Posted on: March 19, 2011 1:22 am
Edited on: March 19, 2011 1:28 am

Tepid Friday makes us appreciate the good days

Posted by Matt Norlander

Not only can't they all be great, most of them are doomed not to be.

When you've got 32 games on Thursday and Friday, the odds off getting more than five or six of those to be a combination of double-digit upsets and/or last-second buzzer-beating finishes aren't high. So, after a satisfying — if also sputtering — Thursday session, Friday wasn't that great.

In fact, I'm being nice: Friday was sub-par and somewhat brutal to sit through, which I did from the comfort of my uncle's couch out here in Denver. I debated taking a jog through the Rockies just to dodge the brutal ball all over the four channels providing tournament coverage.

Overall, the odds played out like they normally do, though. We had George Mason and Villanova playing out an 8-9 game as we wish they all could be played out, and Arizona-Memphis brought us some drama and controversy. Washington, as its wont to do, made things suspect near the end of its game with No. 10 Georgia, but it did get out of Charlotte with a three-point win. The only other game worth listing under the somewhat-worthwhile category from Friday is Texas-Oakland, and even though that ended up being a four-point spread, it didn't even feel all that urgent.

Outside of that: forgettable stuff. The average difference between winner and loser on Friday: 15.4 points. Now, part of that had to do with three one seeds being involved. And if you need more evidence of how inept the opening two days were as a whole, look at this stat.

How about the Chicago pod: Notre Dame kills Akron; Purdue takes St. Peter's behind a woodshed; Florida State makes us forget Texas A&M even had a basketball team this season; and VCU — one of two true upsets, albeit boring ones, Friday — ended Georgetown's 2011 campaign the way No. 14 Ohio did to the Hoyas in 2010.

The point here isn't to lament the slow grind. It's to praise the good days and great games, however seldom they may come in March. We always want the majority of the games to keep us sweating and screaming, but it's never been that way. There's a reason why you can only pick out in your mind 25 or 30 games in tournament history.

We were so eager to make this Thurday even better than last year's first day. Do you remember how good last year's opening day was? The 2011 version couldn't touch it. And that's perfectly fine. 

Me? I'm just happy we've got two more days and 16 more chances to get to see thrilling basketball. Then a few more after that in the next, final two weekends.

Oh, and I'm also happy to report I'm leading the charge in the CBSSports.com picks department. Look at Doyel just chewing on my dust. I'll enjoy that carpet ride while I can; it's sure to end by Sunday night, good games or not.

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 17, 2011 10:31 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 10:49 am

BYU aware of of upset-laden day, moves on to Sat.

Posted by Matt Norlander

DENVER — They knew exactly what the afternoon brought. What happened to others, and what couldn't happen to them.

While BYU players prepared for their game against No. 14 Wofford, they killed time by watching the tournament in their hotel rooms. And they saw  Butler beat Old Dominion at the buzzer. Then Morehead State upset Louisville. Princeton nearly beat Kentucky shortly thereafter. As they waited in their locker room, 50 feet from the floor in the Pepsi Center, they watched the TV mounted on the wall as No. 12 Richmond knocked off No. 5 Vanderbilt.

So, yeah, getting beat by an inferior team was on the team's mind.

"I was definitely aware of that," Jimmer Fredette said after No.3 BYU's somewhat-comfortable 74-66 win over Wofford Thursday night.

"We used it as motivation," Logan Magnusson said.

Noah Hartsock and his roommate, James Anderson, watched the Louisvlle-Morehead State game together. They were riveted. As it became in doubt late, Hartsock said he called game-winning 3-pointer seconds before it happened.

"I told him (Anderson), this 3's going in," Hartsock said. "We knew Wofford would battle, with nothing to lose, but we're in charge of what we can do."

Early, BYU wasn't necessarily on the path of becoming the next victim in Thursday's heartbreaking thrashings, but they weren't playing top-notch ball. It was a tight game early (neither team took a lead larger than five points in the first half), then BYU finally tugged itself away from the Terriers with 4:33 to go in the game, when it got its first double-digit lead of the night.

Fredette led the team, as usual, with 32 points. He passed the 1,000-point plateau for the year, becoming the 19th person in D-I history to do so. The team's now won 31 games, a school record.

It wasn't easy or natural; Fredette short-armed a lot of shots and instead opted for penetration throughout much of the second half. BYU got its win thanks to 32 from No. 32, sure, but Kyle Collinsworth grabbing a career-best 11 boards factors in, as does 10 points from Magnusson, Hartsock and Charles Abuou.

You won't hear much about BYU tonight or tomorrow because it never got threatened late. It took Wofford's best shots, then separated itself. Sometimes, winning boring is a good thing.

Now, BYU has to break through to the second round, something it hasn't done since 1981.

Photo: AP

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 17, 2011 4:56 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 4:59 pm

Morehead St video: crowd reaction, Harper, Faried

Posted by Matt Norlander

DENVER -- Amazing how everything just GOES once a game ends. It's over, and the interviews begin, the mob flows in the bowels of the arena, chasing down quotes, and the race is on to churn out game stories on what's only one of a handful of great endings so far this afternoon.

But as of now (Kentucky going to hold on?) there's been no bigger upset than No. 13 Morehead State 62, No. 4 Louisville 61. Below I've got an interview with the man who the game winning shot for the Eagles, Demonte Harper, followed by a one-on-one with Kenneth Faried, who grabbed 17 boards and prevented Louisville from getting a game winning shot off. Lastly, it's the Eagles fans in the crowd, seconds after their team pulled off the first true upset of the 2011 NCAA tournament.




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Posted on: March 15, 2011 5:44 pm

Ready or not, the NCAA does, truly start tonight

Posted by Matt Norlander

You may not be fully engaged or in love with the idea of a 68-team field, and it doesn't feel that formal, but like it or not, the Big Bracket gets underway tonight.

It's different from the past 10 years, when that one, random, opening-round (yes, yes, it's a play-in; we all called it a play-in, and we'll all call these play-ins) game never got a lot of traction. That was as much about it being two 16 seeds as it was the fact the game rarely was good. In fact, no game in the past eight years has been decided by less than eight points. So the apathy gets compounded.

I am not here to break down the UNC-Asheville-Arkansas-Little Rock game, nor Clemson-UAB.

I am here to say: I'm intrigued to see how tonight plays out. The teams will have the most minimal impact on the bracket, big-picture, but how does truTV handle its moment on the stage? Will people even be watching these games? Jim Nantz, Steve Kerr and Clark Kellogg get their dress rehearsal tonight for the Final Four in April. Is that enough time? We'll see.

But loads of national media have descended upon Dayton, and it may never be this way again. The at-large winners aren't a sexy group; Dayton is housing so much press because it's the first time the First Four is a ... thing.

Somewhat swiftly, the 2011 NCAA tournament does start tonight. I get the feeling nobody's ready for it. We like that slow boil throughout the week. It's what we're used to. Heck, no one's considering these games as factors in pools. Curiosity, more than thirst, is driving me and others to the TV tonight. I think I'll always consider Thursday the real gunshot-in-the-air beginning to The Dance. Won't you?

As for the predictable laments about how to see tonight's tilts, if you need to know where to find the game, Gary has a number memorized for you.

Photo: AP

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Tags: East, Southeast
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com