Cincinnati 67, #24 Vanderbilt 58
Vanderbilt might have come in a little bit too confident for this one after reaching into the Top 25 for the first time of the season, but this result had more to do with the Yancy Gates show than anything else. Anybody who watched Gates play last season knows that he has the potential to be one of the top players in the Big East, and he showed why here with 16 points and 10 boards. Cincy now gets the chance to really make a splash at the Maui Invite with Maryland in their second game, and then either Gonzaga, Wisconsin or Arizona in their third. The Big East isn't top heavy like last season, and is wide open for a team like Cincy to make a run. As for Vandy, this will not be a bad loss as Cincy will almost definitely be an RPI Top 50 team. Unfortunately, they do not get a chance to atone in their second game, as they're stuck playing Chaminade. They'll get one shot to salvage this tournament, against either Colorado, Arizona or Wisconsin on Wednesday night. But more importantly, the Commodores have got to improve their inside play. It wasn't just Gates who blew them away on the boards here (45-to-27 was the final tally).
Gonzaga 76, Colorado 72
Gonzaga showed a lot of poise here coming back from a 15 point deficit, including 11 at the half. It would be easy for a young team to start thinking about the beach when in front of a tiny crowd in Hawaii and down by double-digits, but Steven Gray and Matt Bouldin did a great job of keeping the team in this one. Gray, especially, is emerging as a really nice offensive threat. I also think the Zags have more to get out of Demetri Goodson, who is a player I like and who occasionally shows flashes of truly electric play. As for Colorado, this is a demoralizing loss for a program that really needs a big win. Colorado hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003, and has only won a single Tournament game over the last 40 years. I like Jeff Bzdelik, and I think he's got the team going in the right direction, but they're obviously at least a year or two from seriously contending for an at-large bid. If they can get a single win from this tournament that is not Chaminade then I think they'll view it as a success, and something to build upon. The Big 12 is getting a lot of attention for its top two teams, but things are really wide open after that. There's no reason that Colorado can't make a run at something like 8th or 9th place if they can keep playing like this.
Northern Iowa 81, Boston College 69
Northern Iowa has been picked by many to win the Missouri Valley, including myself, and they're off to a decent start. This is the type of game that they've got to win if they're going to have a good shot at an at-large bid should they fail to win the Valley's automatic bid. Boston College is an ACC team, but will probably finish near the bottom of the conference. And the Panthers were powered by a player whose name I've got to learn how to pronounce: Kwadzo Ahelegbe, who scored 12 points per game last season, but exploded for 32 points on 14-for-17 shooting here. The established star of the team is Adam Koch, and he also played well, but Ahelegbe looks like he'll be a nice partner. They now get one cupcake before a key stretch in December: at Iowa State, vs Iowa, Siena and at Creighton (not consecutive, but all played in the month of December). We'll know after those four games how realistic an at-large bid is for Northern Iowa. As for Boston College, this is clearly a rebuilding season. Things will get better whenever Rakim Sanders gets back from his ankle injury (probably some time in mid-to-late December).