King Kaufman's Sports Daily

NCAA Tournament Day 2: Running commentary. Day 1 was quiet. Too quiet.


Salon Staff
March 16, 2007 8:00PM (UTC)

6:30 p.m. EDT Nevada held off Creighton in overtime, Wisconsin survived Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Oregon is still struggling with Miami. The Ducks lead by eight without about eight to play. They're not looking like a Final Four team, he gulped, but they're also not looking like upset victims.

Perhaps big things will happen tonight. Niagara and Jackson State will step up as the 91st and 92nd 16-seeds to try to knock off a No. 1, in their respective cases Kansas and Florida. A better bet would be No. 13 New Mexico State over No. 4 Texas in the East, though that's a little like saying getting hit by lightning is a better bet than getting elected pope.

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A better bet than that -- better than New Mexico State, but also way better than the lightning or pope things -- would be Holy Cross over Southern Illinois, the 4-13 game in the West. I remain a little underwhelmed by Southern Illinois. Not sure why.

Other than that it's a lot of big-conference also runs. Arizona-Purdue and Kentucky-Villanova meet in 8-9 games, Virginia Tech-Illinois and USC-Arkansas in 5-12 games that if you squint your eyes might just look like 8-9 games. So don't squint your eyes.

I'll leave you to navigate the night games and the second round yourselves. We'll get together Monday and talk about the 16 survivors and the 48 who have gone fishing.

I mean gone back to class. Ho ho. I don't know how I made that mistake.

5:10 p.m. EDT I've been ignoring that close Nevada-Creighton game for a good reason. I'd forgotten it was going on. I got kind of wrapped up in Winthrop-Notre Dame and what's become a nip-and-tuck Wisconsin-Texas A&M-Corpus Christi game.

I'm going to try not to let the same thing happen to me with the Oregon-Miami (Ohio) game that's just underway. I have Oregon going to the Final Four, upsetting Florida in the Elite 8. And the Ducks are an exciting team to watch.

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So they started this game falling behind 9-0, but they've since cut it to 9-4. Creighton and Nevada are tied with 1:37 to go. Wisconsin leads my Islanders by two with 7:46 to go. Tennessee ended up hanging a 121 on Long Beach State. That's almost an ABA score.

4:45 p.m. EDT OK, then. This is more like it. As I suspected, my ignoring the crowd picking Winthrop to upset Notre Dame all but sealed the Fighting Irish's fate. Winthrop built a 20-point lead in the second half, survived a furious, 3-ball-sinking rally, and ended the game on a 12-1 run for its first-ever Tournament victory, 74-64.

Winthrop was beaten by Tennessee on a buzzer-beating jumper by Chris Lofton last season. The Eagles had gone 0-6 in the Tournament since their first appearance in 1999. They hung around with a good Gonzaga team in 2005 before losing -- eerie! -- 74-64.

Winthrop is only an 11 seed, so its win over No. 6 Notre Dame in the Midwest is technically no bigger than Virginia Commonwealth's win over Duke in the same slots in the West Thursday. But it feels bigger somehow.

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Not as big as it'll be if Texas A&M-Corpus Christi can hang on and beat Wisconsin. About six minutes into the second half the Islanders are leading 40-31. A 15-seed has only beaten a No. 2 four times in 91 tries, most recently Hampton over Iowa State in 2001. A Wisconsin run is coming, but right now it's a little hard to picture.

Tennessee has already put 112 up against Long Beach State with more than two minutes remaining. It's 112-84. Yikes.

And I'm thinking I should have looked at Rick Majerus' bracket before I let him in the pool. He went 14-2 Thursday, good for a first-place tie.

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3:20 p.m. EDT Go Islanders! Go Islanders! Go Islanders!

It's 10-0 A&M-CC!

Go Islanders!

(Nothing personal, Badgers.)

3:05 p.m. EDT Boy, we can really use some good games here. Georgia Tech showed some life and made it close against UNLV, but the Rebels won by four. Memphis didn't have a cakewalk, but was able to put away North Texas. Virginia crushed Cinderellalbany.

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Nineteen games in, and we've had two good finishes and one medium upset. I don't mean top sound ungrateful. I know a lot of people have to work today, but come on.

I have high hopes for chic upset pick Winthrop against Notre Dame. That's because I went against the hip crowd and took the Irish, which I figure means happy days are here for the Eagles, the 11-seed in the Midwest. Notre Dame leads 26-26 with about three minutes to go in the half and Winthrop on a 7-0 run.

Tennessee is having its way with Long Beach State in the ever-dangerous 5-12 game in the South. It's 29-12 about eight minutes in. Creighton and Nevada are about to match-up in another of those all-non-major games, and within the hour Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the last 15 standing, will take a crack at No. 2 Wisconsin in the Midwest.

Islanders. Go, Islanders!

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2:20 p.m. EDT Reader Chris suggests I add former Utah coach Rick Majerus to the Pool o' Experts, and I think I will.

Majerus is a Milwaukee native, and he's doing a Tournament blog for that city's Journal Sentinel. I like Majerus for a variety of reasons, not least of which is he got slapped for buying a kid a bagel, which of course is against NCAA rules, and because he pronounces the word offense "oh-fence."

Memphis has gone on two runs, one late in the first half and one just now, not quite midway through the second half, and the Tigers now lead North Texas 54-40. The Mean Green didn't go away after the last run. We'll see what happens this time. They're an athletic club that's giving Memphis all it wants.

Not so much for the Cinderella UAlbany Great Danes, who really need to take the "U" off the front of their jerseys. It just looks like a typo, "UALBANY." Overseeded Virginia wins, 84-57.

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Georgia Tech, which looked absolutely helpless against UNLV in the first half, rallied to tie the game around the middle of the second half. I'd like to tell you how that happened but I was stuck watching Memphis-North Texas.

I'm watching via the DirecTV March Madness package, and the game that's being carried on CBS is blacked out on the package channels. In my area, which is St. Louis, that game is UNLV-Georgia Tech -- even though Memphis is 300 miles down the road. But when CBS decides to switch to a different game for a while, the blackout stays put. So for a strangely long time there, I could watch Memphis-North Texas on two channels and UNLV-Georgia Tech on none.

No idea why CBS decided we in St. Boogie needed to see Memphis and North Texas in a not-particularly interesting stretch of that game while Georgia Tech was rallying furiously in what was supposed to be "our" game. But it seems like this is a solvable problem. Put an intern at the switch, and lift the blackout when CBS switches the main feed.

Not that you want to hear about my problems.

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Or do you? Well: 14 hours into this 48-hour, four-day basketball-watching marathon, my butt's killing me.

UNLV's up by one with 3:55 to go.

12:55 p.m. EDT This is fun. Here's Sports Illustrated on Memphis vs. North Texas, a 2-15 game in the South: "Another CUSA-type cakewalk for Tigers."

It's early. It may not last. But: Midway through the first half, it's 20-18, Mean Green.

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That's some tough cake!

12:35 p.m. EDT Virginia vs. Albany, 4-vs.-13 in the South. Sports Illustrated has this one picked as an upset. "Overseeded Cavs tripped by Cinderella," the mag's bracket says.

Cinderella. Where did I just read that word? Oh, here it is, on the other side of the same graphic. It's in the description of Old Dominion's win over Maryland in a second-round game.

"This year's CAA Cinderella dispatches Terps by slowing pace and containing Jones' three-pointers," it says.

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Of course, that won't happen because Old Dominion lost in the first round to Butler. "Gritty Monarchs win battle of boards," the magazine says in the description of that upset. What happened was that each team got 35 rebounds as Butler won 57-46.

S.I. also had Duke beating Virginia Commonwealth ("Rams have no match for McRoberts") and Marquette taking care of Michigan State ("Ex-apprentice (Crean) foils mentor (Izzo))."

Yeah. Or not.

At least Sports Illustrated no longer brags, as it did back in '02, about its "council of wise guys" providing "surefire picks for who'll get to Atlanta and who'll win it all."

Still, you see what I mean?

Eight minutes in and Cinderella -- Albany version -- is down 19-4.

12 noon EDT: It was a very polite Day 1. Very quiet. There were a couple of mild upsets, Virginia Commonwealth over Duke the biggest of them, a 6-over-11 in the West, not much of a shock once you get over the fact that the team in white had "Duke" written across their chests.

A couple of 9s beat 8s, Michigan State over Marquette in the East, Xavier over BYU in the South, but those aren't upsets.

The only games that went down to the wire were VCU-Duke and Xavier-BYU. The closest thing to a buzzer-beater was Eric Maynor's jumper for VCU with 1.8 seconds left -- or Greg Paulus' half-court heave that would have won the game for Duke had it gone in.

So unless you had a bunch of crazy upsets picked, your bracket's probably a lot cleaner now than it usually is on the third Friday morning in March. The sober, reasonable pros in the Pool o' Experts came through pretty unscathed. So did I.

This is how the standings look after the first 16 games, with 10 points given for each correct pick. And look who's tied for first:

1. Buster, Coinflip Times, 140
1. Stewart Mandel, S.I., 140
3. John McCain, R-Ariz., 130
3. NCAA selection committee, 130
3. Luke Winn, S.I., 130
6. CBS.SportsLine.com users, 120
6. King Kaufman, Salon, 120
6. Clark Kellogg, CBS, 120
6. Grant Wahl, S.I. 120
10. Yoni Cohen, YoCoHoops.com, 110
10. Tony Kornheiser, Washington Post, 110
10. Tony Mejia, CBS.SportsLine.com, 110
13. Seth Davis, CBS/S.I., 100
13. Gregg Doyel, CBS.SportsLine.com, 100

The Sports Illustrated bracket, the hubris of which started this whole enterprise in 2002, is no longer part of the pool because it's the same as Grant Wahl's bracket.


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