Tourney Thoughts: Cornell shreds Temple, Crawford leads Xavier
Cornell was able to pick apart one of the nation's best defensive teams in Temple
Xavier's Jordan Crawford was Friday's player of the day with 28 points
Pittsburgh was impressive in its dismantling of Oakland
Opening salvo: Today was a little bit more of a standard day. It was a good day, there were a lot of interesting games, but I would say no classics, no buzzer-beaters. We knew today was definitely going to feel like a letdown compared to yesterday. But there were still some interesting games.
The Cornell-Temple game stands out as the most significant result of the day, and I think the Michigan State-New Mexico game was probably the best game.
Most shocking development: Similar to what I said yesterday about Georgetown, it wasn't just the way that Cornell won, but just the way they absolutely shredded Temple's defense. Temple, which is third in the country in field goal defense and fourth in the country in three-point defense, allowed Cornell to shoot 56 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three-point range. Temple is so good defensively, I just thought that that would win the day.
The guy on Cornell who is not getting nearly enough credit is Louis Dale, their point guard. He was great today with a game-high 21 points and seven assists. He just runs that team, and they're such a pleasure to watch.
I'm not surprised that Cornell won -- even though I picked Temple to win -- but just the way they just dominated it and shredded that defense was pretty astounding.
Cinderella most likely to keep going: We're going to stick with the Big Red here because I like them to beat Wisconsin. Temple's a little bit better defensively than Wisconsin, and while I think that Wisconsin has better big men than Temple, it's not by much. Lavoy Allen is a talented big man and Cornell held him in check.
Not only offensively but defensively, Cornell is a very good team, too. I just think they're a good team. Seven of their top nine players are seniors. And it's their third straight year being in the tournament.
Player of the day: Jordan Crawford, Xavier. He had 28 points, going 5-for-11 from three. Using my new word, he was Jimmer-iffic. He went Jimmer. I'm trying to make Jimmer a verb.
Runner-up: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue. Twenty-three points and 15 rebounds -- that's a good day's work.
Unsung heroes of the day: Jordan Williams, Maryland. This freshman center definitely doesn't get the attention he deserves. When you talk about Maryland, everyone talks about Greivis Vasquez, and he's great, but Williams deserves more press. He had 21 points and 17 rebounds -- talk about a good night's work. Nobody in America knows who Jordan Williams is, and his emergence at the center position was the reason why Maryland made its run. He's like a Lonnie Baxter-type. Next year he's really going to be one of the best big men in America.
Big Max Zhang for Cal didn't do a lot on the stat sheet -- with only two points and two rebounds -- but his defense was huge. Louisville was making their run because their big men -- Samardo Samuels and Rakeem Buckles -- were playing well. And Mike Montgomery put in Big Max and he really bothered those guys defensively, and he gave Cal a bit of a pop at the most crucial moment of the game.
Lastly, Khris Middleton also had a very nice game for Texas A&M, pouring in a career-high 19 points.
Memorable moment: The lane violation at the end of the game in Michigan State-New Mexico State. That made a two-point game a three-point game, which is a huge difference. A team's range of options gets so limited when you're down three as opposed to down two.
Now, you'd like to say the official shouldn't call it, but it wouldn't be fair to Michigan State. Troy Gillenwater was trying to get an advantage. What happened is he basically lost his balance and stepped into Delvon Roe's space. I can understand why people don't like it, but it's hard to criticize an official for making the correct call.
The thing that was odd to me about the officiating was the fact that they didn't review the time when the ball went out of bounds during New Mexico State's desperation attempt to send the game into overtime. Anyone who has watched college basketball will tell you that the refs go to the monitor too much. The refs have been erring all season on the side of caution, and going to the monitor. When the play happened, I instinctively looked at the clock and saw some time had run off, and I turned to Greg Anthony and said, "They'll go to the monitor, they'll go to the monitor," because they do that all the time. For them not to do it was weird.
Most impressive team: Pittsburgh. Beyond Cornell, who I already talked about at length, Pittsburgh really impressed me. A lot of underdogs have been hanging so far, but Pittsburgh just came out and stomped on Oakland. It was never a game. Pitt and Kansas State have probably been the two most impressive non-No. 1 seeds. And the Big East really needed that win because it was really going south in the tournament.
Most disappointing team: Louisville. They were down 22-4 right off the bat to Cal. They just don't take advantage of their assets. They should have been dominating Cal on the interior from the beginning, and their defense was not that good. Cal really just ran circles around them.
Not to take away any credit from Cal. Cal's a good team, and they really played well. And don't kid yourself, they can beat Duke. If they play like they did tonight, they're going to give Duke trouble. Like a lot of teams in this tournament, Cal is capable of playing poorly, but they're also capable of playing very well. And when they're playing very well, they can beat anybody because they just shoot that three-pointer so well. They can spread you out, and they have three or four guys who can really stroke it. They have nothing inside, but that doesn't matter if you can make a lot of threes.
What I'm looking forward to Saturday: I'm really looking forward to that Butler-Murray State game. I just love watching those two teams play. They share the ball, and I like seeing the ball move. And you watch Butler and Murray State, and the ball really moves. They both play really good team basketball, and aesthetically they're a lot of fun.
The St. Mary's-Villanova matchup is intriguing. I'm curious to see how Villanova comes out, because they were so bad early against Robert Morris. I want to see if they come out and attack St. Mary's, because they are quicker. But St. Mary's is good. Villanova's suspect in the paint, and St. Mary's has one outstanding big man in Omar Samhan and another 7-footer in Ben Allen. Villanova better be ready to go tomorrow, because the Wildcats aren't playing Robert Morris.
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