T had 27 turnovers against the Cards, and Colorado State added 20 in the round of 32. Louisville’s opponents in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments are averaging 21.4 turnovers per game, compared to 18.5 turnovers during the regular season. And if that’s not enough, suddenly Russ Smith and Peyton Siva have returned to their early season form on the offensive end. Louisville is shooting 56.9 percent in the Tournament.
3. Combined margin of victory for Marquette on the way to the Sweet 16.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams doesn’t want to be Mr. Tactician, but he may be Mr. Drama. Marquette is the only Sweet 16 team whose first weekend games both came down to the final shot, with Vander Blue’s layup sealing a 59-58 win over Davidson and Andrew Smith’s missed three-pointer for Butler ending a 74-72 Marquette win. This is nothing new. The last eight games for the Golden Eagles have been decided by eight points or less. Marquette has gone 6-2 in those games.
58. Fewest points in a win for Indiana this season
The Hoosiers spent most of the season leading the nation in offensive efficiency, but they found a good time to prove they can grind out a lower scoring game. After failing to score 60 points in two losses to Wisconsin and another to Ohio State, Indiana won a game when it failed to hit the 60-point mark with a 58-52 win over Temple in the round of 32.
4. Consecutive Sweet 16s for Ohio State
The Buckeyes have the longest streak of reaching the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament by reaching the Sweet 16 in four consecutive years. This trip was dicey, though, as Ohio State coughed up a 13-point lead late in the round of 32 against Iowa State. A fortunate charge call on the Cyclones’ Will Clyburn and Aaron Craft’s three-point shot with less than a second left gave Ohio State a 78-75 win. Elsewhere, Florida, Kansas and Marquette all have Sweet 16 streaks of three consecutive seasons.
0. Times before 2013 Michigan and Michigan State appeared in the same Sweet 16
Hard to believe as it may be, Michigan and Michigan State have never appeared in the Sweet 16 in the same season. The Wolverines are making their first Sweet 16 since 1994 for their 13th trip in school history to the regional semifinals. Michigan State is in its 17th regional semifinal.
1. Point for Duke’s Ryan Kelly against Creighton
Ryan Kelly made a case for being Duke’s most indispensable player over the last two seasons, but Duke didn’t him to be on his game to advance to the Sweet 16. The forward struggled against Creighton, going 0 for 5 from the field for one point on a free throw. It’s been an about-face for Kelly, who shocked Miami for 36 points on March 3 and followed that with 18 against Virginia Tech. Kelly has been in single-figures in four games since then with exactly eight against North Carolina, Maryland and Albany.
24. Three-pointers against Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament
No. 16 seed Southern hinted that Gonzaga may be vulnerable from the three-point line, by shooting 10 of 23 from three (compared to 8 of 23 from inside the arc). Wichita State fully exploited the weakness by hitting 14 of 28 in the 76-70 upset of the top-seeded Bulldogs. A key question for Gonzaga’s Tournament let down: Where did this three-point vulnerability come from? The Zags gave up 6.3 threes per game entering the Tournament.
0-3. Roy Williams’ record against Kansas
The North Carolina coach is winless in three tries against his old school with each matchup coming in the NCAA Tournament. Sunday’s 70-58 loss was the first when Williams’ North Carolina was the lowest seeded team (the Tar Heels were a No. 8 seed, Kansas was a No. 1). In 2012, North Carolina was a No. 1 when it lost 80-67 to No. 2 Kansas in the Elite Eight. In 2008, both were No. 1 seeds when the Tar Heels lost 84-66 in the Final Four.
45. Rebounds for Oregon’s Arsalan Kazemi in the last three games
Oregon was under-seeded as a No. 12, but few could have predicted the Ducks to roll over Oklahoma State and Saint Louis. A major reason for the Ducks’ success has been the defensive presence of forward Arsalan Kazemi. The 6-foot-7 Iranian has 45 rebounds in his last three games, going back to the Pac-12 title game against UCLA (12). Kazemi had 16 boards against Oklahoma State and 17 against Saint Louis. Keep in mind: Kazemi played the last three seasons at Rice before transferring to Oregon.
71. Combined scoring margin in VCU’s Tournament games
It’s hard to imagine a more shocking turnaround for many Tournament teams, as VCU’s two games were decided by a combined 71 points. VCU overwhelmed a shorthanded Akron team 88-42 and then lost 78-53 to Michigan.
3. NCAA Tournament wins for La Salle, more than the last 58 years combined
A history refresher on La Salle: The Explorers won the 1954 NCAA title and played for another in 1955 with Hall of Fame center Tom Gola. Before that, La Salle won the NIT in 1952 when the NIT was on par with the NCAAs. Since then, La Salle fell into the obscurity, going 2-9 in the NCAA Tournament before defeating Boise State in the First Four on Wednesday, Kansas State in the round of 64 and Ole Miss in the round of 32 to reach the regional semifinal.
5. Career losses to a double-digit seed for John Thompson III at Georgetown
John Thompson III put himself in exclusive company with Bob Knight and Jim Boeheim, but not for the kind of distinction Thompson would like to hold. With a loss to No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast, Thompson tied Knight and Boeheim with his fifth loss to a team seeded five spots lower in the NCAA Tournament, according to Patrick Stevens at D1scource.com. The difference, of course, is that Thompson has coached in nine Tournaments (seven at Georgetown, two at Princeton) while Knight coached in 28 Tourneys and Boeheim is at 30 and counting. Since the 2007 Final Four, Georgetown has been eliminated by No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, No. 11 NC State in 2012, No. 11 VCU in 2011, No. 14 Ohio in 2010, and No. 10 Davidson in 2008. Is that a reflection on Thompson or bad luck? To sum up: That's a loss to Stephen Curry, a Final Four-bound VCU and a Florida Gulf Coast team that turned around to upset San Diego State.
6. NCAA Tournament appearances for Belmont’s Rick Byrd without a win, nearing a record
Belmont has reached the NCAA Tournament is six of the last eight seasons, a notable accomplishment for a program that elevated leagues this season from the Atlantic Sun to the Ohio Valley and was in the NAIA as recently as 1996. But Byrd is 0-6 in the NCAA Tournament, tying DePaul’s Oliver Purnell for the second-most appearances without a win, notes CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. North Carolina A&T’s Don Corbett and Louisiana-Monroe’s Mike Vining hold the record of most appearances without a Tournament win at 0-7 each.