Tournament Update & College Hoops Player of the Day for Tuesday, March 13, 2012
First Four, Game 1: Western Kentucky 59 Mississippi Valley State 58 - The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky have made a habit of rallying from sizable deficits through the latter half of the season and did it again to open the 2012 NCAA tournament in style, rallying from 16 points down in the final 4:30 to overtake the Delta Devils and advance to play #1 seed Kentucky in the South region.
The game was sloppy, but nonetheless, entertaining. Mississippi Valley State led 54-37 with under four minutes left to play, but turned the ball over repeatedly as the Hilltoppers stepped up the defensive pressure. Western Kentucky turned the ball over 29 times, but out-rebounded their opponents, 60-32. Shooting was horrendous, as neither team shot better than 36 percent. The Devils' Kevin Burwell led all scorers with 20 points.
First Four, Game 2: BYU 78 Iona 72 - Iona shot 57% and led by as many as 25 points in the first half, but BYU cut the lead to 15 at the break, down 55-40 and wore down the Gaels in the second half for the win. Brandon Davies scored 18 points with 15 rebounds and teammate Noah Hartsock dropped in a game high 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including a decisive three-pointer which gave the Cougars the lead for good with about two minutes to play. The Cougars held Iona to just 17 second half points.
Tourney Notes: In an unprecedented development, Syracuse center Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament by the school, throwing a serious wrench into the Orange plans. Syracuse was named the #1 seed in the East region on Sunday. Details are uncertain, though a number of media outlets are reporting that the issue is with Melo's schoolwork, which was a reason for his suspension for three games during the regular season. Syracuse faces UNC-Asheville in an East regional opener Thursday afternoon.