March Madness Roundup: ‘Nova Cruises, Temple & Joe’s Fall in Heartbreakers

March 21st, 2016 by Ryan Waterman | Filed under Basketball, College Sports, General.
Source: WPVI-Philadelphia

Source: WPVI-Philadelphia

For only the third time since the 2000 NCAA Tournament, the city of Philadelphia was being represented by three teams in the tournament nicknamed “March Madness.” For a short time, Philadelphia had suddenly become a hotbed for college basketball talk. Villanova, coming off of a strong 29-win season, earned a two-seed in the South region, while Temple was handed the tenth-seed in that same region. Luckily for Jay Wright’s and Fran Dunphy’s squads, they only had to make the short trip to Brooklyn for their games. Unfortunately, Phil Martelli’s Hawks got the unlucky draw of a cross-country trip to Spokane, Washington, where the eighth-seeded Hawks would do battle with the ninth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats.

With all three games being played on Friday, the city was on pins and needles all day. The Wildcats got things off to a great start, steamrolling UNC Asheville by a whopping 30 points. Daniel Ochefu led the ‘Cats with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while ‘Nova shot 57.9% from the field as a team. Arguably, Villanova’s strongest skill is their three-point shooting, of which they shot just over 46% against the Bulldogs. Things were iffy early on, as Asheville hung around until about the 4:45 mark of the first half, when the Wildcats began what would amount to an 18-7 run, that would leave ‘Nova in the lead by 14 at the half. From there, the second-seeded Villanova was on cruise control, with the terrifying question beginning to re-appear; can they advance past the first weekend?

Following the Wildcats, were the Temple Owls. The 10th-seeded Owls were set to take on the 7th-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes opened up the game, sinking six-of-nine three-point attempts. After jumping out to a 28-18 lead, both Iowa and Temple traded shots for the rest of the game. With five minutes left in the game, the Owls trailed 61-53. Amazingly, only twelve points were scored over the remaining five minutes, including three clutch free-throws by Temple’s Quenton DeCosey that tied the game at 63 with two seconds left. The level of play would carry over to the extra period, as both teams left it all out on the court. Unfortunately for the Owls, they were bested by Iowa big man Adam Woodbury, who put back the second-chance layup to give the Hawkeyes the stunning buzzer-beater. Philly was now down to a pair of teams in the “Big Dance.”

To watch the heartbreaking end, click on the link below.

The night-cap of Friday’s session was the St Joe’s-Cincinnati battle. This was literally, as evenly matched of a game as you can get. The halftime deficit between these two teams was only one point. Midway through the second-half, it looked as if the Hawks were going to pull away with a 10-point lead. The Bearcats managed to claw their way back (no pun intended, folks), taking a late lead with under five minutes to play. That would be the last lead they saw, until the 19:44 mark of the second-half, where they took a one-point lead behind a dunk by Jacob Evans. St Joe’s freshman Isaiah Miles took the ball after the Bearcats bucket, and hit one of the most clutch shots that you’ll ever see, giving the Hawks a two-point lead with under ten seconds left. Things turned controversial at the end, as Cincinnati believed they had a game-tying dunk at the buzzer. The referees conferred with each other, and video evidence showed that the ball was still in the hands of Octavius Ellis as time expired. St.Joe’s would advance to battle with top-seeded Oregon.

To view the non-dunk, click on the link below.

Sadly for the Hawks, their run wouldn’t last very long. Following their big-win over Cincinnati, a date with top-seeded Oregon followed. The Ducks were fresh off of 91-52 thrashing of the 15-19 Holy Cross team. For a team that was given a top-seed, Oregon certainly didn’t play like one. The Ducks failed to put any significant distance between themselves and the Hawks, as their largest lead was 10 points. St.Joe’s managed to battle back late in the game, trading late leads with the Ducks. With under a minute left, ‘Joe’s wasted a perfectly good possession by not monitoring the shot clock, leading to a crucial shot clock violation. The Hawks were unable to put the game away and faltered late, falling to Oregon by a score of 69-64.

Having made it past their first opponent, the familiar question now faced Villanova.  Can they make it out of the first weekend? They have failed to reach the Sweet 16, since 2009 when they reached the Final Four.

The Wildcats quelled those questions on Sunday, mowing down the Iowa Hawkeyes by a score of 87-68. ‘Nova was on cruise control throughout the entire game, heading into halftime with a 54-29 lead. The ‘Cats were red-hot from beyond the arc, connecting on over 52% of their shots, with four players hitting at least a pair of threes. Four of the Villanova starters finished in double figures in the blowout. Now that Jay Wright and Co. have put the doubts out of their mind, they can focus on trying to win the school’s first National Championship since 1980.

With the city of Philadelphia now down to only one team, the pressure is certainly on the Wildcats. This city is starved for a championship, whether it’s professional or college. Compared to other Villanova teams, this squad seems to have a healthy balance of depth, balance, and versatility…three things that will certainly come in handy during these later rounds. Next up for the Wildcats, is a Sweet 16 showdown with the third-seeded Miami Hurricanes on Thursday Night in Louisville, Kentucky. The game is slated to tip-off at approximately 7:10 PM Eastern, on CBS. 

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