The NCAA tournament not wasting any time cranking up the excitement. Three games on the opening slate, you get one upset, two overtime games, and if you had Villanova advancing in your bracket enough anxiety to last you a week or two. I suppose if you play 16 games in one day, you are likely to get a couple good ones, but to open with these three was pretty remarkable. If there’s any doubt this is one of the best days in all of sport, it should have been erased by 2:30 this afternoon.
It took me only a couple minutes to be smitten with Jimmer Fredette, who looks like he wants to be this year’s Stephen Curry. Fredette dropped 37 in the double overtime contest. In pure gunner fashion, he added 2 assists. A very satisfying game for me, because not only is Fredette easy to like, but Billy Donovan and Florida are pretty easy to hate. In fact, looking back, I regret not putting Joakim Noah on my least favorite players list. The combination of Noah and Donovan was enough to turn me off Florida forever. Of course, I picked up the cover as well. Don’t feel great about it. If I lost this game, I’d be complaining that any game that goes to overtime should be a push.
The game of the afternoon, though, especially for a chartered Nova bandwagon member like myself was the Wildcats matching up with Robert Morris. The good news for Villanova is that they won the game in overtime. The bad news, they don’t look like a team ready to make any kind of run. Robert Morris was valiant, didn’t get any favors from the refs and got some clutch plays, but this wasn’t a case where Nova just ran into a hot team. They forced a ton of Robert Morris turnovers, but turned it over themselves, shot poorly, chose shots poorly and didn’t have a spark until the last couple minutes of the game.
Scottie Reynolds was there at the end and made his foul shots, but he was dreadful from the field and for most of the first 30 minutes. Reynolds and Fisher were kept out of the starting lineup due to what was called a minor violation of team rules. I don’t know that it disrupted the rhythm, or if it was bothering Reynolds mentally, but he wasn’t the clutch player we’ve seen over the past couple years, at least not until the final few minutes and overtime. Villanova spent the week talking about how they had put the losing stretch behind them, had found something new in practice. Looks like lip-service, now. Or, maybe the Big East just isn’t what we thought it was. Notre Dame was handled by Old Dominion.
I think we’ve seen in only the first couple hours that this tournament is going to be a fight. Except for maybe Kansas and a couple of other teams we haven’t seen yet, it looks like everyone in this thing is in for a battle. Good luck keeping your brackets intact through the weekend.