Berry Tramel

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NCAA Tournament: Wichita State goes out with dignity

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm •  Published: March 24, 2014
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Kentucky forward Julius Randle (30) dunks the ball in second half action during a Third Round NCAA Tournament game between Wichita State and Kentucky on Sunday, March 23, 2014, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.  At right is Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison (2).  (AP Photo/ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee)
Kentucky forward Julius Randle (30) dunks the ball in second half action during a Third Round NCAA Tournament game between Wichita State and Kentucky on Sunday, March 23, 2014, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. At right is Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison (2). (AP Photo/ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chris Lee)

I was home by Friday night, so I got to see more of the NCAA round of 32 than any time in years. I saw probably 13 of the 16 games. Here’s what I saw:

* Man, I was pulling for Wichita State. And I thought the Shockers acquitted themselves well. They played well. It took a great game by Kentucky to knock out Wichita State, and UK played great.

I thought Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall showed remarkable honesty with his declaration that the finality of it all was stark. One minute, Wichita State was undefeated. The next moment, the season is over along with the careers of some great seniors.

* I generally am an Iowa State fan in all sports. But this Cyclone team is something you can really get behind. Those shots Iowa State made down the stretch, when North Carolina threatened to take command of the game? Unbelievably clutch, and all without injured star Georges Niang. Fred Hoiberg always has been a cool customer; his team is the same way.

* Is Baylor the most impressive team in the tournament so far? Commanding performances against both Nebraska and Creighton. Wire to wire.

Now, if the Bears can just get Nebraska-Omaha in the next round and Kearney State in the regional finals, Baylor will be set.

* Kansas was incredibly disappointing. It took the Jayhawks more than half the game to figure out to get the ball to the high post. And how Bill Self can keep recruiting great players but no point guards is very strange.

* My pick of Florida to win it all still looks strong. But Arizona looks like a load, too.

* It’s much better to win, but losing in the first round probably kept the Cowboys and Sooners from discouraging defeats. San Diego State completely took North Dakota State off its game. And Arizona tore apart Gonzaga. ‘Zona might have beaten OSU by 30.

* Kudos to Tennessee. Winning three NCAA games in five days is impressive. But has any team had an easier sweep into the Sweet 16? A play-in victory over a hapless Iowa team, a first-round win over overseeded Massachusetts and a second-round win over 14th-seeded Mercer. Things now change. Michigan is next.

* The Big Ten is strong at the top. Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin. All could make the Final Four.

* The best player I’ve seen so far is Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier.

* Creighton looked awful. Just awful. Some of that was a bad matchup with Baylor. Some of it was a bad game by Creighton. Some of it was exposure. The Bluejays were exposed.

* By far the most impressive loser was Oregon. In Milwaukee, in a building filled with screaming Wisconsin fans, Oregon led most of the way and still had a chance to win at the end. Fabulous effort.

* Hard for mid-majors to produce two straight strong performances. North Dakota State looked against OU, not against San Diego State. Stephen F. Austin was superb against Virginia Commonwealth, not against UCLA. Gonzaga was strong against OSU but was blown out by Arizona.  Mercer beat Duke but was steamrolled by Tennessee.

Two notable exceptions. Harvard beat Cincinnati and stood strong before losing to Michigan State. And Dayton went to the wire and survived against both Ohio State and Syracuse.

The coach of the tournament so far is Dayton’s Archie Miller. Or Scott Drew.

* The most overseeded team I’ve seen is Villanova. Not at all impressive, and the Wildcats almost were a No. 1 seed.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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