Friday Honors: Now this is more like it!
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 Wildcats, who are pretty much the perennial representative of the Southern Conference, still hadn't broken through in regards to getting a win in the NCAA Tournament. But thanks to forty points put up by sophomore guard Stephen Curry (thirty in the second half), and a double double from Andrew Lovedale (Jason Richards did go for fifteen points and nine assists), Bob McKillop's team moves on to face #2 Georgetown on Sunday. Curry, along with Miami's Jack McClinton (who fittingly was in action at the same time), put on an offensive display for the ages in this one. They'll be at a disadvantage in regards to size on Sunday, but with Curry's quick release anything is possible.
Player of the Afternoon Session: Jack McClinton (Miami)
Numbers: 38 points in the Hurricanes' 78-64 win over #10 St. Mary's.
It would have been easy to go with either Curry or Western Kentucky's Ty Rogers (nice shot, by the way) for this honor, but what McClinton accomplished in this one deserves some mention (especially since most of the country saw very little of this game). After doing virtually nothing in the first half, McClinton went off for thirty-two of his thirty-eight points...the same number of points the Gaels scored in the second half as a team. And while he's no Willis Reed, Jack was dealing with a fever in the days leading up to this game. A truly amazing performance by one of the ACC's best scorers.
Team of the Evening Session: Siena (#13, Midwest Region)
Result: Defeated #4 Vanderbilt 83-62 in Tampa, FL.
Now, a lot of us on the site were calling this one in the days leading up to the NCAA Tournament. But a twenty-one point beating? Man. The Saints, champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, jumped on the Commodores early to the tune of 15-6 and weren't really threatened from that point forward. Kenny Hasbrouck went off for thirty, and Tay Fisher (their lone senior, by the way) came off the bench and made all six of his three-point attempts and scored nineteen points in eighteen minutes of game action. And to limit a team that shoots as well as Vandy to 4-20 from downtown and 41.0% overall says something about their effort on the other end of the floor as well. With their first NCAA Tournament win since the upset of Stanford in 1989, the Saints are one win away from their first-ever Sweet 16.
Player of the Evening Session: Sonny Weems (Arkansas)
Numbers: 31 points (12-14 FG), 5 rebounds in Arkansas' 86-72 win over #8 Indiana.
It didn't seem to matter who was guarding Weems on Friday night, as just about whatever he put up went into the basket. One of the best athletes in the SEC, Sonny also possesses an outside shot (3-4 from downtown) and mid-range game to boot. Part of me wants to question the defensive "effort" of some of the Hoosiers, but truth be told Bruce Bowen could have been assigned to Weems on this night and it wouldn't have made a difference. And like McClinton getting over a fever before his showing, Weems injured his knee in practice early in the week.
On tap for Saturday:
Game 1: #7 West Virginia vs. #2 Duke (West Region from Washington, D.C.); 2:10 PM
Should be entertaining as both like to shoot the three-pointer. But as we saw in their struggle with Belmont, the Blue Devils are in trouble if their outside shot isn't falling. The Mountaineers can be the same way, since they also lack a bonafide post presence, but Joe Alexander and Da'Sean Butler have both shown themselves capable of going down on the block to get a basket.
Game 2: #11 Kansas State vs. #3 Wisconsin (Midwest Region from Omaha, NE); 4:20 PM
The Wildcats essentially run their offense through forwards Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, while the Badgers prefer a more balanced attack. Truth be told, KSU hasn't seen a defense like the one Bo Ryan will throw at them, but the Badgers haven't seen a pair of forwards of this quality either. Should be interesting, as Wisconsin has the capability to make opponents feel as if their being sent through a meat grinder due to their style of play.
Game 3: #5 Notre Dame vs. #4 Washington State (East Region from Denver); 6:40 PM
This game could be a lot like the Kansas State/Wisconsin affair due to the variance in style of play. The Fighting Irish will look to quicken the pace, while the Cougars play at a methodical tempo. Kyle McAlarney can light it up form the outside, but something tells me that wherever he goes Kyle Weaver will be sure to follow. Also, enjoy the duel between forwards Luke Harangody (Big East Player of the Year) and Aron Baynes (nineteen points against Winthrop).
Game 4: #5 Michigan State vs. #4 Pittsburgh (South Region from Denver); 9:10 PM
Two teams who thrive off of physical play in this one. The Spartans will need the outside shooting from Drew Neitzel combined with improved play from Raymar Morgan, who has been quiet of late. Before scoring fifteen in their first-round win over Temple, Morgan scored a combined fifteen points in the Big Ten Tournament. The Panthers have been clicking on all cyllinders since PG Levance Fields got back to full strength, making them a trendy pick by some to get to San Antonio. This game will not be for the faint of heart, with the tougher team most likely getting the victory.