Saddle Up: Pat Knight's tactic worked


DAYTON, Ohio — Some folks thought the First Four didn’t matter. And then last night happened. Here we go again. Perhaps we’ll get more drama in the next installment from Dayton.

Vermont (16) vs. Lamar (16), 6:40 p.m. ET on truTV, University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio — The winner of this matchup will face No. 1 North Carolina.

Pat Knight publicly blasted his veterans after a tough loss in late February. The tactic was criticized by some, commended by others. The bottom line is that it worked.

The Cardinals have won six straight, a run that includes the Southland tournament title, since that 10-point home loss against Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 22. Anthony Miles (14.5 ppg) and Mike James (17.2 ppg) can go.

Vermont finished second to Stony Brook in the America East’s regular-season standings, but the Catamounts defeated the Seawolves in the conference tournament title game. The Catamounts are shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc. They held their opponents to just 60.5 ppg, second in the conference, and a 40 percent clip from the field, No. 1 in the league.

But they struggled down the stretch of their conference tournament title game, an offensive roadblock that they can’t afford against Lamar.

Four McGlynn leads the team in scoring (12.0 ppg) and he has the best name in the entire NCAA tournament. Personal opinion.

After what I witnessed last night here in Dayton, I can’t wait for the next set of games.

South Florida (12) vs. California (12), 9:10 p.m. ET on truTV, University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio — Two completely different teams. But whoever advances will have a shot to upset 5-seed Temple.

The Bulls are slow. They win ugly.

But they’ve held their opponents to 56.9 ppg, a Big East record for scoring defense. However, they average just 59.2 ppg on offense.

South Florida is the anti-Iona. The Bulls can guard everybody, but they can’t score. Augustus Gilchrist is the team’s leading scorer and he’s averaging 9.6 ppg.

It’s rarely pretty when South Florida takes the floor. But the Bulls can control the tempo.

Cal is a talented offensive team. The Bears led the Pac-12 with a plus-9.9 scoring margin. They shoot 48 percent from the field and they’ve averaged 71.7 ppg this season.

Justin Cobbs (12.9 ppg), Allen Crabbe (15.3 ppg) and Jorge Gutierrez (13.1 ppg) comprise one of the best backcourts in the field.

South Florida will pressure all three and try to force Cal to make things happen off the dribble. Cal will attack and try to play fast and make South Florida pick up the pace.

It’s an interesting contrast.

Will we see another amazing night of NCAA tourney basketball? I hope so.