2007 NCAA Tournament: First Round Notes
By Aran Smith
[img_assist|nid=3993|title=Eric Maynor - AP Photo: Scott K. Brown|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=354|height=323]Good Stuff Maynor!
Virginia Commonwealth's 2 point win over Duke was the big highlight from the first round of action. Eric Maynor's head to head dual with Greg Paulus, who's admirably taken the "Dukie-you-love-to-hate" baton from JJ Redick, made his heroic shot with 1.4 seconds remaining on the clock that much more pleasing for Duke-haters.
While every other favorite won on the day with nearly every game being lopsided, this game gave tourney fans a much needed jolt of excitement.
Maynor was a man possessed and would not let his team lose hitting a number of big shots in the closing minutes.
Just a sophomore, Maynor is a terrific ball hawk who shoots 40% from 3 and averages 13.9 ppg and a 3-1 a/to ratio. He has pro potential if he continues to improve his point guard skills and offensive game. He finished with 22 points on 8-16 shooting and 8 assists carrying VCU to the win.
Just a week ago, Maynor was being carried off the court after winning Conference tourney MVP after leading the Rams to a 65-59 win over George Mason in the CAA championship in Richmond, Va.
The analysts were quick to come to Duke's rescue saying this was a down year for them as they are the youngest Duke team in 60 years. They're also the youngest Duke team in 60 years with 6 McDonald's All Americans, with 3 more joining the fray next season.
Josh McRoberts had a career high 22 points with 11 rebounds, but the performance may have hurt his stock more than helping it. He looked better than he has in most other games this year, moving around well and breaking free for a number of highlight dunks. But the VCU Rams front court doesn't have a player over 6-7. McRoberts should have been able to dominate this group for an easy 30 points and influence the outcome. Based on McRoberts body language, it would not be a surprisee to see him bolt for the NBA despite a subpar sophomore season.
To think there was a point in time where some pundits were comparing Greg Paulus to John Stockton - following the McDonald's All Star game. Paulus struggles to stay in front of college level point guards. He has really struggled to live up to expectations with his play making ability regressing while his outside shot has become his best attribute.
Aaron Gray should be able to have a field day against VCU's small front court. It will be tough for VCU as Pitt really defends and rebounds well. And VCU's lack of size is what separates them from last year's George Mason team.
For Eric Maynor - More malt o meal please!
The Vols 121 points matched the most ever scored by a team in the opening round of the tournament. This game was never close as Tennessee jumped on Long Beach St. early and cruised to the easy win behind a combined 72 points from Chris Lofton, Ramar Smith and JaJuan Smith.
For the first 15 or so minutes of the Wisconsin game it looked as if Texas A&M Corpus Christi might actually be able to pull the upset. The Badgers were missing every shot they put up and couldn't establish anything inside with Corpus Christi's bigman Chris Daniels regulating the paint. When Wisconsin was able to close the halftime lead to 10, they gained the momentum back and it became apparent their superior talent would persevere in the end.
Despite a gutsy effort by Elijah Ingram and New Mexico State, Kevin Durant took over in the final minutes of the game showing why he's college basketball's player of the year. Durant finished with a quiet 27 and 8, hitting 15-16 from the line and 6-13 from the floor. He scores so effortlessly it's hard to imagine him not putting up 25 a game in the NBA in a few short seasons and contending for scoring titles for years to come. USC is up next for Texas on Sunday, and both teams are perimeter heavy but USC's Taj Gibson could swing the balance in the Trojans favor. Gibson finished with 18 and 8 and played a big part in SC's win over an upset minded Arkansas team. The Nick Young versus Kevin Durant contest should be a great subplot. The Longhorns glaring lack of interior players was somewhat exposed by NM State and will surely be exploited by USC or UNC.
Oregon didn't expect to be in such a dogfight in their opening round match with Miami of Ohio but they were able to pull out the two point win behind point guard Aaron Brooks 18 points. Marty Leunen hit the crucial free throw in the end to put the game out of reach despite the 3 pointer by Miami of Ohio at the buzzer. The three amigos - Brooks, Taylor and Porter are a dangerous bunch but this team's lack of size is a big concern for them and they will be upset by Winthrop if they play the way they did against Miami of Ohio.
The Yellow Jacket freshmen showed their lack of experience in what may end up being both player's last NCAA game. Javaris Crittenton is a big time prospect but he struggled with just 8 points on 4-11 shooting with 6 asts and 4 turnovers. Crittenton has the look of an NBA point guard, but scouts feel his long term potential would greatly benefit from at least a second year in college. Young had an even more disappointing performance with 8 points on 3-12 shooting including one garbage bucket at the end. The Vegas defense clamped down tight on the Young Jackets and built a big lead in the first half. Tech was able to tie it up behind their own excellent defense. But in the end with a 59-59 score, UNLV's rebounding and toughness won the game for them.
Nick Fazekas had fouled out earlier in the year against Gonzaga in a tie ball game and Nevada pulled the game out. So when Fazekas fouled out early in overtime with a 4 point lead, the Wolfpack didn't panic. Ramon Sessions showed why he's one of the best unknown point guards in the country taking over along with Marcelus Kemp with clutch drives in the overtime period to hold off Nate Funk and Creighton. Kemp finished with 27 while Sessions had 16.
Louisiville's dominance over Stanford was a result of their superior guard play and depth. Louisville was able to press Stanford completely out of the game building a huge early leading and never relenting. Louisville is on a big roll and their ability to press should prove to be a huge challenge for Acie Law and Texas A&M due to their lack of backcourt depth. This should be a great game.
Winthrop was able to outlast Notre Dame behind 24 points from bigman Craig Brashaw. Bradshaw's breakaway dunk in the final moments iced the game for the Eagles. Bradshaw lacks great interior strength but has a classic European game with excellent outside shooting ability. He should make a solid pro in European leagues. Russell Carter's overaggressive style proved to be a detriment as he forced a number of possessions late in the game. Winthrop lost a heartbreaker to Tennessee a year ago, so they were due and should be a handful for Oregon in round 2.
Enjoy the round 2 games!