First Four Notebook: "Dudes are Dudes"

I watched both play-in games yesterday, and came away with a few thoughts. I’ll share them here throughout the column, but one thing is immediate: Dayton playing at home is not a big deal. Yes, the arena was sold out, but it’s been pretty much sold out all year. Dayton was the “visiting” team on a different floor that dressed in the visiting locker room. Some of this is a bit preposterous – mostly the visiting locker room part – but the rest of this is a lot of noise about nothing. The reality is that each of these First Four games should be played at the home sites of the home teams. Hampton, BYU, Robert Morris and Dayton should have all played on their home floors. Play the games on campus, and give the lower seeded team a chance to win on their floor. It happens in the Women’s, CIT, CBI, NIT, and every other men’s division, just do it and be done with it.

Robert Morris vs. North Florida

Robert Morris won this game, but they did all they could to give it away. North Florida, who played 13 of their first 16 games on the road this season, shot extremely well in the first half, but couldn’t hit the side of a barn when it counted in the second. When RMU switched to a matchup-zone in the second half and was helped by unforced turnovers the lights were out for North Florida.

Anyone watching this game with an objective eye could tell you that RMU was the better, more athletic team, but the Osprey’s found a way to stay in it.

Side note: When I hear Osprey, I think big tilt-rotor aircraft sometimes used by the Department of Defense to transport parts of the President’s motorcade, or even the President himself. Clearly, this is a totally different Osprey, and these birds have only been flying around Division I since 2009. They took the long road – as many schools are right now – from NAIA, through Division II to Division I. I think we need fewer teams at Division I, but North Florida is showing me these smaller schools can compete without needing an 80% subsidy from their students. Nice work, and thanks for passing through Dayton.

Here’s this nugget from North Florida’s Matthew Driscoll:

After half, RMU came out a totally different and even though North Florida was 78-76 with 10 seconds to go, RMU powered through to win 81-77. Robert Morris now faces Duke on Friday in Charlotte at 7:10p ET. If you’re a RMU fan, this game will not be pretty. #SorryNotSorry Quick thoughts:

  • Robert Morris failed to score 4:31 in the first half allowing North Florida to go up by as much as 13 early in the second half. That obviously cannot happen against Duke who would at least double that in the same span of time.
  • North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said giving up 52 points in a half was “unlike” them, he wasn’t kidding. The Osprey’s had given up no more than 38 in an entire half the whole season. The Osprey’s are a team that lived on a defense that failed them last night.
  • North Florida committed 19 turnovers and allowed 21 points as a result. Robert Morris had only five turnovers.

Dayton “vs.” Boise State

Playing at home and sold out arena, but dressing in the visiting locker room, wearing road uniforms and playing on floor you’ve never touched in 16 home games. What could go wrong? Boise State making its 7th tournament appearance and second in the First Four is 0-7 after last night, allowed Dayton to shoot 72 percent in the second half and couldn’t draw a fourth foul against Dayton’s Jordan Sibert until the waning seconds of the game. Sibert picked up three fouls early in the first half. After Sibert left with 7:33 remaining in the first half, the Broncos outscored Dayton 19-7, but couldn’t come close to the same pace in the second half. All you need to know about Dayton is one word: resilience. And one name: Jordan Sibert. Without either, Dayton isn’t playing Friday in Columbus and Boise State has their first tournament win. With Sibert in the game, the Flyers seemed unstoppable, and Sibert seemed to have complete control of everything. Here’s the winning three from Sibert:

Is that an illegal screen? Absolutely, but the officials are in transition, and as you can see the lead official (on the baseline) is rotating to the side of the floor opposite of Sibert, and the official behind (whom you can’t see) Sibert probably focused on Sibert and Boise State’s Nick Duncan (13) because he’s the most likely person to foul to Sibert. It’s literally the best time to commit an illegal screen.

Dayton faces Providence in Columbus (another virtual home game) on Friday at 9:15pm. I suspect the game will be one of the better 6 vs. 11 matchups because Dayton’s defense and Providence’s desire to attack the paint.

Quick Thoughts:

  • Dayton is the first team since 1978 to play on its home floor during the NCAA tournament. As I said earlier, I’d be OK with this ONLY for First Four games. Dayton’s sellout crowd of 12,595 – easily the largest of the First Four games – could be duplicated, along with the environment, for any of the other three games.
  • Boise State died by the 3-pointer last night. They rank 16th in Division I with an average of 8 3-pointers, but last night were only 6 of 20 from extended range.
  • For only the second time in school and first since 1994, both Boise’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are playing in the tournament at the same time. Boise State will host the opening rounds (“Second Round”) in 2019. I wonder if the Broncos will get the same courtesy Dayton did this year.

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