What a wild and wacky first day

Some are calling the first day of March Madness the greatest opening day of all time. Five double-digit seeds — #14 Ohio, #13 Murray State, #11 Washington, #11 Old Dominion and #10 St. Mary’s — advanced, one off the first day record of six set almost twenty years ago. Three games — BYU/Florida, Villanova/Robert Morris and Texas/Wake Forest — went into overtime, and it took BYU double-overtime to finally put away the Gators. There were only two overtime games during the entire 2009 tournament.

In total, nine of the 16 games were either went into overtime and/or were decided by five points or less. Three others — Baylor/Sam Houston, Ohio/G-Town and Butler/UTEP — were compelling for other reasons. Baylor had to fend off a feisty #14 seed in the waning minutes, and Butler was down to UTEP by six at halftime before unleashing a barrage of threes in the second half. The Bulldogs hit eight threes in the first 12 minutes during a 28-6 run that left the Miners wondering what the hell happened.

And Ohio…it’s not like the Bobcats looked like a quality mid-major primed for an upset heading into the tournament. They were 7-9…yes, 7-9…in the MAC heading into the conference tourney where they needed four straight wins — including impressive victories over regular season champ Kent State and defending champion Akron — just to get a bid after battling key injuries and suspensions all season.

Again, it was the long ball that was the great equalizer. The Bobcats hit 13-23 threes against the Hoyas, but most of the damage was done by Ohio’s starting backcourt, junior Armon Bassett (5-10 3PT, 32 points) and freshman D.J. Cooper (5-8 3PT, 23 points). And it’s not like Ohio was a prolific three-point shooting team coming in. The Bobcats made about 36% on the season, which put them #89 in the country. Their 7.3 made threes ranked #65 in the country.

The vaunted Big East had a pretty rough go of it, losing three teams — G-Town, Notre Dame and Marquette — and almost losing another (Villanova). That doesn’t bode particularly well for my Final Four picks (Syracuse, West Virginia).

From a bracket standpoint, it wasn’t a great day for my picks, but it wasn’t a disaster either. I went 9-7, but only lost one Sweet Sixteen team (Georgetown), while nailing a pretty big upset (Murray State) that knocked out a #4-seed Vanderbilt team that was a fairly popular Sweet Sixteen pick. Moreover, five of those seven losses — UNLV, SDSU, Texas, Marquette and Notre Dame — were by three points or less. Conversely, I won five tight games — Murray State, BYU, New Mexico, Baylor and Villanova — so I don’t feel too bad.

The mission for the first two days is not to lose any Elite Eight or Final Four teams, and as few Sweet Sixteen teams as possible. Even with all of these upsets, 15 of my Sweet Sixteen teams are still alive, and my Elite Eight and Final Four picks are in solid shape…at least for now. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

From a statistical standpoint, it wasn’t a terribly good day for Jeff Sagarin’s ratings, which went just 7-3 in games where one team had at least a three-point advantage in his Predictor rating. Then again, two of those losses — Vanderbilt and Texas — came on the last shot, so the record could have easily gone 9-1 (or 4-6, had BYU, New Mexico, Baylor and Nova lost their tight games).

On the other hand, Ken Pomeroy’s Pythagorean win percent went 7-1 in games where it gave the favorite a 70%+ chance to win, 0-1 in the 65%-70% range, and 5-2 in the 50%-60% range. (There were no games on Thursday that fell in the 60%-65% range.)

All in all, it was a helluva ride, and Friday is going to be hard-pressed to match Thursday’s excitement. I’m particularly looking forward to Temple/Cornell, Purdue/Siena, Xavier/Minnesota and Oklahoma St./Georgia Tech, but really, there are a number of great matchups throughout the day.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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LeFevour sets college football TD record as CMU wins MAC Championship

Central Michigan won its third MAC Championship in four years on Friday after beating Ohio 20-10 at Ford Field in Detroit. In the victory, Dan LeFevour set college football’s record for combined touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving with his 147th and 148th career scores.

LeFevour’s touchdown mark is just one of many college football records that he now holds. He has the MAC record for total offense, passing yards and completions, and he’s also the only quarterback to pass for more than 12,000 yards and rush for more than 2,500. To put things into perspective, he has more rushing yards than Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy, as well as more passing yards than Tebow.

LeFevour might not be first round material, but much like Tebow he does have a place in the NFL. He’s a natural athlete, has good size and can run. Given that he played in the spread while at CMU, he may struggle learning the nuances of the pro game. But again, he holds plenty of value for a team that runs the Wildcat formation and considering that he’s a smart kid and a hard worker, over time he could develop into a solid pro.

As for CMU, coach Butch Jones has done a wonderful job taking over the team after Brian Kelly left the program in the lurch to coach at Cincinnati. It’ll be interesting to see if Davis stays in Mt. Pleasant after this season, because other schools (Marshall) will no doubt be in hot pursuit of his services.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Bill Cosby loses his mind with Temple fever

This is how Bill Cosby gets ready for an exciting Tuesday MAC football game between his alma mater Temple Owls and the Ohio Bobcats. (Or Ohio Chicken Lings?)

His face at the end of the clip is priceless.

Ohio State avoids disaster, rallies to beat Ohio without Beanie Wells

Ohio University was 15 minutes away from pulling off a massive upset but the Bobcats couldn’t hold on and fell to No. 3 Ohio State 26-14. The Buckeyes played without Heisman candidate Chris “Beanie” Wells, who was resting a leg injury. Wells could be ready to play next week at USC.

Ohio vs. Ohio StateIt was over when… Ray Small returned a punt 69 yards to lift the Buckeyes lead to 26-14 late in the fourth quarter.
Gameball goes to… Ohio: Cinderella almost found a slipper in the Shoe. The Bobcats gave the Buckeyes a very big scare.
Stat of the game… 9-17: Ohio converted nine of 17 third downs against Ohio State. OSU D will have to improve that stat vs. USC.

Not having Wells certainly didn’t help the Buckeyes, but his absence wasn’t the main reason the game was so close. Ohio State still rushed for 162 total yards, but the Bobcats just flat out came to play. Ohio produced a couple of big plays, including a sack and fumble recovery of OSU quarterback Todd Boeckman in the end zone that gave them a 14-6 lead in the third quarter, as well as moved the ball effectively on the ground against the Buckeyes’ usually stingy defense. But in the end the OSU defense stepped up and Small’s punt return allowed the Buckeyes to avoid a huge embarrassment.

Week 2 College Football Primer

Time to check out the big games, top matchups and potential upsets as college football heads into Week 2.

Top 25 Action:
None. Nobody in the top 25 plays each other this weekend, which must have the television networks really, really excited.

Chris Keep your eye on:
Ohio (0-1) at No. 3 Ohio State (1-0)
The Buckeyes should have no problem with instate rival Ohio this weekend, but it’ll be interesting to see if head coach Jim Tressel plays injured running back and Heisman hopeful Chris Wells. With a trip to Southern Cal on the docket, there’s no reason to play Wells this week against a cupcake like Ohio. (Although I’ll be the first to note that the MAC deserves more attention than what it gets. See the “Upset Watch” section for proof.) A running back-by-committee of David Herron, Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine should be more than enough for OSU to roll the Bobcats, so there should be no reason for “Beanie” to even dress.

Upset Watch:
No. 8 West Virginia (1-0) at East Carolina (0-1)
While it’s true that I wouldn’t even have mentioned this game had it not been for the Pirates knocking off VA Tech last week, East Carolina has proven that it can hang with top programs. ECU will be looking for its third straight win over a ranked opponent, although West Virginia has won seven straight over the Pirates coming into this contest. Oddsmakers clearly feel that ECU can hang with the Mountaineers given that WVU is only an 8-point favorite.

Dan LeFevourCentral Michigan (1-0) at No. 2 Georgia (1-0)
Yes, outside of the MAC last year the Chippewas got smacked by Kansas (52-7) and Purdue (45-22). But as Bowling Green proved by beating PITT last week, the MAC has some talented teams and CMU is currently the class of the conference. They have a Hesiman candidate at quarterback in Dan LeFevour and a playmaker at running back in Ontario Sneed. There’s no doubt Georgia has better and deeper talent and it’s tough for any team to win between the hedges (let alone a MAC team), but could UGA overlook little ol’ CMU with a trip to South Carolina on the schedule next week? Obviously oddsmakers don’t think so as they’ve made the Dawgs a 24-point favorite.

Other notable games:
Miami (FL) at No. 5 Florida – Saturday, Sept 6, 8:00pm ET
No. 15 BYU at Washington – Saturday, Sept 6, 3:00pm ET
Mississippi at No. 20 Wake Forest – Saturday, Sept 6, 3:300pm ET

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