Can you say most entertaining NCAA tournament in a really long time? That’s what I’m calling it after first round play has concluded and brought to the surface some of the biggest surprises and upsets college basketball has ever seen. Ohio over Georgetown. Murray State over Vanderbilt. Old Dominion over Notre Dame, and that was just the first day. The second day didn’t provide nearly the close calls we we’re hoping for, but now it’s time to turn our sights to the second round, where teams are just one win away from reaching the sweet sixteen. Can the Racers from Murray State reach their first ever round of 16 or can the Ohio Bobcats do their best George Mason impression and continue their Cinderella story?
As much as I want to pick one of those two teams as my upset pick for Saturday’s games, I just can’t get away from the way St. Mary’s practically dominated Richmond and the way Villanova was almost upset at the hand of Robert Morris. That’s way I’m picking the No. 10 seed Gaels over the No. 2 seed Wildcats.
St. Mary’s, who actually was not seen as making it past Richmond in the first round, won their first NCAA tournament game in more than 50 years on Thursday. The Gaels were helped by a great performance by senior Omar Samhan, who spent most of the game in foul trouble, but still had 29 points and 12 rebounds against the Spiders.
Villanova comes into this game with almost receiving an early ticket home, being only a year removed from their Final Four run. Head coach Jay Wright, who decided to bench star Scottie Reynolds in the first half of their game with the Colonials, should probably think twice before doing that again, especially in the BIg Dance. Scottie Reynolds is the clear cut leader of this team, but even he couldn’t have a shot fall until late in Thursday’s game.
If the Wildcats want to move on to their sixteenth Sweet 16 appearance, they can’t afford to let a team like St. Mary’s hang around because they are experienced enough to defeat a team like Villanova late in the game.
I think Villanova is going to be a little emotionally drained after their almost upset to Robert Morris to realize how good St. Mary’s is and will get defeated fairly easily and the Gaels will get their second straight upset in as many games on their way to their first ever Sweet 16 appearance.
– John Thomas