The buzzer-beaters took center stage in the opening session of the first (real) day of the NCAA Tournament. Morehead State over Louisville. Temple over Penn State. Kentucky over Princeton. Butler over Old Dominion.
But the real story was the little guy, winning not just at the buzzer, but winning in a variety of ways.
The tournament so far has provided 12 matchups of BCS conference teams vs. mid-majors or lower. The big boys went just 7-5 in those games.
Two of those games were in the pig-tail games at Dayton, where the little guy forged a split. Virginia Commonwealth beat Southern Cal, but Alabama-Birmingham lost to Clemson.
Then came Thursday. Morehead State over Louisville, Temple over Penn State, Richmond over Vandy, Gonzaga over St. John’s.
The hero of the day was not a player, but an official. When Louisville’s Mike Marra collided with Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried on a jumper just before the buzzer, you knew the whistle was coming. It always comes against the likes of Morehead State.
But referee LaMar Simpson didn’t blow the whistle or a magic moment. He motioned that Faried had all ball, and the replays proved him right. Marra jumped into Faried, who stood his ground, raised his arms and made Marra try to shoot over him.
You’ve seen a thousand games end at the foul line on an iffy call. This one could have easily, but it didn’t.
Anyway, today we get more big guy-little guy matchups: Ohio State vs. Texas-San Antonio, Villanova vs. George Mason, North Carolina vs. Long Island, Marquette vs. Xavier (sort of like Penn State-Temple, not a real culture clash), Syracuse-Indiana State, Duke-Hampton, Arizona-Memphis (again, doesn’t really fit the model), Texas-Oakland, Kansas-Boston U., Illinois-UNLV, Notre Dame-Akron, Georgetown-VCU and Purdue-St. Peter’s.
That’s 13 games. If we get four wins by the little guys, I’ll be happy. Get six and I’ll be esctatic.
The big upsets are the best thing about the NCAAs. Sorry, but North Carolina-Kentucky or Duke-Ohio State doesn’t do much for me. Give me Morehead State-Louisville.