MWC's 3-0 start steals the show on Day 1
After all the warm pleasantries they exchanged at the recent Mountain West Conference tournament, you just know that Utah coach Elaine Elliott and BYU coach Jeff Judkins were pulling as hard as they could for each other's teams to fall flat on their face in the NCAA Tournament.
OK, maybe not. Perhaps the Beehive State rivals -- OK, I should look up why it's called that although I suppose it's pretty obvious: there are a lot of bees there -- have put down their swords and bonded for the sake of conference unity.
I would really like to think that they didn't, though it's so much more fun that way. I'm not sure Utah was really all that mad at BYU after the MWC championship game, considering the Utes won by 24. That was the exact reason, though, that Judkins was ticked, thinking Utah left in its starters too long and ran up the score and generally wasn't, to use his term, "classy."
I don't have empirical evidence for this, but I'm going to guess that about 96.5 percent of the time that someone accuses someone else of having no class, the accuser just got roasted.
I can think of one notable exception: A few years back, Iowa State put in its third string late against North Carolina because the Cyclones were cruising big time during a regular-season matchup. The Tar Heels and coach Sylvia Hatchell ignored the kind gesture and started pressing the scrubs.
Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly wasn't too thrilled with that, as you can imagine.
But, normally, "lack of class" is the final cannonball that some try to launch after the fort has been overtaken. Besides, Utah and BYU have absolutely no reason to like each other any way, so their fuses should be easily lit over and over.
(By the way, I just went Web surfing briefly and found that Utah's state insect is the honey bee. Which, as state insects go, is a very good one, I'd say. And did you know there is both a state vegetable -- Spanish sweet onion -- and state historic vegetable -- sugar beet -- in Utah? Well, now you do.)
There are also, for the moment, two Division I women's teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament from that state. The Utes and Cougars both won their first-round games on Saturday. Which is no surprise, unless you looked at my ESPN.com bracket, in which case you might have been led to believe that only the Utes would survive past the first round. But I can tell you right now, don't waste your time checking out my predictions. Unless "tragically misguided and so far off it isn't funny" really amuse you.
The point of all this, though, is that on Day 1, the Mountain West went 3-0. Considering TCU just lost leading scorer, rebounder and disher Natasha Lacy because she took a leave of absence to attend to an undisclosed personal matter, it might be pretty hard to make it a clean sweep of the first round for the MWC. No. 11 TCU faces No. 6 Texas A&M on Sunday (ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET) in a Cleveland Regional game.
Utah, the No. 5 seed in the Albuquerque Regional, beat No. 12 Middle Tennessee 76-71. The Blue Raiders -- the ones, besides the selection committee, who were responsible for keeping Western Kentucky out of the NCAA field -- had pulled NCAA first-round upsets the past two years. They defeated North Carolina two years ago and NC State last year.
But one of Utah's five Canadians, senior guard Shona Thorburn, helped hold off another MTSU upset bid with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Two of the other Canadian kids, Kim Smith and Jessica Perry, had double-doubles.
Next for Utah is No. 4 Arizona State, known for its physical defense. Most 4-5 games are pretty good, and this one should be, too.
As for BYU, the No. 7 seed in San Antonio, sent No. 10 Iowa home, 67-62. Ambrosia Anderson -- who could probably share a few funny stories and monogrammed luggage with Ole Miss player Ashley Awkward -- sparked the Cougars with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Next, BYU will try to petition the NCAA to be allowed to use seven people at a time against Oklahoma's Courtney Paris. If that doesn't work, the Cougars will just trust in the good basketball that has won them 26 games this season.
Lastly, No. 11 seed New Mexico -- of course you know the Lobos are in the Albuquerque Regional -- beat Dr. Jekyll and Florida 83-59. Which stood as the day's biggest upset until San Antonio's No. 12 Tulsa dismissed No. 15 NC State, which hasn't won an NCAA Tournament game since 2001.
New Mexico only has one little, tiny, itty-bitty task left in order to have the chance to go back to The Pit for the Sweet 16: Beat defending national champion Baylor.
Indeed, all three of the Mountain West teams that won Saturday now have their hands full trying to keep stayin' alive.
But I'm certain -- just as sure as I know the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout is Utah's state fish -- that the league will give it a good go.Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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