I’m not going to comment on every game in the tournament, but the first three games were too good to be true. In the first session, two games went to overtime and another was decided by 1 point.
Notre Dame vs Old Dominion
Old Dominion lead scorer Gerald Lee was held in check in this one, but I learned today why he’s one of the most mobile big-men in the country. Like Evan Turner, he had a late growth spurt. Lee was only 6’2” in high school and played guard, but when he suddenly grew to 6’10” he became a star. I continue to believe that late growth spurts are a great predictor of surprise college stars.
Carleton Scott’s crazy offensive put-back dunk in the first half was incredible. His ability to start from the three point line and sky for the ball is just amazing.
But this game to me was all about the efficiency trends. It really seemed like if Notre Dame could maintain its late-season defense, Notre Dame would be a national title contender. And Notre Dame did maintain its defensive intensity in this one. Looking at the early box score, I’ve got 55 possessions and 51 points for a 0.93 raw defense for Notre Dame and an adjusted defensive rating of 0.87. That’s right on line with the late season trend. But it was Old Dominion’s suffocating defense that was the difference in this game, holding Notre dame to a raw 0.91 rating and adjusted defensive rating of 1.02 which is well below their season long average. Old Dominion has had one of the top defenses in the country all year, and the offensive genius Mike Brey just did not have an answer today.
Nova vs Robert Morris
His turnovers are too high, and he is wasted on the bench behind all the starting guards for Villanova, but I’m still convinced Villanova freshman Maalik Wayns is going to be one of the top players in the Big East next year.
With less than a second in regulation, Villanova in-bounded the ball to a seemingly wide-open Antonio Pena under the basket. That’s when Dallas Green made one of the best game-saving blocks I can remember.
Scottie Reynolds was 1 of 14 in the game, but his second three pointer came with 1 second on the shot clock with just over a minute left in overtime. It was the deciding margin.
Reggie Redding on the other hand had a truly head-scratching moment when he passed on a wide-open lay-up to run 2 more seconds off the clock. Villanova was leading by 3 so there was some argument for using clock, but when Redding made only 1 of 2 free throws, it left the door open for the Robert Morris comeback.
“They only lost on the scoreboard Verne.” - Bill Raftery. Exactly.
BYU vs Florida
Chandler Parson’s had no magic at the end of regulation, and Florida barely got a shot off at the end of the first overtime. As Illinois pointed out last week against Ohio St., if you miss multiple chances to win the game on a buzzer beater, it can come back to haunt you.
Despite Parson’s inability to play the hero one more time, his hustle and grit was still evident. The play where he dove for the ball and was called for traveling in overtime was exactly the kind of hustle-play that makes college basketball special.
But the visual image of Day 1 probably belongs to Jimmer Fredette whose BYU Cougars pulled out the win in overtime number two. In that second overtime, Fredette drove to the basket and was fouled and was knocked on his back under the basket. He paused for a second to catch his breath when the camera panned over him. Fredette saw the camera, smiled, and waved.
“Pressure, what pressure?”