Thanks to a couple of late-night barnburners in Dayton and Boise, the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament concluded with the frenetic finishes that had eluded much of the earlier action in the opening 48 hours of play.
And Buckeye fans, now you know what it feels like to be slayed by the knight in armour who calls himself Ronald Moore. Onions indeed, Mr. Raftery. He did it all day to Vandy last year (heck, his brother Chuck was a former Commodore and Ronnie still showed no mercy). The product of Plymouth-Whitemarsh HS in suburban Philadelphia can sink big buckets, plain and simple. It will be fun to watch Siena play against Louisville. Some might see the 9, 12 and 13 seeds as no barrier between the top-ranked Cardinals and the National Quarterfinals ("Elite Eight" if you must) but the Saints are a ready bunch; and taking nothing away from Arizona and Cleveland State. But it says a lot when the MAAC representative in the tourney receives a single-digit seed these days. It really does.
In addition to the victories posted by Siena and Wisconsin over Ohio State and Florida State respectively, Cleveland State just crushed Wake Forest last night as the Vikings became the lowest seed to advance to the second round of this year's Tournament. This game was strikingly similar to the contest in which the aforementioned Saints of Siena sent my beloved Commodores of Vanderbilt home early in the first round of last year's NCAA Championship in Tampa. Here's a sort of tale of the tape of the two games:
2008: Vanderbilt (4) vs. Siena (13) Siena wins 83-62 in Tampa, Fla.
Unheralded small-conference school with primarily green uniforms from the North never trails in defeating by double digits a top-flight academics, black-and-gold wearing school from a major conference in the South.
2009: Wake Forest (4) vs. Cleveland State (13) Cleveland State wins 84-69 in Miami, Fla.
Unheralded small-conference school with primarily green uniforms from the North never trails in defeating by double digits top-flight academics, black-and-gold wearing school from a major conference in the South.
Like I said, these games are eerily reminiscent.
The Atlantic Coast Conference lumbered its way through a sub .500 first round of 3-4, fizzling in particular on Friday night as the Seminoles, Demon Deacons and Boston College Eagles all fell to lower-seeded teams. When three leagues get seven teams into the field of 65, it seems inevitable that one of them will lose a fair share of teams early. But even so, the ACC's performance pales in comparison to the other power conferences so far, especially when you factor two things. First, the fact that the ACC was either number one or one-A (a toss-up with the Big East) in the top conference rankings this season. And secondly, that the consensus leading into Thursday's play was that the Big Ten or Pac-10 would have the worst first round among the leagues with six or more squads.
Power conference update (see earlier post for more detailed breakdowns in most cases)
Big XII = 6-0
Big East = 6-1
Pacific-10 = 5-1
Big Ten = 4-3
ACC = 3-4 (see above)
Conference breakdown of the 32 remaining: Big XII, Big East (6); Pac-10 (5); Big Ten (4); ACC (3); Atlantic-10 (2); one (1) each from: West Coast, Sun Belt, SEC, MAAC, Horizon, Conference USA.