FRISCO, TX — For those who love basketball, there isn’t much required to convince them to watch. “Hey here is some basketball” is just about all you need. For those with more “sophisticated” taste, a little more is required. First round games are not usually very appealing on their face. Consider, however, that all that inconsistency, all of those glaring weaknesses, all those flaws make for some compelling games.
Today, we saw Western come out slow, make an effort, and win. UTEP was great defensively until they weren’t. We saw Tech come out strong, but then FIU nearly steal the game as the favorite (they were half-point favorites and the higher seed). Chalk some of that up to Tech’s lack of point guard experience, and also FIU’s inconsistency. Oh how about a buzzer-beater that wasn’t? Rice is better than UTSA but also missed a free throw. Neither team has a defense to really speak of and it was evident as UTSA drove the length of the court to win the game but for a half-second.
Western 73 vs UTEP 67
Next up for WKU: 1st seeded FAU
La Tech 81 FIU 76
Tech jumped out to a big lead and led by 20 with 17:29 remaining in the game. From then on, FIU turned up the heat defensively and forced Tech to be uncomfortable. Gone were the wide open catch-and-shoot threes by Keaston Willis. Gone were the easy post ups and put-backs. Now Tech was fighting for open looks amid the length and speed of the Panthers. Denver Jones scored in bunches on the comeback, but Arturo Dean was a pest, getting his hands on passes, scoring, and turning defense into offense.
That this game went into overtime was surprising given their play in the first, but seeing Jeremy Ballard’s team this season, it should not have surprised anyone that this was a split performance. Late in overtime, Denver Jones’ legs started going and he was missing layups (two by my count) and a jumper. He scored like he always does, and gave great effort. The entire FIU squad did, after falling behind big. They didn’t have enough for Tech.
Meanwhile, Tech got themselves into a big lead by hitting shots that came from running the offense against the FIU half court set. Later, they were hit in the mouth by the press and the lack of a point guard (ahem Cobe Williams) meant Isaiah Crawford was doing the dirty work of passing and dribbling out of pressure. Overall, FIU got tons of looks for the comeback. They can press, and so a comeback press set is nothing new. It was effective and they got within striking distance after tons of effort.
Next up for Tech: 2nd seeded NT
Rice 72 UTSA 71
I’ll admit I took in the OT thriller for most of the time, but peaked in on this one once in a while. By the time OT had ended, we were just in time for Rice to line up for free throws to put them up by more than just the one. That was off, and then UTSA nearly won the game by driving the court and shooting a layup at the buzzer. The problem: the pump fake took too long and it doesn’t count.
Next up for Rice: 3rd seeded UAB