Guess you can call it Big 12 Night. Both Baylor and Iowa State are being featured in primetime matchups as the first day of the tourney wraps up. If this were an election, we’d say about 15 or 20 percent of precincts were reporting, but so far, so good for the Big 12.
After K-State’s victory over Southern Miss, No. 3 Baylor has held a single-digit lead over South Dakota State for most of the second half. And No. 8 Iowa State opened up a small lead over defending national champs UConn in the first five minutes. If Baylor and Iowa State can win, the Big 12 would have a fighting chance to go undefeated in the opening rounds. (Seems like a longshot. Somebody will slip up, right?) KU and Mizzou will be heavy favorites tomorrow, and No. 11 Texas has the talent to beat a team such as No. 6 Cincinnati. The Longhorns just haven’t done it yet.
Wichita State’s first NCAA Tournament berth in six years ended in agony. Facing off against giant-killer VCU, the fifth-seeded Shockers went down 62-59 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.
It might have been even more painful than it sounds. Wichita State trailed 46-33 with 13:41 left in the second half, but rallied to take a 59-57 lead on a Toure Murray three-pointer with two minutes left. But VCU’s Bradford Burgess responded with a go-ahead three-pointer, and Wichita State 7-footer Garrett Stutz, a graduate of North Kansas City High, missed from point-blank range with 53 seconds left.
One possession later, VCU’s Darius Theus dropped in a runner that gave the Rams a 62-59 lead with 18 seconds left. Wichita State had one more chance to tie, and Stutz wound up with the ball near the top of the key after a broken play. He attempted a step-back three-pointer, but it clanged off the iron as time expired.
The Shockers went 16-2 in Missouri Valley Conference play. But they went out early in their conference tournament. And now they’re one and done in the Big Dance. Stutz finished with four points and six rebounds on two-of-11 shooting. Burgess led VCU with 16 points.| Rustin Dodd, email@example.com
Someone asked Elijah Johnson what sort of mind-set KU should have going into Friday’s game against 15th-seeded Detroit. This was shortly after he talked about — and acknowledged — KU’s tendency to overlook schools without big profiles.
His answer: “The mind-set that they can send us all home in tears. The mind-set that they can go to the Final Four. The mind-set that they can disappoint everybody in Kansas. The mind-set they can take national player of the year from Thomas. The mind-set they can mess with Tyshawn’s pro basketball thing. Gotta think about that stuff, because if we don’t, we think about it while we’re crying on the way home.”| Sam Mellinger, firstname.lastname@example.org
No. 1 seed Syracuse avoids being the first top seed to lose to a No. 16, surviving UNC Asheville 72-65. Some calls toward the end went the Orange’s way — a questionable lane violation against Asheville and a Syracuse player clearly went out of bounds but it was ruled off Asheville.
From Terez Paylor in Omaha: Marcus Denmon and Kim English continue to get treatment for their nagging injuries and expect to play Friday against Norfolk State.
English, who injured his quad in the Tigers’ Big 12 tournament semifinal win over Texas on Friday, said there’s still a bruise, but the swelling is going down.
“Running is fine,” English said. “It’s when I get physical contact, it still bothers me. I had a long talk with Coach Haith in practice and we decided to take all of the lob plays out of the practice for me.”
Denmon, who sprained his ankle in the same game against Texas, said the swelling has gone down and has improved greatly since the Big 12 championship game Saturday.
“I don’t know how I was playing with it because during the game it hurt and it was affecting me,” Denmon said. “I couldn’t do certain things, but I just thought I could play through it and be fine. But after the game it really stiffened up and tightened up and was hurting bad, and couldn’t walk on it.”| Terez A. Paylor, email@example.com
•4:19 p.m.: ugly chant
heard while K-State’s Angel Rodriguez was shooting free throws.
Syracuse is finally pulling away from UNC Asheville, and 14th-seeded BYU won’t pull off a First Four to Final Four run like VCU last year. Marquette beat BYU 88-68.
Time for six degrees of separation, NCAA Tournament upset style. In 2001, an unknown coach named Steve Merfeld engineered one of the biggest shockers in tourney history when his No. 15 seed Hampton Pirates took down Jamaal Tinsley and No. 2 seed Iowa State. That Iowa State team, of course, was coached by Larry Eustachy, whose Southern Miss team lost to K-State earlier today. But Merfeld is now an assistant coach at Creighton, the team that plays its home games right here at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. Why do I bring this up now? Well, that WAS the last time a No. 15 seed beat a No. 2. The first time it happened? In 1991, when Richmond knocked off No. 2 Syracuse. Which brings us back to today. The No. 1 seed Syracuse Orange are trailing No. 16 UNC-Asheville late in the first half. (Go find a TV!). Holy Boeheim, could Syracuse make history again?
•3:08 p.m.: Las Vegas paper
. Angel Rodriguez’s final two free throws in the Wildcats’ 70-64 win not only covered the 51/2-point spread, but pushed the total over 1331/2.
•3:01 p.m.: checks in from Omaha
on the Border Cold War.
•2:59 p.m.: song by the Counting Crows
. But this also means that English has a go-to example of why experience in the NCAA Tournament is sometimes overrated. And he had the perfect opportunity to pull it out this afternoon when the Tigers talked to reporters.
“Carmelo Anthony had no NCAA experience and won the whole thing,” English said, “So it’s not that important.”
Anthony, of course, also hails from the streets of Baltimore. The story goes that English attended Melo’s wedding to La La. So there you go. The Tigers may have a senior-laden team that’s been through this before. But according to English, it’s not that important.
•2:35 p.m.: Drew Nicholas that kid from Western Kentucky
from four years ago? After Murray State pulled away from Colorado State late, and K-State grinded one out against Southern Miss in the final minutes, we’re looking at three more quiet finishes: Louisville holds a double-digit lead over Davidson; No. 4 Wisconsin has kept No. 13 Montana at bay thus far, and No. 2 Marquette is handling BYU in the first half. One thought: Maybe we need to wait for some 12-5 matchups. 12-seeds Long Beach State and Harvard may have a chance against New Mexico and Vanderbilt, respectively. In fact, mark it down. It’s probably at least a toss-up that one of those No. 5 seeds goes down.• 2:12 p.m.:
Missouri coach Frank Haith just finished up a short news conference in Omaha at the CenturyLink Center. He hit on a bunch of subjects — coaching in the tournament, playing four guards in the future, etc. — but he also provided some brief impressions on the Tigers’ opponent, No. 15 seed Norfolk State.
“Norfolk State is a very athletic, talented team,” Haith said. “They’ve had a tremendous season. Early in the year, taking Marquette down to the wire (and) beating a Drexel team that should probably be in this tournament.”
Haith also gave his thoughts on Norfolk State center Kyle O’Quinn, a 6-foot-10 senior who leads the Spartans with 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
“He plays hard,” Haith said. “He’s good at (scoring) off the block, which makes him very difficult (to guard). Not only can he score with two feet in the paint, he can face you up, which makes him a tough matchup.”
When asked to compare O’Quinn to somebody the Tigers had faced, Haith paused for a moment.
“I mean, Thomas Robinson can take you off the block, too,” Haith said. “But he’s not Thomas Robinson. But he’s very similar to that type of player.”| Rustin Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org
K-State advances, beats Southern Miss 70-64. Wildcats will play either Syracuse or UNC Asheville on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
Angel Rodriguez hits two free throws that will just about ice this win for K-State. Up 67-61 going back to the line with 14 seconds left.
Henriquez back in with four fouls, Angel Rodriguez hits a big shot as K-State holds five-point lead with about 90 seconds to play. McGruder still with 30 points.
Rodney McGruder has 30 points, Jordan Henriquez is four blocks and a rebound away from a triple-double. But Henriquez just got his fourth foul. K-State up 55-51.| Kellis Robinett, email@example.com
Missouri players and coach Frank Haith are up next to meet the media in Omaha at the CenturyLink Center. We’ll pass along some of the highlights soon. Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, K-State is in a tie game.
After an early scare, No. 6 seed Murray State just wrapped up a 58-41 victory over No. 11 Colorado State. I’ve always thought that mid-majors teams that know how to win — and the Racers are now 31-1 — can be some of the most dangerous outs in the tournament. You might see a high-major school on the eight or nine line, and maybe that team has more talent, more size, that kind of thing. But there’s a reason Murray State has won 30-plus games — no matter the competition. The Racers will be matched up against the winner of Marquette-BYU on Saturday — two teams with a combined 15 losses — in Louisville. With Murray State playing a little more than four hours from home, we like the Racers to get to the Sweet 16.| Rustin Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jamar Samuels, Will Spradling are still MIA for K-State, but Jordan Henriquez makes a strong athletic play that gives the lead. Henriquez also has five blocks. Rodney McGruder has 28 and Wildcats lead 51-47 with nine minutes left.| Chris Fickett, email@example.com
From the “Looking a couple games ahead” department, No. 3 seed Marquette is about 45 minutes from tipping off against No. 14 BYU in Louisville; that’s the same BYU that came from about 73 points down against Iona on Tuesday night. Missouri, of course, is looking at a potential matchup with Marquette in the Sweet 16 in Phoenix. Scouting tip: Keep an eye on Marquette senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom (18.5 points per game) and senior forward Jae Crowder (17.4 points).| Rustin Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org
Neil Watson gives Southern Miss its biggest lead of the game at 39-35.
Kent Babb reports from Omaha that KU and Mizzou have adjoining locker rooms at the CenturyLink Center: “Watch where you step, Jayhawks and Tigers. Don’t wanna walk onto enemy soil.”
•12:50 p.m.: split-screen coverage
of the NCAA Tournament — and live video of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich headed to prison.| Chris Fickett, email@example.com
A little halftime reading, courtesy of AP columnist Jim Litke:
In basketball fashion, to paraphrase Heidi Klum, one day you’re in and the next day you’re dressing like Baylor, Cincinnati and Louisville. All three teams broke out their new “adiZero” uniforms for last weekend’s conference tournaments, testing the limits of the color-decoder on TV sets across the land. Baylor’s players looked like overgrown highlighters in neon-yellow duds, while Louisville’s shade of red was better suited for tomatoes than Cardinals.
Who do they think they are, Oregon?
Look, it’s fine for schools to push the fashion envelope chasing the hip-and-edgy 18-34 demographic. Heck, Marquette’s “Bumblebee” jerseys caused such a ruckus in the 1970s they were banned by the NCAA. Michigan’s Fab Five were considered renegades when they showed up with shaved heads and long, baggy shorts and black socks. Twenty years earlier, the same people were complaining about long hair and short shorts.
But sometimes a bad look is just that.
And here’s this from the AP’s Jimmy Golen:
When Harvard basketball coach Tommy Amaker would meet with recruits, he talked to them about the doors they could open with a degree from the nation’s most prestigious university: Nobel Prize winner, president of the United States, and even NBA star.
It was a tough sell.
“It’s always been somewhat of a barrier in the Ivy League: Can they see themselves becoming a professional player,” Amaker said this month before watching New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, Harvard class of 2010, visit Boston to play the Celtics. “There’s not a bigger example of that now, in the country and in the world, than seeing what this kid is doing on the grand stage of professional basketball.
“And it couldn’t be better for us.”| Jeff Rosen, firstname.lastname@example.org
K-State leads Southern Miss 30-27 at halftime. Rodney McGruder leads Wildcats with 18 points. KCK’s Neil Watson has 10 points for the Golden Eagles.| Chris Fickett, email@example.com
Well, this appears to be a first. Colorado State coach Tim Miles spent a few moments of his halftime sending out a message on Twitter: “@CoachMiles: Win the half, we’ll win the game.”
Well, that’s technically accurate. And lots of tech-savvy folks in Fort Collins. Nice Area. Cool downtown. Anyway, the Rams were up 24-23 at halftime. Wonder if this is the start of a trend.| Rustin Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org
Watson gives Southern Miss its first lead of game at 25-23, but K-State ties it back up.
Former Sumner Academy guard Neil Watson hits another three, giving him eight points for Southern Miss, which won’t let K-State pull away. Golden Eagles within one with about five minutes left in half.| Chris Fickett, email@example.com
Look at Colorado State, hanging with 30-1 Murray State in the first half at the Yum Center in Louisville. Rams guard Wes Eikmeier is getting a lot of run up here in Omaha. He’s a Fremont, Neb., native who began his career at Iowa State. Turns out, one year in Ames was enough. Now he’s part of a group of four Nebraska natives leading a resurgence at Colorado State. Looks like a decent decision. The Rams are up 24-23 at half — first upset alert? — and Eikmeier is leading the way with seven points.| Rustin Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wildcats on 11-2 run and Rodney McGruder has been the most aggressive player on the floor, says our K-State beat writer, Kellis Robinett. K-State leads 21-15.
K-State is up 15-10 a little more than halfway through first half, but it hasn’t been a pretty game. Teams made just seven of first 30 shots from the field combined.
From Kellis Robinett in Pittsburgh: Three fouls less than a minute in to K-State-Southern Miss game. Looks like the officials might call a tight game today.
Kansas City’s Kevin Harlan has the call for truTV as K-State and Southern Miss are about to tip off.
Already suffering from repeat commercial overload. DirecTV ad with line about “don’t re-enact scenes from Platoon with Charlie Sheen” and the AT cell phone “summoner” getting old already.
Breaking news from Pittsburgh, where Kellis Robinett reports K-State will wear its gray uniforms today.
As Colorado State-Murray State gets started, we have our first utterings by CBS analyst Bill Raftery about “getting the puppies organized” and then he drops a “…with the kiss.” So if you’re playing the Raftery drinking game, you’re already in trouble.
As last-minute bracket-filling-out comes to a close, here’s a look at President Obama’s picks for today’s games. We’ll keep tabs on his choices and grade him:
In the East, (8) K-State over (9) Southern Miss, (1) Syracuse over (16) UNC Asheville, (4) Wisconsin over (13) Montana, (5) Vandy over (12) Harvard, (2) Ohio State over (15) Loyola (Md.) and (10) West Virginia over (7) Gonzaga. (If that holds true, A Frank Martin-Bob Huggins regional final is possible).
In the South, (1) Kentucky, (8) Iowa State over (9) UConn, (12) VCU over (5) Wichita State (wrong 5-12 upset in my opinion), (4) Indiana over (13) New Mexico State, (6) UNLV over (11) Colorado and (3) Baylor over (14) South Dakota State.
In the West, (4) Louisville over (13) Davidson, (5) New Mexico over (12) Long Beach State (this is the 12 he should have picked), (6) Murray State over (11) Colorado State and (3) Marquette over (14) BYU.| Chris Fickett, email@example.com
Morning from Omaha, where Kansas and Missouri are both already in town and prepping for their tournament openers on Friday. We’ll have plenty of thoughts on the Jayhawks and Tigers throughout the day. But there will be plenty of on-court action to weigh in on as the tournament’s first-round — err, second round — begins this morning at sites across the country.
Let’s start here: We mentioned the long list ofKansas City-area players in this year’s NCAA Tournament
in today’s newspaper; 18 from 17 different high schools. And today’s early games will include three games that feature local kids. Former Lawrence High standout Dorian Green will lead No. 11 seed Colorado State against No. 6 Murray State at 11:15; No. 14 seed Davidson — with Johnson County natives Clinton Mann (St. Thomas Aquinas) and Tyler Kalinoski (Olathe East) — tips off against No. 4 Louisville at 12:40 p.m. And, of course, sophomore guard Will Spradling (SM South) will be in the starting lineup as K-State opens its tournament against Southern Miss at 11:40 a.m. in Pittsburgh.| Rustin Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org • 10:47 a.m.:
Welcome to Bracket Tracker, The Star’s live blog on the NCAA Tournament, which tips off in a few minutes with Colorado State vs. Murray State at 11:15 a.m. on CBS.
Sam Mellinger, Blair Kerkhoff, Terez Paylor, Kent Babb and Rustin Dodd are in Omaha, Neb., where Missouri and Kansas are preparing for their opening games Friday. They’ll have updates throughout the day on the Tigers and Jayhawks, plus all of today’s 16 second-round games.
Kellis Robinett is in Pittsburgh, where K-State faces Southern Miss at 11:40 this morning. We’ll be following the Wildcats as well.
Here are some links to get your day started:
• First off, our NCAA Tournament page ishere
, and you can scroll to the bottom for both an interactive bracket and a printable one.
• At 11 a.m., Blair Kerkhoff will answer your KU hoops questions in a live chathere
• Here’s Kellis’ feature on K-State’s Mr. Serious,Rodney McGruder
, who likes winning over dancing.
• Here’s Blair’sanalysis of today’s games
, with his predictions.| Chris Fickett, email@example.com