‘Sweet 16’ without team from Texas, La.
It took four days for the field of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to get whittled down from 65 teams to the 16 that are still competing for the coveted national championship that awaits the winner in less than two weeks.
Although the first round had several upsets, there was only one minor surprise in the second round that was played all day Saturday and Sunday. Purdue, a No. 5 seed upset fourth-seeded Washington, a one-point favorite, 76-74 Saturday. However, the other 15 second-round favorites all managed to win and advance to the Sweet 16.
The bracketology architects of this year’s tournament need to be commended for their diligence in selecting the teams and then seeding them properly. In both the East and South regions all the top four seeded teams advanced to the Sweet 16.
In the Midwest Region 12th-seeded Arizona upset Utah in the opening round and then beat 13th-seeded Cleveland State Sunday to make the Sweet 16 along with the one, two and three-seeded teams.
And in the West Region, No. 5 Purdue joined the top three seeds making next week’s third round.
Now the big question in the minds of these tournament buffs is which No. 1 team will bite the dust this weekend and not make the Final Four?
This Korner got to watch a lot of the action last weekend and came to the conclusion that Connecticut has the strongest team in the tournament. UConn is so physical on the floor that it will take a team that matches up with them to have a chance for an upset. And we certainly don’t see a team in the West Region — except maybe third-seeded Missouri — that might be able to hang toe-to-toe with UConn.
The Huskies of legendary coach Jim Calhoun were challenged in the early stages of Saturday’s second-round game by the Texas Aggies, but the cream rose to the top and before halftime the Huskies had doubled the Aggies’ point total.
UConn breezed to an easy 92-66 won over Texas A&M to put them into the round of 16 for the 12th time under their Hall of Fame coach. “We think that we’re going to be there every year and we aspire to do that,” Calhoun said.
The Texas Longhorns gave the Duke Blue Devils all they could handle in their second-round game Saturday night. The No. 7-seeded ‘Horns rallied from a late 10-point deficit to tie the game twice in the final two minutes. But they missed two chances to tie the game in final 40 seconds which spelled doom for them as they lost 74-69.
Stephen F. Austin, winners of the Southland Conference post-season basketball tournament, was the first Texas team eliminated from the NCAA tourney. The Lumberjacks began the opening-round contest against Syracuse stone cold, missing 12 of their first 13 shots, and fell behind big-time in the early stages of the first half.
Things didn’t get any better for the Lumberjacks as they went 0-for-15 from three-point range and found themselves 25 points down five minutes into the second half and succumbed to the Orangemen 59-44.
“We didn’t play up to our capabilities,” said SFA head coach Danny Kaspar after the game. “I think there was a bad case of the shakes with some of us, and even when we settled down, we just couldn’t get it going.”
This week’s regional semifinal round finds the tourney’s top seed, Louisville, taking on No. 12 Arizona and second-seeded Michigan State tackling No. 3 Kansas in the Midwest Region, while No. 1 UConn tangles with No. 5 Purdue and third-seeded Missouri clashes with No. 2 Memphis in the West Region.
No. 1 Pittsburgh locks horns with No. 4 Xavier and second-seeded Duke tries to survive the third round against No. 3 Villanova in the East Region. In the South Region No. 1 North Carolina vies against No. 4 Gonzaga and the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners mix it up with the third-seeded Orangemen from Syracuse.
The regional finals will be played Saturday and Sunday with the winners making the coveted Final Four. This Korner believes that if one of the No. 1 seeds falls this weekend it will be Pittsburgh of the East Region. But we just don’t think that our choice Duke can withstand the severe pounding the Panthers hand out each game.
So don’t be surprised if all the No. 1 seeds — Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Louisville and Connecticut make it to the Final Four. And if that happens, it could very well be UConn and North Carolina battling for the national championship.
KWICKIES…Team USA called on Houston Astros’ ace Roy Oswalt to keep his team alive in the World Baseball Classic elimination game against Japan but the hard-throwing right-hander got pounded for six runs in less than four innings as Japan eliminated the USA 9-4 Sunday night. Baseball may be America’s pastime, but the WBC championship game was played Monday night between Japan and Korea.
And speaking of our feeble Astros, they are on some kind of a mild streak, winning two games over the weekend against Cincinnati (4-2) and Toronto (9-7). Of course we must add that they have won only three games the entire exhibition season as they get ready to break camp next week and head to Houston to get ready for the “real” games that start against the Chicago Cubbies April 6-8 in Minute Maid Park.
A tip of the Korner Kap to Orangefield senior Olivia Wagner for being the only player from a school smaller than Class 4A selected to play in the Greater Houston Area Girls Basketball Association All-Star Game on April 11 in Pasadena. Miss Wagner was the District 21-3A Most Valuable Offensive Player and co-captain for the district champion Lady Bobcats.
Things are going a lot better for the Houston Rockets, who defeated the San Antonio Spurs 87-85 Sunday for their fourth straight win to take over first place in the Southwest Division and are the No. 2 team in the Western Conference. The Rockets, who have not enjoyed at least a share of first place since Christmas, stand at 47-25 with 10 games remaining in the season, including Tuesday’s contest at Utah.
Retief Goosen made a five-foot par putt on the final hole at Innisbrook to win the PGA-Tour Transitions Championship Tournament Sunday at Palm Harbor, Fla. Goosen shot a one-under-par 70 on the final day to defeat Charles Howell III and Brett Quigley by a single stroke. Tom Lehman led the tourney by a stroke going into the final round but fell short on his bid to become only the seventh player in his 50’s to win on the PGA Tour. Lehman failed to make a birdie until the 17th hole and shot 75 to finish four shots behind Goosen, who pocketed $972,000 for his winning effort.
JUST BETWEEN US…The Lamar Cardinals certainly didn’t use their home-field advantage in last weekend’s three-game series against Texas State at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont. The Cards dropped the final two of the three-game series against the Bobcats from San Marcos, after breezing to an easy 8-1 victory in Friday night’s opener. Lack of hitting and inconsistency on defense were the main culprits in the Big Red’s 4-2 loss Saturday and 4-1 setback Sunday, according to longtime head coach Jim Gilligan. The Cards currently stand at 5-4 in the Southland Conference and 16-7 overall and traveled to Houston Tuesday night to take on the nationally-ranked Rice Owls in a non-conference encounter.