KAZ’S KORNER

If your NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket didn’t get busted in last week’s opening round, it sure got mutilated in last weekend’s second round, especially when defending champion Villanova felt the wrath of Wisconsin, which is headed for its fourth straight Sweet 16.

The eighth-seeded Badgers overcame a 57-50 deficit to sneak past the East Division’s No. 1 seed 65-62 Saturday and retained their “giant-killer” image by taking down the No. 1 seed for the third time in four years.

Much of the chatter on ESPN talk shows was how the Badgers got hosed by the tourney’s selection committee on March 13. They also believed that Xavier’s No. 11 seed was out of line, too. Today, both teams are still alive and well as they prepare for this week’s Sweet 16.

Actually, my personal bracket had two blemishes on it after the opening rounds last Thursday and Friday. I had SMU beating Southern Cal and Kansas State downing Cincinnati. However neither winning team made it to the Sweet 16. I heard on the radio Monday morning that this year’s best bracket had the first 39 straight games picked correctly.

Villanova had a very unimpressive outing against No. 10 Mount St. Mary’s in Thursday’s opening round, although they ended up beating the No. 16 seed 76-56. Wisconsin disposed of No. 9-seeded Virginia Tech 84-74.

“Seeds don’t matter,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard told the Associated Press after the Badger’s upset of Villanova. “I told these guys I don’t care where we’re seeded. We have to win six games. Let’s start with these two this weekend.

“All these games we’ve been the underdog,” he continued. You have all types of ranking systems, statistics. The thing with all those algorithms is they can’t calculate heart, will to win, toughness, desire. And that’s the thing we have.”

After upsetting sixth-ranked Maryland 76-65 Thursday, Xavier turned the same trick Saturday on No. 3 Florida State, annihilating the Seminoles 91-66. The Musketeers (23-13, shot nearly 65 per cent from the three-point range, connecting on 11 of 17 long bombs Saturday.

Xavier plays No. 2 Arizona tomorrow (Thursday) in the opening round of the Sweet 16 and is a 7½-point underdog. Wisconsin plays Friday against Florida and as usual is an underdog (1 ½ points)—just the way they like it.

Villanova isn’t the only highly-rated team that will be watching the Sweet 16 from their living rooms. No. 2-seeded Duke and Louisville both were upset Sunday by No. 7 seeds, the Blue Devils being barraged by more than 50 second-half points by South Carolina and losing 88-81 while Louisville fell to Michigan 73-69.

The three remaining No. 1 seeds remaining all will meet No. 4 seeds Thursday or Friday. North Carolina (29-7) meets Butler (25-8), Kansas (30-4) takes on Purdue (27-7) while Gonzaga (34-1) locks horns with West Virginia (28-8).

The Elite Eight games will be played Saturday and Sunday to determine the Final Four. I believe the three No.1’s should make the Final Four and I like Wisconsin to also qualify and be the Cinderella team to get to the championship game only to fall to the North Carolina Tar Heels.

KWICKIES…This week’s edition of USA Today’s Sports Weekly had an article about Tim Tebow, who was given a $100,000 bonus to play for the New York Mets. The paper claims this was done as a marketing ploy. When Tebow donned a Mets uniform to play in the Winter Instructional League, his No. 15 uniform jersey was the No. 1 seller on MLB.com. However Tebow’s batting average was an anemic .194 which included 20 strikeouts in 62 at-bats.

A few Orange County tracksters are among the Southeast Texas high school leaders. West Orange-Stark’s Jared Dupree lead the high jump with a 6-6 effort and Little Cypress-Mauriceville’s Eli Peveto has the best time in the 300 meter run (10:15.03). In the girls division Orangefield’s Brooklyn Goldsmith leads all pole vaulters with a 10-6 effort and freshman teammate Madison Helm has the best time in the 3,200 meter run (12:45.60).

Houston Astros ace pitcher Dallas Keuchel, who is penciled in as the opening day starting pitcher for the third time, has yet to allow a run in the Grapefruit League at spring training. He has allowed four hits and has not issued a walk. He was slated to pitch today.

And speaking of good earned run average, I hate to keep feeding you info about my grandson Logan Smith, but a quick glance at the team’s statistics has him leading all Army pitchers with a 1.73 earned run average. The husky reliever has surrendered one earned run in 7 2/3 innings with 10 strikeouts.

While on the subject of college baseball, three Lone Star State teams got their respective conference schedules started on the wrong foot last weekend as the Rice Owls dropped three games to Old Dominion in Conference USA while the Texas Aggies started the Southeastern Conference 0-3 after playing Kentucky. The Baylor Bears salvaged one win in their three-game series with West Virginia in the Big 12 Conference.

JUST BETWEEN US…I found out that the “11th inning rule” that we mentioned last month is really an International rule of baseball that has been used by the World Baseball Classic the past few years. If the score is tied going into the 11th inning, both teams start that inning with runners on first and second base. A WBC game between Columbia and the Dominican Republic was tied 3-3 going into the 11th inning. The Dominicans, who have never lost a WBC tourney, erupted for seven runs, blowing open the game for a 10-3 victory. Dominican major league players Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano love the rule, while the Columbians, who were playing in their first WBC, were dismayed, according to an article in this week’s USA Today’s Sport Weekly. It also predicted that this rule will NEVER be approved by the major leagues.