Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweet Sixteen-Day 1

Thursday night brought the thunder. March Madness resumed, as eight teams were back in action. Only one game proved must see tv, which has Friday shaping up to be more thrilling.

First up, #1 Connecticut took on #5 Purdue. I didn't expect to see the Boilermakers in this game, but they were only down 30-25 at halftime. Unfortunately for Purdue things went down from there. Although kept close, the Huskies never trailed and triumphed 72-60. The Boilermakers didn't help their cause by committing 26 fouls compared to 12 for U-Conn. Those extra 19 free throws and 13 points were the difference. #1 Pitt was also in action against #4 Xavier. Once again the Panthers came out of the gates slow, and trailed 37-29 at halftime. However, the Musketeers were limited to 18 second half points and came up short. Pitt, off of a clutch Levance Fields 3 and lay-up, pulled out the 60-55 victory. DeJuan Blair once again had a double-double with 10 points and 17 rebounds. Still, the Panthers looked sluggish and never pulled ahead until very late in the game. In the night cap, #2 Memphis faced off with #3 Missouri. It was close until Mizzou used a pre-halftime run to go up by 13, 49-36. The game was effectively over with Missouri up 64-40, until Memphis used a furious comeback to get within 6. Regardless, Memphis played their worst defensive game of the season, and didn't look like the powerhouse they were hyped to be. Missouri won 102-91 in a high-scoring contest. Some see this as a major upset, but I had doubts about Memphis going into the game which were confirmed.The late contest saw #2 Duke face off against #3 Villanova. The Wildcats were only up 26-23 at halftime, but exploded in the second half to bury the Blue Devils. Duke looked frustrated all night and shot an anemic 26.7%. Villanova won in a blowout 77-54. Nova looks tough, and has won two straight by 20 or more points. Other than the Pitt thriller, Thursday lacked the usual Sweet Sixteen intrigue. Will Friday provide better thrills?

#1 Louisville takes on #12 Arizona. This most likely will not be an extremely memorable game. A Louisville loss would be shocking, and is rather unlikely. However, the game following promises to be a great match-up. #2 Oklahoma squares off against #3 Syracuse. Expect some fireworks in this one. The Orange sharpshooters: Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins vs. likely player of the year Blake Griffin. If Griffin is contained, which is a huge if, expect Syracuse to win it. However, this figures to be a thrilling contest nonetheless. In the late games, #2 Michigan St. tangles with #3 Kansas. The Jayhawks are the defending national champs, and will be looking to make it back to the Elite Eight. This one should be a good game. I'd put my money on Kansas, although no Tom Izzo coached team can ever be counted out. It may come down to the final seconds in this one. Finally, #1 North Carolina takes on #4 Gonzaga. This one isn't going to be close. The Zags have had a good run, but UNC is too focused and deep to exit yet.

I'll have tomorrow night's recap, and my Final Four picks after the games wrap up. Will it be four #1 seeds again? Only time will tell.

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