On The Wing: Bulls give Boise games to remember

UB

UB’s men’s basketball helped Boise, Idaho earn the top ranking in Marshall Haim’s city-by-city rankings for the first weekend of March Madness.

By Marshall Haim

Sports Editor

A question that was asked by many once the University at Buffalo found out that they were heading to Boise, Idaho for this year’s NCAA Tournament was: Where is Boise and how do I get there?

Clearly, those who ended up answering that question attended great games at Taco Bell Arena on the campus of Boise State last weekend. Out of the eight cities that hosted the first and second round matchups, Boise had the best of games.

Gonzaga, Ohio State and Kentucky all had to fight their way past their opponents in their Round of 64 games, but UB’s win over Arizona was the main event last Thursday.

As the second half of the game between No. 13 UB and No. 4 Arizona unfolded, the sounds of brackets being ripped, or shredded, around the country became more noticeable. The Bulls weren’t just going to pull off an upset, they were going to pull off a HUGE one.

UB’s win over Arizona was the program’s first win in the NCAA Tournament (their third appearance). They did so in resounding fashion beating the Wildcats by 21 points, 89-68, sending one of the favorites to win the entire tournament back to Tucson.

The Bulls limited 7-foot-1 center Deandre Ayton (14 points) and explosive guard Allonzo Trier (10) to just 24 points, tying their second-lowest combined total of the season.

Both Ayton and Trier declared for the NBA Draft immediately following the loss.

Last Saturday, UB put up a hard fight in their Round of 32 game against No. 5 seeded Kentucky, but their season came to a close as a young Kentucky squad, that starts all freshman, asserted their dominance in the final 8-10 minutes of the game, coasting to a 95-75 victory.

Despite the 20-point Kentucky win, UB kept pace with the Wildcats for the majority of the game. Wes Clark, a senior guard transfer, shined for the Bulls in his final collegiate game, scoring 26 points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the Bulls’ kryptonite, scoring a game-high 27 points, going 10-of-12 from the field, while adding six rebounds and six assists for Kentucky, who makes their seventh Sweet 16 appearance in the last nine years.

In the following game, Gonzaga fended off Ohio State, 90-84, advancing to their fourth straight Sweet 16.

With Boise being number one, my rankings of how each city fared:

2) Dallas

If you want to root for a fellow Jesuit school – who also happens to be this year’s Cinderella – Loyola-Chicago is your team.

Loyola-Chicago’s run in the Sweet 16 rightfully gives Dallas the second slot. They beat Miami (Fla.) with a three-pointer with 0.3 seconds left in their first round game before beating Tennessee on a buzzer-beater to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1985, the last time they made the tournament.

Texas Tech’s Round of 32 game with Florida was also a must-see with the Red Raiders beating the Gators, 69-66.

Stephen F. Austin gave Texas Tech a scare in the first round but the Red Raiders’ stifling defense in the second half ultimately sent the Lumberjacks back home.

3) Wichita, Kan.

The second round brought Wichita from the middle of the pack all the way to the third spot.

Top-seeded Kansas had a tall task in stopping Angel Delgado and Seton Hall in the second round, but the Jayhawks came up on top, 83-79. Kansas also had to battle with No. 16 Penn in the first  25 minutes of their Round of 64 matchup.

Freshman Jordan Poole’s three-pointer helped Michigan advance to their second straight Sweet 16 appearance, eliminating Houston from the Big Dance.

The Cougars barely got past San Diego State in their Round of 64 game, thanks to Rob Gray and his career-high 39 points.

4) Nashville, Tenn

The first round games were not anything to write home about, except Nevada’s overtime win over Texas.

The second round games, however, were what makes Nashville the fourth spot on my list.

Nevada comes back from a 22-point deficit with 11 minutes left against Cincinnati, winning the game off a running layup with nine seconds left? NUTS! The Wolf Pack have only led for just four minutes in 85 total minutes of action (4.7 percent of their two games) and are in the Sweet 16. Go figure, it’s March.

Then, Xavier blows a nine-point lead with 5:37 left to become the second No. 1 seed to get eliminated prior to the Sweet 16? Bonkers!

5) Charlotte, N.C.

Never in my lifetime did I expect a No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament. Never.

Well, can’t say that anymore thanks to UMBC (University of Maryland – Baltimore County, if you haven’t Googled it by now).

With the Retrievers demolishing the highest overall No. 1 seed, Virginia, by 20 points last Friday, it was the biggest story coming out of the entire tournament. Yet Charlotte ranks No. 5 on my list.

The win by UMBC was big, don’t get me wrong. They snapped a 135-game losing streak for No. 16 seeds against No. 1 seeds. They then played Kansas State in the second round which ended up being an offensive struggle or defensive battle, you pick which one it was.

The other first round games weren’t great with K-State beating Creighton by 10 points and North Carolina besting Lipscomb by 18. Texas A&M ousted Providence in Charlotte’s second-best first round match, 73-69.

6) San Diego

Marshall. Marshall. Marshall.

No, I didn’t do anything wrong (I got that more than you think as a kid and, yes, I know where it originates from)…

The Marshall Thundering Herd, appearing in their first tournament in 31 years, pulled off a monumental upset beating No. 4 Wichita State last Friday.

Had I known that Dan D’Antoni, Marshall’s head coach, wore a t-shirt underneath his blazer, I would have totally would have taken Marshall to win. Hell, I should have picked them because I share a name with them. Stupid me!

Fun fact: Marshall and UB became the first pair of No. 13 seeds to advance to the Round of 32 in 10 years (San Diego and Siena in 2008). West Virginia cancelled Marshall’s plans of making it to the Sweet 16 by cruising to a 23-point victory, 94-71.

Clemson’s 32-point victory over Auburn in the second round was the second best game in San Diego. The others were duds.

7) Detroit

It wouldn’t be March Madness without Syracuse pulling off, yet, another upset. Sigh.

The mastermind behind the zone defense, Jim Boeheim, employed his defense against Michigan State, sending the Orange to the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in the last 10 years.

This game followed an entertaining Butler – Purdue game that also came down to the wire.

The first round matchups at newly opened Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit weren’t anything to write home about.

8) Pittsburgh

Rhode Island’s overtime win in the first round over Oklahoma, who should have never even been in the tournament, was the lone highlight.

Villanova and Duke won their games by an average of 24.5 and 23.5 points, respectively.

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