REMEMBER THE LOOK Greg Oden had during the tournament last year? I see the same look on UCLA freshman Kevin Love's face, the one that says, "While I'm here, I may as well win six games.''
Love has been crazy good in two games - 39 points, 20 rebounds and 11 blocks. And did you see those two fadeaway jumpers at the end of the Texas A & M escape?
Love is the most fundamentally sound college big man since Tim Duncan. He is sound in everything he does on both ends of the floor. And, with 16 teams left, there certainly is no better center/point guard combo than Love and the supersonic Darren Collison.
Villanova did not look at all like an NCAA Tournament team when its five-game losing streak topped out with that loss to Saint Joseph's. But the Wildcats got better and had some very good wins down the stretch. VU may very well have been the last team invited and it was hard to like its chances when it down big against clueless Clemson Friday. But the Wildcats made that happen.
They looked great yesterday in a wire-to-wire win over Siena. Now, they really should not be able to beat No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16 Friday in Detroit. But who would have imagined them in that spot in the first place? Enjoy the ride. The city went from potentially no teams in the NCAA to having one of 16 teams with a chance at a championship.
Temple was not very competitive against Michigan State, never playing with the poise it demonstrated down the stretch and in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Saint Joseph's lost its focus late in the first and early in the second against Oklahoma. The Hawks made a very nice comeback, but just had too much to do.
Washington State put on a clinic. In its last three halves, WAZU allowed Winthrop and Notre Dame to attempt 77 shots. They missed 60 of them. ND had been averaging 80.6 points before getting crushed, 61-41. The Cougars get North Carolina Thursday night in Charlotte.
Kansas shot 62-for-111, limited its opponents to 33-for-100 shooting and committed just 21 turnovers . . . North Carolina never trailed in two games, winning, 221-151 . . . Xavier is 53 of 66 from the foul line . . . Wisconsin, continuing its pattern established during the Bo Ryan era, has shot 49 free throws to 29 for its opponents . . . Did the winning seeds Friday in Tampa really add up to 50? They did and that is a record that will never be broken. There have been just seven 12-13 games since the tournament went to 64 teams in 1985. Two of them were yesterday. Nice to know after last year's boring first round that upsets have not disappeared . . . UCLA has 24 blocks. Something tells me the Bruins are going to block some shots against Western Kentucky Thursday night in Phoenix . . . American's 5-11 shooting guard Garrison Carr outscored Tennessee's Chris Lofton, 26-5. And they were guarding each other. Carr's backcourt partner, 5-9 Derrick Mercer, played with Saint Joseph's Ahmad Nivins for Bob Hurley's great
St. Anthony's (N.J.) program . . . Western Kentucky and Drake were 30-for-70 from the arc in their insane first-round game . . . Stanford had 23 assists on its 28 field goals in OT win against Marquette. Point guard Mitch Johnson had 16 assists and one turnover. Brook Lopez (30 points) is a major force in the post . . . The last four Atlantic 10 champions were all double-digit seeds and all lost in the first round.There were 3.65 million entrants in
ESPN's bracket contest. Nobody went 32-for-32 in the first round. Two went 30-for-32. One went 0-for-32. Which might be harder. Got to love somebody who picks four No. 16 seeds while also taking Vanderbilt over Siena and Connecticut over San Diego. Impressive.
The Big East and Big 12 were 7-1 and 5-1, respectively, in the first round. Five remain. The Big East had eight teams, six of which were ranked. Only one of the ranked teams (Louisville) lives on, along with unranked 'Nova and West Virginia. Half of the Pac-10 teams (three) and Big Ten (two) play on. The mighty ACC has only UNC. Only Tennessee remains from the SEC. The BCS leagues have 12 teams after starting with 34. Western Kentucky, Memphis, Davidson and Xavier live on outside the Big Six.
Michigan State was about 20 points better at home this season. When the Spartans went to Denver, they took Breslin Center with them. Their two opponents attempted 108 shots and missed 70. Tom Izzo has gotten his team to up its level of play dramatically. Izzo's MSU teams have been in the Sweet 16 seven times in 11 years. Four of those trips ended in the Final Four.
I really liked USC because the Trojans were in the top 20 in field-goal accuracy and field-goal defense, a usual indicator that, even on a bad day, a team has a good chance. Then they went out and played little defense, could not make a shot and got crushed on the glass by Kansas State, a largely dysfunctional team with a superstar in Michael Beasley. Wisconsin then predictably suffocated K-State.
Beasley will be the No. 1 NBA draft choice. He did not get the publicity of Kevin Durant, but I think he was a better, if clearly different, college player and will be a better pro. In his two NCAA games, Beasley scored 46 points and got 24 rebounds.
Butler scored 21 points in the final 5:20 of the first half against poor South Alabama - 8-for-8 from the field, 5-5 from three, including a buzzer-beating trey by the amazing bomber Pete Campbell.
Davidson's first-round win over Gonzaga was the program's first since 1969 when Lefty Driessell's last team lost to North Carolina in the East Regional Final, when Charlie Scott hit a buzzer-beater at Maryland's Cole Field House. Lefty never left. He parlayed Davidson's run into the Maryland job.
That first win was not enough for Davidson. It got outshot by Georgetown (63.4 percent to 38.6 percent) yesterday, trailed by 17 points in the second half and stormed back to win. Davidson had just four turnovers to 20 for the Hoyas.
By the way, Stephen Curry may be a better shooter than his dad, Dell. And that should be impossible. He scored 30 of his 40 against Gonzaga in the second half and was 8-for-10 from the arc. Then, he hit the Hoyas up for another 30.
After his team lost to Duke by one point, Belmont coach Rick Byrd said: "It became like a regular-season Atlantic Sun game, really.''
The Blue Devils looked physically overmatched by West Virginia, a relatively small team that was often physically overmatched in the Big East during the season. At one point, Duke missed 15 consecutive three-point attempts. WVU killed Duke on the glass, 47-27. Once Duke lost the lead in the second half, it was obvious it was not coming back. Other than Gerald Henderson, the Blue Devils are very average athletically. It often does not show in ACC play because they get so many calls and the league has been down the last few seasons. But it surely shows in the NCAA when the refs are different and so is the competition.
In recent seasons, Duke has been very average in NCAA games outside of North Carolina. Which was why it meant so much and was so surprising to see the committee send the Blue Devils to Washington instead of Raleigh. The committee ranked Georgetown as a higher No. 2 seed and gave the Hoyas site preference over Duke. Georgetown could not play at the Verizon Center, its homecourt. So the Hoyas ended up in North Carolina, losing to Davidson, which is in Charlotte. Not exactly great site preference, but the committee does not project beyond the first round.
I think West Virginia is a better version of Saint Joseph's, a team that, in some ways, outplayed Xavier three times during the season, even though the Hawks won just two of the three games. So I have to like WVU over the tough Musketeers Thursday night in Phoenix not far from where the WVU football team crushed Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Curtis Shaw is one official who thinks it's about him and not the game. Somebody needs to explain that to him. It was Shaw who gave Georgetown's John Thompson III an unnecessary technical in the East Regional final last year. And it was Shaw who gave Stanford's Trent Johnson a second technical and tossed him Saturday when Johnson came out on the court during a media timeout and continued to argue (not loudly) a call after he had already gotten a technical from official David Hall.
"A timeout doesn't begin until we report it,'' Shaw told a pool reporter. " . . . During a timeout, coaches are allowed to stay in the vicinity of their bench. They are not allowed to walk out on the floor and continue to complain. He was warned in the first half visibly with a stop signal. 'Trent, that's enough.' ''
While that all may be true, an official who thinks about more than himself finds a way to diffuse the situation, not make it worse. Shaw is a hothead in a profession where the best officials want the game to be about the players and not them. And when there is a problem, they know how to keep everyone calm. Shaw not only does not know how to calm down a situation. He apparently does not want to. *