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2008 NCAA Tournament: Day One Debriefing

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The first day of the 2008 NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament is in the books, and it was quite the usual swamp of uninteresting games and a genuine lack of surprises. Not to say it was absolutely devoid of value, but it reminded me about the perils of getting excited during the first two days.

The one true intrigue of the day was the #2 Duke Blue Devils against the 15th-seeded Belmont Bruins. The supposedly undersized, undermanned, and under-appreciated team from Nashville lost to Duke on what was probably their only significant mental lapse of the game, in the final 12 seconds of regulation. The Dukies just barely advanced, and now have two potential problems: one, they obviously had to exert themselves far more than they expected to win their first game, and second, they were exposed as a team that has a hard time handling a quick, penetrating point guard (of which there are quite a few in this tournament). There's a decent chance the lights will get shot out Saturday in their game against WVU, where six starters on the court shoot 37% or better from behind the arc.

Of course, it's only fair that I mention the true lowlight of the night. You might think I'm talking about the 4-vs.-13 game between Washington State and Winthrop, where the teams were tied at 29 in the locker room, and Wazzu then went on to win 71-40. I'm not, though, because that was only the second worst game of the night.

The true horror show was the game between top-seeded UCLA and Mississippi Valley State. UCLA absolutely mopped the floor with them, as the Delta Devils' entire starting lineup scored 22 points, compared to the 20 points freshman Kevin Love scored by himself in a 70-29 game for which all the various websites aren't even bothering to put up the play-by-play. It was an all around bad game, including the lowest point total ever in the first round and the lowest point total since 1946. Thanks for coming, MVSU, send Jerry Rice our love.

Some other interesting happenings from the first day of action:

  • The 14th-seed Georgia Bulldogs, they of the improbably run in the SEC COnference Tournament, scored on their opening possession of the second half to take an 11 point lead over #3 Xavier, and held that lead until the 13:30 mark of the second half. They then ran out of gas, and Xavier sealed the deal by ending the game on a 9-0 run (all free throws) and winning 73-61.
  • The 11th-seed Kentucky Wildcats played the most lopsided game I have seen in a long time. Their starting shooting guard, small forward, and power forward (Joey Crawford, Ramel Bradley, and Perry Stevenson) went 23-43 from the field and 10-14 from the free throw line. All of the other players combined were 0-5 from the field and 2-3 shooting free throws. In spite of this disparity, the game wasn't over until 6th-seed Marquette made six free throws in the final 20 seconds to seal a 74-66 win. I hope this isn't a sign of the future for Kentucky, since both Crawford and Bradley are seniors.

There are more opportunities for upsets today, Day Two of the tournament. But remember, don't get your hopes up.

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