Dick Jerardi: Opening rounds not too upsetting

Posted: March 19, 2007

CHICAGO - After 48 games in 4 days, some truths have become self-evident. The old sage John Chaney's favorite phrase is "truth to power." Well, this was "truth of power."

The top five seeds got through to the second round for just the second time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. There were just two seed upsets in the 32 first-round games (forget 8-9 stuff) and, really, Winthrop (11) over Notre Dame (6) and VCU (11) over Duke (6) were not huge upsets.

The 18 one-bid leagues were 2-16 in the first round. Only Memphis (C-USA) and Winthrop (Big South) broke through. It was probably not a coincidence that they were the only two teams not to lose a conference game. The six two-bid leagues went 6-6. The six BCS leagues went 21-10.

By the time yesterday's games ended, 12 of the 16 teams left were from the BCS leagues. Only Butler (Horizon), UNLV (Mountain West), Southern Illinois (Missouri Valley) and Memphis beat the BCS cartel.

Conference numbers

After two rounds, the major conferences are led by the SEC (7-2), followed by the Pac-10 (7-3), Big 12 (5-2), Big East (5-4, ACC (6-6) and Big Ten (5-5). The Big Ten was 4-1 after the first round. Reality showed up Round 2, when its teams went 1-4. Only an Ohio State miracle kept the league from having no teams in the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year. The mighty ACC is down to champion North Carolina. The six teams that won the BCS conference tournaments are still playing

Unanswered question

I have been asking the same question since we really began to understand the value of the three-point shot 20 years ago. Why didn't Xavier foul at the end of regulation against Ohio State?

Xavier was on the verge of an historic upset. Even though a nine-point lead with 3 minutes left was nearly gone, X had the game won. All it had to do was foul Mike Conley (a 66 percent foul shooter) when he brought the ball over midcourt with 6 seconds left in regulation, his team trailing by three points. Instead, X allowed Conley to pass the ball to the scorching Ron Lewis, who launched a three with 3.5 seconds left. It was perfect. Ohio State dominated the overtime and won comfortably.

I have been over why this makes sense so many times I am not going there again. Just consider Rick Pitino would foul in that situation. I think he is the sharpest big-school coach in America. Nobody understands the value of the shot more. Why every coach does not take a foul there, I have no idea.

Making this even a bigger mistake, Greg Oden had just fouled out for the Buckeyes. So the Buckeyes' chance of getting a rebound off a missed free throw was even less than normal.

All these years later, I just don't get it.

Yesterday, Tennessee led Virginia by three with fewer than 10 seconds left. The Vols took a foul and wanted to take another one, but could not get to Sean Singletary before he missed a very long three at the buzzer. That Tennessee won and Xavier lost is not a coincidence.

Most undeserved

bad endings

Xavier senior Justin Cage (25 points) was 8-for-8 from the field, 6-for-7 from the foul line when he shot the second of two free throws with 9 seconds left. It missed. Five minutes later, his college career was over.

Louisville freshman Edgar Sosa was 15 of 15 from the foul line and 7-for-8 from the field before missing two free throws and a very long trey in the final 30 seconds of a classic with Texas A & M. I thought the winner of that game was going to the Final Four. It was A & M barely. Get ready for a serious Louisville run next season.

Numbers to consider

* Xavier almost won (and really deserved to win) even though its starting guards (Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell) shot 3-for-20.

* The four 1-16 games were decided by a combined 125 points. The 1's are now 92-0.

* Butler's 62 points against Maryland came this way: 36 from the arc, 22 inside the arc and four from the foul line. It's a classic example of the three-point underdog math.

* Boston College has the most NCAA wins (22) of any team not to make the Final Four.

* UCLA held its two opponents to 30-for-89 shooting (33.7 percent). Its next opponent, Pittsburgh, shot 54.5 percent in Round 1 and 54.5 percent in Round 2

* For the second consecutive year, UCLA can get to the Final Four without ever leaving California.

* Georgetown made its first

Final Four appearance exactly 25 years ago. An omen?

* North Carolina is in its record 21st Sweet 16. The Tar Heels are 21-1 all time in NCAA games played in North Carolina. Yes, that one loss was to Penn in Raleigh on March 11, 1979, known forevermore as Black Sunday. Duke lost to St. John's in the other game of that doubleheader. Who were those refs?

* UNLV's Lon Kruger is the fifth coach to take four different teams to the NCAAs (also Kansas State, Florida, Illinois).

* Southern Illinois' opponents missed 55 of 88 shots.

* Tennessee is 25-for-53 from the arc.

* Memphis has 13 blocks.

Streaking

Memphis (33-3) heads into the Sweet 16 with 24 consecutive wins. Ohio State has won 19 straight. Kansas is at 13 and counting.

Near major gag jobs

* Pittsburgh had a 19-point lead on VCU in the second half and won in overtime.

* UCLA led Indiana by 16 in the second half, let the Hoosiers, a mediocre squad on its best days, tie it in the final minute before finally winning on late free throws.

* As their rewards, they play each other Thursday in San Jose in another of those coach (Ben Howland)/pupil (Jamie Dixon) deals that get way more ink than they deserve.

Not exactly free

Maryland was 7-for-15 from the foul line and lost by three to Butler. Indiana was 10-for-21 from the line and lost by five to UCLA.

Did you know that?

The SEC Player of the Year did not come from Florida. It was Derrick Byers of Vanderbilt, who was brilliant in his team's two-OT win over Washington State.

Worst half

UCLA led Indiana, 20-13, at the break. It got a little better, but not much. Very hard to watch.

Gone, almost gone

We were thatclose to losing Kevin Durant and Greg Oden on the same weekend. Durant finished one of the great freshmen seasons in college basketball history with 57 points and 17 rebounds in two NCAA games, probably his only two NCAA games. Texas was never in it and got blown away by USC. *

Send e-mail to jerardd@phillynews.com

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