GREENSBORO, N.C. -- It was after midnight here in the eastern time zone and two games were in overtime, causing Greg Gumbel to frantically guide the nation from one site to the next, back and forth, and that's the way I like my NCAA tournament!
Back in Boise ...
Let's get you back to Dayton ...
Over in Boise ...
It was like a rollercoaster ride via television.
Just a fun, fun reason to stay up late.
Anyway, here's a rundown of Friday's NCAA tournament action ...
Story of the day: The Big Ten split a pair of games decided after midnight. Wisconsin beat Florida State 61-59 in overtime about two minutes before Ohio State lost to Siena 74-72 in double-overtime. Of the seven Big Ten schools (Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota) that received bids, just four (Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin) survived the first round.
Game of the day: With apologies to Wisconsin (and Trevon Hughes, he of the game-winner against FSU), the best game was the Siena game that featured 10 extra minutes and so many clutch shots I thought Bill Raftery's head was going to explode. First, Kenny Hasbrouck made a free throw to force overtime. Then, Ronald Moore made a 3-pointer to force double-overtime. Then, Moore made another 3-pointer to create the final margin and send the Saints to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season despite a 2-5 record against BCS-affiliated schools during the past calendar year. Seriously, the Saints have exactly two victories over BCS schools in the past calendar year, and both came in the NCAA tournament. Last March 21, Siena beat Vanderbilt in the first round. This March 20, Siena beat Ohio State in the first round. In between, the Saints were 0-5 against BCS schools, losing to Villanova, Pittsburgh, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Tennessee.
Upset of the day: A No. 13 seed (Cleveland State) dominated a No. 4 seed (Wake Forest), rendering all those pros on Dino Gaudio's roster useless in an 84-69 thrashing. Now, there's a good chance at least two (and perhaps three) of those pros will turn pro, and, man, this sure was a wasted opportunity for Wake Forest as a whole and Gaudio individually.
Predictable star: North Dakota State's Ben Woodside, best known for getting 60 against Stephen F. Austin, went bananas against Kansas . He made 13 shots and finished with 37 points, leading KU coach Bill Self to call him the best guard the Jayhawks have faced all season. If you're wondering, a list of other guards the Jayhawks have faced includes Jonny Flynn (Syracuse), Kalin Lucas (Michigan State), Willie Warren (Oklahoma), and A.J. Abrams (Texas). So that's some nice praise for Woodside, and perhaps a consolation prize in an 84-74 loss.
Unpredictable star: Taj Gibson is Southern California's leading scorer, a guy who made 59.2 percent of his field goal attempts in the regular season. So he's good, no question. But nobody expected him to finish 10-of-10 from the field in a 72-55 win over Boston College because he had never finished 10-of-10 from the field in a win over (or loss against) anybody.
-- Three random notes --
1. Two of the four non-BCS schools to receive at-large bids advanced to the second round, and both were from the Atlantic 10. The Dayton Flyers beat West Virginia 68-60 for the school's first NCAA tournament win in 19 years . The Xavier Musketeers beat Portland State 77-59 to improve to 22-0 when leading at halftime.
2. People always talk about how good finishes can lead to great career opportunities for head coaches, but it works for assistants, too. Two guys who could benefit this year are USC assistant Bob Cantu and Texas A&M assistant Scott Spinelli, both of whom advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and have natural ties to mid-major jobs currently open. Cantu's strong recruiting has helped USC make three straight NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history. He grew-up 30 minutes from, and once worked at, Cal Poly, which fired Kevin Bromley this week. Cantu should and will be among the leading candidates to be the Mustangs' next head coach. As for Spinelli, he's also known as a strong recruiter, one with extensive east coast ties. He graduated from Boston University, which should make him a legitimate candidate to replace Dennis Wolff, who was fired last week.
3. The Big 12 finished 6-0 in the first round thanks to Friday wins by Kansas, Oklahoma State and Missouri. That means 18.8 percent of the schools still alive in the NCAA tournament are affiliated with the Big 12. Also worth noting is that the Big 12 is 11-1 in first-round games the past two seasons, 14-2 in first-round games the past three seasons. So my advice is to never again pick against the Big 12 in first-round games. Consider that your bracket tip of the day.
Final thought: Congratulations to Arizona.
That was an impressive victory.
It was fun to watch.
But let's not pretend that 84-71 win over Utah somehow proves the Wildcats "belonged" in the NCAA tournament, because "belonging" in the NCAA tournament and having the ability to win a game in the NCAA tournament are two totally different things. Understand, whether somebody "belongs" in the NCAA tournament should be based on their body of work on Selection Sunday, and Arizona's body of work, in the opinion of most who objectively look at this stuff, wasn't worthy of inclusion. It just wasn't. But the Wildcats were included anyway, and then paired with Utah in the first round, at which point many (if not most) picked them to advance because their players are better than Utah's players.
Now they'll probably beat Cleveland State, too.
The bracket has opened up for them.
And I honestly couldn't be happier for Russ Pennell.
He's a great dude who deserves good things.
But regardless of what happens going forward, let's be clear about something: Nothing will ever prove that Arizona "belonged" in the NCAA tournament because everything that happens after Selection Sunday is irrelevant to the question of whether Arizona belonged or did not belong. Again, whether a team belongs should be based on a team's body of work on Selection Sunday, meaning Arizona's win didn't prove the Wildcats belonged as much as it proved they were capable of winning a game once included.
Which makes them like Florida.
Or Davidson, even.
None of those teams belonged in the NCAA tournament based on their bodies of work.
But could any of them have beaten Utah on a neutral court?
Yes, of course.