The preview to the NCAA Tournament has started, aka the First Four, with Florida Gulf Coast making easy work of Fairleigh Dickinson while Wichita State had a bit more trouble against Vanderbilt, but eventually pulled through to make into another tournament.
#16 Fairleigh Dickinson 65 #16 Florida Gulf Coast 96: This isn’t dunk city 2.0, but something else. The Eagles set themselves with at least one more game facing North Carolina, while leaving zero doubt from the first moment they took the court in Dayton of who is going into the round of 64. Easy point after easy point, whether it’s from ball movement to free up someone outside the arc or for an easy two, often in a flashy way.
Fairleigh got as far as they could go. This isn’t a team that’s good enough to upset anyone or even make them uncomfortable, and if Florida Gulf Coast might be a bit overmatched with the next team they face, that and more can be said of how the Knights looked. Not just physically and athletically, but pretty much in every aspect of the basketball game, from ball movement to defense and understanding what’s going on. Marc Eddy Norelia led FGCU with 20 points while the Eagles shot 59.6% from the field, holding FD to just 32.9% shooting.
#11 Wichita State 70 #11 Vanderbilt 50: The cream of the crop when it comes to mid-majors is in the round of 64 again, hoping to make life very difficult for Arizona. There wasn’t too much surprise when they got by Vanderbilt, a team that when the season began some thought was going to be good enough to challenge Kentucky, but ended up falling behind a little bit in the not-too-strong SEC, and couldn’t hang on after the first half with the Shockers.
This wasn’t your typical 20-point blowout, but it came down to the ability to make three pointers. Vanderbilt hit just 15.8% of their attempts, including just one long range shot in the second half. It’s not that Wichita State were steaming from the outside (7-of-19), but they knocked down the big shots when they needed them, getting 14 points from Fred VanVleet and 14 from Ron Baker, who did most of his damage when going inside and hitting 7-of-8 free throws.
Today: The second half of the First Four to complete the brackets. The battle of the #16 seeds will be between Holy Cross and Southern, followed by Tulsa and Michigan, both #11 seeds, battling for the right to play Notre Dame in the first round.