Friday, March 20, 2009

March Madness 2009-Dia Uno

The first day of March Madness just wrapped up, and overall it was rather uneventful. There were no overtime games, buzzer beaters, or extremelymajor upsets. I'm going to break down today's games, and provide a preview for what to look for tomorrow.

Both #1 seeds won handily. U-Conn annihilated Chattanooga 103-47. This was the largest margin of victory for any team, and has Connecticut looking a lot stronger than people believed. North Carolina, sans Ty Lawson, also cruised to an easy victory. The Tar Heels demolished Radford 101-58. These victories were expected, but the extremely large points differentials are impressive nonetheless. The #2 seeds also breezed to easy wins, with the exception of Memphis. Duke took out Binghamton 86-62. The game wasn't close, as Duke led virtually the entire time. Oklahoma also had no trouble in their game. The Sooners easily dispatched Morgan St. 82-54. Blake Griffin had 28 points and 13 rebounds, as OU was up 19 at halftime. Memphis almost became the victim of a massive upset. Down in the second half to Cal St. Northridge, the Tigers used a run at the end of the game to pull it out 81-70. Had Memphis lost, many would have been left scratching the heads with extremely messed up brackets. Only one #3 was in action today: Villanova. The Wildcats were down 10 at halftime to Patriot League champ American. However, Nova mounted a second-half comeback and eventually won 80-67. Still, this provided a scare to many, including myself, since Villanova was playing essentially a home game at the Wachovia Center, and I picked them to go to the Elite 8. They'll have to avoid a sluggish start against UCLA to avoid an early exit. Both #4 seeds won their contests. Washington defeated Mississippi St. 71-58, in a game some picked as an upset. I did not, as I put Washington, as my long shot, in the Final Four. Mainly, on the fact that a less skilled team took Pitt to the brink last year, and lost by a single point. The Huskies won the Pac-10 regular season crown and will surprise some people. The other #4, Gonzaga, dispatched Akron 77-64. Akron played better than expected and was up 38-35 at halftime. Eventually, the Zags wore down the Zips. Two #5 seeds were in action. In the only real upset, Illinois was sent packing by Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers almost blew an 11 point halftime, and 17 point second half lead . But they held on for a 76-72 victory. Last year's team was also a #12 seed, and upset #5 seed Drake and #4 U-Conn before falling to UCLA. So, Gonzaga better be careful on Saturday when it plays Western Kentucky. The other #5, Purdue, squeezed out a 61-56 win over Northern Iowa. It was unlikely for both Big Ten #5 seeds to win, so this time Purdue lucked out. One #6 was in action, UCLA. The Bruins eliminated, broke the hearts of, VCU. One point victories are always especially tough, as this one ended 65-64. VCU had been the "trendy" upset pick, because they upset Duke as an 11 seed two years ago. However, Darren Collison blanketed Eric Maynor, and made sure he wouldn't put the game winner in as he did two years ago. Three #7's had games, and to borrow Meat Loaf "Two out of three lost." Clemson couldn't make up its three point half-time defecit to Michigan and lost 62-59. The Wolverines are making their first tournament appearance in 11 years. Clemson tanked down the stretch losing 4 of 5, and apparently carried that lack of momentum into the tourney. California also fell victim to its 10 seed Maryland. Down three at the half, The Golden Bears took the lead in the second half, but eventually fell 84-71. Cal seemed to run out of steam, which considering they lost 4 of their last 6 is understandable. One #7 did win: Texas. The Longhorns were down early, but never trailed in the second half winning 76-62. AJ Abrams went off for 26 points and made eights 3's. Finally, two sets of 8-9's battled. In the first game, #8 LSU squeeked out a four point win over Butler 75-71. It was a back-and-forth game, which saw Butler come back but eventually fall short. The second game , a rematch from last year, wasn't close, as #9 Texas A&M once again knocked off BYU. The Aggies led the whole game, and won 79-66. Overall, I had five incorrect picks, as: VCU, Illinois, Clemson, BYU, and Butler lost. 11 for 16 isn't terrible, but I'm hoping day two will be kinder to me.

Here are some things to watch for tomorrow. In the Midwest #8 seed Ohio St. will battle #9 Siena. This figures to be the best of the late games with tip-off at 9:40. #5 Utah vs. #12 Arizona will provide an interesting prime time game. Many felt the Wildcats didn't belong in the tournament, and many are anxious to see how they'll perform. Tip-off is set for 7:10. Some feel the most compelling game in the region is #4 Wake Forest against #13 Cleveland St. In fact, these same people see it as an upset. I can't see that happening, especially as Wake watched Clemson lose and will be motivated to show the ACC is as good as its seeds should indicate. Finally, at 7:20 in the same region #7 Boston College will battle #10 USC. This figures to be a solid affair, as USC came on strong at the end of the year winning the PAC-10 tournament. Unfortunately, the West region is lacking in the thrill department tomorrow. With only two games scheduled, neither especially compelling, viewers will most likely be focused elsewhere. The South is in a similar boat. Although, it will be interesting to see if #3 Syracuse shows any effects of its extended play in the Big East Tournament. Two East games are of note. In an 8-9 tilt, #8 Oklahoma St. faces #9 Tennessee. With the early 12:25 tip-off, this figures to provide early afternoon entertainment. Finally, #1 seed Pitt takes on East Tennessee St. Yes, I don't expect this game to be close, and I see Blair and Young both having 20+ points. However, the Panthers can't afford to overestimate this opponent. Although, since Biggs, Young, and Fields are seniors I don't expect this to happen. Make sure to be around for the 2:55 tip-off. I certainly will be. Hopefully, Pitt won't need a 40 minute effort to win this one. Enjoy day two, and I'll have a recap of that tomorrow night.

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