Biggest Upset: Those Hilltoppers of West Kentucky managed to do it again. Last year, they knocked off Drake; this year, it was the Fightin' Illini. Though to be honest, I was much more shocked by the result last year than this year. I've got about 6 pools going, and I didn't pick Illinois once. But still, it is your annual 12 vs. 5 upset. And given the lack of upsets in today's action, this is the best we are going to do. It was almost a game fit for our next category, as the Hilltoppers completely spazzed in the face of Illinois' desperation full court press strategy, and let a game that they were cruising to a win in become a nailbiter. If I'm Gonzaga, the Hilltoppers next opponent, I'd seriously consider occasional full court press from the tip.
Biggest Almost Upset: Another easy choice--the mighty Rams of Virginia Commonwealth almost knocked off #6 UCLA--they had a look for a last second winner (and almost 12 seconds to get that look) but senior bad-ass/NBA commodity Eric Maynor's shot fell short, thanks to some pretty damn good defense from Darren Collison. I only got to watch the last few minutes of this game, which were damn hell ass compelling. VCU closed a double digit gap in a matter of minutes; and their freaky big man Larry Sanders with his overly long wingspan was a terror in the defensive paint. It should be noted that a lot of the early games were compelling in their early stages, but the favorites took over in the second half--American played Villanova tight for about 30 minutes; Memphis got more than they wanted from CSU Northridge; Gonzaga kicked Akron's ass, but it took them a long time to get the separation reflected in the final score.
Best Players You Didn't See: Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh played like a Duke guard (in a nonevil sort of way)--hitting big shots, charging into tough defenses, and generally keeping his team in the game. Maryland's Greivis Vasquez was a fucking badass, as he always is in Maryland victories. You'll get a second chance to see him play against Memphis on Saturday. I should also mention A.J. Abrams of Texas, who hit 4 3-pointers in the space of about 2 minutes to provide the separation that Texas needed against Minnesota. I'd be a total jackass if I didn't mention Memphis guard Roburt Sallie, who stepped in when starting freshman badass Tyreke Evans found himself in foul trouble. Roburt (yeah, Roburt) tripled up on his previous career-high and simply shot the fucking lights out--12-17 from the field, including 10-15 from 3 point land, for 35 points. Memphis maybe doesn't get by Northridge without his shooting.
Biggest Disappointment: Washington vs. Mississippi State. I was expecting a Miss St upset. I certainly, therefore, expected a close game. Washington destroyed the Bulldogs with barely a look back. Purdue vs. Washington is going to be a battle in the 2nd round. Based on what I saw from both teams, I may give Washington the edge.
Storylines: Until the nighttime, it was a pretty quiet day. West Kentucky stars were cramping up with a few minutes left to play--I don't think they will be able to handle Gonzaga at all on Saturday. #1 seeds rolled--UNC and UConn made short work of their competition; they face LSU and Texas A&M next, and I have a hard time seeing how they don't continue to roll. #2 Memphis did not roll, but did finish well; it was either a warning sign, or it will be the kind of game that refocuses the Tigers. #2 Duke and Oklahoma both rolled (keep an eye on Sooner badass Blake Griffen--he got flipped onto his back via dirty pool. They need him, desperately.
Games I'm most excited for Friday: Wake Forest vs Cleveland St; Kansas vs. North Dakota St; OK State vs. Tenn.