Two days into the 2015 NCAA Tournament have felt kind of like trying to start up the family roadster after she’s been sitting idle in the garage for a couple years. It’s taking a little time to get the engine warmed up, but slowly it’s getting back up to speed.
Both games of the First Four Wednesday night were hardly works of art, but both also were close games as Holy Cross edged Southern 59-55 and Michigan squeezed past Tulsa 67-62. In the end, the finishes were pretty good, and all things considered we’ll take it as opposed to the alternative.
Holy Cross won its fifth straight game to improve to 15-19 overall this year. Digest that for a bit. The Crusaders actually looked like they were going to cruise in this one, taking a 12-point lead in the first half before the Jaguars fought back and actually led by four with just over six minutes left.
With its Princeton offense under coach Bill Carmody, though, the three-pointer is a friend to the Crusaders, and Robert Champion hit a tiebreaking triple with 1:03 left to put Holy Cross ahead. Southern never got closer than two the rest of the way.
Later, Michigan and Tulsa frankly did little early on to lead most to believe they were anything more than NIT teams. The Wolverines fell behind 16-9 in the first 10 minutes, chipping considerable paint off the UD Arena rims, but the Golden Hurricane then went 6 1/2 minutes without a point and scored just four points the rest of the half in trailing 28-20 at the break. Woof.
Action warmed up in the second half, though-Tulsa scored 16 points in less than five minutes to start the second half alone-and the game finished with nine ties and 16 lead changes. Like Holy Cross, Michigan relies on the three-pointer, and Zak Irvin hit the go-ahead three-pointer with less than a minute left, making a Tulsa defender pay for going under a screen. That was essentially the game, as the final minute of this one was almost a carbon copy of the game before it.
- The NIT first round finished up, and a notable result was BYU rolling past UAB 97-79. Kyle Collinsworth finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists for his NCAA-record 12th career triple-double.
- A wise person somewhere matched up the lone two “Catamounts” in Division I in the CBI first round, and Vermont held off Western Carolina 79-74. Among six other games, Ohio also beat Albany 94-90 in overtime in a good one and Duquesne outran Nebraska-Omaha 120-112 despite the Mavericks scoring 80 points-80-in the second half.
- It was a good night to be a road team in the CIT, as the visitor won five of eight games. UC Irvine may be the favorite in this field, and the Anteaters won in overtime at North Dakota 89-86. New Hampshire also defeated Fairfield 77-62 and Boston University won at Fordham 69-66.
- Curious news at Wright State, where coach Billy Donlon was reportedly let go after six years, though the school was still refusing to acknowledge it yesterday. Donlon had a 109-94 record with the Raiders and led the team to four winning seasons, including the Horizon League tourney final this year.
- The NCAA Tournament really gets going with the first 16 games of the first round. A pair of 13-vs.-4 matchups early in the day have upset potential, with UNC Wilmington against Duke and Iona vs. Iowa State. UNCW will pressure Duke everywhere and can beat the thin-in-depth Blue Devils if it can hit some shots from outside, where the Seahawks are streaky. Iona plays a similar style than Iowa State-normally not a good thing for an up-tempo team-but the Gaels have been playing very well and are not the same team in the least as the one that struggled early this year while figuring out how to deal with injuries. Also watch: Fresno State against Utah is no ordinary 14-vs.-3 game-the Bulldogs are playing more like an 11 or 12 seed; Wichita State against Arizona is a Sweet 16-quality game in the first round, and Gonzaga at Seton Hall is the final game of the day and could well be the best.
- The NIT second round also gets going right away with Florida State at Valparaiso. It’s not the first time these two have met in the postseason, as this was the second round matchup in the NCAA Tournament in 1998 when Valpo made the Sweet 16.
Enjoy Thursday, one of the great days on the sports calendar.