The first four games of the 2016 NCAA Tournament are over. The field is down from 68 to the 64 that collectively make Thursday and Friday two of the most celebrated days of the year.
While many treat the “first four” as seemingly ceremonial events, there was quite a bit revealed through the contests that played out on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
Florida Gulf Coast 96 – Fairleigh Dickinson 65
In a battle of #16 seeds, Florida Gulf Coast cruised to victory over Fairleigh Dickinson in impressive fashion. FGCU looked much more like the team we saw reach the Sweet 16 in 2013, rather than a lowly #16 seed. The Eagles dominated from start to finish. They received a brilliant performance from forward Marc Eddy Norelia, who accounted for 20 points and ten rebounds. Upon conclusion of this game, both teams had us wondering: Could Florida Gulf Coast potentially give North Carolina problems, or was Fairleigh Dickinson just that bad?
Wichita State 70 – Vanderbilt 50
After a tight first half, Wichita State gradually built a 20-point lead and ended the Commodores’ season. This game led me to pick Wichita State over Arizona in their first round match-up. It’s not that the Shockers looked all that impressive, it was that they beat a solid Vanderbilt team by a considerable amount while their best player, Ron Baker, played a relatively poor game. Baker scored 14 points, but did it on just 3-11 shooting, including 1-5 from three. If Baker plays his normal game, and Wichita State keeps up, they will blow by Arizona as well.
Holy Cross 59 – Southern 55
My favorite game of the tournament so far, Holy Cross and Southern played a very competitive game, and to make it even better, Cinderella is still dancing. Holy Cross entered their conference tournament as the nine seed in a ten-team league. They didn’t win an away game all season, but that didn’t stop them from winning four straight games en route to earning the Patriot League title. With this win, Holy Cross now has a 15-19 record. There is just something so endearing about a team with a losing record playing this late in March.
Michigan 67 – Tulsa 62
I was very critical about Tulsa’s inclusion in the tournament. But to Tulsa’s credit, they gave Michigan, a much more talented team, a hell of a game. Despite only scoring 20 points in the first half, Tulsa put up 42 in the second. I stand behind my prior statements that Tulsa did not deserve to make the field, which leads me to believe Michigan is not as good as advertised. I’m expecting Notre Dame in a blow out victory over the Wolverines on Friday.