Uconn and Jim Calhoun became the first NCAA champion to bow down in the first round of next year’s NCAA tournament since UCLA in 1996, as the Iowa State Cyclones jumped the Huskies from the start and never let go of a big lead. This was only an upset because of the names of the program, but with no actual shocking bracket busters on the opening night of the 2012 NCAA tourney, the Cyclones made the biggest splash.
This is actually the second round of the tournament, but I hardly consider the ‘First Four’ to be any kind of round, just an artifical way of trying to get more money and TV time by organizers.
Murray State didn’t exactly have it easy against the Rams, but Colorado State had enough to hand around for one half only. Isaiah Canaan led the racers with 15 points despite an awful night from the outside (1-6), as the Racers, who’ve never been past the Round of 32, winning a tournament game only for the third time, won 58-41.
Louisivlle, playing in Portland, had a rough time with Davidson, but the #4 seed, who went 10-8 this season in the Big East, hung on in the face of Jake Cohen’s big day for the Wildcats, scoring 24 points. Peyton Siva finished with 17 points and 6 assists led the Cardinals to a 69-62 win, hoping to make the final four for the first time since 2005.
Marquette, the second best Big East team in my opinion, had no problem what so ever with BYU, beating the Cougars 88-68. Jae Crowder was huge for the Golden Eagles, scoring 25 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Darius Johnson-Odom finished with 20 points.
A lot of people signaled Long Beach State as possible bracket busters, but New Mexico had enough to win 75-68, the Lobos’ second visit to the last 32 in the last 13 years. They’ve never won two games in the tournament before. They had four players in double digits, led by Drew Gooden who finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds.
Kentucky are the overwhelming favorites to win the tournament. Size, talent, and 16-0 record in the SEC to back them up. They did lose to Vanderbilt in the conference tournament, but had no problems against Western Kentucky, winning 81-66, leading by 19 at half time already. As always, a six man rotation was enough, with Terrence Jones leading the way, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Iowa State Cyclones won their first tournament game since 2005, and blue-cold Huskies were the victims. The 2011 champions had no Kemba Walker, and no magic that pushed them last season during March. The 8-10 record for them in Big East play was no fake, and they deserved to lose by more than 13 points to Fred Hoiberg’s team, led by Chris Allen who finished with 20 points.
VCU were probably the most popular bracket buster choice for many, and a 12 seed usually does well in the first round. The most dramatic game of the day went to the Rams after a few lead exchanges in the final minutes, and Wichita State’s Stutz missing a chance to tie the game in the final second. Bradford Burgess led the Rams with 16 points, as they make the last 32 for the second consecutive year, dreaming of another final four. Indiana, the #4 seed, are next.
The Hoosiers had no problem against New Mexico State who didn’t have a lot to offer but size. For the Hoosiers it was a successful return to the tournament, making it for the first time since 2008. Jordan Hulls hit four three pointers, finishing with 22 points, en route to a 79-66 win as both teams shot very well from the floor, both over 55%.
Baylor had a rough time against South Dakota State, but the Bears won 68-60. Pierre Jackson led the team with 18 points, who also had Anthony Jones scoring 11 points in only 9 minutes on the floor, helping from the bench.
THE biggest surprise came in Albuquerque, as Colorado beat UNLV 68-64, holding on to their lead as Rebels rallied back. It was the Buffaloes first win in the tournament since 1997. They haven’t been to the Sweet Sixteen since 1963. Askia Booker, off the bench, led Colorado with 16 points.
Gonzaga had a surprisingly easy time with West Virginia, despite a less than fantastic WCC season. The Bulldogs led by 18 in halftime, good enough for a lopsided 77-54 win, as Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers got knocked out in the first round for the first time since 2009. Eleven different players scored for Gonzaga, holding WVU to 32.7% from the field.
Ohio State, the best team in the Big Ten in my opinion, had no problems with Loyola (MD), beating the Greyhounds 78-59, as Deshaun Thomas exploded for 31 points an 12 rebounds while Jared Sullinger finished with 5 blocks. The Buckeyes won 46-23 in the rebounding battle.
Another 30 points scorer was Rodney McGruder, dropping 30 on Southern Miss, as the Kansas State Wildcats beat the Golden Eagles 70-64.
Syracuse didn’t have it easy as the other #1 team, Kentucky, had. UNC-Asheville made life quite difficult for the ‘Melo less Orange. The officials helped Jim Boeheim’s team keep it a perfect 109-0 for the #1 seeds, winning 72-65. James Southerland was huge in the crunch, finishing with 15 points.
Harvard were bound to make a tough match up for anyone facing them, but Vanderbilt are entering the tournament red hot, winning the SEC tournament. John Jenkins scored 27 points to lead the Commodores to a 79-70 win, with everyone looking at Crimson players for the next Jeremy Lin.