After a ridiculously intense first day, Day 2 has lacked the flair and dramatics that the first sixteen games brought. Three double digit seeds won and none of them could really be considered upsets. Some low double digit seeds (Wofford and New Mexico State) took big name programs to the final minute but were unable to pull out victories. As we turn the page to the round-of-32, let’s look at the big winners and losers from Friday’s action:
WINNER: Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale, Jeff Foote, 12 CORNELL BIG RED
Andy Bernard is one proud Cornellian today, and somewhere John Chaney is threatening to kill Temple coach Fran Dunphy. Just kidding. But seriously, Temple has nothing to be ashamed of, as this was an upset by number only. The Ivy League champ has shown the ability to play with the big boys all season long, the case in point being when they led Kansas in the final minute at the Phog. The Big Red are led by sharpshooting Ivy League Player of the Year Ryan Wittman and former Ivy League Player of the Year Louis Dale. 7-footer and Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year Jeff Foote, who held his own against Cole Aldrich, rounds out the trio. Since this round of 32 game is not in Madison, give Cornell a great chance to spring the upset against Wisconsin. ESPN’s Jay Bilas has these guys in the Elite Eight. Easy now, let them focus on the Badgers.
LOSER: Fran Dunphy, Head Coach, 5 TEMPLE OWLS
Dunphy knows a thing or two about being an Ivy League upstart. He coached Penn to 9 Ivy League championships in the 90s and early 2000s before going to Big 5 rival Temple in 2006. He has made three consecutive tournament appearances, but has been bounced in the first round in all of them. In fact, Dunphy has won only one NCAA tournament game and is 1-12 for his career. You’d think he could coach Temple into the second round against a team from the league he coached in for 17 years, especially with pundits thinking this Owl team was underseeded. Nope, I guess they were seeded about right.
WINNER: THE BIG EAST
After a fairly embarrassing Day 1 for the “best conference” in America, three of the top Big East teams answered the bell and quieted the critics with dominant performances in their first round games. There was no need for DaSean Butler’s heroics as West Virginia overcame a slow start to crush an overmatched Morgan State team. Pittsburgh completely dominated Oakland from start to finish in a game where a Panthers player needed stitches for an errant elbow. And the big dog of the conference, Syracuse, wrote a better finish against Vermont than the last time they met by overwhelming them to win by 23. This wasn’t so much a win as it was just three top teams taking care of business, much more than could be said for what Georgetown and Villanova did on Thursday.
LOSER: Oliver Purnell, Head Coach, 7 CLEMSON TIGERS
Meet Oliver Purnell. He’s a funny looking guy who knows all about fast starts and lame finishes. For the third year in a row, Clemson has been bounced in the first round of the tournament by a lower seeded team. Upset by 12 seeded Villanova two years ago and 10 seeded Michigan last year, Clemson was taken down this year by a team that plays just like they do in Missouri. Both teams utilize the full-court press and push the tempo all the time, but the difference in this game was that Missouri didn’t have 20 turnovers. Sure, the coach doesn’t handle the basketball, but Purnell is 0-6 in NCAA tournament games in his coaching career.
WINNER: JaJuan Johnson, 4 PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
Coming off a 27-point blowout to now-eliminated Minnesota and with jack-of-all-trades forward Robbie Hummel out, Purdue went from surefire championship contender to a popular pick to be the victim of a 13-4 upset at the hands of Siena. Not to mention leading scorer E’Twaun Moore rolled his ankle in the last game as well. But don’t feel sorry for these Boilermakers. They still had star center JaJuan Johnson, who complemented a four-guard lineup by controlling the paint with 23 points and 15 rebounds. A valiant effort by the Saints, who led at the half, came up short thanks to the aggression of Johnson, who made sure that everyone knew that one player does not make a team.
LOSER: James Anderson, 7 OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
3-12 from the field, 12 points and 6 rebounds for someone who averaged 22.6 points on the season and can score from anywhere on the floor. What an unfortunate final game for the unquestioned leader of the Cowboys. The Big 12 Player of the Year certainly came up small against Georgia Tech, coughing up two crucial turnovers in the final few minutes. The Yellow Jackets hounded Anderson all game by rotating fresh bodies onto him. He is still a likely lottery pick and definitely a first-rounder in the NBA draft, but Oklahoma State probably had higher expectations in the tournament, considering they were the only team to hand #1 Kansas a defeat in Big 12 play.
WINNER: Jordan Crawford, 6 XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Known until now only as the guy who dunked on LeBron James over the summer, Crawford has developed into a consistent 20-point scorer who can muscle his way into the paint and shoot it from deep. He (like Armon Bassett of Ohio) participated in the exodus from Indiana after the Kelvin Sampson debacle. Crawford helped prevent the Atlantic-10 from laying a complete egg in the tournament, as Xavier avoided the fates that befell conference rivals Temple and Richmond. Now Xavier can look forward to a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight, as they will tango with Pittsburgh in the round-of-32.
LOSER: Jahmar Young, 12 NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES
Basketball is a game of put-up or shut-up. So if you have the swagger to disrespect last year’s Big 10 Player of the Year, you had better come to play ball. Having said that he didn’t know who Michigan State star guard Kalin Lucas was before the game, Young probably knows now, as Lucas scored 25 of the Spartan’s 70 points. Furthermore, Young scored only 13 AND committed a stupid reach-on in the final minute that fouled him out of the game. What’s MORE, this clown rolled on the ground grabbing his groin area after he fouled out as if he were elbowed there, but replays showed no signs of any contact. New Mexico State had no timeouts at that point, so Young may have been stalling for his team. That was certainly a horrible acting job if I ever saw one.
WINNER: PACIFIC-10; Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, 8 CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
For a conference that was disparaged the entire season for being the doormat of the Big Six, its performance in the first round by its two representatives have been quite impressive. Cal used numerous runs to put away the Louisville Cardinals and propel them to a second round game against Duke. The Bears have their own Big Three in Randle, Christopher and Robertson, who combined for 59 of their 77 points tonight. An additional subplot: Jamal Boykin, member of the much-maligned recruiting class of 2005 led by Josh McRoberts, plays us. Ex-Blue Devil Eric Boateng, a member of that same class, had that same privilege earlier this season; we all know how that went for him.
LOSER: 4 WISCONSIN BADGERS
To take nothing away from a game Wofford team who gave the Badgers all they could handle, but Wisconsin looked to be the strongest 4 seed in the field. It took a long corner jumper by Jon Leuer and a dubious call on a who-touched-it-last ball to save the Big 10 stalwart. Leuer and star guard Trevon Hughes combined for 39 of the team’s 53 points. Now they have to deal with an upstart Cornell team in the second round who will look to run and fire away from deep. Perhaps Wisconsin had a better matchup against Temple, who plays a slow, plodding place similar to the Badgers. They’ll need other players to step up big if they want to put away the Big Red.
WINNER: Marqus Blakely, 16 VERMONT CATAMOUNTS
So what his team got blown out by the Orangemen? This writer loves seeing ballers with big time hops throw down big time dunks. So we reward athleticism. Check out these highlights by Blakely in a losing effort. I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you this dunk of his in the America East Championship Game. Sick nasty. The 6’5 Blakely can play, too. He led Catamounts in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, and scouts see him playing in the NBA.
WINNER: Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, 1 DUKE BLUE DEVILS
Blowing out Arkansas Pine-Bluff is nothing to write home about. Kyle gets this nod because he is playing the best basketball of his career; he continued it on Friday with a 22 and 10 performance and is averaging 21.3 points over his last 10 games. Hopefully he’s not working out for his home state Trailblazers in two months.
Lance Thomas had a 12-point game, almost tying a season-high. I put him here not only because of his workmanlike performance today but also because he is key to the Cal game. Let’s be generous and call our big three versus their big three a wash. We’ll need Lance’s hustle and defense and Zoubek’s size and rebounding to match up with the big guys for Cal, Boykin, Jorge Gutierrez and Max Zhang (who?). Let it be known that the last time we played the Golden Bears, a precocious freshman named Jason Kidd ended our hopes of a three-peat in the second round. Watch this and tell me it doesn’t fire you up.
LOSERS: TELEVISION VIEWERS (you and me)
Friday’s sixteen-pack of college basketball was a big yawn in terms of excitement and dramatics. All the higher seeds won except for a 12 seed in Cornell and the ACC and Big 12 trading 10-7 “upsets.” Wisconsin and Michigan State both got a scare, but they play in the Big Ten. The late night games were never really in doubt. Where was Ish Smith hitting a game-winner at 1 AM? And where was the simultaneous action of New Mexico holding off a game Montana squad while Tennessee barely fended off San Diego State? All 24 hours ago folks. What a difference a day makes.
As we look towards Saturday’s slate of eight games, two primetime tilts standout to me as intriguing: Kansas State vs. BYU at 8:15 and Kentucky vs. Wake Forest at 8:10. The latter should be a up and down, light-up-the-scoreboard game. And the next time anyone on your favorite team gets out in the open court, ask yourself, “What would John Wall do?”