Late Upsets Liven up Dull Day
Mike Krzyzewski
Scout.com
Posted Mar 16, 2007


In a day nearly void of upsets, the nation's most successful program was the first to fall.

Duke, which has looked more than mortal all year long, was knocked out by the hottest young coach in the country — VCU's Anthony Grant.

Grant took over the program after Jeff Capel left for Oklahoma and led the Rams to a regular-season title and also won the CAA conference tournament.

But it pales in comparison to knocking off the mighty Blue Devils.

Grant, a former Billy Donovan protégé down in Gainesville, is fortunate to have one of the most underrated point guards in the nation. Sophomore floor leader Eric Maynor scored eight of VCU's final 11 points and finished with 22 points — none bigger than the pull-up jumper from 16 feet he made with 1.8 seconds left to break a 77-77 tie.

Duke made nine consecutive appearances in the Sweet 16, but this year's team just didn't have the chemistry and leadership that Coach K's teams have displayed through the years.

On their Heels

The lead was four points with 16 minutes left. Then North Carolina decided to play.

That's what the Tar Heels are capable of — turning it on much in the same manner that Florida can push a button and go on a run that puts the game out of reach.

"We got off to such a great start," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said after his team got past Eastern Kentucky. "It was so easy that we lost our focus."

Tyler Hansbrough, wearing a new mask, was much more effective — especially on the offensive end. He finished with typical Hansbrough numbers — 21 points and 10 boards in 35 minutes.

"I don't think I'm ever going to like a mask on my face, but it's a lot better," Hansbrough said. "I can see a lot better and it's a lot more comfortable. I'm probably going to have to wear it Saturday."

Missing McNeal

It would have been a different game with Jerel McNeal.

Tom Izzo's win over his buddy and former protégé, Tom Crean, may never have happened if McNeal, Marquette's top all-around player, didn't sit out with a thumb injury.

On the surface, it appeared as a mild upset with Marquette holding the No. 8 seed and Michigan State the No. 9. However, without McNeal, the Spartans were the clear favorite.

Give Crean credit, though. McNeal said he was willing to play, but the Golden Eagles head coach was unwilling to risk the long-term future for one game.

The 6-foot-3 McNeal is the team's best perimeter defender, mixes it up on the glass (4.8 rpg) and also passes the ball (3.8 apg).

"He would have meant a "W"," Marquette's Dominic James said. "If Jerel played, I felt like we would have won the game. But he didn't play. That's reality."

What's Bruin

The loss to Cal in the first round of the Pac-10 quarterfinals may have been exactly what Ben Howland and UCLA needed.

It (along with the regular-season finale setback to Washington) was a wake-up call.

The Bruins came out a little sluggish on Thursday, but maybe Howland didn't want to show up his alma mater — Weber State.

Arron Afflalo bounced back from the worst performance of his career — a 3-point effort against Cal — and scored 22 points and grabbed eight boards against Weber State.

Even more important was that sophomore point guard Darren Collison (14 points, 8 assists) showed little to no ill effects from a sprained ankle suffered earlier this week in practice.

Oh-den

Greg Oden rarely shows emotion.

That's why it was important to see the 7-foot freshman let out a yell during Ohio State's resounding win over Central Connecticut State.

Oden has picked the right time to start to dominate games and be more assertive on the offensive end.

Oden scored 19 points and grabbed 10 boards — his third straight double-double — and the Buckeyes won their 18th straight game.

White-out

Ordinal out of range

When Indiana was knocked off by Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament a year ago, the Hoosiers didn't have D.J. White due to a broken foot.

White atoned for his absence, scoring 16 points in the Hoosiers opening-round victory over the ‘Zags. It was the first time in five years that Mark Few's team bowed out in the first round.

First-year Hoosiers coach Kelvin Sampson got 22 points and a half-dozen trifectas from guard Roderick Wilmont.

Spartan defensive effort

Michigan State nearly pitched a shutout for the first 10 minutes of the game.

The Spartans finally allowed Marquette to get on the board when freshman guard David Cubillan knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 14-3 with 10:18 remaining in the first half.

Izzo got solid defensive play from his perimeter guys and also his frontcourt, although reserve big man Idong Ibok suffered a gruesome separated elbow with 6:37 left in the first half and was writhing in pain.

It's highly unlikely Ibok will be able to play in the remainder of the NCAA tournament. Izzo was forced to use walk-on Jacob Hannon.

Little big man

It just took Xavier a little while to get used to its new floor leader.

The diminutive 5-foot-7 Andrew Lavander, who transferred back home after spending two seasons at Oklahoma, was the difference down the stretch in Xavier's 79-77 victory over No. 8 BYU.

Lavender made a couple of floaters and sank a pair of free throws withy 11 seconds left to give the Musketeers the win.

Now Lavender & Co., will get a chance to face former Xavier coach Thad Matta and the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round.

Panther cruise

Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon and his Panthers cruised past Wright State in the first round and moved one step closer to a a matchup against his close friend and mentor, Ben Howland.

If Pittsburgh gets past VCU and UCLA beats Indiana, the pair will meet with am Elite Eight berth on the line.

Dixon's club was on the mark from long distance, going 10-for-21 in the win over Wright State.


Related Stories
Writing on Wall for Duke Loss
 -by ScoutHoopsExperts.com  Mar 16, 2007
Spartans Advance To Face Tar Heels Saturday
 -by SpartanDigest.com  Mar 16, 2007
Quotes: Duke vs. Va. Commonwealth
 -by TheDevilsDen.com  Mar 16, 2007

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