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Vitale: Thursday's first-round recaps

Vitale: Best of the Madness (first two rounds)

Dick Vitale Archive

 March Madness
Dick Vitale looks to the Utah-Oregon matchup for his coach of the day.
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Dickie V, Digger and Chris Fowler analyze the Pac-10's first-day tourney success.
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 In The Books
ESPN's College GameNight crew recaps Day 1 of the NCAA tourney.
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Butler proves it belongs out East


(12) Butler 47, (5) Mississippi State 46 -- I said last year that Butler should have been in the tournament, and this year the Bulldogs proved they belong with a big upset in a 5-12 game. A lot of people thought Mississippi State has a shot at coming out of this region, but instead Rick Stansbury's team is going home. Butler's ability to hit threes and play good defense were the keys to victory.

(2) Wake Forest 76, (15) East Tennessee State 73 -- The Demon Deacons survived a scare against a gutsy East Tennessee State team, led by Diaper Dandy Tim Smith. The little lefthanded guard put on a solid show and Ed DeCehellis' team fought down to the wire against Wake.

Freshman Eric Williams was dominant for the Deacons in the first half but got into foul trouble. Wake hit a few free throws down the stretch to pull out a nail-biter, but the Bucs had chances. Wake Forest advances to take on Auburn in what should be a physical matchup up front.

(4) Louisville 86, (13) Austin Peay 64 -- Rick Pitino was coaching his first NCAA Tournament game since the 1997 championship game loss to Arizona, and he didn't look like he missed a beat. The good news for the Cardinals is that Francisco Garcia, who appeared to have a serious knee injury, returned to the game in the second half. Louisville runs a lot of it's offense through Garcia, so it was important for him to get back into the game. The injury was considered just a bruised knee and he was fine.

Reece Gaines came out on fire in the first half and it was an M-and-M'er -- a mismatch -- as the Cardinals advanced.

(6) Oklahoma State 77, (11) Pennsylvania 63 -- What a battle between the Cowboys and the Quakers! The final score was not indicative of how tough this game was, as Eddie Sutton's OSU team pulled away late in the second half.

Victor Williams was the key for Oklahoma State, coming through with a career-high 29 points. Penn's Ugonna Onyekwe had 30 points and was solid inside, giving the Cowboys fits, but in the end OSU hit foul shots to put the game away. Penn was down just four with 3:00 left, before Oklahoma went on a 10-0 run to ice the victory.

(10) Auburn 65, (7) Saint Joseph's 63 -- I guess the Auburn Tigers were out to prove they belonged in the tourney. Wow! Who were those announcers who said they didn't deserve to dance? Was that Dickie V? Wow! My argument was based on their 8-8 conference record and a Cupcake City preconference schedule -- and the Tigers finished by winning only five of their last 14 games. So, as far as getting in, I would still make the case for, say, Boston College over Auburn. But now that's all in the past.

The bottom line is they did get in, and now they're in the second round. I've got to salute coach Cliff Ellis and his Tigers. Marquis Daniels finished with 25 points -- he's a marvelous player, one of the most underrated guys in the nation. A lot of people don't know about him. But he's a big-time, inside-outside force who will play at the next level.

On the interior, Marco Killingsworth was also a major factor. Auburn built a big first-half lead (32-19) and was playing brilliantly. Then, suddenly, it became the Jameer Nelson Show. The little guy from Saint Joseph's is a special player. Look for him to become one of the elite guards in the nation next season. The junior guard brilliantly carried Saint Joseph's to overtime.

But in overtime, Daniels made the difference down the stretch. A salute to Ellis and his Tigers -- no one ever said they couldn't win several games in the tournament. Any team that can win eight games in the SEC can certainly win some tourney games. And they'll be a major threat in the second round. Watch out, Mr. Daniels can flat-out play. He's a PTPer!

(3) Syracuse 76, (14) Manhattan 65 -- I'll tell you one thing, coach Bobby Gonzalez, who was once a camper at Jim Boeheim's basketball camp, is building a sensational program in Manhattan. The big question will be how long it is before an AD from one of the power conferences comes along with a big checkbook and says, "Come on down, Bobby!"

Gonzalez did a great job getting his club ready to face the 2-3 zone of Syracuse, but the Orange just have too much talent. In the second half, it was all Carmelo Anthony, the super-sensational diaper dandy. In the first half, it another freshman, guard Billy Edelin. Everyone knew about Edelin's talents when he arrived on campus, but with his early-season suspension after sitting out a year, it took him a while to get into the mix.

Syracuse is going to be dangerous. If Boeheim's club can beat Oklahoma State in the second round and advance to the Sweet 16 in Albany, N.Y., all I can say is, watch out! With that pro-Orange crowd, that place will be rocking if Syracuse gets there. It would be tough to beat Syracuse in Albany, baby!


(6) Maryland 75, (11) UNC-Wilmington 73 -- UNBELIEVABLE! The seniors came through at crunch time for Maryland. First it was Steve Blake hitting a three, then Drew Nicholas hitting the game-winner at the buzzer. They didn't want their careers to end, and what an incredible comeback. You have top feel, though, for freshman John Goldsberry and his Seahawks teammates, who put on a gutsy performance. Goldsberry's eight 3-pointers just weren't enough.

(2) Florida 85, (15) Sam Houston State 55 -- The Gators snapped a three-game losing streak by beating a clearly overmatched Sam Houston squad, getting 23 points from David Lee and 16 from Anthony Roberson. Florida now moves on to face Michigan State in a rematch of the 2000 national championship game.

(3) Xavier 71, (14) Troy State 59 -- The final score was not indicative of how this game was played, as the Musketeers were in control throughout. While David West and Romain Sato are normally Xavier's top scorers, but it was Lionel Chalmers who came through to lead the team with 20 big points against Troy State. Chalmers missed time with an injury earlier this season but has returned to form, and Thad Motta will need him in the next round against the Maryland/UNC-Wilmington winner.

(7) Michigan State 79, (10) Colorado 64
Defense, defense, defense! When Tom Izzo's team shows defensive intensity, watch out! The Spartans force turnovers and can convert off of them, and Michigan State was in fire in the first half, racing to a 15-point lead by converting turnovers galore.

The Spartans also showed great balance in building that lead, with Chris Hill and Alan Anderson leading the way. This MSU team looked much better in the opening game against Colorado than it did in a Big Ten tournament loss to Ohio State. In fact, Michigan State was only three points off its season-high total of 82 points. Next up is a rematch of the 2000 national championship game, against Florida.

(9) Purdue 80, (8) LSU 56 -- So far in this tournament a number of freshman have really stepped up and performed, the latest being Melvin Buckley of Purdue. Here is a guy who scored 20 points combined in the last six games coming into the tournament, then goes crazy in the second half against LSU. He finished with a career-high 20 points, hitting 5-of-6 from trifecta range as the Boilermakers, tied at halftime, came out of the gates on fire in the second half.

Gene Keady's Purdue team outscored the Tigers by 24 points in the second half, amazing for a team that was 3-6 in its last nine games heading into the Big Dance. The Boilers have a tough test coming up against T.J. Ford and Texas.

(1) Texas 82, (16) UNC-Asheville 61 -- With T.J. Ford orchestrating at the point and Brian Boddicker getting his first career double-double, Texas was just too much. Coach Rick Barnes' Longhorns are too deep and too talented, too big and too strong. And Ford, the little guy who's my choice for national player of the year, was too much for the UNC-Asheville quintet.

UNC-Asheville has had its moment in the sun. Coach Eddie Biedenbach, who's one of the real nice guys in the business and a former star player at N.C. State, got his club to win the play-in game and march on. And his reward for doing that? A chance in the Big Dance, yes -- and a game against top-seeded Texas! Congratulations to Biedenbach on a fine season.


(7) Indiana 67, (10) Alabama 62 -- Tom Coverdale had a brilliant performance, and both Bracey Wright and Jeffrey Newton really came to play in the second half after struggling in the first half. George Leach fouled out, and yet Indiana was able to get past the Tide despite a great perfromance by Maurice Williams.

(2) Pittsburgh 87, (15) Wagner 61 -- Ben Howland's team has been doing it with defense all season long, but people don't always realize that the Panthers have plenty of offense and plenty of balance. Donatas Zavackas came through and led Pitt tonight. Everyone looks at Brandin Knight and Julius Page in the backcourt, and Chevy Troutman up front, but Zavackas is a capable scorer who can also shoot from outside.

This Pittsburgh team is going to be very dangerous in the tournament, and it's a shame the Panthers are in the same bracket as Kentucky.

(9) Utah 60, (8) Oregon 58 -- Wow, Rick Majerus pulled off another magic act! The Utes, without Britton Johnsen because of mononucleosis, took on a high-powered Oregon team that got out of the gates quickly this season but has been up-and-down since.

The Ducks seemed to have momentum after winning the Pac-10 tournament, but today it was Utah that controlled tempo, and a solid performance by both Nick Jacobson and Marc Jackson made the difference.

The Utes contained Luke Ridnour, who committed a questionable foul late in the game that sent Utah to the foul line to hit the wining free throws. Oregon's two Lukes (Ridnour and Jackson) go home in a shocker. Now Utah gets to play Kentucky again. These two teams meet every few years in the NCAA Tournament, and Majerus has his hands full in this battle.

(1) Kentucky 95, (16) IUPUI 64 -- Well, coach Ron Hunter got his wish: Now everyone knows IUPUI. I didn't know much about them before, but now I do. Mr. Hunter, who once played at Miami of Ohio, has done a great job creating some excitement. The Jaguars weren't intimidated by Kentucky -- they battled and battled hard.

But Kentucky's depth, defense, experience and the brilliant all-around play of Keith Bogans, Gerald Finch and Co. was too much. Finch dominated, scoring 25 points, but that's the story at Kentucky -- always finding a new star, someone else to step up. Yes, the 'Cats did what was expected, a No. 1 marching on -- keeping the record intact of a No. 1 never being defeated in the first round. Kentucky has now won 24 in a row. It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting courtside calling the action with my broadcast buddy Dan Shulman as Kentucky was blown out by Louisville in December.

And here we are now, after all the talk-show noise about Louisville coach Rick Pitino's dominance over Kentucky's Tubby Smith (there weren't too many happy campers in Lexington then). I ask you, do you think they're happy about Tubby now? Wow, can he coach. He's my national coach of the year.

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