Saturday, March 21, 2009

March Madness: Days 2 & 3

Yes, I know I'm a day behind. The past two days have had their share of close calls and surprises. First, I'll recap the action yesterday. Then I'll move on to today. Finally, I'll close with a preview of tomorrow.

The two remaining #1 seeds, both from the Big East, had interesting days. Louisville took down Morehead St. 74-54. The Cardinals were only up 35-33 at halftime, but pulled away in the second half for the win. Pitt struggled against East Tennessee St., and looked pretty bad most of the game. In fact, the score was only 26-23 at halftime, and the Panthers had 18 turnovers. The only starter not to have a turnover was DeJuan Blair. However, in the end Pitt pulled it out 72-62. Only one #2 was in action: Michigan St. The Spartans had little trouble with Robert Morris winning 77-62. Up by 11 at halftime, Michigan St. held the Colonials without a basket for 10 minutes from the 4 minute mark in the first half. Three #3's had games on Friday. First up, Missouri beat a pesky Cornell team 78-59. The Tigers never trailed in the second half, and the Big Red never got close after half time. Defending national champ Kansas had a tough time with North Dakota St. Kansas won 84-74, although, the Jayhawks didn't pull away until the end of the game. The final #3, Syracuse, showed no signs of exhaustion, easily beating Stephen F. Austin 59-44. The Orange were up 38-22 at halftime, then both teams went cold in the second half. Two #4 seeds had game, which ended with mixed results. Xavier had little trouble with Portland St. winning 77-59 The Musketeers led almost the entire game, and lived up to their seeding. However, the other #4 did not. Wake Forest got spanked by Cleveland St. In fact, the Demon Deacons trailed the whole game, and were down 39-30 at halftime. Cleveland St. won 84-69 in the biggest upset of the tournament. Another upset came at #5, as Florida St. lost to Wisconsin. Despite being down 31-19 at halftime, the Badgers came back and tied it to send the game to overtime. After that overtime, Wisconsin had itself a 61-59 win. The loss by Florida St. capped a poor two day stretch for the ACC. An upset for some, #5 Utah lost to Arizona. Some felt Arizona didn't deserve to be in the tournament, but the Wildcats proved the doubters wrong winning 84-71. Three #6's had contests. First up, Marquette squeaked out a nail-biter over Utah St. 58-57. This was one of the more exciting tournament games and a back-and-forth contest. In another upset, West Virginia became the lone Big East team to fall. The Mountaineers couldn't figure out Dayton losing 68-60. This screwed up bunches of brackets, including my own, as many had WVU going to at least the sweet 16. Arizona St. maintained their nine point halftime lead over Temple and won 66-57. The lone #7 seed played poorly and lost by a good margin. Boston College was up 34-30 at halftime, before getting outscored 42-21 by USC and losing by 18: 72-55. Combined with the Wake Forest loss it was not a good day for the ACC. Once again, the 8-9 games provided the best games of the day. In the early action, #8 Oklahoma edged #9 Tennessee in a heart breaker 77-75. The game featured so many lead changes and ties that it wasn't decided until the eight second mark in the second half. This would have been the game of the day if not for the nightcap. #8 Ohio St. and #9 Siena played a barn burner. Siena's Ronald Moore made a 3 to force double OT and won the game with another 3 in that frame. Siena won a tight 74-72 two OT deciaion. With the first round done, Saturday brought second round action.

#1's U-Conn and North Carolina were back in action. The Huskies demolished Texas A&M 92-66. Connecticut was up 51-33 at halftime, and led the whole game. U-Conn looks downright dominate and presents a formidable opponent. UNC had a tougher time with LSU. Although down 38-29 at halftime, the Tigers used a second-half run to gain the lead before eventually falling 84-70. Ty Lawson returned to the line-up for the Tar Heels, and provided a big second half boost scoring 21 of his 23 after intermission. Three #2 seeds had games. Memphis easily handled Maryland. Up 53-33 at halftime, the Tigers won 89-70. The game wasn't close really at any point. Oklahoma was only up one, 30-29, at halftime over Michigan. However, Blake Griffin's 33 points led the Sooners to a 73-63 victory. The Wolverines had no answer for Griffin who also grabbed 17 rebounds. The final #2, Duke, pulled out a close one over Texas. Texas tied it with less than two minutes to play, but the Blue Devils squeezed out a 74-69 victory. One #3 was in action: Villanova. Nova put a pasting onto UCLA winning 89-69. The Wildcats were up 44-31 at halftime and never let up. Playing in front of a hometown crowd never hurts either. Both #4 seeds produced excellent games. First up, Washington gave Purdue all it could handle before falling 74-72. The Boliermakers were up 39-28 at halftime until a furious Husky rally got it to 2. However, Washington came up short, which really messed my bracket up since I had them in the Final Four. Anyway, Gonzaga was given all it could handle by Western Kentucky. Last year, the Hilltoppers made it to the Sweet Sixteen by beating #4 U-Conn. However, this year they weren't so lucky. Western Kentucky was up 37-35 at halftime, but couldn't hold on against the Zags falling 83-81. This was the most exciting game of the day, just edging the Washington-Purdue contest. Tomorrow promises some interesting matchups and possible upsets.

The most intriguing matchup may be #12 Arizona vs. #13 Cleveland St. These are the two lowest seeds remaining, aside from #12 Wisconsin. Either way, for a second consecutive year a seed of 12 or lower will be in the Sweet Sixteen. Tip-off is at 2:40. Also in the Midwest, many will be watching to see how the #3 Kansas Jayhawks perform against #11 Dayton. Most expected West Virginia to be in this game, so it would be surprising indeed if the Flyers were to pull the upset. At 5, in the same region, #2 Michigan St. faces off against a hot USC team. The Trojans won the PAC-10 tournament, and are looking to pull the upset as an athletically gifted team. In the West #3 Missouri will face Marquette. The Golden Eagles barely won the opening round game, and figure to have a tough time against the speedy Tigers. The South produces the other match-up of the day, as #3 Syracuse faces off against #6 Arizona St. Both teams are explosive and can shoot. This figures to be a thrilling contest with an early 12:10 start. In the East, #4 Xavier faces #12 Wisconsin in a game many expected Florida St. to be playing in. The Badgers will be looking to pull the upset against The Musketeers. Finally, the #1 Pitt Panthers are back in action against the Oklahoma St. Cowboys. Pitt will need to play much better in this one to avoid bowing out in the second round for the second year in a row. The Panthers do not want to be the first #1 to fall. Look for another big day from DeJuan Blair, as he had 27 points and 16 rebounds in the first game. Tip-off is at 2:50, be sure to tune in.

That concludes my wrap-up. I'll give you results from sunday's games,and my picks in the Sweet Sixteen tomorrow night. Hope your bracket isn't busted, yet.

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