Excitement in Tournament, Not So Much on the Ice
The tension was palpable all across the country. It almost happened. A No. 16 seed was on the verge of upsetting a no. 1 seed for the first time in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
My boys from Baton Rouge, the Southern University Jaguars, had Gonzaga on the ropes. They only led for 142 seconds in the first half and never in the second half, but Southern were never completely out of the game. Even as the Zags took an 11-point lead with 9 1/2 minutes left, Southern calmly stuck with their game plan and stepped up the defense.
When Southern tied the game with 4:08 left, it really did feel like the upset was going to happen. You could just smell the boudin, cracklins, the gator being fried up on the banks of the Mississippi. The drive-thru daiquiri stores were getting ready extra batches for the days long party that would normally be reserved for LSU acheivements.
But for one day, the tiny college whose athletic department the NCAA tried to obliterate several years ago, the relic of the Jim Crow era of America, the small historically black college would be the pride of the Capitol City. Even though I didn't have them advancing in my bracket, you can bet your sweet bippy that I was cheering them on.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Gary Bell, Jr. and Kevin Pangos hit three pointers down the stretch to ensure Gonzaga wouldn't be the laughing stock of history. This was the closest margin of victory for a one-seed since 1996 when Purdue beat Western Carolina by two points.
On complete opposite end of the excitement spectrum was the Kings game against the Dallas Stars. There were very few moments that got the blood flowing.
- Kyle Clifford on a breakaway shorthanded to end the first period. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen made the save, but it was a part of the Kings dominance for the first 40 minutes.
- Anze Kopitar stiff-arming of Erik Cole in the second period. It was only remarkable since it's not very often I see the stiff arm in hockey.
- Jonathan Quick's save on Trevor Daley at 4:07 in the third period during a Stars power play. They say your best penalty killer has to be your goalie.
With five minutes left in the second period, the Kings had outshot the Stars 27-8. But there was a big problem: Lehtonen was certainly deserving of his nickname "Let None In". The Stars made a bit of a push in the final five minutes of the period, and it was still scoreless heading into the final 20 minutes.
"We had lots of opportunities and didn't quite complete them," head coach Darryl Sutter said. "Which is too bad because we worked hard."
So of course it goes without saying the Stars would win. The first line of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and captain Dustin Brown were the ones that got beat. First on a shot from the 41-year old Jaromir Jagr that bounced off of Drew Doughty's skate and into the net. Four minutes later they allowed a two-on-one rush that allowed the almost-41-year old Ray Whitney to once again burn the Kings. In a matter of four minutes the game became a Stars 2-0 victory.
The fact that the first line gave up the two goals didn't go unnoticed. "They didn’t play very well," Sutter noted. "They got caught on two line shifts, caught on the wrong side of pucks, caught in different situations that we don't want to be in. They have struggled for two or three games that line, probably three in a row now."
On the other side of the arena, the Stars were happy to come out of here with the two points.
"This was one your goalie comes and gets you," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Certainly Kari kept us in. We came out in the end."
The Kings come back for a Saturday matinee against the Vancouver Canucks where they're looking to rebound.
I was absolutely correct on the two upset picks I gave you yesterday. Of course I whiffed on 14-seed Harvard beating 3-seed New Mexico and the slight upset of 9-seed Witchita State over 8-seed Pittsburgh. So here are my upsets for tomorrow's games:
9 Temple over 8 NC State
10 Colorado over 7 Illinois
10 Iowa State over 7 Notre Dame
11 Minnesota over 6 UCLA
9 Villanova over 8 North Carolina