Friday, March 23, 2007

March Madness: Sweet 16 Day 2 Preview

It's almost game time, so I don't have time to do in depth previews of each game tonight, so here is my *Cliff's Notes version of what I think will happen.

-5 Butler vs. 1 Florida
Butler is a nice little team and a nice little story, but evn if the Gators struggle for a half again, as in 2 previous tourney games, it is too powerful to fall to the mid-major power.

My prediction; Gators sputter early, crush late.

-6Vandy vs. 2 Georgetown
Vandy has played well above their heads this tourney but the Hoyas are one of the most talented teams still alive.

My prediction: Hoyas roll.

-7 UNLV vs. 3Oregon
The wild west comes to life in what promises to be a slugfest between two defensive teams. For some reason I like the Rebs to keep bringing the glory days back to Vegas, if there is such a thing.

My prediction: Rebels win a close one, 75-73

-5 USC vs. 1 No. Carolina
The Heels are deep and strong, but USC just seems to have that something special. It's gonna be a tough one for Carolina no matter what, and I think the sneaky Trojans may squeak this win out.

My prediction: Trojans by a bucket, 86-84.

*Being as this preview was hurried and not well-thought out, I reserve the right to distance myself from these picks immediately following the games.


March Madness: Sweet 16 Day 1 Wrap

Two top seeds dodge huge bullets and advance while a pair of # 2 seeds struggle to victories as well.

1Kansas 61, 4 So. Illinois 58
2UCLA 64, 3Pitt 55

1Ohio State 85, 5Tennessee 84
2Memphis 65, 3Tex A&M 64

This really is madness. After last night's action. half of the final 8 is set, and of the four teams to advance we have two-No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds.

Stop the insanity.

In what can only be described as an incredibly topsy-turvy tourney as compared to the last decade or so, we have a real solid chance of seeing all four No. 1 seeds advance to the Final 4 for the first time in the history of the event. So much for picking upsets. Although last night there were two chances for higher seeded teams to knock off lower seeds, yet both underdogs fell short by missing easy shots at critical moments of their games.

Let's review:

-Jayhawks escape upset bug when Salukis can't hit a late layup or trey
The Chokehawks nearly lived up to that well-earned reputation again last night in the first West regional game in San Jose. Although it never trailed in the game, the Salukis were nipping on the Hawks heels all game long and had a chance to swing the momentum and take its lead with just over two minutes to play.

Forward Bryan Mullins beat his defender and raced to the basket for an apparent easy lay in with 2:34 left in regulation and the Salukis down, 54-53. But something happened on the way to taking control of the game and serving Kansas with its 3rd consecutive tourney upset loss- Mullins layup clanked off the rim. No worries, though, as SIU's Jamal Tatum was trailing the play and had an easy putback right there for the making. He gagged to. And with those two misses the game was over and Kansas had escaped another gag job.

Sure there was still plenty of ball to play, and yes it's true that Southern Illinois had more chances to gain the lead and win the game, including a desperation trey at the buzzer that also fell short. But make no mistake about it- when you miss two, point-blank lauyps in crunch time against a number one seed, you're probably not going to win and you probably don't deserve to win.

The Hawks advance to the Elite *8 and will take on...

-UCLA's mentor gets the best of his pupil as Bruins handle Panthers with relative ease
In life and film most of the time the teacher gets the best of a student for a number of years before the person being taught ends up doing the schooling.

Looks like the same holds true for sports.

Ben Howland's new team dispatched with his old team last night in the second game in San Jose as Arron Afflalo scored 17 points and the Bruins held Pitt to 36% field goal shooting in a low-scoring, psychical West Region battle.

How rugged was it? UCLA won despite shooting 43% from the field, mainly on the strength of 23-26 shooting from the foul line; in fact 12 of its last 18 points came from the stripe. Not exactly a thriller. Luckily this game wasn't broadcast here, and I didn't even bother to log on to MMOD to follow it.

-Ohio State nearly makes me look like a genius but Tennessee volunteers to lose
As the Volunteers trotted off the court at halftime sporting a 17-point lead over the top-seeded Buckeyes, one thought popped into my head: how are they going to blow this one?

The answer became clear throughout the second half as the Buckeyes took control of the game and methodically whittled the enormous deficit down to nothing despite Ger Oden being a non-factor due to foul trouble, ineffectiveness and possible indifference.

I know Bruce Pearl had a great game plan to get Oden in foul trouble, draw him out to the perimeter and limit his dangerous inside presence, but after watching Oden play quite a few times this year it just seems that the kid who looks like man just doesn't exert his dominance enough, or at least not on every single play of every game like the true great ones do. Because the true great ones don't come up with stat lines like this in Sweet 16-level games: 18 minutes, 2 -2 FGs, 5-6 FTs, 3 REBS, 1 ASS, 9 PTS, 4 fouls.

But no matter how much you debate Oden's disappearing act in big games (he only had 22 points combined in 2 games against Wisconsin this year) and the fact that he did have 4 blocks, including a huge one on the final attempt of the game (which appeared to have come after the buzzer anyway), all talk of this game will center on Tennessee's monumental choke job.

How do you blow what was a 20-point lead with just over :01 left in the first half? You start by allowing a lazy 3-point play to end the first half, then proceed to clang shot after shot in the second half. Soon enough Mike Conley (17 pts, 6 ass, 7 rebs) and Ron Lewis (25 pts) had shot OSU back into the game, and the Vols were on fumes by the time the Bucks took their first lead since early in the game with just under 9:00 to play and Oden entrenched on the bench with 4 fouls.

So the Buckeyes escaped and will take on Memphis on Saturday, a team that also barely survived it's game last night.

-Now playing at Aggie Film night: Chokin' Acie
This one is a real head scratcher. The most clutch player in college ball had a chance to put his team in front of No. 2 seed Memphis by three points with less than a minute to play, which would have sent the Tigers into desperation-three mode and clearly given the advantage to the Aggies, who had been in control for most of this game.

Instead Acie missed a point blank layup after a gorgeous breakaway pass with the Aggies leading 64-63 with :47 left. To make matter worse, he couldn't even draw a foul from the Memphis defender that was playing him tighter than a tank top on Scarlett Johannson.

So what happened from that point on? Memphis missed a three pointer but Antonio Anderson got the rebound and Memphis called a timeout. After that? Memphis missed another three, but subsequently got three offensive rebounds on the play, the final one by Anderson resulting in an Aggie foul that sent the sophomore from Lynn (lynn, the city of sin), Ma, to the line. Anderson clutchly (?) nailed both frees to give Memphis a one point lead, 65-64, with :03 left, and a desperation three at the buzzer by Dominique Kirk fell short of the mark and the Aggies bid for the upset came up shy.

Despite missing the bunny the only question I have is, why wasn't Law, one of the greatest Aggies in history and a man who had hit so many big shots in his storied career, not taking the final shot of the game?

Memphis survived, as sis the other top contender last night. Will the second night of the Sweet 16 revert this tournament back to the madness it is named for?

As a Gator hater, one can only hope.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

March madness; Sweet 16 Preview

Although there are sure to be some classic games on tap for the first round of the Sweet 16, I will most likely miss most of the action Thursday night due to the fact that I am chaperoning a field trip with my son's 4th grade class to historic old St. Augustine, Florida (be prepared, there will be a quiz when I get back!)

Since the bus is leaving at 5:00 a.m. and it takes 4 hours to get there, by the time we do get back i don't know if I will be psychically able to watch the games, let alone want to.

So I am just gonna give a quick preview here, and I'll check back sometime on Friday, after I emerge from my 4th grade field trip-induced hangover.

-4 Southern Illinois vs. 1Kansas, 7:10 EST@ San Jose
The Choke-hawks are always good for an earlier-than-expected gag job (see: Bradley, first round 2006), but the way Bill Self has got this team clicking right now, it's hard to envision them repeating that feat this year. Yet if any team can slow down the rock chalks it's the Salukis, owners of the nation's third stingiest defense (56 PPG all'd) and a 15-out-of-16 winning streak.

My Prediction: It'll be a low scoring, close, and possibly an OT game, but the 'Hawks are too talented not to move on

-3 Texas A&M vs. 2Memphis, 7:27 pm @ San Antonio
This one could be a flat-out classic. Memphis is the hottest team in the land, possessors of a scorching 24-game winning streak, but the Aggies are toasty right now, too, having won 11 of its last 14, many of the nail-biting variety. The Tigers have rarely been tested during the streak, facing C-USA lowlifes like Marshall, Rice, Tulane and UTEP, but its 78-62 win over Nevada in Round 2 proved it can compete with top-flite teams.

One thing's for sure: if the game is close the Aggies should win, because nobody is more clutch when a game is on the line than senior guard Acie Law IV. He has a plethora of game-tying, OT-making, and game-winning shots on his resume, and if this one comes down to the wire, I want the Law on my side.

My Prediction: The Aggies have a stingy D (37.3 FG% all'd, 2nd in NCAA) have the huge benefit of playing just 2 1/2 hours from its campus. That plus Law's penchant for late-game heroics make the Aggies the pick here

-3 Pitt vs. 2 UCLA 9:40 EST @ San Jose
The teacher & the pupil, mentor & protege, Jedi master and padawan... if you haven't heard any of these comparisons associated with UCLA (and former Pitt) coach Ben Howland and current Pitt coach (and former Howland assistant) Jamie Dixon, then you haven't been paying attention to the tourney.

Although that storyline is attractive to mindless drone reporters, the real story here is the brutal battle that is going to be waged by these two defensive-minded squads from opposite coasts. Both teams average nearly the exact same number of points (Pitt- 71.1, UCLA- 72.5) and allow almost the same amount of points per game (Pitt-62.4, UCLA-60.6), so my Spidey senses tell me this will be another low-scoring, close game that might go to overtime, but I'm not sure who will come out on top.

My Prediction: The audience falls asleep for most of the game but wakes up in time to see Arron Afflalo nail a three at the buzzer to send UCLA to the Great 8 by defeating the Panthers 46-45.

-5 Tennesse vs. 1 Ohio State 9:40 @ San Antonio
The Tortoise and the Hare, Big 10 slugfest vs. SEC scoreathon, milquetoast coach vs. chest-painting sweat ball; these are just a few of the dramatic opposites at work in what promises to be an entertaining battle.

Of course Buckeye manchild Greg Oden will be the focal point of the game for both teams, but don't sleep on the Vols. It is a hungry, talented and underrated squad that has been through the fires of SEC play and come out as one of the premier teams in the conference, thanks to the attitude and gameplay makeover flamboyant coach Bruce Pearl has brought to Knoxville. And we all know that if Oden had been whistled for a flagrant last week the Bucks probably wouldn't even be here.

Will that new life allow OSU to play looser, smarter and use Oden as a more dominating presence in the middle, or will the Vols draw Oden to the perimeter like Xavier did so successfully last week, frustrating Oden into committing silly fouls like his 5th one in that game?
My prediction: the Buckeyes boast two of the best frosh in the land (guard Mike Conley, Jr. will be a player of the year candidate after Oden leaves), but we saw what happened to txas with a similar compilation of youngsters; I like Pearl's take-no-prisoners Vols to knock off yet another overrated, underachieving Buckeye squad

Enjoy the action, and wish me luck ( and I don't mean with my predictions or bracket!)


Me & my HD: Our 1 week anniversary

Yes ladies and gentleman, it's already here...

...the one week anniversary of me and my high definition television.

I know, I know, it's so annoying when newlyweds act goo goo gaa gaa, slobbering all over each other in public, and do stupid things like track anniversaries by the day, week and month instead of by years and decades.

Just cut me some slack, I'm still in that puppy love stage.

What I've realized after one week in HD TV Land is that there is so much more to the world of high def than just swapping out TVs & entertainment centers and pressing the power button on your new HD DVR remote. Well, on second thought, that really is all there is to it, but psychologically there is so much more to deal with.

Such as not wanting to go back to the "regular" cable channels, ever, and by regular I mean anything below the 600s, including basic cable, premium cable and digital cable channels. It just doesn't seem right; as soon as the TV has to adjust the screen for HD-deficient viewing, I begin to get weepy. When the blue light on my surround sound receiver goes off because I exit the 5.1 territory of HD for measly 2.0 standard audio, I start to get anxious and my hands get clammy.

The only way I can think of to combat this unwanted sensation is to stay in the realm of HD viewing, which with only 15 or so decent channels available in my area right now, is not always as easy as is sounds. But the best thing about HD programming is that there is a whole new world of shows out there that "regular" TV viewers don't even know exist.

Leave it to me to shine a little LCD light on the unexplored world of high def, with some highly entertaining top 5 lists (lists are in no particular order; it's only been a week)

*Best HD Channels:
  • ESPN- almost every major sport broadcast in 1080i all year 'round; 'nuff said
  • Discovery- undersea, outer space and inner earth, Discovery HD has it all covered while intimately immersing the viewer in each alien world
  • HD Net/ inHD- movies, sports, music and specials; these would be my "must-have" channels if me & my HD were Lost on an island somewhere
  • MHD- a better, more engrossing and totally reality show-free branch of MTV that features the best concerts, specials and original programs from the MTV family of nets
  • The 4 networks- what good is HD if you can't watch stuff like The Office, American Karaoke and March Madness in high def? Answer- still great, but not as great

Coming to the list soon: HBO HD- with new seasons of The Sopranos & Entourage bowing in April, this channel will certainly be climbing into the rotation

*Best HD-only Shows:

  • Hardwood Heavens (HDNet)- examines some of college hoops' most hallowed grounds, such as the Carrier Dome, Assembly Hall and Rupp Arena; a perfect appetizer for March Madness entrees
  • $2 Bill (MOD)- concerts with some of today's hottest artists like My Chem, Yellowcard, Fat Joe and Kanye West
  • Nothing But Trailers (inHD)- the title says it all; this show is a blessing for cinephiles everywhere
  • Life & Rhymes of:(MOD)- think "MTV Unplugged" with the heavyweights of hip hop such as Ludacris, Mary J., Fiddy, and Snoop
  • Andy Richter Controls the Universe; Greg the Bunny; Arrested Development (HD Net)- in other words, HD Net is the land where cult classics go after the nets prematurely cancel them

*Best things to watch in HD:

  • Hockey- all I gotta say is "ice, ice baby"
  • Golf- how green is your plasma?
  • Nature- anything, anywhere, anytime
  • Music- with the 5.1 surround kicking, it's like high def for the ears
  • Video Games- pop some Gonzaga 'shrooms and enter your own version of "Tron"

*Best things about HD:

  • the cool, R2-D2 noise the set makes when you turn it off & on
  • watching sweat actually bead up & roll off of athletes' bald heads
  • not having a 6,000-lb. entertainment center blotting out the sun in my living room (so '90s)
  • being able to hook up components without trying to attempt positions only triple-jointed humans can achieve

There you have it folks, a quick, all-encompassing guide to the HD world. Of course these are only my preliminary observations; I will have much more in the future, beginning on our Second Anniversary next Wednesday and every Wednesday for the next gazillion years...

I know, newlyweds are so sickening!


Monday, March 19, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: Frank Miller's 300


Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Rated: R for language, violence, nudity and sexual situations

Running time: 2 hours

The tired 'sword & sandals' genre gets a Wachowski Bros-style update that has broken box office records and polarized the movie industry

Status: Now playing in theaters

"300", the CGI-heavy historical epic based on cult legend Frank Miller's graphic novel treatment of a famous Greek battle, is like American Idol, sushi and rap music- you either love it or you hate it.

The only way director Zack Snyder could get Warner to greenlight his effects-heavy, violent, stylized period flick was to make sure he could bring it in on budget, which was set at a paltry (for the genre)$60 million. How did Snyder propose to do what other directors have done with twice as much money to spend? By utilizing readily-available CGI technology for backgrounds and casting unknown actors in starring roles, cutting down on cost, time, and ultimately the bottom line.

The end result? 300 grossed an astonishing $70 million on its opening weekend, a figure that represents the biggest March opening ever and the third biggest opening for an R-rated film in history, trailing only The Passion of the Christ and The Matrix Reloaded; oh yeah, it was also the biggest IMAX debut ever.

So how did a "stupid little CGI movie" as Snyder himself calls it, go on to break records and capture the heartbeat of the American moviegoer, all while alienating critics and stunning industry execs? By taking a familiar story in a familiar genre and turning it on its ear.

The story of the Greek Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. is well-known to anyone who has taken a history class or watched The History Channel, not so much for the result of the three-day skirmish, but for how the results affected the future of modern civilization. Three hundred Spartan soldiers, led by King Leonidas, waged war against a massive army of Persian warriors, led by tyrannical King Xerxes. (In reality about 1,000 Greek volunteer soldiers joined the fight, but when you're going up against 200,000+, what's the difference? Besides, 300 sounds better.) Although all the soldiers perished, their struggle to defend Greece united the country, leading to the birth of democracy in the world.

In this retelling of the saga Snyder uses his CGI expertise to bring Miller's (Sin City) visual concepts to life; the only thing real in the film are the actors, but they all do a fine job of eliciting emotion and delivering their memorable one-liners. Scottish actor Gerard Butler (Tomb Raider:Cradle of Life) plays Leonidas with a smug machismo reminiscent of Daniel Craig's 007, and from the beginning we can see why his men are so willing to follow him to battle. Leonidas was born & raised to fight to the death in order to protect his homeland, and he lets everyone around him know they are to do the same.

"Are you staring at my six-pack?"

When the Spartans learn that Xerxes (Santoro, Lost) intends to attack Athens unless the citizens lay down their weapons and bow to Persia's dominance, Leonidas realizes that he will finally get to fulfill his destiny. After drop-kicking Xerxes' messenger into a bottomless pit and uttering the instant tagline "We. Are. SPARTA!", he has a final fling with his Q.I.L.F. of a wife, Queen Gorgo (Headey, The Cave) and takes his 300 finest to the Hot Gates, a bottleneck by the sea that will help to nullify the large Persian contingent.

What follows is a number of battles waged over three days between the Spartans and various forces from Xerxes' military. Each time a division of the Persians attempts to infiltrate the Spartan phalanx, Leonidas and his men shoulder up, cross shields, and inflict great bodily harm on their oncoming attackers. The best part of these conflicts is the poor sap sent to deliver Xerxes' latest message to Leonidas, who always meets an untimely, gruesome demise.

"Lay down your weapons" one such messenger pleads with the Spartans. "Come and get them" is the reply as a ginormous spear hurls through the sky and impales the man on the spot.

It is in these scenes that the film leaves its mark. The combination of muted, murky landscapes and swirling, twirling swordplay creates a combination of Gladiator meets the Matrix, with a little V for Vendetta thrown in as well. Indeed the Wachowski Bros. influence is certainly felt in these parts as blood spurts in slo-mo from severed limbs & heads while soldiers spin and mow down their targets with ballet-like grace; as we count the bodies drop you can almost feel the testosterone levels go up.

Ultimately Leonidas is betrayed by one of his own, a deformed Spartan whom he would not allow to fight with his highly-trained men. The traitor leads Xerxes to a hidden path behind the Hot Gates, and the Persians finally have Leonidas & his men trapped with no escape, left to gleefully face their deaths, all in the name of Sparta.

Is this Thermopylae, or Oz?

It's quite obvious that this film is not intended to be a fact-by-the-numbers historical recount; watch the excellent History Channel doc. if that's what you want to see. I'm sure there were no 8-ft tall, effeminate drag Kings, as Xerxes is portrayed to be, nor mutant rhinos and chained giants ready to be unleashed on unsuspecting enemies. That's the whole point of this version. It's taken from a COMIC BOOK-how real can it be?!

Everyone who is complaining that the film is a sterile, soulless sham needs to take a step back and examine what they are saying. The director made no pretensions about the film and the studio admitted they thought it would take in about $25-30 million in its opening because the director steadfastly stood by his vision of what Frank Miller's painted Spartan world would look like had it come to life on screen, gruesome creatures, sliced heads and all.

But critics are lining up to pan the film, as you can plainly read here, here and especially here, and I for one am not really sure why. Is it because the director & studio admit (refreshingly) that they wanted to use bluescreens instead of throwing money away on lavish sets with no guarantee that the film would turn a profit? Other bloody, bloated epics of this genre have gone the lavish route and ended up getting ripped for being too silly (Alexander), too pretentious (Kingdom of Heaven), and mostly too...un-Gladiator (Troy).

The thing about "300" is that it's exactly what it's creators intended it to be and nothing more: an inventive, fast-paced retelling of a legendary battle that wound up kick-starting a dying genre by appealing to & entertaining a wide demographic.

As the great Maximus himself would say "are you not entertained?"

My answer would be have to be a resounding "yes."

And that's all that matters.

As for all the haters/critics, I have one thing to say to you:

"Enjoy your breakfasts, for tonight you shall dine in HELL!"


Sunday, March 18, 2007

March Madness: the Sweet 16 is set...

...and my bracket is toast!

It took four days and two rounds before we finally got our first major, MAJOR upset, and coincidentally it took four days and two rounds before I made my unofficial exit from the office pool.

With a 74-68 loss to the 7th seeded UNLV Runnin' Rebels, #2 seed Wisconsin earned the dubious distinction of being the highest seed to be eliminated from the 2007 tournament, and the Texas Longhorns' uninspired flogging at the hands of the USC Trojans ensured my early exit from the Big Dance as well.
I love the smell of March Madness in the morning- top seeds' title hopes being doused on the first weekend and getting eliminated from your lucrative & prestigious office pool is what it's all about. It's a tradition unlike any other...oh wait, that's a couple of weeks from now.

Unlike yesterday, when all but one of the games were decided by less than 10 points, today's results were exactly opposite; of the 8 contests only 3 saw final margins in single digits, and the average margin of victory for the 8 games was 11.5.

In ESPN-speak, yesterday was Don't Change the Channel Saturday and today would have been Catch Up on Yardwork Sunday.

So now the 16 finalists are set to begin CBS' version of a dance-off starting Thursday night. Before I get to the next round, let's put a wrap on the final day of the first weekend of MM.

-1Florida holds off 9Purdue, 74-67, but suffers from another shaky 1st half
For the second straight game the top-seeded Gators had a rocky first half that made the team expend extra energy in order to mount a game-winning comeback. Top teams can sometimes get away with that kind of behavior in the early rounds, but if Florida wants to become the first repeat champion since the 1991-92 Blue Devils, that's a surefire way to have its dreams come back and chomp them in the ass.

Trailing by as many as 5 points, the Gators went into the break facing a deficit for the first time since Feb. 27th. Just as it did the other night against Jackson State, howeva, Florida used a big (18-9) run to jump in front, 47-40, with 10:35 left to play. The game was nip/tuck the rest of the way, but consecutive treys by Taurean Green (14 pts) and late contributions by Al Horford (17 pts, 9 rebs) and Corey Brewer (17 pts, 8 rebs) helped the Gators advanced to the round of 16, its chance of repeating still intact.

They'll take on upstart Butler on Friday night in St. Louis, and I would love to see the Bulldogs test the Gators all the way to the end of the game, not just for one half.

-USC avenges 2006 Rose Bowl loss by dismantling the Longhorns, 87-68

Kevin Durant may be the best player in college basketball and one of the finest freshmen to come along in the last 20 years, but come tourney time a team usually cannot revolve around one player, especially a frosh, and hope to advance. Unless that player was named Carr, Robertson or Magic.

Never was this adage ever more obvious than in #4 Texas' disheartening loss at the hands of a solid Trojans team. Durant had his customary night- 30 points and 9 boards-but the disciplined Trojans clamped down on the rest of the Longhorns players, holding scintillating frosh point guard DJ Augustin to just 6 points and allowing only one other Longhorn, sophomore guard AJ Abrahms, to reach double figures.

Meanwhile USC had all five starters reach double digits, led by junior swingman Nick Young's 22 points, and got a double-double (17 pts & 14 rebs) from its freshman sensation, forward Taj Gibson. After enjoying a comfortable lead for most of the first half, USC allowed Texas to climb back to within six, 36-30, just minutes into the second. But a devastating 16-3 run, capped by a fast break one-handed jam by Young, pretty much slammed the door on any thoughts of a comeback.

I'm not sure if the Longhorns underestimated the Trojans in this one or if it's just a case of the talented but young team taking its press clippings too seriously, but either way it was a disappointing and lackluster effort for a team that I, along with many other, thought had a chance to do something special.

That's what happens when you pin your hopes and dreams on the back of one talented, young kid. Hopefully the Celts will be finding that out a few months from now, unless Danny Ainge f**ks it up.

-Father's Day in Vegas: Krueger's son helps dad get back to the Sweet 16
Not since the days of Tark the Shark, Richard "The Fixer" Perry and The Great Hot Tub Incident of 1990 have the Runnin' Rebs of UNLV enjoyed such tournament success.

Lon Krueger, the former Gator and Illinois coach, became just the 5th coach to take three different teams to the Sweet 16, and the Rebs rode the sharpshooting of Krueger's son Kevin to a huge upset of #2 seed Wisconsin. Kevin, who followed his dad to the desert after transferring from Arizona State, scored 17 points, shaking off a 1-17 shooting slump to nail three straight treys in the second half that swung the game in the Reb's favor.

Although stud teammates Alando Tucker (17 pts) and Kammron Taylor (24) did their part to keep Wisconsin in the game, once again a lack of firepower doomed the offensively deficient Badgers. Tucker finished his career in Madison as the Badgers all-time leading scorer, but the pain of being so close to ending with a championship team will last a long time-0 at least until June, when those NBA millions start rolling in.

Other results from today's snoozers:

-The Volunteers slacked off quite a bit from their 121-point effort in the opening game, but the 77 it scored today was just enough to fend off pesky Virginia by three. J.R. Reynolds kept the Cavs in it in the first half, when he scored 22 of his 28 points, but after twisting an ankle he was ineffective in the second half and the Vols advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 2000.

-Oregon slapped Winthrop back to reality with a 75-61 victory that wasn't even that close. The loss by the Eagles ensured there will be no double-digit seed in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1995. It also ensured for me another game of witnessing those putrid Ducks unis in stunning HD-not a pretty sight, I can assure you.

-Memphis extended its winning streak to a staggering 24 games, longest in the nation, by wiping out the Nevada Wolf Pack, 78-62. Much like USC, Memphis led the way with a balanced attack; 4 players scored in double figures and eight Tigers in all scored at least 2 points. Up next for the relatively untested Tigers is battle-tested Texas A&M, but Memphis better hope leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts recovers from a twisted ankle to play on Thursday, or the streak may end at 24.

-The Virginia Tech Hokies couldn't rally from 13 down for a second straight game and fell to postseason veteran Southern Illinois Salukis, 63-48 in a battle of the oddest nicknames in the tourney. Despite averaging over 72 PPG in the rugged ACC, Seth Greenberg's squad could only manage to average 50 in its two tourney games, and that is why he is headed back to Blacksburg to figure out how to replace top players Zabian Dowdell, Coleman Collins and Jamon Gordon. Good luck, Seth.

-The battle between storied programs Kansas & Kentucky didn't exactly pan out the way college hoop purists would have liked it to; the more talented & athletic Jayhawks crushed Tubby Smith's Wildcats- don't let the final fool you, UK was down by 17 with 2:00 to play-a loss that could put an end to Smith's career in Lexington as fans & boosters have been calling for his dismissal most of the season. Meanwhile the 'Hawks move on to face the Saluki's next week.

So there it is- the day in a nutshell. Although there wasn't much to cheer about as far as close games go, the end results did produce what should be some great match ups for the round of 16.

Here's a quick look at those games until I give a full preview sometime before Thursday rolls around.


  • 4 So. Illinois vs. 1 Kansas: SIU is a nice little story, but there is no way they knock off the rock chalks, is there?
  • 3Texas A&M vs. 2 Memphis: this one has the potential to be the game of the round
  • 3 Pitt vs. 2 UCLA: this one has a storyline that writers & analysts cream over- UCLA head coach Ben Howland used to be the main man at Pitt, and current Pitt boss Jamie Dixon was his protege; wonder if they'll play that up at all?
  • 5Tennessee vs. 1 Ohio State: the Vols play high-flying, spirited ball for Bruce Pearl, while the Buckeyes like to slow it down and run the offense through the big man, Greg Oden; which style will prevail?


  • 1Florida vs. 9Butler: the Kings of the Heap vs. the Party Crashers, David vs. Goliath, Spartans vs. Persians...
  • 6Vandy vs. 2 Georgetown: The Beasts of the East shouldn't have much of a problem with the Commodores, unless Lionel Richie continues his comeback on the hardwood
  • 7UNLV vs. 3Oregon: An old fashioned Wild West shootout, only with the defense these two teams play there won't be a hell of a lot of ammo flying around
  • 5USC vs. 1 Carolina: the Tarheels may be locked & loaded for another title run but these Trojans will cause a lot of protection problems for UNC (sorry, weak attempt at one there)

I think that's enough words for this post. It's gonna be tough to have no action to watch until Thursday, well unless you count the new season of Dancing with The Scantily Clad Celebs. Good thing I have the HD now to catch any potential wardrobe malfunctions this year!