Faves often are fleeting
There have been four overtime games and plenty of upsets, but the four favorites -- North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas and Memphis -- survived the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. Don’t count on them all getting through next weekend, though. That hasn’t happened since the NCAA began seeding the field in 1979.
Here are five things to watch for in the Sweet 16, and five backward glances at the first two rounds.
1. UCLA’s friendly trail
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
UCLA earned the No. 1 seeding in the West, and now only 12th-seeded Western Kentucky and either No. 3 Xavier or No. 7 West Virginia remain between the Bruins and the Final Four.
But are all the officiating calls -- and no-calls -- that keep going UCLA’s way a coincidence? Or have the Bruins become the new Duke Blue Devils, sweethearts of the whistle-wearing set?
2. Hello, darling
Davidson, the 10th-seeded team that takes on Wisconsin in a Midwest Regional semifinal Friday after upsetting second-seeded Georgetown, has an undergraduate enrollment of only 1,700 -- including one very sweet-shooting sophomore in Stephen Curry. The son of former NBA player Dell Curry, Stephen Curry had 40 points against Gonzaga and 30 against Georgetown.
3. Your pace or mine?
North Carolina, the top-seeded team overall, scored 113 points against Mount St. Mary’s and 108 against Arkansas, becoming the first team to break the century mark in its first two NCAA tournament games since Loyola Marymount in 1990.
But slow down: North Carolina’s opponent in an East Regional semifinal on Thursday is Washington State, which held Winthrop to 40, and Notre Dame to 41.
Something’s got to give.
4. Now that’s what we call foul shooting
Can the Memphis Tigers possibly win the NCAA title if they can’t make free throws?
They’re shooting only 59% from the line this season -- and they made only 47% in a three-point victory over Mississippi State, sinking a mere 15 of 32. Since 1985, only one team has shot less than 65% from the line and won the national championship: Connecticut, in 2004.
5. Ultimate conference test
After some early stumbles, the Pacific 10 Conference has three teams in the Sweet 16 -- UCLA, Stanford and Washington State. The Big East also has three in Louisville, Villanova and West Virginia. But credit former Michigan and Arizona State coach Bill Frieder with this concept: The Pac-10 won’t have proved its mettle until it puts two teams in the Final Four in the same year -- something the other five major conferences have all done.
WHAT WE SAW
1. Duke’s demise
No one should be too quick to write the obituary of the Duke dynasty, but with a close call in the first around against Belmont and a second-round loss to West Virginia a year after a first-round exit against Virginia Commonwealth, Mike Krzyzewski must rethink a roster that was far too dependent on perimeter shooting. Eight McDonald’s All-Americans weren’t enough against the Mountaineers.
2. Where did those freshmen go?
UCLA’s Kevin Love and Memphis point guard Derrick Rose are still around, but Kansas State’s Michael Beasley, USC’s O.J. Mayo and Arizona’s Jerryd Bayless have gone home.
“A lot of freshmen don’t realize the tournament’s a real busy thing,” North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough said. “You go there, you practice, you go to the press conference. You’ve got to learn how to get your rest and make sure you’re ready for the game, because it comes fast. It can end fast too.”
3. Take a deep breath
D.J. Augustin’s team is still kicking, but the Texas point guard would be kicking himself today if his missed free throw with two seconds left had cost his team in its 75-72 second-round victory over Miami.
Augustin stepped to the line for two free throws and shot an airball on the first.
“I shot it a little short, but the second one, I knocked it down,” he said. “We won. That’s all that matters.”
4. Slip-sliding away
Can’t the NCAA do something about those slick logos? North Carolina Coach Roy Williams was so unhappy to see players keep slipping on giant on-court logos that he was captured on CBS cameras during a timeout motioning to broadcasters Jim Nantz and Billy Packer to mention the hazard on the air. They did.
5. This just in
In another awkward moment for the NCAA, it issued a news release Sunday that “clarified” the final score of the UCLA-Texas A&M; game Saturday.
Instead of the 53-49 score on the official stat sheet, the score should have been 51-49, according to the NCAA, which said officials on the court waved off Russell Westbrook’s dunk as time expired because it was after the buzzer.
Texas A&M; probably just wishes NCAA rules allowed for a day-after clarification on the no-call on the Aggies’ final shot.