By Andrew Kahn
It took a bit longer than in past years (or not, if you were on Twitter during the selection show), but the bracket was unveiled yesterday. As always, the committee made some puzzling decisions, but unless you’re a fan of a snubbed team, you’ve already moved on. It’s time for the greatest sporting event in the world. But first, a look back at the weekend’s key games.
1. Fantastic finishes
If the conference tournaments were any indication, it’s going to be a thrilling NCAA Tournament. Seton Hall upset Villanova for the Big East championship on Isaiah Whitehead’s and-one with 18 seconds left. It was a strong drive to the hoop that sent his coach Kevin Willard to the ground in excitement (at the :55 mark below):
Buffalo is dancing for the second year in a row thanks to Blake Hamilton’s three, which snapped a tie with two seconds left in the Mid-American final against Akron. Adrian Rodgers was the hero for the Southern Jaguars, as he tipped in a basket with 16 seconds left to give his team a one-point victory over Jackson State. A missed three that would have sent the game to overtime instead gave Weber State the Big Sky title. And in the WAC, Dedrick Basile drained a three at the buzzer to give Cal State Bakersfield a 57-54 victory. Oh, and the SEC final between Kentucky and Texas A&M went to overtime. The Madness meter was high this weekend.
2. Wonderful Warney
All the players listed above made clutch shots. None were nearly as dominant for 40 minutes as Jameel Warney was early Saturday afternoon. The Stony Brook big man was 18-of-22 (not a typo) for 43 points to secure the Seawolves’ first NCAA Tournament bid. The 6’8” Warney looked like a man among boys all afternoon against Vermont, snatching 10 rebounds and scoring at will. With Stony Brook clinging to small leads in the final 90 seconds, Warney twice grabbed offensive rebounds and scored. He completed one play with just one hand, which appears at the 3:05 mark of this highlight video:
3. Other trophy games
Stephen F. Austin completed another dominant run through the Southland Conference—the Lumberjacks have lost a total of one league game, including the tournament, the past three years—with an 82-60 win in the title game. Thomas Walkup (doesn’t it seem like he’s been there for seven years?) had 19 points, and his team is on a 20-game win streak. Arkansas Little Rock is 29-4 in Chris Beard’s first season following a 20-point victory in the Sun Belt championship. In the A-10, St. Joseph’s beat Dayton and VCU over the weekend to claim the trophy in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, Connecticut regained its postseason magic in winning the American.
4. No. 1 seeds
In a season in which there was a lot of change at the top of the polls, it is no surprise that there wasn’t a consensus on the No. 1 seeds. In the end, the top seeds are Kansas (but in the South, not the Midwest), North Carolina (East), Oregon (West), and Virginia (Midwest). Villanova and Michigan State figured to be in the mix but both ended up with 2 seeds. Virginia is the only 1 seed that didn’t win both the regular season and tournament in its conference, and it won neither.
5. Bubble babble
In a 68-team field, no great team is getting left out and the final teams admitted have plenty of flaws. In other words, please keep the bubble complaining to a minimum. Vanderbilt, Wichita State, Michigan, and, in a selection that stunned every single bracketologist, Tulsa were the last teams in and will compete in the play-in games. Temple and Syracuse also made the field. Failing to get in, San Diego State was hurt by a weak Mountain West and Monmouth’s aggressive non-conference schedule wasn’t enough. Likewise, St. Bonaventure, Saint Mary’s, Valparaiso, and South Carolina had to settle for the NIT.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.