We won’t have recaps for every single game played in the tournament, but since they were first two winners to take centre stage, I figure the Spartans and Bulldogs are worthy of a little ink.
Michigan State and Valparaiso got us started with a game that was clearly decided early, as the Spartans jumped out to a 35-18 lead at halftime and then stretched that lead up to 27 in the second half before Valpo made the final score look somewhat respectable. Curiously enough, the Spartans were favoured by 10.5 or 11 points on most betting lines, so the final being within 11 points after Michigan State holding such a huge lead late in the game certainly raised a few eyebrows if you’re a conspiracy theorist. Derrick Nix was a beast for the Spartans with 23 points and 15 rebounds in the victory.
As for Butler, many bracket fillers (including myself) saw them as vulnerable to an upset at the hands of No. 11 Bucknell, who came in with better ranks in both offensive and defensive efficiency. After the Bison made a 23-10 run to open the second half and take a lead however, the Bulldogs reminded all of us why they were awarded the higher seed in the first place, finishing the game on an impressive 37-19 run over the final 10 minutes. It was Butler’s effectiveness at the free throw line that put the game away and prevented Bucknell from any realistic chance at a rally, as the Bulldogs went 25-of-28 from the charity stripe and were 18-of-20 from the line in the final five minutes. The Bison got to the line just eight times.