Cashcraft’s Top 5 Performances of the First Round

Photo by Eleven Warriors Staff/www.elevenwarriors.com Posted by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)

  Technically speaking, the last two days of the NCAA Tournament were considered the second round because of the first four games on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I personally say that is a bunch of crap because the first Thursday and Friday games of the tournament will always be the first round to me, just like Progressive Field will ALWAYS be the Jake, but let’s not go there. So whether the last two days of the Tournament were the first or second round to you, they have been a blast to watch regardless.  We saw some huge upsets as well as some true statements (ass kickings) from highly anticipated teams. So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed this years March Madness.  I've got the fever, baby! I would now like to take the time to list my top five favorite performances of the first round and whether you agree or disagree, let me know! I would love your opinion!

5. Syracuse laying an Orange beat down on Montana

Photo by Kyle Terada/USA TODAY/www.usatoday.com

This was one of those moments that was bitter sweet for me.  It was sweet to see Syracuse make an 81-34 statement like that on the Grizzlies, but the bitterness still lingers due to the fact that I picked Montana to upset Syracuse (because I thought they were overrated) in EVERY one of my brackets! I must be an idiot, but we move on.  Between the impressive scoring ability of Brandon Triche dropping 20 points, and the shear athleticism of Michael Carter-Williams helping with 8 boards and 9 assists, the Orangemen were able to double Montana’s score in each half! That is just down right stupid! There were some definite questions about Syracuse coming into the tournament, but if Boeheim can get his team to consistently play like they did Thursday, watch for Syracuse to paint the tournament orange.  Oh, and Boeheim, if you need help, I play a mean point guard.

4. Sam Thompson records a career-high as Ohio State puts the brakes on Iona

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images/www.nydailynews.com

A lot of talk has been going on about Thad Matta and his Ohio State Buckeyes coming into the tournament.  They were winners of 8 straight to end the season and capped it off with a Big Ten Tournament Championship.  Due to that, they were awarded the #2 seed in the West Region and were set to play the Iona Gaels in the first round.  The Gaels came out early in the week with a little trash talk on how the Buckeyes were nothing and that they didn’t scare them.  On Friday night, the Buckeyes shut them up quickly by tearing off a 20 point lead early on in the first half, which eventually led to a throttling of Iona, 95-70.  Deshaun Thomas was spectacular as usual with his 24 points, and Aaron Craft did his thing with 6 steals (yeah, I know, he’s a stud).  The story of the night was Sophomore Sam Thompson totaling 20 points, a career-high, and doing it while throwing up 4 or 5 highlight reel dunks along the way.  I understand that is was just Iona, but this was a team that was Top-10 in the nation for points per game and for field goal percentage. So when you can stop a scoring threat like that, it just goes to show how strong the Buckeyes have become this season, and how deadly they can continue to be in the tournament.

3. Harvard upsets the heavily favorite New Mexico Lobos

Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP/www.usatoday.com

This game completely shocked me.  New Mexico was a team that was destined to do great things in this tournament, but the Crimson were there to put a stop to that.  It was a close game the entire time, and as good as Alex Kirk was for the Lobos (22 points, 12 rebounds), the Crimson’s Wesley Saunders and Laurent Rivard combined for 35 points as they upset New Mexico 68-62.  It was the very first NCAA Tournament win for Harvard and whether you think that the Crimson can make a run in the tournament or not is beyond me, but all I know is that it made Jeremy Lin very happy.

2. Badgers get bounced by “Hot Hands” Henderson and the Runnin’ Rebels

Photo by Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports/www.usatoday.com

I’m not usually somebody that says I told you so, but the truth is, I TOLD YOU SO!  After I wrote the blog on Thursday about Marshall Henderson and how Wisconsin needed to watch their back, people told me I was insane.  Granted, Marshall Henderson was ice cold in the first half with only 2 points, but he decided to pick up his game in the second half as he dropped 17 points with some clutch 3’s giving Ole Miss the win, 57-46.  I have all of the respect in the world for Bo Ryan and the Badgers, but as good as Wisconsin is, they have trouble dealing with a player that has no fear.  Marshall Henderson has zero fear.  This was a guy that celebrated getting into the tournament by playing round after round of beer pong and winning! He was completely hammered, but that takes talent.  Then he comes out and takes out the Badgers like it was nothing. Trust me folks, we may be seeing much more of Henderson and the Rebels deep in the dance.

1. Florida Gulf Coast ruined many brackets after shocking Georgetown

Photo by Michael Perez/Associated Press/www.latimes.com

As my cousin Jamison and I were watching updates of the Georgetown vs. Florida Gulf Coast game last night, we started to get a sick feeling in our stomachs.  We had both picked Georgetown to get to the Final Four, and the Eagles were making that dream die quickly.  For most of the game, both teams were neck & neck, but in the final 10 minutes of the game, FGCU went off.  They started to build a lead and never looked back as they crushed the Hoyas dreams, 78-68.  I remember watching the Atlantic Sun Conference championship game thinking that this Eagles team could really push the limits in the tournament.  Then I saw that they had to play Otto Porter and the Hoyas and thought they didn’t stand a chance.  That game showed me that Sherwood Brown and Brett Comer of FGCU are not to be taken lightly.  I guess there is more than just fun and sun in Florida.  Comer is the hard working point guard that makes everyone look good and Brown can score with anybody in the country, no doubt.  So as the Eagles get ready for the Aztecs of San Diego State tomorrow night, don’t be surprised if you continue to see Florida Gulf Coast dancing through the tournament.

There have been so many good games during the tournament so far, that picking a top 5 was harder than expected.  Be sure to let me know what you think, and regardless of if you agree with me or not, this may already be the best NCAA Tournament yet.