The Sports Section

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March Madness

Everyone has their favorite time of the year in sports. For some it’s the first game of the season, like the kickoff of opening day in football or the first pitch of your favorite baseball teams opening day. For others it’s the playoffs or championship games. Whether it’s The Masters in golf or the Daytona 500 in racing, everyone has a favorite. The NCAA Basketball Tournament is at the top of a lot of people’s list, and definitely tops my list.

   FGCU Gets First Victory of Tourney

The first action of the tournament got underway Tuesday with games known as the “2016 First Four.” Usually referred to as the play-in games, these games narrow the field of 68 down to 64. The first of these matchups pitted (16) Fairleigh Dickinson against our local school in the tournament, (16) Florida Gulf Coast University.

From the start FGCU jumped all over F.D. Just seconds after tipoff, it was plain to see that a young Fairleigh Dickinson team was outmanned as the Eagles started the scoring immediately with an alley-oop slam dunk. It was reminiscent of the 2013 team that was tagged with the name “Dunk City.” Although this season’s team doesn’t dunk the ball as much as the team that shocked Georgetown and San Diego St. three years ago, they average more points a game than the Dunk City team did. After taking his 15 seeded team to the sweet 16 and getting national attention, Dunk City coach Andy Enfield left the team for a job at USC. This year’s team, under former Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, doesn’t have the “flash” that Dunk City had, but they might be the best 16 seed ever in the tourney.

On Tuesday, the Eagles scored early and often, and played stingy defense, holding the Knights to a season low 19 first half points. The Eagles got to double digits before FD scored their first point. They opened the game with a 23-6 run and put up a 40-19 lead at halftime.

With the 65-96 victory over the Knights, FGCU improved its NCAA Tournament record to 3-1, while Fairleigh Dickinson is still looking for their first tournament win (0-5) dating back to 1985. The Eagles next matchup is against the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels. Could FGCU be the first 16 seed to beat a number one? Highly unlikely, but this game figures to be a lot more competitive than most #1 vs. #16 matchups, and I’m hoping that when the Island Sand Paper hits the streets early Friday morning we are all celebrating an Eagles victory.

(11) Wichita St. came on strong in the second half and defeated (11) Vanderbilt, 70-50 and advanced to play (6) Arizona. I find the seeding of this game particularly odd. Both of these teams are 11 seeds but have to play to get into the field of 64. The other 11 seed matchup pitted Tulsa against Michigan. The Wolverines won a close one in Dayton and will take on (6) Notre Dame.

On Wednesday night (16) Holy Cross won a close one against (16) southern. They will face (1) Oregon on Friday. Oregon has a 1 seed for the first time in their history.

NIT: Gators and Seminoles Advance to 2nd Round

The (2) Florida Gators cruised to a 97-68 victory over (7) North Florida on Tuesday night in the NIT. Florida was the higher seed and considered the home team, but because of a $65 million renovation to Florida’s O’Connel Center, the game was played on the Ospreys home court in Jacksonville.

Florida built a 22-point halftime lead behind great 3-point shooting. All five starters scored in double digits. The Gators hit 16 threes, hitting 12-19 in the first half to move on to the 2nd round. John Egbunu capped the Gator’s big first half with his 68th dunk of the season to set a University of Florida single-season record. Unfortunately, there is some bad news for the Gators and Egbunu. Florida coach Mike White announced after the game that Egbunu would have season-ending thumb surgery on Thursday.

Florida State also moved onto the second round of the NIT with a late rally in the second half to defeat (5) Davidson, 74-84. Two freshmen, Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley led the way in scoring, combining for 44 points in the victory in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament. The Seminoles played in the NIT for the third time in four years after a school record of four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from ’09-’12.

 NASCAR

Kevin Harvick barely edged out Carl Edwards in the Good Sam 500 for the second “photo finish” in NASCAR in a month last weekend. Harvick and Edwards bumped twice on the final lap before, according to instant replay, Harvick crossed the finish line ahead of Edwards by 0.01 in an overtime finish. It was the same margin of victory as Hamlin’s over Truex Jr. in the Daytona 500.

Mike Yost

NASCAR SPRINT CUP

  1. Kyle Busch (18) 154
  2. Kevin Harvick (14) 154
  3. Jimmie Johnson (48) 140
  4. Kurt Busch (41) 137
  5. Carl Edwards (19) 136
  6. Denny Hamlin (11) 131
  7. Joey Logano (22) 127
  8. Austin Dillon (3) 122
  9. Martin Truex Jr. (78) 117
  10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) 115