Harvard Stops New Mexico, Big Ten Looks to Avoid Upsets on Friday

It was a great first day of tournament play on Thursday and in the the West Region, the biggest upset came late in the day with #14 Harvard (20-9, 11-3) defeating #3 New Mexico (29-6, 11-3) 68-62.

Harvard's Laurent Rivard

Harvard’s Laurent Rivard

Harvard’s Wesley Saunders 18 points and Laurent Rivard’s five 3-pointers contributed to the surprising win. New Mexico’s  conference standout Tony Snell only scored nine points (4 of 12 shooting).

The Crimson outshot New Mexico 52 percent vs 37 percent and after the game, New Mexico’s coach Steve Alford conceded that this  opponent had been very well prepared.

This year’s appearance at the Big Dance is only the second one (2012) for Harvard since 1946.

Next up? The Crimson will play Arizona. The Pac-12 is 33 to 1 to win this year’s tournament.

The second bracket upset came with #8 Pittsburgh (24-9, 11-6) falling to #9 Wichita State (27-8, 12-6), 73-55. The team saw great scoring by Malcolm Armstead with 22 points, Cleanthony Early contributed 21 points and Carl Hall added 11. Keys to Wichita State’s win included 15 forced turnovers, 35 percent shooting by Pitts with only 1 of 17 3-pointers.

For the Panthers, its leading scorer was freshman Steven Adams with his 13 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Tray Woodall, who entered the game with an 11.8 point average, was held to two points. This was not exactly how he wanted to end his college career and after the game he was inconsolable. At the press conference, he said via ESPN, “It’s a bitter taste in my mouth to end my career with one of [the] worst games I’ve ever played. I’m sorry. I let my team down.”

Next up for the Shockers is #1 Gonzaga (32-2, 16-0) who barely won on Thursday. They defeated #16 Southern  University(23-10, 15-3) 64-58. For the Bulldogs, 3-pointers were key for the win.

Other West games included #6 Arizona (26-7, 12-6) downing #11 Belmont (26-7, 14-2) 81-64. The Wildcats had the physical advantage and used it. They were dominant on the boards (a 44-18 advantage), in the paint (outscoring 36-18) and in shooting 3-pointers (9 for 17).

Mark Lyons was the team’s leading scorer with 23 points.

In the second half, the Wildcats led by 21 points at one time and just were too dominant for Belmont.

Looking ahead to Friday’s games, #5 Wisconsin (23-11, 11-6) takes on #12 Ole Miss (26-8, 12-6). The Badgers had a good run in last week’s Big Ten tournament, losing to Ohio State in the finals.

On average, the Badgers hold opponents to an average of 56 points a game. In the last five years, twice they have led the NCAA in scoring defense and in 15 of 21 conference games they held opponent under 60 points this year.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan

The team is well coached by veteran Bo Ryan who won the Big Ten’s coach of the year honors. He said of his team playing smart vs. strong via ESPN, “I hope we play smart. Because I’m not very smart. It’s kind of hard. I have to do things a little bit differently based on what I’ve been given. But I like the way our guys play. We try to get good shots. I don’t know what you mean by `smart,’ but that’s what we’re trying to do. Then defensively, we’re trying to keep people from scoring.”

Vegas thinks Wisconsin will play smart and gives them the win (-6, 129 o/u).

Next up is #4 Kansas St. (27-7, 14-4) vs. #13 LaSalle (22-9, 11-5). During the season Kansas State switched to a four-guard lineup and found success, grabbing part of the Big 12 title and entering the tournament as a fourth seed.

LaSalle has a similar lineup that includes veteran guards leading its play.

While Kansas State had a No. 12 AP ranking this season, LaSalle had wins against Butler, VCU, Iona and Villanova–all in this year’s tournament.

But for this game, Kansas State will persevere (-5.5, 132.5 o/u).

And the third game from the West is #2 Ohio State (26-7, 13-5) against #15 Iona (20-13, 11-7). This should be a slam dunk win for the Buckeyes (-14, 145 o/u) but stranger things have happened.

 

 

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