BOUND TO HAP­PEN

Top seed vs. 16 seed matchup get­ting inches closer to an up­set at long last.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Ed­die Pells states­man.com.

It’s go­ing to hap­pen. Maybe not Fri­day, when Kansas and North Carolina took their turn at try­ing to avoid his­tory. But if not then, well, some year soon.

A No. 1 seed is go­ing to lose to a No. 16, and with the di­rec­tion col­lege bas­ket­ball is go­ing of late, it may not even be con­sid­ered that big of an up­set.

“The ex­tremes are scoot­ing closer to the (mid­dle), year in and year out,” Gon­zaga coach Mark Few said after his top-seeded Bull­dogs slowly inched away for a 66-46 win Thurs­day over South Dakota State.

“When you look, sta­tis­ti­cally, at all th­ese things, and say, ‘The 1 seed did this or that,’ that might have been back in the day. When you look at how close th­ese games have been” lately, it’s a dif­fer­ent story, he said.

Well, tech­ni­cally, Few isn’t right. In the first five years of the 64-team bracket, there were six games be­tween 1s and 16s de­cided by sin­gle dig­its — none more ex­cru­ci­at­ingly mem­o­rable than Georgetown’s 50-49 squeaker over Pete Car­ril’s Prince­ton team back in 1989.

In the last five years, only four games have come down to sin­gle dig­its, in­clud­ing Gon­zaga’s tooclose-for-com­fort 64-58 win over South­ern in 2013, the last time the Bull­dogs were a 1 seed.

But there’s more to th­ese games than the fi­nal score, and Thurs­day’s ac­tion — a pair of 20-point wins for the 1s — might have been Ex­hibits 1 and 1A.

Mount St. Mary’s, fresh off a First Four win two nights ear­lier, looked more in sync and bet­ter pre­pared for one half against Vil­lanova. Sparked by the guard play of Miles Wil­son and Eli­jah Long, the Moun­taineers had an eight-point lead early and trailed by only 1 at the half be­fore fall­ing 76-56.

“I do think some of it was Mount St. Mary’s. I re­ally do,” Vil­lanova coach Jay Wright said about his team’s slow start. “I think those guards are smaller and quicker than any guards we played against. It gave us trou­ble.”

Just as telling was Gon­zaga’s win over South Dakota State, a team that, by al­most any mea­sure, had the wrong number by its name com­ing into this tour­na­ment. Yes, the Jackrab­bits were only 18-16, a fourth­place finisher in their less-than-pow­er­house con­fer­ence. But they had the na­tion’s sec­ond-lead­ing scorer in Mike Daum and had won nine of 11 com­ing into the tour­na­ment.

Few said they looked bet­ter in per­son than they did on film — and after a grinder of a win, he’s cer­tainly more fa­mil­iar with Daum and the Jackrab­bits than mem­bers of the NCAA se­lec­tion com­mit­tee whose job it was to seed them.

“Re­ally or­ga­nized,” Few said of the Jackrab­bits. “They have an elite-level player that can get 30 on any­body in this tour­na­ment. And then their tough­ness.” There fig­ure to be more like this. Par­ity is, quite sim­ply, as much a part of col­lege bas­ket­ball th­ese days as brack­ets and one-and-dones. It helps get the Ge­orge Ma­sons and VCUs of the world to the Fi­nal Four; even­tu­ally it fig­ures to play into a 16 fi­nally knock­ing off a 1.

Asked to ex­plain it all a few years ago, when Wi­chita State made a sur­prise run to the Fi­nal Four, Bill Raftery of CBS said AAU and sum­mer leagues have lev­eled the play­ing field by mak­ing ev­ery­one fa­mil­iar to ev­ery­one.

“The kids all know one an­other, so they’re not in the least bit in awe of an op­po­nent,” he said. “You get Wi­chita State play­ing Louisville, and they don’t re­ally give a damn. It’s just an­other team to them.”

On Fri­day, two more 16 seeds got a chance to bust the bracket.

Com­ing off a First Four vic­tory Wed­nes­day over North Carolina Cen­tral, UC Davis played its sec­ond-ever NCAA Tour­na­ment game, this time against Kansas.

Texas South­ern brought the worst 3-point-shoot­ing and de­fen­sive-re­bound­ing stats in the 64-team field into a game against North Carolina and lost 103-64.

If things go to form, No. 1s will move to 132-0 life­time in the 1-16 matchup. If they don’t — well, no­body will say they didn’t see it com­ing.

ELSA / GETTY IMAGES

No. 16 seed Mount St. Mary’s gave No. 1 seed Vil­lanova a scare for a while Thurs­day. The Moun­taineers had an eight-point lead early and trailed by only one at the half be­fore fall­ing 76-56.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.