Saturday, March 22, 2008

NEWS FLASH: TY LAWSON IS OK

Conventional wisdom says control the pace against UNC. If you can stick with them on the boards and slow them down, you can beat them. Upstart Mount St. Mary’s said, the hell with that -- let’s run. A scant 113 points later it’s safe to say, Arkansas, the Tar Heels next opponent, won’t make the same mistake.

Behind a clearly healthy, and full-speed-ahead, Ty Lawson who scored 21 points and four assists in just 18 minutes, the top-seeded Tar Heels cruised by Mount St. Mary's 113-74 in the first round of the East Regional, a game that quickly turned into a crowd-pleasing romp for the thousands of blue-clad fans who filled an arena just a short drive from the Chapel Hill campus.

Wayne Ellington added 16 points for the Tar Heels (33-2), who have won 12 straight and continued their near-perfect run in NCAA games played in their home state. North Carolina improved to 22-1 in those games and advanced to Sunday's second round to face the Arkansas-Indiana winner.

North Carolina's 113 points were tied for second in school history for an NCAA game, trailing only a 123-point showing in a second-round win against Loyola Marymount in 1988. It was the first time the Tar Heels had hit triple digits in an NCAA game in 15 years.

The Tar Heels also tied their national title-winning group from 2005 for the second-most victories in school history. They're one win shy of tying the single-season record set by the 1993 team that won Dean Smith's second NCAA championship and the '98 team that reached the Final Four in San Antonio.

Of course, many players figure none of that matters if they don't get back there this year.

"Everybody wants to make a statement, but it means nothing," junior Danny Green said. "It's one game, because the next game, you never know. You could lose or it could be a one- or two-point game. The whole key is to survive and move on."

Playing a team that figured it had nothing to lose by trying to run with them, the Tar Heels scored the first seven points and never looked back. They led 60-41 at halftime, cracked the 100-point mark with more than 4 1/2 minutes remaining and finished with 29 fast-break points as they seemingly spent most of the game in transition.

North Carolina shot 61 percent and took a 48-22 rebounding advantage, including 18-9 on the offensive glass to finish with 26 second-chance points against the undersized Mountaineers (19-15).

Marcus Ginyard missed a dunk, and the play of the game involved two Tar Heels you’ve probably never heard of – Marc Campbell and Surry Wood. Campbell, a 5-11 sophomore tossed a perfect ally-oop to senior Surry who slammed it down. Every Carolina player played and scored (except Campbell), including junior Jack Wooten who was 2-2 for 5 points. Wooten hadn’t scored all year before last night. Campbell finished with three assists.

"It seemed like they had an extra person around," Mountaineers forward Sam Atupem said. "It's like they had six people to our five rebounding."

ABOVE: Ty Lawson #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels greets a player from the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers before the start of the game during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional . (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

CENTER and RIGHT: Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the North Carolina Tar Heels shoots over Sam Atupem #40 of the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional. Ol' Roy coaches 'em up.

(Photos by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

VILLANOVA 75, CLEMSON 65

Clemson came out and looked like the team that clawed its way to the ACC final building an early 18 point lead. Then they reverted back to the team that had Coach Oliver Purnell throwing guys out of practice for a lack of intensity.

When Scottie Reynolds banked in a three as the shot clock expired to give the Wildcats their first lead, the collective Clemson-air seemed to rush out of the building. Game over.

Reynolds scored 21 points, Corey Fisher added 17 and 12th-seeded Villanova gave this NCAA tournament pod its fourth upset in as many games with a 75-69 victory over No. 5 seed Clemson in the first round of the Midwest Region on Friday night.

It was the perfect ending for a crazy day in Tampa, the bracket-busting town that should be called Upset City after Friday's opening round. It was the first site in NCAA history to have four 12 or lower seeds win. In fact, no other place had even had two in one day.

First, No. 12 seed Western Kentucky knocked off fifth-seeded Drake in overtime with a desperation 26-footer at the buzzer. Then, 13th-seeded San Diego upended No. 4 seed Connecticut, hitting a long jumper with 1.2 seconds left in overtime. And No. 13 seed Siena led from the start to send fourth-seeded Vanderbilt home earlier than expected.

The Tigers nearly folded, looking every bit like a team that hadn't been in the NCAA tournament in 10 years…or, not to be mean-spirited, but looking like Clemson all too often looks.

But Villanova helped them get back in the game.

Clemson trailed 64-57 with 3:44 remaining, but Terrence Oglesby made five consecutive free throws -- three after he was fouled on a 3-pointer and two more after Villanova coach Jay Wright was whistled for a technical.

Clemson's Demontez Stitt tied it at 66 with two more free throws with 1:55 to go, but the Wildcats retook the lead by making 9-of-10 from the stripe over the final 1:37.

Stitt led the Tigers with 14 points. K.C. Rivers Jr. added 12, and Oglesby finished with 11.

Clemson said tournament experience was overrated, and players pointed to their run in last year's NIT as something that would help them.

It didn’t.

Antonio Pena #0 of the Villanova Wildcats grabs a rebound in front of Cliff Hammonds #25 of the Clemson Tigers during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

James Mays #40 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after fouling out of the game while taking on the Villanova Wildcats during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the St. Pete Times Forum March 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida. Villanova defeated Clemson 75-69. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

MIAMI 78, ST. MARY’S 64

Good news: The Canes won. Bad news: Up next, Texas.

Jack McClinton dazzled with his quick drives to the basket and long 3-pointers, scoring a career-high 38 points in seventh-seeded Miami's 78-64 win over 10th-seeded Saint Mary's on Friday.


And here's a scary thought: McClinton might not have been at full strength.


"I had a fever a couple of days before the game," he said. "Our trainers got us on the meds and I felt pretty good for the game today."

Miami trailed 32-27 at halftime. In the second half, the score was McClinton 32, Saint Mary's 32.
Playing just across the Arkansas River from Bill Clinton's presidential library, McClinton scored 10 straight points for Miami early in the second half, part of a 25-5 run that gave the Hurricanes a 52-38 lead. Miami (23-10) missed all six of its 3-point attempts in the first half, but McClinton alone made three in the second.

When Saint Mary's (25-7) pulled within eight at 64-56, McClinton calmly sank an open 3 from the left corner.

The win gave Hurricanes coach Frank Haith a likely second-round matchup with second-seeded Texas in the South Regional. Haith was an assistant for the Longhorns under Rick Barnes before taking over at Miami. Texas faced 15th-seeded Austin Peay in the game immediately following Miami's.

Miami, which was predicted to be the Atlantic Coast Conference's worst team this season, now has won 8 of 11, part of a remarkable turnaround after a 12-20 record a season ago.

Jack McClinton #33 of the Miami Hurricanes shoots a running floater over Diamon Simpson #20 and Yusef Smith #5 of the Saint Mary's Gaels during the first round of the South Regional. (Photos by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

WHILE YOU WERE WORKING/SLEEPING

Tennessee [2] 72, American [15] 57
Davidson [10] 82, Gonzaga [7] 76
Western Kentucky [12] 101, Drake [5] 99 OT
Miami [7] 78, Saint Mary's [10] 64
Butler [7] 81, South Alabama [10] 61
Georgetown [2] 66, UMBC [15] 47
San Diego [13] 70, Connecticut [4] 69 OT
Texas [2] 74, Austin Peay [15] 54
Oklahoma [6] 72, Saint Joseph's [11] 64
Siena [13] 83, Vanderbilt [4] 62
Mississippi State [8] 76, Oregon [9] 69
North Carolina [1] 113, Mt. St. Mary's [16] 74
Louisville [3] 79, Boise State [14] 61
Arkansas [9] 86, Indiana [8] 72
Villanova [12] 75, Clemson [5] 69
Memphis [1] 87, Texas-Arlington [16] 63


(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY

NOOOOOOO, NOT UNC...Sonny Weems #13 of the Arkansas Razorbacks reacts after realizing the Hogs next opponent is North Carolina after beating the Indiana Hoosiers during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 2

IT'S A TRADITION AT DAVIDSON...Don't ask us why the-ball-on-the-head is a Davidson thing, but it is. Josh Herring cheers on before the start of the Davidson Wildcats game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at RBC Center March 21, 2008 in Raleigh, North Carolina.



(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 3

UPSET GAME WINNER...Ty Rogers #5 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers celebrates his game-winning basket against the Drake Bulldogs during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament West Regional at the St. Pete Times Forum on March 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.

(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 4

UPSET LOVE...Head coach Fran McCaffery and Tay Fisher #4 of the Siena Saints celebrate their team's 83-62 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the St. Pete Times Forum March 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.

(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 5

LOOK, THE DUDE MISSED A DUNK...Wayne Ellington #22 and teammate Ty Lawson #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels laugh at team leader Marcus Ginyard after Ginyard botched a wide open dunk against the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers.


(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 6

DOWN GOES UCONN...(and TAH's bracket, thank you not-so-much). San Diego Toerros fans cheer for their team as they defeat the higher seeded Connecticut Huskies during the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament West Regional at the St. Pete Times Forum on March 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.

(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Friday, March 21, 2008

DUKE: WHAT HAPPENED TO US?

C’mon Duke, get it together. You used to be good.

The headline in Durham must read G-HEN FOR PRESIDENT after he saved the Blue Devils season last night.

Look, we love to poke fun at Coach K2 and his should-be-blue Devils, but how about a little ACC pride here? It’s bad enough that Big (L)East fans are running around saying their conference is the best since 17 of their 42 teams snuck into the tournament, now you and go throw gas on the fire by endeavoring to replicate last year’s first round exit via VCU.

Jeez.

Duke’s intimidation factor in the NCAA tourney is clearly long gone. Fifteen-seed Belmont (25-9) reminded the nation of that Thursday when the Bruins nearly pulled off an improbable upset of the second-seeded Blue Devils.

But, Belmont Coach Rick Byrd called a questionable time out (props to Young A.T. who questioned it in real time) with the lead and that seemed to break the spell.

Using every last one of Henderson's 21 points, including the go-ahead basket with 11.9 seconds left, and one key steal by DeMarcus Nelson, Duke barely avoided what would have been a monumental upset, edging Belmont 71-70 in the first round of the West Regional.

In winning, Duke (28-5) snapped a two-game tournament losing streak and advanced to face West Virginia, a 75-65 winner over Arizona, on Saturday.

Duke shot 43% and made only 6 of 21 three pointers (29%) while committing 15 turnovers. They will have to do better to get by Bob Huggins Mountaineers.

Gerald Henderson #15 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to score the game winning shot against Matthew Dotson #30 and Justin Hare#24 of the Belmont Bruins during the first round of the West Regional as part of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Verizon Center on March 20, 2008 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Belmont bench. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

MORE TURTLE VOMIT

Determined to underachieve, an upset of top-seed Syracuse was out of the question for Maryland. Proving, like the Hokies, that they belong in the Big Dance by crushing an opponent, the Orange won handily 88-72.

Jonny Flynn had 23 points to lead four Syracuse starters in double figures as the Orange advanced to the NIT quarterfinals.

Arinze Onuaku added 14 points and 14 rebounds for Syracuse (21-13), which will play the winner of Saturday's second-round matchup between Massachusetts and Akron. Paul Harris added 19 points and Donte Greene tossed in 16.

Top-seeded Syracuse used a 15-5 spurt late in the second half to pull away from Maryland (19-15), which got 23 points and 11 rebounds from James Gist before he fouled out in the final minute and a career-high 21 from Bambale Osby.

The Terps, a fifth seed, pulled ahead of the Orange to start the second half on three consecutive baskets by Osby. When Osby converted a 3-point play with 13:26 to go he gave Maryland a 54-53 lead.

But Syracuse regained the lead for good with its spurt, taking a 68-59 lead on Flynn's basket with 8:52 to play.

Game over.

The Terps committed 19 turnovers and missed 9 free throws. They shot 31% from behind the arc and were outrebounded by the Cuse 51 to 44.

Maryland's James Gist scores against Syracuse during the first half of NIT second round men's college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Thursday, March 20, 2008.
(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)

N.J. SENATOR WANTS NCAA INVESTIGATION

Associated Press
TRENTON, N.J. - A New Jersey lawmaker wants the NCAA to investigate the Rutgers-Tennessee women's basketball game won by the Lady Vols amid a dispute over whether the clock paused, allowing a foul and game-winning free throws.

Nicky Anosike sank two free throws with two-tenths of a second left as then-No. 1 Tennessee rallied for a 59-58 win over then-No. 5 Rutgers in a rematch of last season's national championship game.

Sen. Robert Singer's (R-Ocean) nonbinding legislation calls on the NCAA to investigate the game played at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"It looked a little strange," Singer said Wednesday. "It was done on their own home court that way. You know, I thought from watching the game that time had run out."

Television replays showed the game clock seeming to pause at 0.2 for about 1.3 seconds before running out as Anosike came down with an offensive rebound and was grabbed from behind by Kia Vaughn on Feb. 11.

Officials replayed the video and ruled the foul came just before the buzzer.

"It was an exciting game, and you know, you win some, you lose some," Singer said. "That's not the issue. The issue is with today's technology there should be a better way to do it."

The Southeastern Conference said the officials properly discharged their duties, but Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said her team deserved to win.

(AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

LOOK, THERE'S MORE

FRI (15) American (21-11) vs (2) Tennessee (29-4) 12:15 PM East
FRI (10) Davidson (26-6) vs (7) Gonzaga (25-7) 12:25 PM Midwest
FRI (10) St. Mary's (CA) (25-6) vs (7) Miami (FL) (22-10) 12:30 PM South
FRI (12) Western Kentucky (27-6) vs (5) Drake (28-4) 12:30 PM West
FRI (10) South Alabama (26-6) vs (7) Butler (29-3) 2:45 PM East
FRI (15) UMBC (24-8) vs (2) Georgetown (27-5) 2:55 PM Midwest
FRI (13) San Diego (21-13) vs (4) UConn (24-8) 3:00 PM West
FRI (15) Austin Peay (24-10) vs (2) Texas (28-6) 5:00 PM South
FRI (16) Play-In Winner (TBD) vs (1) North Carolina (32-2) 7:10 PM East
FRI (11) St. Joseph's (21-12) vs (6) Oklahoma (22-11) 7:10 PM East
FRI (13) Siena (22-10) vs (4) Vanderbilt (26-7) 7:20 PM Midwest
FRI (9) Oregon (18-13) vs (8) Mississippi State (22-10) 7:25 PM South
FRI (9) Arkansas (22-11) vs (8) Indiana (25-7) 9:50 PM East
FRI (14) Boise State (25-8) vs (3) Louisville (24-8) 9:50 PM East
FRI (12) Villanova (20-12) vs (5) Clemson (24-9) 9:50 PM Midwest
FRI (16) UT Arlington (21-11) vs (1) Memphis (33-1)

YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS

Xavier [3] 73, Georgia [14] 61
Kansas [1] 85, Portland State [16] 61
Michigan State [5] 72, Temple [12] 61
Purdue [6] 90, Baylor [11] 79
UNLV [8] 71, Kent State [9] 58
Pittsburgh [4] 82, Oral Roberts [13] 63
Marquette [6] 74, Kentucky [11] 66
Stanford [3] 77, Cornell [14] 53
DUKE [2] 71, Belmont [15] 70
Kansas State [11] 80, USC [6] 67
Texas A&M [9] 87, BYU [8] 62
Washington State [4] 71, Winthrop [13] 40
West Virginia [7] 75, Arizona [10] 65
Wisconsin [3] 71, Cal St. Fullerton [14] 56
UCLA [1] 70, Miss. Valley State [16] 29


(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

TAH VIDEO OF THE MONTH NOMINEE

Losing to Belmont would certainly justify this TAH Video of the Month nominee. Come to think of it, almost losing to a 15 seed justifies the nomination, and the bonus video that popped up after last year’s hork to VCU.

Of course, some folks still wore the tee-shirt with the graphic at left to the ACC tournament, no doubt expecting such NCAA tournament tribulations.

Which brings us to Peter Rosenberg. Rosenberg is a Maryland fan who lives in NY and works for the Hip Hop station Hot 97. When he isn’t interviewing the likes of 50 Cent, Method Man and Rob Zombie, he’s making fun of Duke. His video This Why You Suck was a classic, and he’s back with a new one. It’s rather long (over 6 minutes), but well worth the ride.

LANGUAGE WARNING! If you are at work, turn it down. If you’re at home, send the kids away. If you are easily offended, we can’t help you. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

GAY FOR COACH K?


THIS IS WHY YOU SUCK…

PICTURE OF THE DAY

STAR POWER...Musician Vince Gill (R) talks with head coach Rick Byrd of the Belmont Bruins after his 71-70 loss against the Duke Blue Devils during the first round of the West Regional as part of the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Verizon Center on March 20, 2008 in Washington, DC.

Gill is a Belmont alum along with Melinda Doolittle - American Idol finalist, Kimberley Locke - American Idol finalist, Brad Paisley - country music artist, Minnie Pearl - (real name Sarah Cannon) of Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw fame, Larry Stewart - country music artist, lead singer of Restless Heart, Pam Tillis - country music artist, Lee Ann Womack - country music artist and Trisha Yearwood - country music star.


(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)



PICTURE OF THE DAY 2

CAREFUL, GRASSHOPPERS...Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Huston Street (2nd L), Athletics General Manager Billy Bean (3rd L), MLB Players Association COO Gene Orza (3rd R) and Boston Red Sox David Ortiz (2nd R) brake the cap of "Sake" barrel with other Japanese officials during the welcoming party of the Majour League Baseball (MLB) Opening Series Japan 2008 at a Tokyo hotel on March 21, 2008.

Red Sox and Athletics are here to hold the season's opening games on March 25 and 26.

(Photo by Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 3

WHEN DUKE RULED THE BASKETBALL EARTH...This was a charge. Kansas was not so lucky.

It didn't matter.

Jeremiah Dominguez #10 of the Portland State Vikings looks to pass the ball as he is defended by Mario Chalmers #15 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the Midwest Region first round.

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 4

ONE OF THESE GUYS IS FRENCH…You decide.

Bayern Munich's French striker Franck Ribery poses with his club's mascot after the German Cup semi-final football match against VfL Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena stadium in Munich, southern Germany, on March 19, 2008. Bayern Munich won the match 2-0.

(Photo by Lennart Preiss/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

JUMP SHOOTING TYLER HANSBROUGH

Dribble, fake, shoot...sounds simple enough.

Tyler Hansbrough has expanded his game, and the wins, awards and platitudes have followed.

Part of the equation is the mid-range jump shot he now shoots with confidence. Evidently, Hansbrough started putting more practice time into mid-range jumpers (10 to 12 feet) last spring and summer according to Matt Bowers, Associate Director of Athletic Communications for the Tar Heels. (And a shout out to Matt for answering a couple e-mails from some blogger of which, no doubt, he had never heard!)

Obviously, Hansbrough’s time and effort is paying big dividends. Last Saturday, including the dramatic game winner that may have both secured Hansbrough’s hold on the various other Player of the Year Awards and a spot in the Awkward Dancing and Fist Pumping Hall of Fame (don’t worry, Phil Mikelson, among others, is in there too), ten of Hansbrough’s 26 points against the Hokies were mid-range jumpers. He canned a few more in the title game v. Clemson.

Knowing Hansbrough’s now well-documented tenacity, his desire to improve his game comes as no surprise. Nor is it any great reach that he seems to have mastered this new shot in fairly short order.

First question: Is it a new shot? Yes. A typical Hansbrough jumper would be shot from in the paint. On average, let’s say three to five feet from the basket. A mid-range jumper is a 10 to 12 foot shot. That’s increasing the range of the shot by 100% to 400%, and that’s a big change. If it weren’t, lots of big men would be doing it. Imagine Shaq all those years with a consistent mid-range jumper…Scary though, isn’t it?

Second question: Has a potential Player of the Year ever taught himself a new shot mid-career? We don’t know for sure, but we don’t remember anybody doing so. Certainly, good players have made themselves better by improving what they were already doing, but how many took on a new shot?

For example Carolina’s Raymond Felton was a jump shooter, but not a particularly good three-point shooter. He improved dramatically the year UNC won its last National Championship, and now that shot is an effective weapon for him in the NBA. Inside men improving around the basket is commonplace. Guards becoming better shooters or ball-handlers is also rather routine. But who develops a new shot?

Did Alcindor forsake the trademark sky hook for a jumper to increase his range? Will Greg Oden give it a try? Has a somewhat one-dimensional inside player moved outside? (Other than Ralph Sampson, who wanted to be a point guard?) There are plenty of 6’9” and up guys who can bomb it. Dirk Nowitzki comes immediately to mind, but how many inside workhorses develop a mid-range shot? Not too many, and that’s the point. To get better, and to frustrate opponents who look to shut him down inside, Hansbrough grew a jump shot.

A good jump shot.

According to the ACC NOW:

"You guys may laugh about it, but I’m pretty confident shooting the 3," he said. "It’s definitely not something where I’m going to go outside and just wander around the 3-point line and wait for the team to give me the ball so I can shoot it, but I’m definitely comfortable with that."

Hansbrough is 0-for-3 from 3-point range this season, but coach Roy Williams has said he thinks the junior will be able to make a few in the future.
We wager one drops during the NCAA tournament.

(Photos by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

WAHOOS: IMPROVING BY HOKIE SUBTRACTION

Virginia Tech running back Branden Ore, the Hokies' leading rusher in their charge toward the 2008 FedEx Orange Bowl, has been dismissed from the team. That roar of approval you hear is coming from Charlottesville.

"During recent meetings with Branden Ore, we have decided that it would be best for Branden to pursue other opportunities," coach Frank Beamer said in a statement released by the school Wednesday. "Branden has had many great moments here at Virginia Tech, and we wish him well in the future."

Beamer did not offer details for Ore's removal, but according to people with knowledge of the situation, the coaching staff simply grew impatient with Ore's lackadaisical attitude and lack of commitment to the team. The Hokies waited for Ore to mature for more than two seasons and gave up after he failed to reach what once seemed to be enormous potential.

A redshirt senior, Ore played in all 14 games last season, starting 13. He led the Hokies in rushing with 992 yards and was second on the team in scoring with 10 touchdowns. In the Orange Bowl, a 24-21 loss to Kansas, he rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

Ore was in and out of Beamer's doghouse during his three-year career in Blacksburg. (Mostly in.)

(Photo by James Lang/US Presswire)

VIRGINIA TECH 94, MORGAN STATE 62

Long story very short, the NCAA selection committee pissed off the Hokies.

"We're just happy to be playing," Malcolm Delaney said. "We weren't predicted to be in the NCAA Tournament anyway, so when we didn't get picked, we didn't hang our heads down. We don't have to worry about all those questions about the NCAA now, so it's like a new start for us. We've got the NIT now and I think we can win it. We've just got to continue playing hard." (What he meant: Jerks, rat bastards, a-holes, we’ll show them.)

A.D. Vassallo made 11 of 14 field goal tries and scored 27 points in 25 minutes Wednesday night as sharp-shooting Virginia Tech made easy work of Morgan State (Bears, 6,064 students, Baltimore, MD), 94-62, in the first round of the NIT.

The Hokies (20-13) showed no letdown after being snubbed by the suits from Kansas City. They led 40-25 at halftime and shot better than 65 percent for the game.

Morgan State (22-11) trailed 21-18 before the Hokies went on a 19-7 run to close the first half. Vassallo had nine points in the burst.

Virginia Tech led by no fewer than 13 throughout the second half and advanced to a meeting with UAB in the second round. The Blazers (23-10) won 80-77 at VCU.

Deron Washington, the Hokies' only senior, added 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists, Malcolm Delaney scored 13 and Jeff Allen had 10. The Hokies starters were a combined 24-for-34 from the field and the team finished 34-for-52 (65.4 percent).

Virginia Tech's A.D. Vassallo (40) shoots over Morgan State's defense during the first half of an NIT first-round game. (AP photo / Baltimore Sun)

GO MAD RIGHT HERE ALL MARCH

You can watch any game of March Madness right here using the NCAA® March Madness® on Demand. Just click on and find your game! Be patient, there is a line to get in!

Click Here

THUR (12) Temple (21-12) vs (5) Michigan State (25-8) 12:20 PM South (Denver)
THUR (14) Georgia (17-16) vs (3) Xavier (27-6) 12:20 PM West (Washington, DC)
THUR (16) Portland State (23-9) vs (1) Kansas (31-3) 12:25 PM Midwest (Omaha)
THUR (11) Kentucky (18-12) vs (6) Marquette (24-9) 2:30 PM South (Anaheim)
THUR (11) Baylor (21-10) vs (6) Purdue (24-8) 2:50 PM West (Washington, DC)
THUR (9) Kent State (28-6) vs (8) UNLV (26-7) 2:55 PM Midwest (Omaha)
THUR (13) Oral Roberts (24-8) vs (4) Pittsburgh (26-9) 3:00 PM South (Denver)
THUR (14) Cornell (22-5) vs (3) Stanford (26-7) 4:55 PM South (Anaheim)
THUR (11) Kansas State (20-11) vs (6) USC (21-11) 7:10 PM Midwest (Omaha)
THUR (15) Belmont (25-8) vs (2) Duke (27-5) 7:10 PM West (Washington, DC) THUR (13) Winthrop (22-11) vs (4) Washington State (24-8) 7:20 PM East (Denver)
THUR (9) Texas A&M (24-10) vs (8) BYU (27-7) 7:25 PM West (Anaheim)
THUR (14) Cal State Fullerton (24-8) vs (3) Wisconsin (29-4) 9:40 PM Midwest (Omaha)
THUR (12) George Mason (23-10) vs (5) Notre Dame (24-7) 9:50 PM East (Denver)
THUR (16) Mississippi Valley State (17-15) vs (1) UCLA (31-3) 9:50 PM West (Anaheim)
THUR (10) Arizona (19-14) vs (7) West Virginia (24-10) 9:50 PM West (Washington, DC)

DOUBLE DIPPERS

Top seeds North Carolina, Tennessee and UConn in the women’s tournament will be joined by a large group of double dippers – schools who’s men’s and women’s teams advanced to their version of the Big Dance.

In no particular order, they are Cornell, Texas, Coppin State, Xavier, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Pittsburgh, Baylor, Stanford, Georgia, Kansas State, Louisville, Oral Roberts, Purdue, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Temple, Duke and Texas A&M.

MANAGED TO STUDY AND PRACTICE

Top-seeded Tennessee leads 12 women’s teams in the NCAA tournament with perfect graduation rates.

A report released Tuesday found the Lady Vols graduated all their players during a four-year period. Other schools with perfect graduation rates from 1997-2001 were Bucknell, Marist, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Robert Morris, San Diego, Syracuse, Texas and Vanderbilt.

Only one men’s NCAA tournament team studied by Richard Lapchick, head of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, achieved perfect graduation success: 12th-seeded Western Kentucky.

“Women have regularly been the best news academically in college sport,” Lapchick said in the report.

Among the No. 1 seeds in the women’s tournament, Connecticut was next with a 92-percent graduation rate, followed by Maryland (71 percent) and North Carolina (64 percent).

The study looked at four freshman classes entering from 1997-2001, giving each six years to graduate. The players studied are no longer on campus, but the report intends to show academic trends.

(AP Photos/Greg M. Cooper/Laura Jacobsen)

CAN'T STUDY, GOTTA PRACTICE

By TRAVIS REED, Associated Press

North Carolina was the only school among the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA men’s tournament to graduate at least 50 percent of its players.

A report released Monday found 86 percent of Tar Heels men’s players earned diplomas during a six-year period. The other top seeds were far worse: 45 percent at Kansas and 40 percent at UCLA and Memphis.

The study was conducted by Richard Lapchick, head of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. It evaluated four different freshman classes for a period beginning in 1997-98 and ending with 2000-01. Though the players evaluated are no longer on campus, the report intends to provide a snapshot of academic trends.

Lapchick’s primary concern was the disparity between black and white players. Thirty-three schools graduated at least 70 percent of their white men’s basketball players; only 19 graduated that many black players. At least 50 percent of white players earned degrees at 45 schools, but black athletes had that much success at only 36 schools.

But the study found that the achievement gap was shrinking. At 34 percent of tournament-bound teams there was a 30-point or greater difference in graduation success between black and white players, down from 49 percent last year. Black players continued to succeed in higher rates than black nonathletes.

Two of the No. 2 seeds, Tennessee and Texas, graduated only 33 percent of their players for the period studied. The other second seeds, Georgetown and Duke, had success rates of 82 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

Academically, this year the Final Four would include five teams: Western Kentucky (100 percent graduation success), Butler (92 percent), Notre Dame (91 percent), Purdue (91 percent), and Davidson (91 percent). Xavier, a No. 3 seed, was close behind with a 90 percent success rate.

UCLA said the report failed to show its recent academic success, and a better indicator was the NCAA’s new Academic Progress Rate.

Western Kentucky players celebrate with the SUN Belt trophy after they defeated Middle Tennessee 67-57 in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. (AP Photo/ John David Mercer)

Butler's Julian Betko (1) celebrates with teammates in the final seconds of their championship basketball game against Cleveland State in the Horizon League tournament. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Purdue guard Keaton Grant (5) walks off the court after Illinois upset Purdue, 74-67. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

PICTURE OF THE DAY

RUGBY ON HORSEBACK...Looks like one of the horses got punched in the mouth. Members of Kazakh (green) and Kyrgyz (blue) teams squaring-off in the traditional central Asian sport of Kok-Boru in Bishkek on March 18, 2008.

The players on horseback compete for points by throwing a stuffed sheepskin into a well.

Sucks to be the former sheep.

(Photo by Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 2

MUSH, MUSH..I THOUGHT I HEARD HER CALLIN' OUT MY NAME, YA'LL, MUSH...Four-time champ Jeff King mushes past the intimidating Ruby Bluff along the Yukon River.

Nice rock.


(Photo by Al Grillo/AP Photos)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 3

NO DOUBT, THEY BOOED...Long-time 76er now Denver Nugget, Allen Iverson wears shoes that read "THXPHILA" during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 19, 2008 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 4

STICK WITH BLACK, IT’S SLIMMING…Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany in action during their Pairs Free Skateduring the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at the Scandinavium Arena on March 19, 2008 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

(Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

PICTURE OF THE DAY 5

THE GIRLS ARE OK…with the itty-biddy medal after all that hard work and travelling all the way to Gothenburg.

The guys…not so much.

Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (C), China's Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang (L) and Canada's Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison celebrate on the podium of the Scandinavium arena in Gothenburg on March 19, 2008, after performing their free skating program during the World Figure Skating Championships.

(Photo by Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

AKRON 65, FLORIDA STATE 60 OT

Nick Dials scored 13 of his 21 points in overtime, including three consecutive 3-pointers, to lead Akron to a 65-60 victory over Florida State in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night.

The Zips (24-10) got first win over an Atlantic Coast Conference team despite being decisively outrebounded and making only 10 of 19 free throws. It was Akron's second postseason victory in school history.

Uche Echefu had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double double of the season for Florida State (19-15), which was in the NIT for the third straight year.

Akron's Nick Dials fights against Florida State's Ralph Mims defense in the second half . (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

MARYLAND 68, MINNESOTA 58

Greivis Vasquez had 16 points and six rebounds and made sure Maryland didn't lose another big lead in a 68-58 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT.

Bambale Osby added 14 points and six boards for the fifth-seeded Terrapins (19-14), who advance to play top-seeded Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in the second round.

Damian Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds for fourth-seeded Minnesota (20-14), and was about the only Golden Gopher who had enough athleticism to compete with the dynamic Terps.
Johnson also had four blocks and Lawrence Westbrook added 11 points, but the Gophers were out-muscled in the paint and out-hustled in transition in the final game of Tubby Smith's first season as coach here.

It was a textbook game for these Terrapins -- filled with plenty of ups and downs. Maryland trailed for much of the first half while James Gist got off to a quiet 0-for-3 start.

Minnesota center Spencer Tollackson, right, battles Maryland forward James Gist (15) during the first half. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)

CLEMSON SIGNS PURNELL THROUGH 2014


Clemson coach Oliver Purnell agreed to a two-year contract extension on Tuesday that could keep him with the Tigers through 2014.

Purnell guided the Tigers this season to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998. They play Villanova on Friday.

He is 94-67 in five years with Clemson and has a school record 49 wins during the last two seasons. The Tigers finished third in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, their best since winning the regular-season title in 1990.

"Oliver Purnell has built this program the right way and we are now well respected in the ACC and nationally," Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips said. "We have made a strong commitment to build upon what he has established in the last five years."

Purnell will get a raise to move him into the top-third in pay among ACC coaches, Phillips said.
The exact terms of the deal will be released later, officials said.

"It's a happy day for me," Purnell said. "I've coached at a lot of outstanding programs, Old Dominion and Dayton just to name a couple, that were committed to basketball -- great places. The commitment that is here is stronger than I have ever felt before. This feels like home."

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

YANKEES 11, HOKIES 1,000,000

Like most major leaguers, the New York Yankees don't get too excited about Grapefruit League games, especially when a bus trip is involved.

Tuesday's spring training road trip was different.

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees boarded a bus at their Tampa, Fla., training complex and caught a flight to Virginia, then another bus, for an exhibition game they all want to play. The Bronx Bombers vs. the Virginia Tech Hokies.

"All the players are looking forward to it," Jeter said Monday. "The players that can't go want to. I'm sure it will be emotional, especially for the student body."

Last April, Blacksburg became the focus of a horrified nation after a gunman killed 32 people on campus, and then himself.

People around the world rallied behind Virginia Tech and the community, and the Yankees were among the organizations that offered overwhelming support, donating $1 million to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund and asking if they could come play a game. (Hey Red Sox Nation, waddya got? Huh? One mil. That’s wicked, dude.)

The game wasTuesday afternoon in a stadium packed with 3,000 students who won a lottery for tickets, 1,000 faculty and staff, and victims of last April 16th.

Virginia Tech coach Peter Hughes still gets choked up when he thinks about that day, and the one coming.

"Everywhere in life we've got guys that talk and guys that do things," the second-year Hokies coach said. "And when the Yankees call and say, 'Hey, we want to help out. We've got to do something. Here's our idea: We want to come play and here's a million dollars.' How proactive is that? It blows you away, their generosity."

The Yankees have their own history with massive tragedy, playing in the same city where the attacks on the World Trade Towers claimed thousands of lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I really had a new appreciation for life after that," Jeter said. "I think it brings attention to how precious life is. You realize it's going to be a special trip and you can't take anything for granted. This really puts things in perspective."

The Yankees didn't just come to the ballpark. The first stop was on campus at the memorial for the victims of the shootings.


"I think it's important for guys to see it," first-year manager Joe Girardi said. "I get emotional thinking about it. Wake up in the morning, it's a blessing."

During batting practice, the Yankees wore caps in the Hokies’ orange and maroon, their `NY’ emblem on the front and a `VT’ logo on the side. Those were also the caps worn by Virginia Tech, while the Yankees switched to a Navy blue for the game, still with both emblems.

The pregame ceremony also included presentations to the Yankees of four nameplates engraved in “Hokie stone,” the limestone building material of choice on campus.

As 32 commemorative balloons were released and drifted out of sight, chants of “Let’s go Hokies” broke out. But the cheers were just as loud for the Yankees.

Rodriguez batted in the first with the bases loaded, and
hit the first pitch for a sacrifice fly to right. When Hokies starter Andrew Wells got Jason Giambi to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play, the Hokies bench emptied to greet him.

“Seeing how they were pumped to have little moments that will last the rest of their lives, to have the conversations of, `Remember when?’ That was neat,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “This was fun for them and fun for our guys.

“What we did puts everything else in a little more perspective.”


Rodriguez and Jeter and most of the starters came out in the fourth inning, and A-Rod strolled across the field with two bats and sat with the Hokies in their dugout.


New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, right, signs autographs for the Virginia Tech baseball team prior to an exhibition game with the team on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Tuesday, March 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)

New York Yankees baseball players and coaches, including shortstop Derek Jeter, center, visit the memorial for the April 16th shooting victims on the campus of Virginia Tech. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Tony Balistieri #10 of the Virginia Tech Hokies hits against the New York Yankees . (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Jason Giambi #25 of the New York Yankees. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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