Thursday's Tournament Action

There is no better weekend in the year for a basketball fan than the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. The upsets. The come from behind victories. The higher seeded team struggling, but grinding out a win. The ruining of your brackets with an upset, or an upset that did not happen. The switching hands of millions of dollars in bets with a free throw, or a meaningless three point shot at the buzzer.

On Thursday afternoon, I decided to take the day off and sit in front of the TV watching a total of three games thanks to the NCAA's decision (Brilliant!) to stream all of the out of area games through March Madness On Demand on CBS-2 in Chicago having one game on the analog channel with a different one on the High Definition channel. While it is not quite as exciting as sitting in a sports bar, or even better yet a sports book, it is still great to take a day off and just immerse yourself in basketball for what turned out to be nearly thirteen hours straight of basketball.

In the conferences first opportunity to show the college basketball world that they deserved all four bids they received, the Wichita State Shockers of the Missouri Valley exploded out of the gate and just dominated the Seton Hall Pirates. The final score of 86-66 was not indicative of how much of a game this wasn't. Missouri Valley Conference 1, Big East 0. Also, there is nothing funnier than listening to the ESPN crew on College Gameday call Wichita State the "Wheat Shockers" instead of the "Shockers."

The game between Boston College and Pacific takes the cake as the best game on Thursday. The Eagles and Tigers went into double overtime before Boston College could sneak out of the contest with an 88-76. In the first overtime, Boston College quickly fell behind by six and it looked like a lot of people's brackets were about to be busted by Pacific. Cheering for the underdog is great when they are not playing the Illini, and that is just what I did watching this game on the Internet.

UW – Milwaukee and Oklahoma. Yawn. The only thing that gave this game any redeeming quality was listening to Stephen Bardo and Mike Gminski step all over each other while broadcasting the game. For some reason CBS decided this would be the only three man booth in the tournament, and both of the color analysts struggled to figure out when exactly they were supposed to talk. While watching this game, it seemed like whenever Bardo had an opinion Gminski would have one, and vice versa. It was just awkward, especially in the first game they broadcast.

The first news that came out about the late games in the first session was that the Cox Arena in San Diego needed to be evacuated due to a suspicious container being discovered in a hot dog cart inside the arena. The start of the Marquette vs. Alabama game was delayed by over two hours, and it looked like Tom Crean's team did not show up to the arena until an hour after the game started. The first half of this contest was all Crimson Tide, but the Golden Eagles went on a furious run in the second half to make it a game before falling by five. I believe that Jean Felix just hit another three from his hotel room.

In the game that almost crowned a Cinderella, Tennessee survived a giant scare from the Winthrop Eagles. The Volunteers came into the tournament with the entire world questioning their seed, and very few picking them to advance out of the first weekend of the tournament. The media was circling this game as a possible upset, and the media was right. This game was so close that Bruce Pearl not only sweated through his shirt and suit coat, but he also ended up needing a new pair of pants midway through the game. Winthrop had a shot to win this game, but they fell just short as Tennessee's Chris Lofton scored the winning bucket with just 0.4 seconds left.

The other two games at this time were about as interesting to me as a root canal. Florida defeated South Alabama in a game that was never close. Montana defeated Nevada in a game that I never cared about. Luckily the other two games at this time were close, or the nation would have fallen asleep from two very bad basketball games.

It was Bruins vs. Bruins in San Diego. The Belmont Bruins became known to Illini fans when they beat Missouri in Columbia a few years back. Heck people in Nashville barely even knew this college existed. Let's just say their stay in the NCAA Tournament was pretty short.

I was able to catch some of the early games while I was waiting for the Illini game to start as it was delayed just over an hour.

In the first half, it looked like Iona was going to give Louisiana State a game. In the second half, it looked like Iona was a high school team. Louisiana State avoided the upset.

Luckily the only way I could watch the Xavier vs. Gonzaga game was on the Internet because then I did not have to have a good picture of Adam Morrison's moustache. As I predicted, this was going to be a great game between these two programs. Even during the Illinois game, I left this contest on the laptop to catch glimpses of it. A very well played game, and like they have done in the last month Gonzaga snuck away with a victory they probably should not have gotten.

UNC Wilmington lost in overtime to George Washington. All I have to say about this game is Pops Mensah-bonsu. Let me repeat that Pops Mensah-bonsu. Yep saying that name just puts a smile on my face. Thankfully I will have one more day to say his name before GW is run out of the gym by Duke.

Oh yeah, in the other early evening game, Illinois beat Air Force. Jamar Smith can shoot.

Umm, Duke beat Southern. It was close for a while. I cheered for Southern.

In the second five-twelve upset of the night, Texas A & M coached by former Illinois Assistant Coach Billy Gillispie defeated the shooting Gerry MacNamara's 66-58. The funniest stat line of the night? For the first time in his college career Gerry MacNamara did not make a field goal.

The Illini now know who their opponent will be on Saturday afternoon, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Utah State Aggies in a game that was taken over by Brandon Roy with about five minutes left in the second half. The Aggies had no way to stop Roy, and Brian Randle will have his five fouls to give up in an attempt to slow down the Washington superstar.

Mike Davis' career at Indiana was extended for another night with Indiana's 87-83 victory over Steve Fisher's San Diego State Aztecs. On what looked to be their final offensive possession, Indiana's Robert Vaden hit a three pointer after Indiana nearly turned the ball over to give Indiana the victory. Mike Davis' coaching career in the Crimson and Cream is extended until Saturday when they take on Gonzaga. Heck, Indiana will be the first real team Adam Morrison has faced since 2005. Let's see how the Bulldogs do in this contest.

ACC: 1-0
Big East: 0-3
Big Ten: 2-0
Big XII: 1-1
Pac Ten: 2-0
SEC: 4-0

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