March Madness Day 1 Live from Orlando
Panthers coach Jaime Dixon started off the post game press conference quite simply
“This team has done everything we’ve asked and gotten better at it.”
The #9 Panthers came out aggressively against the #8 Buffalos and stunned a Colorado team that might have been suffering from a serious case of jet lag; or maybe they just weren’t used to the low altitude in Florida. Either way the Panthers defeated the Buffalos convincingly, including holding the Buffs to 0 assists in the 1st half along with 10 turnovers. Pitt connected on offense as they were 62% from the floor and 13 assists as a team.
At the end of the half, it was Pitt up 46-18 over the Buffs and there was a sense in the Amway Center that the point of no return had been reached for the Buffs. Head coach for the Buffs Tad Boyle had this to say of his team’s effort:
“I don’t believe we played to our ability…The defensive effort was pathetic…This will motivate me to become a better coach.”
The Gators edged away the Great Danes in the finals minutes of the game, but this was not the matchup that anyone expected; including Billy Donovan and his SEC Championship winning squad. Albany head coach Will Brown stressed that his team was not going to allow themselves to be intimidated by the Gators seemingly powerhouse.
“We wanted to shock the world. We wanted to be the first #16 to beat a #1.”
Well that didn’t happen for the Great Danes, but they put up a great fight. It was pretty much neck and neck throughout until the end, and the best way to describe the Great Danes defeat came from Coach Brown.
“I thought we challenged them…I think we just ran out of gas”
Brown even referenced to the fact that his team just couldn’t get physical with the Florida down the stretch. Gators coach Donovan on the other hand had a different tale for his team.
“We have been a great defensive team. Today we were not a great defensive team…The most important thing here is survive and advance.”
Well the Gators did just that. However, on Saturday they have to play a Panthers team that came out with a stifling defensive performance today against a team that is considered far from mediocre. It will be interesting to see how Donovan gets his team to move past barely winning against a Great Danes team that many would say is inferior to play a Panthers team that has demonstrated in this 2nd round and throughout the regular season that they can hang with the best and win.
NC State 80
A nail-bitting OT classic between #12 NC State and #5 SLU saw a Wolfpack meltdown of epic proportions in the final minutes of the game. The Wolfpack carried a 16-pt lead well into the 2nd half and star TJ Warren was having the game of his life. However, the one nagging flaw by the Wolfpack was their lack of execution at the FT line. In the end, the Wolfpack finished an uncharacteristic 20-37 at the FT line and cost them the game in OT to the Billikens.
Wolfpack’s Ralston Turner sums up the defeat by saying:
“They just extended the game. We started missing a lot of free throws.”
The Wolfpack didn’t have much to say post game, but Coach Mark Gottfried had this to say:
“I did feel comfortable. I liked how we were playing. Seemed like it began to steam roll. Sometimes the momentum just shifts on you. They stepped up and made a couple big 3’s.”
As for SLU, they seem to know they escaped with one. Rob Loe spoke on their 16-pt deficit saying:
“We didn’t want to give up. We didn’t want to end on that kind of note.”
Barnett on the other hand says his squad saw the opportunity when they were able to cut the deficit to 6 pts.
“Being down 6 we knew we were right there. Just kept battling. Guys off the bench made great plays.”
Coach Crews knows his team pulled something from within themselves, especially since they’re not known for pressing the way they did at the end of the game to create turnovers and mistakes by the Wolfpack.
“We are not a pressing team but our guys got after it and gave us energy of late. All of it was improvised. Really impressive because we don’t practice it. Haven’t practiced it once in 3 years I think.”
Whether or not the Billikens are normally a pressing team or the Wolfpack are normally a good FT shooting team is irrelevant at this point. The only thing that matters is that SLU found it within themselves to do something they don’t normally do because that was the only way to win.
The matchup between #4 Louisville and #13 Manhattan sums up why the NCAA basketball tournament is called March Madness. Probably the only people who knew this was going to be a nail bitter was Cards coach Rick Pitino and Jaspers coach Steve Masiello.
Masiello was a Pitino student so he knew Pitino’s coaching style and moves, and it showed in the Jaspers game plan. There was never a point in the game where anyone watching could say there was dominance by one team, except maybe the final few minutes of the game when Louisville’s Luke Hancock decided to take matters into his own hands and seal the game with huge 3 pt shots.
Coach Pitino wasn’t upset by the way the game unfolded however.
“I knew this game was going to be this way. We needed this type of game. We’re really excited we a had a tight fought game.”
On the other side of the ball are the Jaspers who battled as best as any #13 seeded team could, but still fell short in the end. Coach Masiello though proud of his boys, still felt the burn of defeat in a game where the victory was seconds within the Jaspers’ grasp.
“I thought we played well for about 39 to 38 minutes, but that’s why this team is the defending national champions….I didn’t out-coach [Pitino]. Our kids just played. It’s emotional that the guy who kinda made you who you are is your enemy for 40 minutes.”
The madness may not have gotten Louisville this time, but the Jaspers gave them something to think about for their upcoming matchup against SLU on Saturday.