Top seeds still in it but 3 double digits make it to round of 16 Print
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Monday, 24 March 2008 01:20
NCAAB Headline News


 North Carolina couldn't be stopped. Then again, neither could Western Kentucky.
One coach who got ejected and embarrassed gets a second chance. Teams like Duke and Georgetown are among the many who don't.
The 64-team NCAA bracket is down to 16 after Sunday's games, though many of the story lines that existed when the tournament began - those of prominent powerhouses, plucky underdogs and fantastic freshmen - are still very much alive.
M. ``That's why this is the greatest sporting event in all of American sports, because anybody can beat anybody.''
But nobody could beat the top seeds over the first weekend.
Kansas, Memphis and North Carolina joined UCLA in making it through. The Jayhawks and Tar Heels did it most impressively, winning their four games by an average of 28. Memphis and UCLA, meanwhile, looked vulnerable in their second-round victories.
M should be 51-49 instead of 53-49 because a meaningless, last-second dunk by Russell Westbrook didn't come before the buzzer.
UCLA's next opponent in the West Regional is Western Kentucky, one of three double-digit seeds remaining in the tournament. The 12th-seeded Hilltoppers were part of the craziness in Tampa, where upsets reigned and 12th-seeded Villanova also advanced out of the Midwest Regional.
The Wildcats were one of the final bubble teams to make the tournament, and wound up as one of the few pieces of good news for the Big East, which took eight teams into the first weekend - more than any conference - and left with only three.
Louisville rolled through its two games, including a 78-48 win over Oklahoma on Sunday, and West Virginia also advanced with an upset over second-seeded Duke.
The Mountaineers, who play Xavier next in the West, are coached by the combustible Bob Huggins, though Huggins was hardly the biggest newsmaker on the coaching front over the weekend.
Instead, that honor went to Trent Johnson of Stanford. Ejected in the first half against Marquette, Johnson watched from the locker room as his team won by one in overtime.
``The bottom line was, the responsibility was on me, and I was out of line,'' Johnson said. ``Just leave it at that if you would, please.''
Probably won't happen, Coach.
Johnson's next game, should he choose to stick around for it, could be a good one, against Texas and Rick Barnes in the South Regional in Houston.
The other South game pits Memphis, a 77-74 winner over Mississippi State, against Michigan State. The Spartans, after being a popular pick to win the Big Ten, didn't live up to expectations and played much of the season under the radar.
It means freshman Kalin Lucas might not be as much of a household name as either Michael Beasley (Kansas State) and O.J. Mayo (USC) - both of whom are gone from the tournament - or Kevin Love (UCLA) and Derrick Rose (Memphis), who still remain.
But maybe not for long. Lucas combined with senior Drew Neitzel to help the Spartans pull away from Pitt for a 65-54 win Saturday and keep Tom Izzo in the running for his fifth Final Four.
``I'm jacked for the guys,'' Izzo said. ``When you push guys so hard, sometimes you kind of feel sorry for them. Thank God I didn't let that get to me too much, because this is what it takes.''
In the Midwest, Big Ten champion Wisconsin will take on the NCAA's other double-digit surprise. That would be 10th-seeded Davidson, which beat Gonzaga for its first tournament win since 1969, then knocked out another No. 2 seed, Georgetown, for an encore.
``I'm numb right now,'' Davidson coach Bob McKillop said.
Kansas plays Villanova on the other side of the Midwest bracket. Those familiar with their NCAA history will note that matchup as a stark reminder that not all underdogs have to be from nowhereland.
In 1988, it was Danny Manning and Kansas knocking off heavily favored Oklahoma in the finals. Three years earlier, Rollie Massimino and Villanova pulled off one of the biggest upsets ever, in a 66-64 victory over Georgetown for the title.
'Nova is in the regional semis for the third time in the last four years.
``I think Villanova's unique in its basketball tradition,'' coach Jay Wright said. ``We take it very seriously to uphold that tradition for the former players. That's what's important to us.''
In the East, No. 3 Louisville plays No. 2 Tennessee and No. 4 Washington State plays No. 1 North Carolina.
Form held perfectly there, though the Volunteers struggled mightily against both American and Butler, while Washington State was surprisingly impressive in blowouts over Winthrop and Notre Dame.
``Big step for our program,'' said Wazzu coach Tony Bennett.
There are even bigger steps beginning Thursday in Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C., then Friday in Detroit and Houston.
 

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