Tornado tourney has nothing on 'Tampa Turmoil'
TAMPA, Fla. -- A week ago, I watched a tornado blow a hole in the roof of the Georgia Dome.
Over the next 48 hours, I watched Georgia, the SEC's worst team (and my alma mater, no less), win two games in one day and another the following day to win the SEC tournament.
Little did I know I was only getting warmed up.
Perhaps I should have known I was headed to even more dramatic developments in Tampa. Maybe I should have known when I sat down at a bar in Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport and ordered a beer, then realized Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher was sitting in the chair next to me, eating nachos and drinking red wine.
Because before Friday's NCAA tournament games at St. Pete Times Forum, the most miraculous thing I'd ever watched was the Titans' "Music City Miracle" finish against the Buffalo Bills in an NFL playoff game on Jan. 8, 2000. But not even Frank Wycheck's lateral to Kevin Dyson for a 75-yard touchdown in the final seconds can match what I saw Friday in Tampa.
Four games. Four upsets. Two overtimes. Two buzzer-beaters.
Since the NCAA started to seed teams in 1979, never had there been more than two upsets in the first round in the same city. Tampa produced twice that many on a day college basketball fans will not soon forget.
"It's incredible," said Villanova coach Jay Wright, whose No. 12 seed Wildcats upset No. 5 seed Clemson 75-69 in the nightcap. "I'm sure this is going to be talked about. They're going to have some name for this -- the 'Tampa Turmoil' or something."
Remarkably, Villanova's dramatic comeback from an 18-point deficit was upstaged twice earlier in the day. No. 12 seed Western Kentucky started the madness by stunning No. 5 seed Drake 101-99 in overtime. Senior Ty Rogers, from the tiny hamlet of Eddyville, Ky., made a 26-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to win it.
After the Hilltoppers' miraculous win, I began to write my column, figuring I'd been handed an easy day after last week's events. A dramatic finish in the first game? I'll coast the rest of the way.
It didn't take long for my colleagues to voice their envy. Text messages began filtering into my cell phone from around the country.
"The SEC tournament wasn't enough?" they asked. "Story hog."
As I finished my column about Western Kentucky's unlikely new hero, I watched San Diego go chest to chest with Connecticut. The Huskies, an Elite Eight participant on my tournament bracket, lost their best player in the game's first 10 minutes. Junior guard A.J. Price hurt his knee with about 11 minutes to go in the half and never returned.
The Huskies certainly could have used him at the end. After going ahead 69-68 on Jerome Dyson's two foul shots with 10 seconds to play, the Huskies lost when De'Jon Jackson made a fade-away jumper with 1.2 seconds left. Jackson, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., had missed seven of his first eight shots.
But, of course, Jackson found the bottom of the net on his last attempt, giving the Toreros a 70-69 victory, their first win in the NCAA tournament.
After a 30-minute break, which everyone needed to catch their breath, No. 13 seed Siena provided the most stunning -- but least dramatic -- upset of the day: an 83-62 pasting of No. 4 seed Vanderbilt. Everyone but the Saints believed they were the underdogs.
"I really don't consider it an upset," Siena guard Tay Fisher said.
Back in Villanova's locker room, Wright couldn't believe how events had transpired.
"We're watching those games," Wright said. "We're watching the 5-12 [matchups] and hoping the 12 doesn't win, because we know that usually happens. We see Western Kentucky win. We're like, 'Now we can't do it.' And then you watch UConn lose. Then you watch Siena do it. We're like, 'It's not going to happen four times in a row; there's no way.'"
Somehow, Villanova made it happen again.
After a day of such madness, anything seemed possible. Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel wanted the building to be the site of next year's BCS National Championship Game. Sports writers were hitting on Clemson's cheerleaders. Heck, the Memphis Tigers even believed they could make free throws.
"It's a great feeling," Villanova guard Corey Fisher said. "Who wouldn't want to be in this moment?"
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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NCAA Tournament 2008
Analysis• Katz: Sneak peek at Sweet 16
• Forde: Dorsey a confusing, entertaining enigma
• Low: Vols figuring out unsteady point-guard play
• Schlabach: Horn, Lee break through at WKU
• Dinich: Davidson proves it is no one-man show
• ATR: UCLA wins, Day 3 recaps
• Katz: Neitzel shoots Spartans into Sweet 16
• Gene Woj: Trent Johnson nearly costs his team
• Miller: Tough to stop Cardinal's Twin Towers
• Griffin: Wisconsin gives vintage performance
• O'Neil: WVU players embrace Huggs' toughness
• ATR: The end to IU's tumultuous season
• Katz: What's on tap for the weekend?
• Forde: Tampa was awesome ... wish I was there
• Schlabach: Still can't believe the 'Tampa Turmoil'
• Schlabach: Siena joins upset party in Tampa
• Schlabach: USD's Grier no long in the shadows
• Schlabach: WKU's Rogers hits 'dream' shot
• Dinich: Curry puts on a show against Gonzaga
• ATR: Arizona's questions, Pitt and MSU roll
• O'Neil: Belmont lets Duke upset slip away
• Griffin: Beasley, Walker team up to down USC
• Gene Woj: Kentucky's roller coaster ends
• O'Neil: Xavier survives Dawgs' upset bid
• Forde: Best case/Worst case scenarios
• Lunardi: Ranking the teams 64-1
• Experts: "Best of" lists for tourney
• Whelliston: Mount St. Mary's honors friend
• Forde: Bruce Pearl's purgatory
• Katz: Officiating has had a rough season
• Gottlieb: Scrutiny on officials higher than ever
• Katz: Mayo, Love exceed freshman expectations
• Rittenberg: Baby Boilers lead Purdue to Dance
• Wojciechowski: Liking Psycho T isn't about race
• Bilas: Grading the committee and talking snubs
• Regions: East | South | West | Midwest
• Forde: Super-sized edition of Forde Minutes
• O'Neil: Serendipitous storylines fill bracket
• Katz: Committee chair talks hot topics
• Wojciechowski: 15 suggestions to improve Dance
• Dinich: UNC's Tobacco Road to San Antonio
News• Curry says he's returning to Davidson next year
• Ford Field, Reliant raise NCAA tourney to new level
• UCLA's Mbah a Moute to have MRI
• Nova's Drummond done for season
• Vols' Pearl explains decision to start Prince
• Stanford's Johnson not changing after ejection
• UConn: Price tore ACL, likely to miss six months
• Love, Mbah a Moute on mend for UCLA
• Arkansas' Weems hurts knee, expected to play
Video• Vitale: Rounds 1 & 2 MVP
• Vitale: Round 1 prime-time players
• Gottlieb: Mid-majors make their mark
• Lunardi: Video previews for all 65
• Breaking down the East region
• Breaking down the West Region
• Breaking down the Midwest region
• Breaking down the South region
• ESPN experts fill out their brackets
Audio• Podcast: Bilas looks at Thursday's games
• Podcast: Gottlieb makes bracket predictions
Strategies• Tiernan: "Low-risk" bracket strategy
• Tiernan: "Medium" bracket advice
• Tiernan: "High-risk" bracket strategy
• Tiernan: "Dangerous" bracket advice
Photos• Day 4 photo gallery
• Day 3 photo gallery
• Day 2 photo gallery
• Day 1 photo gallery
More• Tournament Challenge | Bracket Master
• Insider tourney guide | BracketCaster