Saturday, March 21, 2009

InClement Weather: Opening Round Reactions [Part II of II]

Mid-day update.
We spoke earlier. You enjoyed it. Admit it.

Check the poll to the right of the page, too.

Villanova stormed past UCLA and never looked back. This being a home court game didn't hurt, but it didn't decide a thing either. Nevertheless, it's ridiculous the Wildcats played their opening round games on a court they hosted 4 teams at this season.

Memphis led from the start against an overmatched Maryland squad. Tyreke Evans had 13 points early and the entire Memphis roster got involved from start to beginning. Most impressive line? Antonio Anderson took 2 shots and dished out 11 assists. Perhaps this is a Final Four-caliber squad.

Three 5:00ish tipoffs underway.

LSU needs to work harder than UNC on both sides of the ball. Unlikely. Seeing Ty Lawson's face on the bench early was not a good sign for Tar Heel fans. Even if they would have 4 days off after a victory, Lawson will need to be 100% before the Final Four. The last 5 minutes of the first half may have decided things early on. LSU is simply not good enough to execute play-in and play-out against Roy's boys. Carolina closes the half on a 17-7 run after trailing (briefly) 20-19. I'll be interested to see a team who can get into the penalty as quickly as the Heels do. Nova perhaps?

Purdue started off red hot; however, Washington has righted the ship and got the deficit under double-digits. You blink and what you just said isn't so succinct. Purdue leads 39-28 at the half.

Oklahoma and Michigan are in a bit of a stalemate. No surprise with a Big Ten team involved. Somewhat surprisingly, Michigan leads 28-25. Could another Player of the Year be going out in the first weekend? Not so fast.

As for the 1st (aka "Opening") Round...

East Region

I'll take Travis Ford over Bruce Pearl any day. As for Eric Andrews. Well...
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Pittsburgh survived a scare from East Tennessee State 72-62. Honestly, you can realistically point to ETSU blowing this game with their wretched performance from the foul line (12-24). Meanwhile, if DeJuan Blair thinks he's gonna get away with being that physical in the second ain't happening.

Oklahoma State, coached by Travis Ford, narrowly defeated Tennessee 77-75 in potentially the opening weekend's most nailbiting game. The Vols took a late lead on a clutch 3-point play from Tyler Smith, only to lose it (and the game) to Byron Eaton's heroics on his own 3-point play with less than 10 seconds to go. Seriously, hasn't Eaton been at OSU for a decade? On another note, Bruce Pearl is becoming a bit of underachiever considering the talent he recruits.

Wisconsin upset Florida State 61-59. "James" Toney Douglas and the Noles had the lead far too often down the stretch, even by 3 in the final minute, to lose this game. Give all credit to Bo Ryan and the Badgers. Hughes is a clutch performer, plain and simple.

Xavier took out Portland State, mainly in the second half, 77-59. It's highly understated how much Xavier lost last season and how talented they remain. Remember that Greg Oden all-out shove may have cost this team a Final Four last season.

UCLA snuck past VCU 65-64 in the closing seconds. VCU play uninspired basketball for 35 minutes and in the end, Maynor seemed more worried about drawing a foul than making the winning shot. I was there and it was painful. Meanwhile, UCLA can thank way too many clutch free throws for their victory.

Villanova withstood American to win 80-67. American was up 14 in the second half and then got stuck on 55. Garrison Carr channeled Stephen Curry quite well for 15 minutes. Jeff Jones keeping Carr out far too long - 4 fouls or not - and the foul situation itself doomed the Eagles. How Villanova was in the double bonus at the 14-minute mark is unforgivable. Meanwhile, they might as well have played this game at the Villanova dorms to make it any more un-neutral. A disgrace by the tournament committee. Disgrace!!!

Texas coasted past Minnesota 76-62. With all the talent on the Longhorns roster, they will not surprise anyone to give Duke one hell of a game.

Duke stormed past Kornheiser's Bighamton squad. No comments necessary.

South Region

It's not just Blake (front and center) who needs to be a manchild in the coming games. Brother Taylor - who Pay and I often disagree a lot about - better be more than a body double who cleans up misses after his brother is triple-teamed.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

North Carolina played sans-Lawson and did what you expect great teams to do: destroy 16 seeds 101-58.

LSU had the athletes and the game plan to take out Butler 75-71. So they did.

Western Kentucky "upset" Illinois (how undeserving a 5-seed were they?) 76-72. Bruce Weber got the most out of this team; however, they were clearly not going very far this year in the tournament.

Gonzaga pulled away from a pesky Akron squad to earn a 77-64 victory. The key for the Zags is not showing up in a potential Sweet Sixteen showdown with the Tar Heels. Instead, it's making the Sweet Sixteen and then worrying about their performance against the South region's top-seed.

Arizona State took an early lead and Dionte Christmas the Temple Owls never caught up, losing 66-57. James Harden was ice cold - only 9 points - but the Sun Devils got a dynamic first-half from Derek Glasser and stellar performance from post-man Jeff Pendergraph.

Syracuse was up 20-4 early and cruised to as easy a first-round victory as Coach Boeheim could've asked for 59-45. SDSU shot 0-15 from behind the arc to start the game. Impressive. Johnny Flynn is still searching for his legs, but at least the Orange have their first tournament win since 2004.

Michigan held on to defeat Clemson 62-59. With two NBA-caliber players on the floor (specifically Manny Harris), the Wolverines were bumpy at best in the second-half, yet held on for their first W in the NCAA Tournament in nearly 11 years. No kudos for Clemson's Terrence Oglesby, whose costly ejection was, well, costly.

Oklahoma waxed Morgan State. Sadly, what ended up being most memorable for this game was the "flipping" of Blake Griffin. What a way for the team to represent themselves in the tournament for the first time ever.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend slate. See you Monday!
But before I's a classic Bruce Pearl/Eric Andrews moment.

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