V-RECAPS | NCAA Tournament, Second Round | Saturday, March 22
(Posted 11:45 p.m. ET)
(1) Arizona 96, (9) Gonzaga 95 (2 OT) -- WOW! When you talk about emotion, passion, and a game that defines what March Madness is about, this is the game you talk about. The energy and enthusiasm were incredible. You have to salute both Lute Olson and Mark Few for getting their players to bring such effort to the floor. Arizona ultimately won out, but I'm telling you, the Wildcats were challenged right to the last shot by a gutty Gonzaga team. The Bulldogs may be a mid-major in terms of dollars and facilities, but there is nothing mid-major about the way they play. They're gamers, man! Blake Stepp scored 25 big points, and Tony Skinner hit jump shots all over the place while also dropping in 25. And don't forget about Ronny Turiaf, Richard Fox and Cory Violette. The injury to Turiaf, an inside warrior, was huge as he would have been a big factor down the stretch.
Saying all that, you still have to toast Arizona. Most teams would have folded in the face of Gonzaga's gutty performance, but the Wildcats matched them punch-for-punch. Luke Walton, one of the most unselfish players in the game, made some incredible passes and Channing Frye made big plays all night, while Salim Stoudamire also made some big buckets. Jason Gardner and his teammates have now had a big-time scare in the tournament. As my late buddy Jim Valvano used to say, "There will always be a game that will scare the life out of you as you chase the national title," and this was that game for Arizona. The matchup is now set: Arizona and Notre Dame, at The Pond in Anaheim.
(2) Kansas 108, (10) Arizona State 76 -- The Jayhawks responded after surviving a scare against Utah State, jumping out to a 30-12 lead en route to a rout over a solid Arizona State team. Kansas showed great balance as Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Miles and Keith Langford all contributed to the big victory.
While Collison and Hinrich are the top duo in America, you have to consider Kansas a team with a terrific trio, as Langford has scored 41 points in the first two games of the tournament.
(3) Duke 86, (11) Central Michigan 60 -- It was the Dahntay Jones and J.J. Redick Show as Duke put on a clinic in running away from MAC champion Central Michigan. Jones dominated in the first half, while Redick showed in the second half why he is such an explosive shooter. The Blue Devils were able to withstand a great start by Chippewas 7-footer Chris Kaman, and they are now in the Sweet 16 for the sixth straight year. No other team has a current streak of appearances longer than three.
(5) Notre Dame 68, (4) Illinois 60 -- Well, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame march on to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1987, when Digger Phelps took them to one of college basketball's special places before losing to North Carolina. Now they get a chance to meet the winner of the Gonzaga-Arizona game. The reason for the W today over Illinois was that Notre Dame toughened up on the defensive end. What a sweet happy birthday for coach Mike Brey, who turned 44 and got a terrific gift! What an incredible performance from Dan Miller, the All-Marco Polo guy, the transfer, who was an impact player today. He started the game by knocking down his first five trifectas and giving the Irish great confidence. He ended up with 23 points, and Chris Thomas won the battle of the point guards against Dee Brown of Illinois.
The Illini had a sensational year when you think about the youth of their backcourt, and Bill Self's club will certainly be a team to watch next season. It was a great year for the Big Ten tournament champs, but today it was the Big East moving on. Keyed by the floor play of Thomas, a great defensive effort by at team that has relied so much on its offense, and the shooting of Miler, Mike Brey's formula led to a date in the Sweet 16, baby!
(1) Oklahoma 74, (8) California 65 -- Some experts though California had a shot at upsetting Oklahoma, but Kelvin Sampson's team came prepared to play. The Sooners are showing why they are an elite team despite injuries and illnesses. Kevin Bookout, who played just nine minutes in the opening round, came through with a 9-for-11 performance and scored 22 points while dominating inside against a solid California front line that features Joe Shipp, Amit Tamir and Gabriel Hughes. Tamir really struggled in two tournament games, including an 0-for-5 performance against the Sooners.
(5) UConn 85, (4) Stanford 74 -- Man, Connecticut certainly did a great job defensively in the second half on Julius Barnes, who started off hot for Mike Montgomery's club. In the second half the Huskies really contained his quickness, penetration and ability to shoot the 3-pointer. Emeka Okafor got in foul trouble but was still a major factor for UConn, scoring 18 points and ripping down 15 rebounds. Tony Robertson also came up with some big shots off the bench in the second half, and that was vital for Jim Cahoun's team.
They also got a solid performance out of Ben Gordon when they spread he court late in the game and put the ball in his hands. Connecticut had the answers for a gutty Stanford team that overachieved all year, and when it was all said and done, Calhoun and his kids found a way to give the Big East another representative in the Sweet 16.
(5) Wisconsin 61, (13) Tulsa 60 -- Tulsa looked like it was going to march on to the next round, as John Philips and his kids, led by Kevin Johnson, looked like they were in total control. The Golden Hurricane was up 13 with just over four minutes to play, but a 16-2 run by Wisconsin changed all that. And Freddie Owens made the monster three with one second left, on a play that was set up by penetration, getting his feet square and knocking it down to start the celebration.
Tulsa had been in command, but you couldn't tell that to Mike Wilkinson, Devin Harris and the rest of Bo Ryan's gang. They proved again that they deserve some respect, because you don't hear anybody talking about the Badgers, and all they've done is win the Big Ten title two years in a row. Wisconsin pulled it out even though Kirk Penney had a horrendous shooting night, going 2-for-12 from the floor, and that shows you this team is more than one man's jumper. Bo Ryan's club is fundamentally skilled, committing only five turnovers in the game and giving themselves a chance to win with shots on every possession.
(3) Marquette 101, (6) Missouri 92 OT -- This game was just what we anticipated, with Marquette jumping out to a 10-point lead and Missouri battling back with the dominant inside play of Arthur Johnson, who was a major factor with his 28 points. The 55 percent free-throw shooter went to the line with 19 seconds remaining and knocked down two foul shots, looking like a 90 percent shooter, man!
But when it went to overtime, it was the sweet touch of former Wisconsin Mr. Basketball Steve Novak, the 6-9 Diaper Dandy, that made the difference. He was nothin' but nylon, knocking down three big trifectas, and Marquette was nearly perfect in overtime, hitting one key shot after another. Tom Crean and his Golden Eagles march on to face the Pittsburgh-Indiana winner, and Crean's rising star continues to shine. Quin Snyder's Missouri team certainly gave a supreme effort, and with the combination of Johnson and Ricky Paulding already announcing they are not interested in the NBA, there will be big things happening in Columbia next year!