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Some Notes On Monday’s NCAA Tournament Games

As Al McGuire said, the cream is rising

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Oklahoma at Gonzaga
Mar 22, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Oklahoma Sooners forward Kur Kuath (52) reacts after a play against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second half in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Gonzaga Bulldogs won 87-71. 
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Monday’s games saw the Big Ten’s reputation take a tumble, Gonzaga roll on and the PAC-12 shine, among other things.

The last Big Ten team left is Michigan, as the Wolverines took out LSU while Maryland got smacked around by Alabama and Iowa took a beating from Oregon.

Somewhat surprisingly, other than Michigan’s eight point win over LSU, there wasn’t a single close game Monday. Oregon beat Iowa by 15, Gonzaga thumped Oklahoma by 16, UCLA beat Abilene Christian by 16, Creighton beat Ohio by 14, Florida State pulled away from Colorado at the end to win by 18, Alabama whipped Maryland by 19 and then there’s USC’s 34 point devastation of Kansas.

You’d expect things to tighten up but the exact opposite happened.

Despite the Beaver beatdown, Luka Garza was magnificent, as he has so often been, scoring 36 on 14-20 from the floor and grabbing nine boards.

You really don’t need one guy to score almost half your points though. That’s not a great way to prosper. Jordan Bohannon, who has had some amazing clutch plays for the Hawkeyes, was shut out completely in what might be his final game. Iowa is a nice team and Garza is terrific, but they were seriously outclassed here.

Colorado was not too far behind Florida State when a series of mistakes tilted the game irreversibly to FSU late in the second half. First a Buff fouled. Then the Colorado bench got a technical. Then came a 10-second call.

It was a mini meltdown and the ‘Noles jumped on it, and that really was the end of things for Colorado as national fans saw what ACC fans see all the time: a bunch of gifted, aggressive guys just wearing you down. It was too bad it ended that way. You never got the sense that Colorado could put FSU away, but they were hanging around until that point.

Alabama put on quite a three point show, hitting 16-33 and Maryland simply couldn’t keep up. They also doubled up on boards overall, 40-20, and just killed the Terps on the offensive boards, getting 15 to Maryland’s four. There’s not much you can do when the opponent is killing it from outside and grabs basically half their own misses. It was just a long night for the Terps.

For part of the game, Oklahoma did okay with Gonzaga, keeping the lead to about 10 until the last two minutes. It’s not like they were going to win but they did keep it reasonably close against a superior team and that’s not easy to do.

Gonzaga is just better. No shame in that.

When UCLA hired MIck Cronin we thought he wouldn’t do well because his offense is boring and we didn’t think that would go over well, given what happened to his predecessor, Ben Howland. However, Cronin has toughened the Bruins up dramatically and there’s a lot to be said for that. No one saw this as a Sweet Sixteen team when they were put in the First Four, but having sent Abilene Christian home, here they are.

Things are likely to get real with Alabama in a big hurry in the Sweet Sixteen, but here are two things to keep in mind about Alabama: first, generally speaking you don’t get peak performance twice in a row and second, UCLA is likely to force them into a slower, more physical game that will make them play very differently. ‘Bama lost to Clemson early this season and you can imagine how the Tigers forced them to play. UCLA could do something similar.

Creighton has had a lot to deal with lately with insensitive comments by coach Gregg McDermott and the fallout from that, but the Bluejays seem to have come together nicely for the tournament. We honestly thought they might fall apart after all that happened. Instead, they’ll play Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen. Could they win? Not likely. But they get a chance to measure themselves against the best team in the field and that’s pretty cool.

LSU gave Michigan a really good game but when all is said and done, we’re not sure any team left in the field plays harder than the Wolverines. They may not make it to the Final Four (we almost said Indy), but it’s impossible not to respect the effort.

We don't think anyone left came closer to peak performance than did Southern Cal, which was frankly stunning against Kansas. USC led the whole way and treated the Jayhawks like a high school fill-in team.

The Trojans will get conference rival Oregon in the Sweet Sixteen and the teams only played once this regular season with USC winning handily. Dana Altman is a solid coach who will have learned from that game.

The only real Cinderalla left is Oral Roberts, and unfortunately their next opponent will be Arkansas which will likely finish their run in short order. We’ll take a look at the Sweet Sixteen matchups shortly.