Nice work by Coach K.
Hampton was a really, really poor team. Judging by how the other 16 seeds (Boston U., UNC-A, UT-SA) sorta kinda hung around for a little while, Hampton was probably the worst team in the tournament. I wrote yesterday that it would surprise me if they broke 55, but I was giving them too much credit; 45 should have been my number.
All of which was to be expected. Their offensive metrics were terrible, and on top of that they came out nervous. So while it would be nice to rave about this or that aspect of the game, the main takeaway is that our players got a nice break. By holding everyone under 25 minutes, Coach K assured that we'll be at least a little fresh for Michigan.
For what it's worth, our chances of winning were 100% at about the 11-minute mark. That has to be some kind of record, right?
So, how about Kyrie?
As was to be expected by anyone with a realistic mind (a trait I briefly jettisoned in the excitement before the game), he looked pretty rusty in the first half. Things got better in the second half, and he even dropped a couple threes in the last two minutes. He ended with 14 points, 4 boards, an assist, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers. With his 2-2 performance from 3, he's now 16-33 on the year.
I'm actually really curious to hear everybody's take, so please leave a comment. My feeling, from what I saw, is that he's lacking a little game quickness. It would be ridiculous to expect the Kyrie of old to return immediately, but didn't it look like he was limping in the first half, or at least treating things a little tentatively? Sound off.
Last, a personal story. I've always wanted to go 16-for-16 on the opening Thursday or Friday in March Madness. Hitting all 32 games is almost totally unrealistic (doesn't like one entry manage the feat every year?), but 16-16 is a feat that's simultaneously unbelievable and marginally possible. People have done it before.
I think 13 was my previous high. Yesterday, things started to fall the right way. Texas and George Mason pulled out close ones, Michigan killed Tennnessee, and Notre Dame beat the hell out of Akron. 4-for-4. Then the Dukies won, FSU rode a stifling defense to an "upset" of A&M, Arizona squeaked by Memphis and OSU rolled. 8-for-8. Night came, and Kansas, UNC, and Purdue all won fairly easily. Marquette did their part with another predictable "upset" of Xavier. 12-for-12. At this point, going into the late games, it was starting to look very real. Illinois got off to a wonderful start against UNLV, and pretty soon it looked like I could put that one in the bag. Washington came out cold, but by the second half it seemed clear that they'd run Georgia off the floor and win by at least ten. Syracuse flirted with Indiana State, the way Syracuse flirts with a lot of bad teams, all the while holding at least a 6-point lead. 15-for-15.
That just left Georgetown. When I picked them to advance, I cynically chose to believe that they'd be playing USC. VCU sucks, right? Everyone's pissed that they made the tournament, so they must be terrible. When they managed to win their First Four game in Dayton (and by "managed to win" I mean "kicked the hell out of USC"), I didn't even bother looking at the stats; Georgetown would still send them home packing.
If I had gone to the numbers, nothing would have changed my mind. The 109th-ranked defense in the country? Losses in 5 of their last 8? 307th in the country at giving up offensive boards? 242nd at defending the two?
Georgetown, cut and dried. Instead, this happened:
Is that free throw rate a joke? Un-friggin-believable. Georgetown got whistled for 26 personal fouls to VCU's 16. The winners attempted 39 free throws. During the year, they were 169th in Division 1 at getting to the foul line. I mean, what happened?
My guess (I was watching Washington-Georgia, so maybe someone can fill me in if I'm wrong): Georgetown always stinks in the tournament, and they're particularly vulnerable to a phenomenon that seems to hurt Big East teams in the early rounds. After playing a physical brand of basketball that's all but de rigueur in conference, they enter the tournament unable to adjust if they get more proactive referees. Once the zebras establish that the shoving and grinding so common in the nation's best conference won't fly, teams like Georgetown find themselves at sea.
Just a guess, but we saw that a lot last year when the Big East had a terrible time in the first two rounds. And so the dream of 16-16 dies for another year. GAH.
Okay, that'll do for me. I'm out to buy some deck chairs. Let me know what you thought of Kyrie, and enjoy today's games.