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March 21, 2008
Bracket Breakdown
NCAAs, Day One

by John Gasaway

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One of the eight-seeds lost to a nine-seed, and USC was bounced by Kansas State. Otherwise the higher seeds held serve yesterday...barely. Note, however, that in power-conference matchups on the first day, efficiency margin went 4-0, including K-State over the Trojans. Yay, EM!

(2) Duke 71, (15) Belmont 70 [71 possessions]

Kyle Whelliston says mid-majors are defined by their limited dollars. After watching this game, my alternative definition would center on their very skinny legs, which Belmont has in abundance. Never mind, those legs propelled the Bruins to the tin with admirable effectiveness. Alex Renfroe took Blue Devil defenders off the dribble repeatedly. Belmont also made their threes. It was almost enough for the first win by a 15-seed in seven years. Almost.

(11) Kansas State 80, (6) USC 67 [65]

The Trojans were a trendy pick to take out Wisconsin in the second round. They'll never get the chance. Taj Gibson and Davon Jefferson were in foul trouble much of the game (both would foul out), and the usually tough SC defense gave up 1.24 points per trip to the Wildcats. Michael Beasley was also in foul trouble, but Frank Martin is used to swapping his star in and out of the game so he's available primarily for offensive possessions. It worked, but Beasley also had help on this night. For instance, there was Ron Anderson, he of the six offensive rebounds in just 21 minutes. USC simply couldn't keep K-State from getting offensive boards.

(3) Xavier 73, (14) Georgia 61 [64]

The Bulldogs led this game by 11 with 16 minutes to play, then were outscored 41-18 the rest of the way. Yes, after that incredible SEC tournament run, Georgia finally ran out of gas. The Dawgs say a 33-to-5 disparity in free throws in the Musketeers' favor helped to drain that tank.

(6) Marquette 74, (11) Kentucky 66 [58]

Not even a slow pace could stave off the inevitable for Billy Gillispie's undermanned Wildcats. UK actually outshot their opponent, but they were hammered on their defensive glass. Joe Crawford scored 35 notably efficient points in a losing cause, while teammate Ramon Harris managed to foul out in 22 minutes without attempting a shot or recording a rebound.

(7) West Virginia 75, (10) Arizona 65 [62]

The Mountaineers made 11 of 19 threes--Alex Ruoff and Darris Nichols were a combined 9-of-14--and Bob Huggins' team led virtually throughout the game. Meanwhile four Wildcats played at least 38 minutes. Arizona's strange year of strange coaching uncertainty has come to a close.

(6) Purdue 90, (11) Baylor 79 [73]

For the second consecutive year, the Boilermakers cruised in the first round against a major-conference opponent who didn't care to play defense, thank you. (Last year it was Arizona.) The Big Ten is faulted for ugly games, but the flip side in the first round the past couple years has been that their offenses suddenly feel like they're playing a practice squad when they see a low seed from another BCS conference.

(9) Texas A&M 67, (8) BYU 62 [59]

It was slow, but the each Aggie possession usually ended in a made shot, whether from outside or in close. Josh Carter made six of 10 threes. The Cougars, conversely, were cold from outside. It made the difference in a close game.

(5) Michigan State 72, (12) Temple 61 [65]

For three years, writers have insisted doggedly that as Neitzel goes, so go the Spartans. For three years, it's been a gross oversimplification. Neitzel's line yesterday: 2-of-11. MSU won easily anyway, scoring 1.11 points per trip.

(5) Notre Dame 68, (12) George Mason 50 [64]

The Irish, not known for their defense, shut down the Patriots completely. Will Thomas made his shots, but his teammates were a combined 9-of-43 from the field in a game that was never close after the first TV timeout.

(4) Washington State 71, (13) Winthrop 40 [57]

That must have been some halftime speech by Tony Bennett, after his team played the Eagles to a 29-29 tie in the first 20 minutes. Not a bad line for Aussie big man Aron Baynes, either: 19 points on 9-of-9 shooting. As a team, the Cougars made almost 70 percent of their twos.

(4) Pitt 82, (13) Oral Roberts 63 [69]

Once again, the winning team attacked the offensive glass without paying any price in transition. It's a trend, by gar! Levance Fields is officially healthy: 23 points and seven assists.

(8) UNLV 71, (9) Kent State 58 [74]

This game was 31-10 UNLV at the half. It sounds fast, at 74 possessions, but the fact is both teams turned the ball over on at least one in every four trips down the floor. When they didn't cough the ball up, the Runnin' Rebels, and Joe Darger in particular, killed the Golden Flashes down low.

(3) Wisconsin 71, (14) Cal State Fullerton 56 [71]

The Badgers, and Joe Krabbenhoft personally, tuned the ball over with surprising frequency but otherwise it was typical Bo Ryan ball: plenty of missed shots and very few free throws for the opponent. Wisconsin owned the boards on both ends of the floor. Still, the Titans hung tough: this was an eight-point game with less than four minutes to play.

(3) Stanford 77, (14) Cornell 53 [67]

Close for only the first 12 minutes. The Cardinal D completely suffocated the Big Red, as Robin Lopez recorded five blocks in just 23 minutes to go along with 7-of-9 shooting.

(1) Kansas 85, (16) Portland State 61 [64]

Next!

(1) UCLA 70, (16) Mississippi Valley State 29 [64]

See above!

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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