At a certain point, we stopped expecting a certain level of quality play in college basketball. And that’s fine if you know what to expect.
After taking in the Butler-Marquette thriller Saturday, the end result felt a little contrived: a mixture of mediocre-to-poor play and dumb decisions leading to a close outcome. That wasn’t necessarily the case with Wichita State’s 76-70 upset win over the West region’s No. 1 seed Gonzaga—an impressive performance stocked full of dagger-esque 3-pointers, clutch free throw shooting and plenty of onions.
The Shockers of the Missouri Valley Conference nailed 14 3-pointers against the Zags—a weak No. 1 that many expected to be the first to fall—including double-digit scoring efforts from deep threats (Ron Baker, Cleanthony Early, Fred Vanvleet). In the end, Wichita State shot 50 percent from the field and looked like more than an underdog: it looked like the better team.
From the beginning, the West region was bound to be anyone’s to win. But this is getting out of hand—at least one Elite Eight spot will be filled by Wichita State (9), Ole Miss (12) or La Salle (13).
If we’re buying into current trends, Ohio State, the highest-seeded and most complete team remaining in the regional, needs to keep its collective head on a swivel against Iowa State.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall and his appropriately-named Shockers would like nothing more than to have one less favorite obscuring its path to the Final Four.
In all seriousness, congratulations to coach Tommy Amaker and his Harvard staff on leading the program to its first-ever NCAA tournament win this postseason.
But … man … that was an eye-opening reality check the smartest team remaining in the field underwent Saturday, with the talented Arizona Wildcats just eviscerating the 14-seed. By statistical measures, it was an odd type of blowout. If you told Amaker his team would win the turnover, offensive rebound and free throw shooting battles, he'd probably believe he had another upset on his hands.
The Wildcats were clicking at another level offensively (64.3. effective field goal percentage) and left the 4.0-types behind in a 71-51 rout. Of course, that is to be expected given the two rosters, so it's tough to fault the Crimson just 48 hours after lauding them with praise. Arizona was just better; we probably knew that going in though, right?
Now, with Mark Lyons leading the way (50 total points in the NCAA tourney), the Wildcats could become the sixth No. 6-seed since 1980 to reach the national semis. As Arizona moves deeper into a region in which the final six teams include Wichita State, Iowa State, La Salle and Ole Miss—barring another upset, which seems dangerous at this point in the West—Arizona coach Sean Miller has to start setting his sights on Atlanta soon.