JEFF: Sweet and Sour
By Jeff Falconio
Saturday's action in the NCAA Tournament proved once again why March Madness is the best event in all of sports. Just when you think you've had your fill of great basketball during the First Round, along comes Saturday with a wide range hoops. First, there was Wisconsin's tremendous effort against Kansas State. The Wildcats feature arguably the best freshman in the game in Michael Beasley and after influencing the tempo of the first half, Beasley was a non-factor in the second half as the Badgers pulled away for an easy win. The Badgers got a great game out of Trevon Hughes and Michael Flowers and the scary part of it is this was not even a complete effort for Wisconsin as Brian Butch was held to only nine points. Equally impressive was Washington State, who buried an opponent for a second straight game. The Cougars are in the shadow of UCLA and Stanford out west and have been flying under the radar for a few weeks now. Saturday's 20 point win over Notre Dame should serve official notice that the Cougars are for real.
Lockdown defense was the key for one seeds Kansas and UCLA. Both teams had their hands full throughout much of the night but great defensive effort in the second half of both games led to victories. There's historical significance for UCLA. The last time the Bruins won it all, they were tested in the second round and prevailed on Tyus Edney's mad dash for a buzzer-beating game winner. This time it was coast-to-coast defense that preserved the win against Texas A&M. West Virginia used an aggressive defense to ice Duke in the second half just when it looked like the Blue Devils would march on.
Of course, it wasn't all good news. Marquette's heartbreaking loss to Stanford cast a pall on the day. It looked like the Golden Eagles would get wiped out early but Marquette used a double technical on Stanford to key a late first half run. Rebounding was so important and the Eagles held their own against the taller opponent. The defense and rebounding was there and Jerel McNeal had a huge day. But Brook Lopez's offbalance baseline shot with 1.3 seconds in overtime ruined a great Marquette effort. It was sweet dreams for Stanford but a nightmare for Marquette.