The top College basketball event of the year began a couple of days back and there has already been many surprises as the group of 68 teams is getting reduced on the first and second rounds. A good example of this is how Ole Miss pulled off the NCAA Tournament’s first big comeback against the team that’s known for the biggest one of all, no less.
Stefan Moody scored 26 points and led Mississippi’s comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit to a 94-90 victory over BYU on Tuesday night in the First Four. source: cbssports.com
The Rebels (21-12) trailed until Moody led a 15-2 run midway through the second half. He hit a late 3-pointer that helped finish it off.
Furthermore, on Thursday afternoon in the East Region Ole Miss goes to Jacksonville, Florida, to play sixth-seeded Xavier a team that Kennedy knows well from his days as a coach at Cincinnati.
BYU (25-10) pulled off the biggest comeback in NCAA Tournament history in Dayton three years ago, rallying from a 25-point first-half deficit to a 78-72 win over Iona in the First Four. This time, the Cougars couldn’t hold the big lead. Tyler Haws, a senior guard who is BYU’s all-time leading scorer, had 33 points but missed a 3-pointer as BYU tried to catch up in the closing seconds. It was the first time this season that the Cougars lost after leading by 17 points.
Haws had 19 points in the first half, helping the Cougars pull ahead 49-32. Moody got the Rebels’ guard-driven offense going midway through the second half, when three BYU players picked up their fourth fouls and things opened up near the basket.
On the other hand, so far the West feels like a chalky bracket. The Wisconsin Badgers return to the West regional of the NCAA tournament with the sort of expectations that have been unseen in the history of UW sports. The Badgers have had excitement coming into previous postseasons, but this is the first time ever it’s Final Four or Bust. No one’s going to say boo if Arizona wins in Los Angeles, but this is a Wisconsin squad looking for more nets to cut and trophies for Frank Kaminsky to rub sensually.
Baylor Bears Scott Drew is back and he’s back with a team similar to last season. Sure, Brady Heslip and Isaiah Austin have moved on. But the Bears had players step up. Rico Gathers is a low-post force that averages a double-double. Royce O’Neale is a versatile piece, hitting 43 percent from beyond the arc and grabbing nearly six rebounds per game. As a team, Baylor has four players that can hit better than 38 percent from beyond the arc. They get hot at the right time and they’ll knock off anybody in the country.
The following is a quick recap of Thursday´s and Friday´s top games:
■ Wofford (+7½) over Arkansas: We could see them looking past the Terriers with North Carolina possibly on deck. Senior guard Karl Cochran is the leading scorer for Wofford, but most people know nothing about him. He had 14 points and seven rebounds in the Terriers’ upset win at North Carolina State in December. He could put a scare into Arkansas.
■ Georgia State (+9) over Baylor: This is a classic case of a dangerous ’dog getting too many points. Georgia State is a much better team than the casual bettor would guess. Keep an eye on Panthers guards R.J. Hunter, Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware. Hunter averages 19.8 points, and Harrow, a Kentucky transfer, averages 18.7. Ware is a Louisville transfer.
The Bears’ backers might be in for a sweat against the Sun Belt Conference champions. Georgia State’s shooters can beat a zone defense, and Baylor’s offense has been less than exciting for most of the season.
■ Stephen F. Austin (+6½) over Utah: This is my best bet. The Lumberjacks (29-4) rank No. 5 in field-goal percentage (49.1) and No. 1 in assists per game, so it’s not a bad matchup against Utah, which has one of the better defenses in the nation.
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