Saturday Hoops - As Good as it Gets
Posted Mar 18, 2007

Say what you will about the first two days, Saturday's NCAA tourney slate was as good as it gets.

In order for Pittsburgh to make history, The Panthers will have to get past some of their own.

Pittsburgh has never won more than two games in the NCAA tournament, but Jamie Dixon's club will have an opportunity to do so if it can get past ex-Panthers coach Ben Howland and the UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16.

However, both teams nearly blew hefty leads on Saturday. Pittsburgh needed overtime to get past Cinderella-minded VCU while UCLA nearly coughed away a lead against a Indiana team that scored just 13 points in the first half.

Those were just two games in a day filled with nail-biters. Nearly every game came down to the final minute.

The first round of the Big Dance was a virtual dud, but things picked up on a Saturday in which Greg Oden's collegiate career almost ended and Tyler Hansbrough returned to his old form.

Oh, Oden

Greg Oden's foul at the end of regulation was not intentional. It was just physical.

The 7-foot freshman was on the sidelines after fouling out, but his teammates made certain that his career didn't end without at least a Sweet 16 appearance.

Senior Ron Lewis, who transferred from Bowling Green, made a clutch 3-pointer to force overtime and then it was Oden's best friend, freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr., who took over.

Conley scored 11 of his 21 points in the extra frame.

Bulldogs back again

Butler is back in the Sweet 16.

Todd Lickliter's club knocked off No. 4 Maryland to get into the Sweet 16 for the second time in four seasons. Junior guard A.J. Graves scored 19 points and provided the dagger — a 3-pointer with 2:09 left in the game.

Gary Williams and the Terps haven't gotten past the second round since 2003.

New ground

It's been 27 years since Texas A&M made it this far.

The Aggies nearly gave it away.

After Louisville freshman Edgar Sosa, who had made all 15 of his foul shots up to that point, missed a pair with 29.8 seconds left, Joseph Jones came up empty on a pair of free throws.

However, Sosa misfired on a 3-pointer that could have tied the game as time expired.

Sosa had the best game of his career with 31 points, but Rick Pitino only got seven minutes out of enigmatic freshman big man Derrick Cararcter before he fouled out.

By-ing time

Name the SEC's Player of the Year.

Here's a hint: He doesn't reside in Gainesville and isn't nicknamed "Big Baby".

Vanderbilt's Derrick Byars showed why he was the best player in the conference on Saturday when he went for 27 points and made a handful of trifectas — including four in the second half — to help pull off the upset over Washington State in double-overtime.

Byars and Shan Foster (20 points) have been the primary reasons why Vandy is making its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2004.

Despite the loss, Washington State coach Tony Bennett deserves plenty of props. The Cougars were expected to be a doormat in the Pac-10 this season and Bennett, in his first year after his dad, Dick, retired, led the team to a second-place finish.

No answer for Big Roy

If the Boston College Eagles had Sean Williams, the result would have been different.

That's not to say that BC would have knocked off No. 2 Georgetown, but Roy Hibbert wouldn't have had his way as he did down the stretch against the Eagles' lackluster big men duo of John Oates and Tyrelle Blair.

Hibbert scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half as the Hoyas came back and posted their 17th win in the last 18 games.

The loss marked the end of Jared Dudley's career. The senior forward finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.

Dream over

The ride is over for rookie coach Anthony Grant.

The VCU head man and his squad posted a valiant comeback against No. 3 Pittsburgh, but it came up short in overtime.

The Rams fought back from a 51-32 deficit with a dozen minutes left. Lavance Fields missed a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds left that would have put it away in regulation, but he atoned for it with a key 3-pointer in overtime as the Panthers won 84-79.

Psycho T returns

You think Tyler Hansbrough was glad to be mask-free?

The North Carolina sophomore big man, who looked average while playing with a mask over the past 10 days, was dominant in the Tar Heels' victory against Michigan State.

Hansbrough went for 33 points and nine boards and played with the trademark offensive aggression he has been known for since he arrived in Chapel Hill.

Reyshawn Terry, playing home in Winston-Salem, hit a pair of key shots with less than three minutes left that helped deliver the knockout blow to Tom Izzo and the Spartans.

Now if Kevin Durant and the Texas Longhorns can get past USC on Sunday, it would set up a game between UNC and Texas with plenty of storylines — including Durant and Lawson, who were teammates in high school and in the summer, going against one another.

Still Bruin

Arron Afflalo struggled, but he was aggressive when it mattered most.

UCLA's trademark defense was in high gear on Saturday night, holding Indiana to just 13 points in the first half. However, the Hoosiers battled back and had a chance to knock off Ben Howland's club.

Then Afflalo, who finished with just 10 points, went to the basket and drew a pair of fouls that helped UCLA advance to its fifth Sweet 16 in the last eight years.

Afflalo drew two fouls in the last 1:30 and hit all four of his free throws. Darren Collison then had a key steal and hit a pair of free throws to put the game away.

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