This year’s March Madness tournament might have had one of the best second rounds ever. The second round of March Madness is Salt Lake City was one people will remember for a long time. In the first game, Gonzaga and Northwestern faced off and then after them St. Mary’s challenged Arizona. These two games just added to the excitement.
Gonzaga vs Northwestern: This game was a blowout at halftime, and then Northwestern clawed their way back into it and make it a good game. Gonzaga played really well in the first half, maybe the best they’ve ever played. But then in the second half they allowed Northwestern get momentum and comeback and make them nervous. If Northwestern would’ve come back and won, they would’ve had the second biggest comeback in NCAA history. If is the key word in that sentence. But give them credit, they did come from 21 down and make it a three point game at one point.
Gonzaga played one of the best games I’ve seen them play in a long time. They played exceptionally well in the first half, leading by 18, then in the second half they didn’t fall apart but they let Northwestern come back. But this game was very meaningful to Gonzaga because they saw Nigel Williams-Goss get his swag back. When the final buzzer sounded Goss had 20 points, two steals, four assists, and eight rebounds. In the first half Northwestern just couldn’t stop him. While watching this game and I saw Goss get going, I knew it was going to end up being a good game for him. But it wasn’t just Nigel who won the game for them, he had a lot of help from his teammates. Jordan Mathews had another great game, putting up 14 points, three steals and seven rebounds. One of the most important players was Zach Collins. He came off the bench when Przemek Karnowski needed a breather, and played fantastic. They put him in when Northwestern was coming back and he absolutely silenced Northwestern’s crowd. He had 14 points, two and-ones in a row, four blocks, and five rebounds. Gonzaga played a complete game and deserved to win.
Northwestern could’ve had one of the greatest comeback wins of all time, could’ve. In the first half they could not stop the Bulldogs. During the first round game against Vanderbilt the Wildcats first fed on the momentum the crowd was giving them. Yesterday in the first half, that element had almost vanished. But to their credit, they did take a 18 point deficit and whittle it down to a three point deficit in about 15 minutes. The player that lead them Thursday to a win and yesterday on a comeback was Bryant McIntosh. He played almost the entire game and had 20 points, seven assists, and even pulled down a few rebounds. He was the player that you could obviously see he was playing his heart out all 38 minutes he was in there. He was the leader and during the comeback when the shot clock was winding down, you knew who was going to take the shot and who was going to deliver.
A moment Northwestern fans will probably talk about for a long time is what Chris Collins did with about six minutes left in the game. His team was on the verge of tying the game up or even taking the lead. They came down and they missed, but he thought there was goal-tending. Instead of letting it blow over and let his team get back on defense , he started screaming and hollering and then he jumped out on the court. This obviously got him a technical. That sent Goss to the line and there he made both free throws and then right after hit a three. Instead of a three point game, it was now an eight point game. That might have lost them the game.
So when it all comes down to it, Gonzaga wins and Northwestern loses. Gonzaga advances, and Northwestern goes home. But this Northwestern team should have some pride in themselves right now. This team was the first ever Northwestern team to make it to the tournament, and they got the school’s first ever tournament win. Now Gonzaga moves on to face West Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen. Good luck Zags.
Arizona vs St. Mary’s: This game really surprised me when I watched it. At the start of the game Arizona came out really slow. They let St. Mary’s push them around inside, they weren’t finishing shots, they just weren’t playing well. On the other hand, St. Mary’s came out and played really well. They came out and established a presence in the post right away, they defended well, they got good shots, and most importantly they got Arizona flustered. Arizona doesn’t get that feeling often so it resulted in bad shots and just bad everything for Arizona.
St. Mary’s came out and played exceptionally well. They were making their shots, they went to Jock Landale early, they just came out and slapped Arizona in the face. But if you want to beat Arizona you have to play a complete game with very few mistakes. About halfway through the second half St. Mary’s made a couple mistakes, and that led to points for Arizona and it’s hard to come back against a team that is very talented. Jock Landale is by far this team’s best player. Yesterday he put up his 17th double-double of the season. He had 17 points and 11 rebounds. That is a well played game for this Junior out of St. Mary’s. Another player that played really well these last two games is Calvin Hermanson. He had some foul trouble in the first half, but played really well the entire second half. He tallied 14 points and three rebounds. He’s a diverse forward so he really stretches the floor. St. Mary’s just couldn’t capitalize in the second half.
Arizona did not play their best first half and then played really well in the second half. If they could’ve played as well in the first half it would’ve been a total blowout. But they didn’t so let’s just look at what they did do. This team is extremely athletic and wants to run at anytime possible and that element helped them in the second half. When you look at the team’s box score it’s one of the most consistently even box scores I’ve ever seen. Their starters’ point totals were: in 16,13, 6,12, and 14. They is a surprising well box score for a team that is so young. The play by Lauri Markkanen this tournament has been really good. Yesterday he put up 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. This is a very young, talented, and smart team Sean Miller has right now. Look for that to help them in the future rounds of the tournament. But that youth and inexperience could also hurt them down the road. We’ll see.
So now all that all the games in Salt Lake are over, you realize something. These teams came from far and near, to play on a court they have never played on, and they played their hearts out. When you watch college basketball you see something you don’t see very often in the pros. Every single second of every single game every single player is going as hard as they can. Down 20 or up 50 they come to play and represent the name on their jersey. They don’t care who scores the most points or who has the best dunk, they just care about giving it their all and getting the win. If you watched the games that were played in Salt Lake you could see this type of effort. Let’s get ready to watch the Sweet Sixteen.