|A look at the opening day of the NCAA tournament|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 March 2008 11:46|
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
Three teams won their conference tournaments last week by winning four games and two of them were quickly gone from the NCAA tournament.
Coppin State, which won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, lost to Mount St. Mary's in the opening-round game on Tuesday night.
Georgia, which stunned college basketball with its run through the tornado-delayed Southeastern Conference tournament, lost 73-61 to Xavier on Thursday.
Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton wouldn't use his team's long week as an excuse.
``We're a well-conditioned team,'' he said. ``I think our team has grown some awfully good toughness in terms of battling through fatigue issues. We're just coming off an experience where we had a real tangible experience of learning how we don't have to succumb to fatigue. So I thought we remained aggressive and played really hard all the way to the end. I wouldn't count fatigue as an issue.''
The lone four-game champion to win its first game was Pittsburgh, the Big East winner, which beat Oral Roberts 82-63.
SOUR SIXTEEN: One phrase heard most the week leading up to the NCAA tournament is that a 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1. Kansas was the first of the top seeds to play in this tournament and the Jayhawks made it 93 in a row for the No. 1s with an 85-61 victory over Portland State, but it still isn't the walkover many fans feel it is.
``I love being a 1 seed,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said, ``but I will tell you this: It is going to happen some time. And when it does, it's going to be the forever highlight that you're always reminded of. So I could see, even though you don't talk in negative terms, you can say, `Hey, we really need to come out and play well early.'
``I was glad we did that because it certainly eliminated any jitters or tension early to allow them to think that they had a good chance. So not that they didn't have a chance, but when we got up 13-3, I think our guys felt pretty good about themselves.''
ON THE NUMBER: Billy Crystal could have written a movie about the first three games of the 2008 NCAA tournament.
The three losing teams all finished with the same number of points: 61.
Kansas beat Portland State by 24 points, Michigan State beat Temple by 11 and Xavier beat Georgia by 12.
BAH HUMBUG: Michigan State ruined any chance of Christmas having a big March.
The Spartans held Dionte Christmas, Temple's leading scorer with a 20.2 average, to three points on 1-for-12 shooting in their 72-61 first-round victory.
Christmas, a 6-foot-5 junior swingman, came into the game shooting 44.8 percent from the field, including 38.3 percent from 3-point range.
``They took away the 3, took away the drive,'' said Christmas, who missed all eight of his shots from behind the arc. ``Like Coach said, we couldn't get into no sets. We had to depend on Mark (Tyndale) coming down, making a lot plays for us. Tom Izzo, the job he does with that program is great. That's a great defensive team. That's probably the toughest defensive team I played all year, all my career.''
BAD HALF: There are bad halves and then there's Kent State's opening 20 minutes against UNLV.
The Golden Flashes scored 10 points in the first half in falling behind by 21 points.
Kent State was 5-of-24 from the field, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers, and committed 17 turnovers. The Golden Flashes entered the game shooting 46.7 percent from the field, 36.9 from 3-point range and averaging 14 turnovers.
Things got better as far as scoring went in the second half for Kent State as it matched its first-half total in the opening 4 minutes of the 71-58 loss.
The lowest-scoring game in tournament history was North Carolina's 20 points in a six-point loss to Pittsburgh in a regional final in 1941.