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2007 NCAA Tournament – First Weekend Recap

by David Mihm | March 20th, 2007

Brackets Busted by…Favorites?

I don’t know about you, but my 2007 NCAA bracket is just about busted. All four of my Final Four teams (Florida, UCLA, North Carolina, and Texas A&M) are still alive, but the one I thought was the safest pick (UCLA) actually looked the shakiest in the first two rounds. My sleeper pick since mid-January (Villanova) didn’t even get past an utterly winnable first round game against lackluster Kentucky. And Cinderella (Winthrop) had her glass slipper smashed into thousands of tiny pieces by a determined Oregon squad on Sunday afternoon.

Maybe you’re doing a little bit better, but odds are a bracket rookie is winning your office pool right now. Here’s why:

  • Not counting the 8-9 toss-up games, the favorites went an astonishing 26-for-28 in the first round (Notre Dame and Duke were the only upset victims).
  • There wasn’t a single 5-12 upset on Thursday or Friday.
  • No #10 seed won a first-round game, despite a 40% winning percentage over the past 10 years, and a great record of placing at least one of its kind in the Sweet 16 in the same timeframe.
  • A year after George Mason’s shocking run to the Final Four as an 11-seed, not one true Cinderella remains on the dance floor at the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend.

Region-by-Region Recap

MIDWEST

Best Game: Butler over Maryland, Saturday

Butler mounted a nine-point lead late in the first half, but it was neck-and-neck the rest of the way, with solid defense and some great individual efforts from A.J. Graves and Brandon Crone down the stretch. The Bulldogs remain a quasi-Cinderella because of their mid-major status, but I think everyone knew before the Tournament that Butler was a legitimate Final Four threat afterits run through the Preseason NIT.

Biggest Snoozer: Purdue over Arizona, Friday

Arizona quite simply failed to show up for what I thought would be a tremendous game going in. Anyone know a good cardiologist in Tucson? Lute Olson may want to schedule a team visit over the summer, because the ‘Cats showed about as much heart as the Tin Man against the Boilers.

Biggest Surprise: UNLV over Wisconsin, Sunday

UNLV, dramatically underseeded as a #7 (see last week’s column), pulled off one of the very few “surprises” of the last four days with its end-to-end domination of Wisconsin on Sunday. I’d said all along that the winner of the UNLV-Georgia Tech game would beat the Badgers in Round #2, but I didn’t think it would be such a complete performance.

The Rebels’ victory made them the lowest-seeded team to advance to the 2007 Sweet 16. But they could be “Runnin” into trouble Friday night in St. Louis against the Ducks. Note to Lon Kruger: guard Tajuan Porter as soon as he gets across half court. Winthrop didn’t in the second half, and the Eagles paid dearly for it.

WEST

Best Game: VCU over Duke, Thursday

Remember the name: Eric Maynor. A mid-major version of Acie Law, the Rams’ 6’2” sophomore guard was absolutely incredible down the stretch for the second straight game (his three steals and nine points in the CAA Final against George Mason were the reason VCU made the Tournament in the first place). Anthony Grant’s team was simply not intimidated by the four letters on the front of the Blue Devils’ jerseys, and came away with one of the few big upsets of 2007.

Biggest Snoozer: Kansas over Niagara, Friday

Arguments can be made for a number of dull games in this region, including UCLA-Indiana and Southern Illinois-Virginia Tech, but I expected the Purple Eagles to give Kansas a little closer run for its money. Not sure why CBS has such a preference to show blowouts involving #1 seeds…they’re no fun for anyone except the most passionate members of the winning team’s fan base.

Biggest Surprise: VCU over Duke, Thursday (see above)

EAST

Best Game: Texas over New Mexico State, Friday

Although the Vandy-Wazzu game went two OT’s, the level of play was not particularly high for either team late in the game. Conversely, the final score of the UT-NMSU game didn’t appear all that close, but the game was back-and-forth for the entire first half, and Reggie Theus’ Aggies made an inspired second-half comeback to tie the game with about six minutes left. Kevin Durant showed why he’s a favorite to be the first overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

Biggest Snoozer: Vanderbilt over George Washington, Thursday

Zzzzzzzzz….. This highly-anticipated matchup of two fast-paced teams was literally painful to watch. Vandy made every three it looked at in the first half, and GW just could not put any pressure on the perimeter (nor could it make any shots of its own).

Biggest Surprise: Vanderbilt over Washington State, Saturday

It’s somewhat of a stretch to call this a surprise based on how well Vandy shot the ball against the Colonials, but I expected Wazzu to come out with a little more tenacity on defense than they showed in the second half. Tony Bennett’s team had built a nice lead before they inexplicably left Derrick Byars and Alex Gordon wide open on a number of consecutive possessions midway through the second half. The Cougars’ own offense stalled late in the game, saved only by a few amazing individual isolation moves and jumpers by Derrick Low.

SOUTH

Best Game: Ohio State over Xavier / Texas A&M over Louisville, Saturday

I just couldn’t decide between these two, which were hands-down the most exciting games of the Tournament to date, in my opinion.

Edgar Sosa had a career day for Louisville, but took an ill-advised three on the Cardinals’ last major possession to seal their fate. Acie Law lived up to his billing as the most clutch player in America, and was assisted greatly by unsung A&M hero Dominique Kirk. And the Aggies’ big men made a surprising number of free throws down the stretch—which bodes well for their chances next weekend.

In the contest between the Buckeyes and Musketeers, Ron Lewis’ three at the end of regulation proved (to me at least) why teams up three points with less than ten seconds left should ALWAYS foul. But should Lewis even have had a chance to tie? Greg Oden’s shove underneath the basket on the previous possession sure looked like the intentional variety to me…

Biggest Snoozer: Louisville over Stanford, Thursday

This game may hold the CBS record for the quickest switch to a more competitive game—I don’t remember getting a glimpse of even one minute of the second half. Stanford’s ball-handling made you wonder if any players for the Cardinal had ever seen a press before…

Biggest Surprise: USC over Texas, Sunday

It wasn’t a surprise to me, as I’ve watched a ton of both USC and Texas for most of the season. I was sure that Tim Floyd would find a way to take D.J. Augustin out of the game, which is Texas’ Achilles heel. But the Longhorns were a super-trendy Final Four pick, and I’m sure much of the nation is shocked not to see Kevin Durant + Co. make the second weekend.

The Trojans shot the ball incredibly well the entire game. I’m not sure how much of that to attribute to a soft Texas D, or whether their blistering outside shooting makes them a legitimate threat to knock off UNC on Friday. USC did prove to the nation in this game that they’re more than capable of keeping pace with the Tarheels.

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