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Entries in Big 12 (3)


Tournament Takeaways: What Day 2 Taught Us

Evan Turner

One Great Season

For fans of Cinderella, underdogs and buzzer-beaters, the second day of the NCAA Tournament didn't deliver the dramatics that day one did, but we still saw some quality basketball on Friday.

Saturday brings us the first day of the second round, and there are some good matchups on deck this weekend. But let's review the highs and lows from the second-best day in American sports:

+ Ohio State's Evan Turner is the best player in the country, but he's far from perfect. His poor night from the field isn't what should concern OSU fans, but his sometimes lazy and sloppy ballhandling should. I've actually thought this for a few weeks, particularly in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal against Illinois. Turner is dangerous on the bounce during transition or when he has a path to the basket, but sometimes when he tries to attack the lane in the half-court, he forgets to protect the basketball. Being 6-foot-7 and not a natural point guard, I'm sure he's used to being vertical, but as the Buckeyes advance, he'll need to protect the rock against smaller guards who've lately been able to knock the ball from him with regularity.

+ Nice to see the Big East bounce back with three wins in four tries Friday, after Thursday's disastrous 1-3 effort. West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse coasted to fairly easy wins. But Louisville got embarrassed by Cal, giving what was supposed to be a weak PAC 10 two wins in two games against the alleged top league in the country.

+ I'd read a bunch about Cornell the last three months but never once saw the Big Red on television until Friday. If the way they played is how they always play, then that was no upset. An excellent team beat Temple, and handily. It was pretty impressive when, after a few trips, CBS would show tight shots of Cornell players getting back on defense after a make. Sorry for the cliche, but you really could see a good, positive, laser-focus in the eyes of those players. They'll give Wisconsin a tough game Sunday. Or will Wisconsin give Cornell a tough game?

+ Glad to see Purdue get a gritty win over a game Siena team. The Saints might be a Gonzaga East in the making, as they've pulled off upsets the last two years and were subsequently a fashionable first-round upset pick for many. But even without Robbie Hummel, the Boilermakers showed they can win some games when their star is down. Chris Kramer was hardly the hero of the game for the winners, but if you're teaching your son how to play good, solid, fundamental basketball with a high motor, Kramer is Exhibit A.

+ And speaking of the Big Ten, a 4-1 start isn't too shabby. In addition to OSU and Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan State hung tough to avoid upsets. Minnesota couldn't complete the skunking, however, as the Gophers fell to a very well-prepared Xavier team. XU coaches turn over every few years, but whomever is at the helm, the Muskies never disappoint come tournament time.

+ No. 10-seed Georgia Tech and No. 7 Oklahoma State squared off to settle an ACC-Big 12 dispute. Wake Forest beat Texas on Thursday, and early Friday, Missouri bounced Clemson. The Yellow Jackets won the rubber match, advancing to a very winnable game against Ohio State in Milwaukee on Sunday.

+ Friday's best Tweet came from KySportsRadio, who said after Louisville's horrendous start against California, "If this keeps up, Rick Pitino is only going to be able to get women in an Olive Garden."

+ And kudos to CBS' Seth Davis for breaking down the end of the New Mexico State-Michigan State game. Davis said on Twitter he'd spoken to the NCAA coordinator of officials by telephone and that both of them dissected the replay of what was thought by many to be a questionable lane-violation call. But Davis showed viewers at about 12:45 a.m. ET that it was the right call. However, Davis also showed the officials did screw up moments later when a ball was batted out of bounds with 0.7 seconds left in the game. By the time the operator stopped the clock, it read 0.3, but the officials didn't add the extra time, which could have been significant to New Mexico State.

+ For those who love Gus Johnson, here's an excellent soundboard of some of his great calls.


Tournament Takeaways: What Day 1 Taught Us

Georgetown Loses to Ohio

One Great Season

The first day of the first round of the NCAA Tournament brought great excitement into living rooms, sports bars and office cubicles everywhere.

We probably say it more than we remember, but I can't recall the opening day of America's greatest sporting event being as excellent as Thursday was. Here's what we'll take away from it:


+ BRACKET BREAKDOWN: Scouting Each Region
+ WHY TOP SEEDS WILL WIN: Kentucky | Kansas | Syracuse | Duke
+ RECIPE: 7 Ingredients For A National Championship
+ MYTH MADNESS: 3 Tournament Trends To Ignore This Year
+ FREE ADVICE: Here's How To Win Your NCAA Office Pool
+ QUOTEBOOK: Selection Chairman Dan Guerrero Explains Himself
+ NCAA TOURNAMENT: First-Round Pairings Announced
+ MARCH MADNESS: Tourney No Longer Leads To April Sadness
+ COUNTDOWN: The Top 10 Title Games Since 1979
+ LIST: The Top 10 Analysts In College Basketball
+ LIST: The Top 10 Play-By-Play Men In College Basketball

+ Georgetown, a popular No. 3 seed in the Midwest, didn't deserve the pre-tournament hype it got. I had a funny feeling about the Hoyas all year, remember? Sure they put together a nice run in New York last week, but let's remember, they took 10 losses into the tournament. A 14th-seeded Ohio University team from the Mid-American Conference hangs nearly a hundy on a rough and rowdy Big East side? Ouch. Gary Trent and Chad Estis are high-fiving somewhere.

>+ Mid-majors are back in style this spring. In addition to those OU Bobcats, Murray State (a 13 seed from the Ohio Valley Conference) beat No. 4 Vanderbilt (nice effort, SEC East) at the buzzer, and Old Dominion (11, Colonial) sent No. 6 Notre Dame packing. BYU (7, Mountain West) needed double overtime to oust Florida and Robert Morris (14, Northeast) should have beaten an abysmal Villanova team before falling in overtime.

>+ Just last week, I got some heat for offering up a not-so-fast reaction to Sean McDonough's claim during the broadcast of the Big East Tournament that the league is "clearly the best in the country." My take was that there might be some Big 12 folks who'd be happy to share a contrarian view. Thursday gave us three wins in four tries for the Big 12 and only one win in four tries for the Big East. And those three Big 12 wins were by an average of 15 points.

+ That one guy from BYU is as good as those two writers said he was back in mid-season. Good to see one of the nation's finest scorers get some national attention.

+ Good for Washington giving the PAC 10 -- pretty much a mid-major this year -- some much-needed street cred by beating a solid Marquette squad. I can't remember if it was CBS analyst Seth Davis or ESPN's Doug Gottlieb, but somebody said yesterday the winner of this game would advance to the Elite Eight. I'm a big fan of Lorenzo Romar, and I hope he and his Huskies do make a nice run.

One Great Season on Sports Nation

+ One other thing we learned Thursday was that ESPN's "Sports Nation" program has heard of One Great Season. The popular show tipped its hat to OGS in its "Site We Like" segment yesterday. The darling Michelle Beadle described OGS by referencing a story I wrote this week, saying, "They give us a great rundown of the seven key ingredients every national champion needs to have." Her co-host, Colin Cowherd, followed up with nothing short of authentic sincerity by calling the site "a must read." Thanks, gang! I'm still waiting to find out of this quailfies me for drinks with Beadle. I'll keep you posted.


College Basketball Awaits Super Saturday

John Wall

One Great Season

If you think this week has offered up a weak menu of heavyweight tilts, don't worry. This weekend will be a completely different story.

Saturday is full of huge hardwood matchups, and just when you're done shaking off the hoops hangover the next day, a potential Big Ten title game stares you right in the face on Sunday afternoon.

Kentucky and Tennessee get things started at noon (CBS) Saturday. The Vols are looking to avenge a loss in Lexington two weeks ago, and they just might pull it off this time.

UK has shown it can blow out good teams but can also win the tight games, even on the road. The Wildcats eeked out a narrow victory Saturday at Vanderbilt, as John Wall saved the day with a defensive gem late in Nashville.

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But what can often trip up a good team this time of year is scheduling, and Kentucky is due for a battle tonight at home against South Carolina. The 9 p.m. start is a tad late, and the Wildcats will be asked to squeeze in a light workout Friday before tipping off at noon on Saturday in Knoxville. If Tennessee is looking for another resume win to bolster its tournament seeding, there will be no better opportunity.

The Big 12 then takes center stage Saturday afternoon with three big games throughout the day. Texas visits Texas A&M at 2 p.m. (ESPN), Oklahoma State welcomes top-ranked Kansas at 4 p.m. (CBS) and Missouri travels to No. 6 Kansas State for an 8 p.m. tipoff (ESPNU).

Since the Big East turned into a super-conference a few years back, folks seem to assume it's the best league in basketball every year. But this season might be different. The Big 12 is stacked, and just as capable of sending seven teams to the NCAA Tournament -- and maybe two to the Final Four -- as the Big East.

That Texas-Texas A&M tilt is sure to be a good one. It will be interesting to see how the Longhorns, at one point ranked No. 1 this season, will respond without starting point guard Dogus Balbay. He was ruled out for the season after hurting it last week, and the Longhorns were able to beat Oklahoma State without him Wednesday night. A&M (19-8, 8-5), meanwhile, runs a guard-heavy attack, so we'll see if its backcourt can set the pace and lead the home team to what would be a huge resume win.

Sherron Collins

Bebubbled Oklahoma State could practically lock up an NCAA bid with an upset of the top-ranked Jayhawks. In late January, the Cowboys won three straight games, then lost three in a row, then won three more. After Wednesday's loss at Texas, OSU fans are hoping this is not the beginning of yet another trend. If today was Selection Sunday, the Pokes would probably get in, but beating the No. 1 team in the country certainly wouldn't hurt their case. Expect a loud one at Gallagher-Iba Arena Saturday.

The best Big 12 game of the day might take place at Kansas State, where the Wildcats entertain Missouri, a very surprising third-place team that's racked up 21 wins this year. KSU got some nice early season hype before losing two games in late January, and all of a sudden people stopped talking about the Wildcats. But they've rattled off six straight wins and are perhaps the quietest No. 6 team in recent memory. KSU's backcourt tandem of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente averages a combined 35 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game.

But Missouri has its own loaded backcourt, and although the Tigers aren't great away from home, this could possibly turn into a track meet in Manhattan. At least it will be fun to watch.

The Big East regular season title could come down to Saturday's game at Syracuse, where the Orange (26-2, 13-2) welcome Villanova (23-4, 12-3) to the Carrier Dome (9 p.m., ESPN).

Scottie Reynolds

This is the only meeting between the teams this year, so the winner will own the league tiebreaker. A Syracuse victory gives the Orange the conference crown; a Villanova win puts both teams at 13-3, but the Wildcats would have a slightly tougher remaining schedule that includes a season finale against West Virginia.

Villanova is more perimeter-oriented, although darkhorse Player of the Year candidate Scottie Reynolds is among the best penetrating guards in the country. Syracuse enjoys better balance and its 2-3 zone defense can be troublesome for a cold-shooting team.

Whatever happens, it will happen in front of a record crowd. More than 34,000 tickets were sold out a month ago, setting up what will be the largest on-campus crowd to watch a college basketball game.

Make sure you get the laundry and grocery store out of the way early Sunday, because a huge Big Ten tilt tips off at 4 p.m. (CBS) in West Lafayette, In.

Michigan State limps into its game at Purdue having lost four of its last six. But Tom Izzo and his Spartans have played the role of the wounded dog before, and this could very well be a moment of truth for this year's squad. A team only gets a few opportunities each season to prove itself, and I could see MSU reversing its trend of losing to the Big Ten's top teams this year. Sparty is 2-4 against Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin.

But Purdue is waiting to learn more about the knee injury that do-everything star Robbie Hummel suffered in Wednesday's win at Minnesota. His presence -- 100 percent or not -- obviously would be key for a Purdue win, but the Boilermakers can be balanced if they need to be. And in what promises to be a dogfight with the gritty Spartans, balance will be necessary. This will be a great game for sure.