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Game thread, NCAA Tournament - Round of 64, Day 2

Plus a look at some semi-surprising firings in high major hoops

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Tulsa Practice
This could be St. John’s but...
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This could have been a day where some of our community would have said “ugh, they beat ASU but ASU just let them” while others would be saying “I really think this team could go the the Elite Eight”.

This would also be the day, I am certain, that those hopes would be dashed by a tough Buffalo team — one of our must-watches for the day. While we chat about games, two interesting tidbits to share.


Today Bryce Drew from Vanderbilt was relieved of his duties, aka fired, after a winless SEC conference season. He spent three seasons in Nashville, going 19-16, 12-20, and 9-23. This year’s non-conference schedule was weak, but the Commodores did beat Liberty and Arizona State.

Vandy made one NCAA Tournament, in Drew’s first year. The former Valparaiso star and brother of Scott Drew had a dominant run at Valpo for five seasons.

Avery Johnson will be bought out, aka fired, from Alabama, after going 75-62, and 34-38 in SEC play over four seasons. This article points out how Alabama fell short of expectations. From that piece:

Yet the most disturbing harbinger would come in the last few months as Alabama dropped games it shouldn’t have lost and squandered large leads due, in large part, to a lack of effort and discipline.

The Tide was ranked 243rd in the country in second-half point margin, which highlighted Alabama’s inability to author a complete performance.

“I feel like our energy be up and down,” senior forward Donta Hall said after the Tide was eliminated in the SEC tournament earlier this month. “That’s pretty much what our inconsistency is. Probably like attitude, stuff like that, commitment.”

On one hand, both of these dismissals seem hasty (though Alabama may check in on Alabama grad Steve Prohm at Iowa State).

On the other hand, the teams did fall short of expectations, especially as those expectations were boosted by NBA-level, one-and-done plausible prospects.


Also of interest: Roger Rubin for Newsday says it is possible that Mustapha Heron could return. That would, of course, change the expectations for next season.

Three to watch today

Cincinnati Bearcats (28-6) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (22-11)

When: Friday, March 22, 12:15 PM

TV: CBS | March Madness Online

Odds: Cincinnati, -3

Announcers: Brian Anderson / Chris Webber // Allie LaForce

Preview: Iowa has limped into the NCAA Tournament much like St. John’s has, losing six of their last eight. They are fast-paced, offensively talented, but have struggled to put up points recently. Cincinnati won the American Conference Tournament, finally dispatching Houston in the final. The cougars had beaten the Bearcats twice this season. The Bearcats want to play an extreme slowdown game, defend well inside, and struggle to score.

Buffalo Bulls (31-3) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (23-10)

When: Friday, March 22, 4:00 PM

TV: TNT | March Madness Online

Odds: Buffalo, -6

Announcers: Brad Nessler / Steve Lavin / Jim Jackson // Evan Washburn

Preview: Western New York’s team is a monster, and would have physically disemboweled the Johnnies. Take heart in that, because despite their lack of height, this game is going to make you want to say “stop the fight!” Sure, Nate Oats of Buffalo coached under Bobby Hurley when Hurler was at Buffalo. But Oats’ team is far crisper than the sloppy Sun Devils. Devonta Jordan’s defense will remind you on the late 90’s Knicks guard defense. Like Arizona State, Buffalo plays fast.

Maybe Steve Lavin will tell some St. John’s stories while we watch.

Utah State Aggies (28-6) vs. Washington Huskies (26-8)

When: Friday, March 22, 6:50 PM

TV: TNT | March Madness Online

Odds: Utah State, -3

Announcers: Brian Anderson / Chris Webber // Allie LaForce

Preview: Two western teams meet in Ohio. Washington brings the 2-3 zone made famous at Syracuse, but this one actually forces turnovers and stifles three point attempts. Matisse Thybulle is a really good defender, and they have height for days. Utah State’s Sam Merrill can score, and I want to see him in action. The rest of the squad isn’t bad either.