Where do we start? The two remaining No.1 seeds, Syracuse and Duke, won easily. Syracuse was especially great as it pummeled Gonzaga, 87-65. The game wasn’t even that close in the second half. Wes Johnson had a career-high 31 and Andy Rautins had five threes and finished with 24 points. No doubt most true basketball fans are hoping to see Syracuse and Kentucky hook up in the championship game.
Getting back to Syracuse’s win, the Orange didn’t miss a beat without starting center Arinze Onuaku. What made the victory more impressive was that Syracuse power forward Rick Jackson picked up three fouls in the first half and was limited to 25 minutes. It didn’t matter to the Orange, though, as forward Kris Joseph came off the bench for five points, seven rebounds and three assists in 37 minutes. Syracuse’s 7-foot freshman DaShonte Riley gave the Orange 15 good minutes. When it comes to frontcourt depth, only Kentucky can equal the Orange.
There were no major upsets unless you consider No.12 Cornell spanking Wisconsin, 87-69, an upset. Cornell was clearly underseeded by the selection committee. The Big Red shot 61 percent from the field against Wisconsin and 56 percent against Temple. Cornell shouldn’t be considered a Cinderella team. Ivy League or not, this team can play. But the Big Red will face the biggest challenge in school history, when it faces Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
We had several excellent games today. The Michigan State-Maryland game was won on a buzzer beater. The Xavier-Pitt game went down the last second and Texas A&M-Purdue needed overtime to determine a winner. This was certainly one of the best first weekends in a long time.
Best performance of the day? This was a tough one. Wes Johnson was great with a career-high 31 points and 14 rebounds. So was Rautins with five three-pointers and 24 points. But you have to hand it to Michigan State’s Korie Lucious. He only had 13 points, but he drained a three-pointer as time expired to beat Maryland, 85-83. Why does he get the nod? Michigan State’s best player, Kalin Lucas, didn’t play the entire second half. Lucas is the Spartans go-to man.