This week’s Drake’s Takes previews today’s Nebraska women’s basketball game, along with a couple thoughts on the first day of men’s March Madness.
Nebraska versus Gonzaga today
Nebraska women’s basketball didn’t get the best of draws for the NCAA Tournament.
As I mentioned last week, the Huskers were projected by some to land a No. 6 seed in the bracket. In hindsight, that was probably a generous projection to begin with, but I’m honestly surprised they were given a No. 8 seed. No disrespect to the teams a seed higher, but you can make strong arguments for Nebraska having a better resume than each one of them.
Instead of the No. 7 seed route to the Sweet 16 of playing a No. 10 and most likely a No. 2 seed, the Huskers will take on a No. 9 and No. 1. That difference isn’t crazy, given the talent at the top of women’s college basketball, but Nebraska’s path is tough.
What makes it even tougher is that today’s matchup cannot, under any circumstances, be overlooked. No. 9 seed Gonzaga is 26-6 and has won nine of its last 10. Its two most recent losses are both to BYU, but the Bulldogs just got their revenge with a win in the West Coast Conference championship.
Without a doubt, today’s game will be challenging. I expect it to be close throughout. I feel confident enough to say that Nebraska comes in as the better team, but it’s a matchup that has a good chance of going either way.
Teddy Allen drops 37
One of the many highlights of the men’s tournament’s first day was former Husker Teddy Allen.
Allen, who also went to high school in Nebraska, led New Mexico State to a major upset over UCONN. He put up 37 points, including the final 15 for the Aggies. After the Huskies tied the game at 58 with under two minutes left, Allen hit a three and later sealed the win with an and-one layup.
In those closing minutes, you could see the same energy from Allen that he brought to Nebraska last year. His play brought many criticisms, but he’s still the guy that dropped 41 points in a game and had seven more games with over 20 points.
It was nice to see that translate to a winning team. More than anything, I enjoyed hearing his postgame interview, especially his response to how far the Aggies could go in the bracket.
“If you wanna send us home, you gotta send us home,” he said.
The fun of final possessions
Even outside of New Mexico State’s win, the first day of March Madness was great.
We saw large upsets, most notably Kentucky losing to Saint Peter’s and Iowa losing to Richmond. There were several games that came down to the final minute. Overall, those final stretches were great to watch.
I’m not only referring to the best-looking moments either. There were huge shots made late in games, but on the flip side, it felt like I watched a bunch of hilariously bad late-game possessions.
Generally, I feel that the college basketball product is significantly worse than the professional game. But, paradoxically, that’s what can make it so enjoyable.
There’s little in basketball that’s more satisfying than a made final shot that wins the game or at least sends it into another overtime. So, when it’s late in games and there’s a chance for such a big moment, I root for it. There were multiple scenarios like that on Thursday that didn’t come to fruition.
San Diego State ended its loss to Creighton with the ball slipping out of a player’s hands with the team down three. Regulation between San Francisco and Murray State also ended with a turnover. Akron trailed by two against UCLA, and forced a wild layup in traffic that never had a chance. That was all while another Zips player sat wide open in the corner.
An honorable mention would also go to the teams that fell apart down the stretch of close game. My favorite example doesn’t really matter because there was no chance for Iowa to win anyway, but the Hawkeyes opted for an alley-oop down four points with two seconds left. I’m not sure what the thought process was there.
These moments, to me, are part of what’s so endearing about college basketball. We know what successful final possessions and game-winning shots look like. It happens in college a lot, and it’s great. But college also gives us so much of the other end — a team being so close to a memorable moment yet the final possessions making them seem so, so far.
I am sure we’ll see some game-winners as March Madness progresses. All of these teams, winning or losing, had very successful seasons as well and that should be commended. But it’ll still be entertaining to watch the endings that go awry.