Mississippi State made an exciting late run at Memphis Sunday, losing to the South's top seed 77-74, and then the first long weekend of the NCAA Tournament ended with a whimper. North Carolina and Louisville finished it off with routs over Arkansas and Oklahoma.
But what a long weekend. There was a classic buzzer-beater, Western Kentucky ousting Drake Friday on Ty Rogers' 25-footer in overtime. That was one of four games in the first two rounds that went to an extra session. It was also one of six first-round upsets, not counting a pair of 9-over-8s.
There were two more upsets in the second round, not counting the 5-over-4 Michigan State win over Pittsburgh. No. 10 Davidson coming from 17 points down in the second half to shock No. 2 Georgetown in the Midwest was a humdinger. Stephen Curry's 30 points, following the 40 hung on Gonzaga in the first-round upset, made him the star of the first two rounds.
Duke got a scare in the first round from 15-seed Belmont and then got knocked out in the second by No. 7 West Virginia. UCLA and Stanford, the No. 1 in the West and the No. 3 in the South, survived second-round scares on the same floor against Texas A&M and Marquette -- a painful afternoon for this Cal man, having to watch those two teams pull out close victories. Texas, the No. 2 in the South, got an awful fright from No. 7 Miami before hanging on.
It was just the right mix. Upsets and near-upsets and fantastic finishes are what make the Tournament so great, but you need the blowouts and no-doubters too. If there weren't dominating performances by the top seeds to show that they really do deserve to be top seeds, the upsets wouldn't mean anything. And there were plenty of games like that.
Think of a dreary beating like UCLA's 70-29 mauling of Mississippi Valley State as a sort of investment.
Three double-digit seeds made it to the Sweet 16: No. 10 Davidson and No. 12 Villanova in the Midwest and No. 12 Western Kentucky in the West. Villanova and Western Kentucky both got to play rare 12-vs.-13 games in the second round, thanks to San Diego and Siena, the 13-seeds that pulled off the biggest upsets by seed of the first round.
San Diego stunned Connecticut before losing to Western Kentucky. Siena's upset over Vanderbilt was also a 13-over-4, but since Siena was a trendy bracket pick, it didn't seem like such a stunner. Siena didn't give Villanova much more of a game than San Diego gave Western Kentucky. That pair of games was a disappointment.
Early-round upsets make for later-round mismatches, and it looks like Western Kentucky and Villanova will have their hands full with top seeds UCLA and Kansas. Then again, stranger things have happened. UCLA might end up trying to go to go to that "We'll just pull it out in the final minutes" well one too many times. Kansas, as we know from recent history, is capable of losing to anyone, any time.
Davidson looks like it can beat anyone, any time, but it's hard to picture Curry laying one of those 30-point games on the tough defense of Wisconsin. The other second-round upset winner, West Virginia, has an intriguing matchup with Xavier in the West, a battle of hot teams seeded No. 3 and No. 7.
The East and South went according to form, with the top four seeds advancing in the East and the the top three plus No. 5 Michigan State moving on in the South. The matchups will be North Carolina-Washington State, Tennessee-Louisville, Memphis-Michigan State and Texas-Stanford.
It sets up as a second weekend as good as the first, with mostly top seeds playing each other, yet featuring a sprinkling of potential upsets. It'll have a lot to live up to.
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Masses lose Panel o' Experts lead [PERMALINK]
Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated has taken over the lead in the Panel o' Experts standings, just ahead of you, the slackjawed masses, and the NCAA Selection Committee. Winn is the only expert in the contest whose Elite 8 is intact. His eight consists of the four 1-seeds, two 2-seeds and two 3-seeds -- and the 3s are Wisconsin and Xavier, who occupy the spots eliminated Georgetown and Duke would have taken. Nice work by Winn.
Gregg Doyel of CBS SportsLine would have had his Elite 8 all make it if not for his semi-crazed pick of No. 11 Baylor to win three games in the West, three more games than the Bears did win.
Doyel and the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon were the only panelists to get Villanova to the Sweet 16. Both have the Wildcats losing in the next round to Kansas. Stewart Mandel of S.I. was the only one to get Davidson to the Sweet 16, where he had those Wildcats losing -- to USC. Whoops. Nobody had Western Kentucky winning twice.
Here are the standings through two rounds, with points earned -- 10 for correct first-round picks, 20 for second-rounders -- and maximum points possible:
|1. Luke Winn, Sports Illustrated||460||1,440|
|2. CBS SportsLine users||460||1,360|
|2. NCAA Selection Committee||460||1,360|
|4. King Kaufman, Salon||450||1,350|
|5. Gregg Doyel, CBS SportsLine||440||1,380|
|6. Michael Wilbon, Washington Post||440||1,260|
|7. Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated||430||1,370|
|8. Stewart Mandel, Sports Illustrated||430||1,290|
|9. Yoni Cohen, YoCoHoops.com||420||1,320|
|10. Barack Obama, D-Ill.||420||1,200|
|11. Jonah Keri, ESPN/N.Y. Sun||400||1,340|
|12. John McCain, R-Ariz.||390||1,050|
|13. Seth Davis, CBS/S.I.||380||1,320|
|14. Tony Kornheiser, Washington Post||380||1,240|
|15. Buster, Coinflip Online||350||1,010|
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Humanity removal notes from all over [PERMALINK]
In the Texas-Miami finish, Raymond Hicks hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to bring the Hurricanes to within 74-72. The officials reviewed the replay and determined that there really should have been 1.8 seconds on the clock.
I hate this. It's one thing when the officials see the clock running on too long and go fix it. But that's not what happened here. They went to the video to make sure they'd gotten it right, and what they ended up doing was knocking off the 0.3 seconds of human reaction time between when the ball went through the rim and when the clock stopped.
But that 0.3 seconds, or something like it, probably gets lost to reaction time at every single whistle throughout the game. Why does it only get restored in the last few seconds? It's an artificial correction, adding time to the game that really shouldn't be there.
It reminds me of a pet sports peeve of mine, the measurement for the first down in football. Officials use the chains to measure, down to the millimeter, whether the offense has gained exactly 10 yards from ... the spot where they eyeballed where to put the stick following the last first down. It's exactly 10 yards from, "Eh, right about here."
There might be an extra half-minute in a basketball game if the refs did this clock-parsing on every whistle. They shouldn't do it unless they believe there's been an error.
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