Commentary

Tampa had its day, so what's on tap this weekend?

Originally Published: March 22, 2008
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

DENVER -- Thank you, Tampa. The NCAA tournament had been a bit dry, save Belmont's near-miss against Duke on Thursday night in Washington D.C., prior to the turnaround by the Bay on Friday.

[+] EnlargeRob Jones
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesRob Jones and San Diego moved to Round 2 with a win over UConn.
Tampa, a city not known for its sports drama (except for a run here or there by the NHL's Lightning or the NFL's Buccaneers), provided the drama that the first round always seems to deliver. You want close games? Well, it's a safe bet that fans in other cities might have wanted to trade their tickets for ones in Tampa. No one in the stands could argue they didn't get their money's worth.

Four double-digit seeds at one site winning? Has that ever happened before? No. How about the fact that the only game that didn't come down to the final possessions was No. 13 Siena over No. 4 Vanderbilt? Plenty of unpaid bracketologists probably had that as an upset, but who had the 21-point margin?

Western Kentucky's Ty Rogers had his moment of a lifetime, draining a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Drake, which had been the surprise team of the season, in a thrilling overtime game. Rogers' trey might not have come against a high-major like Bryce Drew of Valparaiso's over Ole Miss or delivered a Final Four berth like Christian Laettner of Duke's over Kentucky, but it still will go down as one of the most memorable for some time.

San Diego took advantage of Connecticut losing lead guard A.J. Price to a knee injury early in the game. The Toreros then lost their two best scorers, Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomare, to fouls before a supposed non-shooter, De'Jon Jackson, buried a step-back jumper with 1.2 seconds left in overtime for the No. 13 seed to beat the No. 4 Huskies. (Who knew the Huskies would go 0-2 against the WCC and the Bill Grier-Mark Few tandem this season? They lost to Gonzaga in December in Boston, too.)

Siena then crushed Vanderbilt. And Villanova, a No. 12 seed but hardly a party crasher, dispatched Clemson by holding on for a 75-69 victory, despite a near-colossal technical foul on coach Jay Wright.

So, the first round is over. But before we move ahead to Round 2, let's reflect on the first two days:

[+] EnlargeGerald Henderson
Michael Heiman/Getty ImagesGerald Henderson's coast-to-coast game-winning hoop beat Belmont.
Signature moments
• Rogers' buzzer-beating 3-pointer to lead Western Kentucky over Drake in overtime.
• Duke's Gerald Henderson splitting the gut of the Belmont defense for a game-winning layup with 11.9 seconds left to lift No. 2 Duke to a 71-70 victory over No. 15 Belmont on Thursday night in D.C.
• Jackson's jumper with 1.2 seconds left to lead San Diego over Connecticut.
• Davidson's Stephen Curry burying a 3-pointer to break a tie with Gonzaga with a minute remaining to help send the No. 10 seed to an 82-76 victory over No. 7 Gonzaga on Friday in Raleigh, N.C.

Round 1 duds
The four No. 1 seeds obliterated the No. 16 seeds: UNC beat Mount St. Mary's 113-74; Memphis took out Texas-Arlington 87-63; Kansas beat Portland State 85-61; UCLA dispatched Mississippi Valley State 70-29.

Last few at-large teams
• No. 11 Baylor lost by 11 to No. 6 Purdue.
• No. 10 Saint Mary's lost by 14 to No. 7 Miami.
• No. 10 South Alabama lost by 20 to No. 7 Butler.
• No. 9 Oregon, No. 10 Arizona, No. 11 Kentucky and No. 11 Saint Joseph's all lost, too. • The only potentially late additions to the bracket that won in the first round were: No. 12 Villanova over No. 5 Clemson, No. 9 Texas A&M over No. 8 BYU and No. 11 Kansas State over No. 6 USC.

Signature performances
• Davidson's Stephen Curry -- 40 points versus Gonzaga.
• Miami's Jack McClinton -- 38 points versus Saint Mary's.
• Kentucky's Joe Crawford -- 35 points versus Marquette.
• Mississippi State's Charles Rhodes -- 34 points versus Oregon.
• Western Kentucky's Tyrone Brazelton -- 33 points versus Drake.

Big East dominance
Seven of the 32 teams in the second round are from the Big East. Connecticut is the only team from the conference that has lost so far.

Who knew?
• That UNLV would be so dominant in a 71-58 win over Kent State..
• That USC would be run over by Kansas State..
• That Siena would crush Vanderbilt..
• That Indiana would go 1-4 in its last five games and bow out in the first round.

OK, now onto the good stuff.

So, Tampa had its day. But here's the spin for Round 2.

The headline games for Sunday in Tampa are No. 12 Villanova versus No. 13 Siena and No. 12 Western Kentucky versus No. 13 San Diego.

And for all the vanilla business so far in Anaheim, Little Rock and Denver, the weekend looks to be a blockbuster.

[+] EnlargeKyle Weaver
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesKyle Weaver and Washington State will need to score plenty to keep pace with Notre Dame.
On Saturday here in Denver, there should be a shooting fest between No. 4 Washington State and No. 5 Notre Dame. While the winner could get No. 1 North Carolina in the East, getting to the Sweet 16 will be quite a treat for either program. Meanwhile, in the nightcap, No. 4 Pitt will play No. 5 Michigan State in a likely grinder, with the winner probably getting a legit shot to topple No. 1 Memphis in the South.

No. 1 UCLA and Kevin Love will have to try to work around No. 9 Texas A&M's DeAndre Jordan and Joe Jones on Saturday in Anaheim. The other headline game there will be a classic contrast of styles, with No. 2 Stanford's Robin and Brook Lopez going against guard-dominated No. 6 Marquette.

On Sunday in Little Rock, No. 1 Memphis won't have a cakewalk against No. 9 Mississippi State (see Rhodes' 34 points in "Signature performances" above), and No. 2 Texas should be in for quite a guard showdown against No. 7 Miami, with D.J. Augustin going against McClinton. These pods are at opposite ends of the South bracket, so the winners Sunday won't meet unless they reach the Elite Eight.

Saturday in Omaha will be all about the Sunflower State, with the fans getting another look at Michael Beasley and Bill Walker as No. 11 Kansas State goes against No. 3 Wisconsin. No. 1 Kansas against suddenly hip No. 8 UNLV could provide some drama, too. OK, so this one isn't as sexy as the three sites above, but Wildcats-Badgers has become a trendy game. And just like in Little Rock, these regional pod winners don't have a chance of meeting until the Elite Eight.

In D.C, everyone is waiting to see whether No. 2 Duke has a hangover Saturday against No. 7 West Virginia after the Belmont escape. And while the matchup between No. 3 Xavier and No. 6 Purdue doesn't have national appeal, it should be a tight game with star quality.

Sunday's Birmingham matchups also are of a high level, with No. 3 Louisville versus No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 7 Butler versus No. 2 Tennessee. Digest that fact for a moment; you'd want a ticket at any time of year.

And to think No. 1 North Carolina will walk over No. 9 Arkansas after watching the Hogs pull away from Indiana is a mistake. So, too, is thinking that No. 10 Davidson is done with its magic just because it is going against No. 2 Georgetown on Sunday in Raleigh.

The lower-profile conferences have five teams left: Davidson (Southern), San Diego (WCC), Butler (Horizon), Siena (MAAC) and Western Kentucky (Sun Belt). One thing is certain: At least one is getting to the Sweet 16, since USD and WKU play each other. With the chalk getting to the second weekend, having at least one Cinderella makes the 16 certainly Sweet.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com