We couldn’t have one quiet day of favorites winning all their games while brackets weren’t torn to shreds. Dayton pulled off the first big upset of the NCAA tournament on the very first game, but later on were joined by North Dakota State, coming away as the victors from their clash with Oklahoma.
They weren’t the only lower seeds to advance into the final 32: Pittsburgh destroyed Colorado, but there’s never a surprise in a #9 vs #8 game except for the margin (77-48). #12 Harvard beat #5 Cincinnati, but not too many people were surprised by that 61-57 “stunner”.
The big news was made early in Buffalo with the Flyers beating the Buckeyes 60-59 with a game winning shot from Vee Sanford. Nothing complicated – simply a run & go shot that bounced the right way. Ohio State, with Aaron Craft, tried the same thing, but he didn’t have a clear shot at the basket and his potential game winner hit the backboard and bounced off the rim.
But that’s what you get when the best offensive player is someone like Craft. A leader, a winner and a ferocious defender, but not someone you want as your number one scorer. In games with low scores, not having that ability to explode becomes quite costly later on. Sam Thompson and Craft combined to score 34 points, but hardly got any help from anyone but LaQuinton Ross, as Thad Matta saw his team get knocked out in the Round of 64 for only the second time.
Transition points might have been the big key: Dayton outscored Ohio State 20-12 on transition, and average 13.9 a game. They’re also 6-0 this season when scoring at least 20 points on transition. Ohio State’s defense might be the best in the Big Ten when it comes to stopping the running game, but they didn’t preform well enough this time.
On the other side of the country in Spokane, Washington, another upset was brewing, as #12 seed North Dakota State took down Oklahoma, who some thought might be a dark horse to reach the Final Four. The game ended in overtime, 80-75.
Lawrence Alexander, the 6’3 Junior out of Peoria, Illinois, scored 28 points and sent the game into overtime, as Oklahoma held a 3-point lead late in the game before Alexander’s overtime. It was a career high for him, and he shined in overtime where the Bison outscored the Sooners 14-9.
Oklahoma tried to live by the three, and hit only 12-of-30 attempts. Things were a bit more balanced for the underdogs, shooting 52.9% from the field, 42.7% from beyond the arc and most importantly going to the line and making those shots, finishing with 20-of-22.
Oklahoma did crash the boards, finishing with 18 offensive rebounds, but shot an awful 27.6% from the paint compared to North Dakota State, shooting 59.4% from the paint and outscoring Oklahoma by 22 points from close range. The Sooners got 25 points from Cameron Clark and 17 points from Isaiah Cousins, but the latter was the only one hitting shots consistently from deep. Buddy Hield was an awful 1-of-9 from long range to finish with only 9 points, and one of the reasons Oklahoma looked worse than a Summit league team, at least for one night.