With one half in the books, here are a few observations on the action.
1. UCLA does not have a defensive answer for Derrick Rose.
While it was CDR who got off to the hot start early on (4-4, 10 pts early; 13 total), he eventually cooled off thanks to the defense of Russell Westbrook. But Darren Collison hasn't had as much success in dealing with Rose (11 points), who has made his way to the rim whenever he wanted to in the first stanza. If the Bruins are to win this game, this has to change.
Well, we now know who is on their way to San Antonio next weekend, and unlike the New England Patriots we actually get treated to some history. For the first time in the 64/65-team era of the NCAA Tournament, all four top seeds will make it to the season's final weekend. In Sunday's action, Memphis made short work of Texas in Houston to reach their first Final Four since the days of Keith Lee in 1985. In the Midwest, Kansas gets Bill Self to his first Final Four and the first for the program since 2003. Who will they meet?
UCLA and North Carolina become the first two to punch their ticket to San Antonio thanks to regional final victories over Xavier and Louisville, respectively. One thing that may help out the Bruins in their quest for a twelfth national title is the fact that Florida won't be in town next weekend. The Gators are the only team to beat UCLA in NCAA Tournament play the last two-plus seasons. And with Kevin Love being a double-double machine (23 on the season), things could very well remain that way.
The Elite Eight is now set, with none of tonight's games offering anything in the way of drama. In addition to that, only Xavier's overtime win last night gave viewers a final margin of fewer than ten points. Davidson was the surprise of the evening, defeating Wisconsin in shockingly easy fashion to move on to Sunday's Midwest Region final where they will meet the Kansas Jayhawks. In the South, top seeds Memphis and Texas took care of business to move on to Sunday's final in Houston. Now here are some honors for Friday's action.
Team of the Night: #1 Memphis
After Thursday's games we're down to twelve teams with a shot at being the final scene in CBS' "One Shining Moment" montage. In Charlotte, North Carolina and Louisville took care of business in defeating Washington State and Tennessee respectively. Out in Phoenix, there was more suspense but in the end it was UCLA and Xavier winning to move on to Saturday's regional final. Here are some honors for Thursday's action.
Team of the Night: #1 North Carolina
Result: Defeated #4 Washington State 68-47 in Charlotte.
We're now down to the Sweet 16, and to say the least there are some surprises. Ten seed Davidson, after knocking off Georgetown in Raleigh, moves on to Detroit thanks in large part to guard Stephen Curry. The brutal non-conference schedule they played early in the season clearly has paid off for the Wildcats. Another set of Wildcats, these hailing from Villanova, will also be in the Motor City as the twelve seed in the Midwest. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes proved to be too much for the cold-shooting Siena Saints.
The field has now been trimmed down to twenty-four, with another eight unlucky squads headed home after Sunday's action. A day that began with West Virginia knocking off Duke in D.C. ended with UCLA coming back to beat Texas A&M in Anaheim. Here are some honors for Saturday, and a couple of key games to watch Sunday.
Team of the Day: Washington State (East Region #4)
Result: Defeated #5 Notre Dame 61-41 in Denver.
Yes, Thursday was boring for the most part, with the higher seeds moving on in the majority of the matchups. But Friday's action made up for it and then some, especially in Tampa where all four lower seeds advanced. Here are some honors for the second day of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
Team of the Afternoon Session: Davidson (#10, Midwest Region)
Result: Defeated #7 Gonzaga 82-76 in Raleigh, NC.
The first day of the NCAA Tournament is an unofficial holiday that captivates many throughout the nation, whether or not they pay attention to college basketball all season long. But for those skipping work or school in hopes of catching a monumental upset, the afternoon session was a disappointment. The evening brought about Belmont's near miss, but for the most part the favorites took care of business and moved on to the second round. Here are some honors for Thursday's action, and a quick look ahead to what you can expect on Friday.