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UAB, Freije lead the way


During the regular season, I reviewed each week with my Best of the Week awards. During the NCAA Tournament, I'll hand out best-of-the-day awards, baby!

The ninth-seeded Blazers scored the biggest surprise of the tournament by taking out the top-seeded Wildcats. Give coach Mike Anderson credit for this team's success in just his second season. Morris Finley hit the game-winning shot, and the Taylors, Squeaky Johnson and company played their hearts out.

What a tough call here because it could have gone to Lionel Chalmers of Xavier or Deron Williams of Illinois.

Freije showed a lot of heart down the stretch, hitting several big shots that helped the Commodores rally from a double-digit deficit in the second half.

With so much going on, Weber may get lost in the shuffle but his team did a terrific job blowing out Cincinnati.

The Panthers gutted it out in a defensive battle in Milwaukee. Coach Jamie Dixon's team showed a never-say-die attitude in beating the Badgers.

It may not appear big on the stat sheet, but he came through with several big hoops when the Musketeers put away Mississippi State.


I was really impressed by Nevada, which took advantage of Ronnie Turiaf's foul trouble to take a big early lead. Gonzaga's Blake Stepp struggled from the floor and give Kirk Snyder and Company a lot of credit for taking charge early and not letting the Zags back into the game. Nevada's Trent Johnson is a rising star in the coaching ranks.

Alabama rallied from a double-digit deficit and won the game at the foul line, hitting 34-of-44 from the free throw line. The Tide also made huge shots from the field down the stretch and Kennedy Winston was the star with 21 points. Stanford's Josh Childress struggled with just 12 points before fouling out and the Cardinal is sent packing. What a great season for Mike Montgomery's team, though, as his kids finish with a 30-2 record.

On a day when Gerry McNamara struggled from the floor and was held to 13 points, it was Warrick who came up big in the win over Maryland. The junior went for 26 points and pulled down nine rebounds, showing that he is one of the top 10 players in America right now.

The former Stanford assistant got his team to carry the momentum from a big win over Michigan State into today's upset of a highly-regarded Gonzaga squad.

The Longhorns pulled out a gutty win, holding off a late North Carolina rally for a three-point win. Rick Barnes, who spent some time on the staff at Clemson, got a big win over his former ACC rival. Royal Ivey and Company prevailed despite a solid game from the Tar Heels' Rashad McCants

Has had a great weekend, scoring a combined 50 points to go with 13 assists and just three turnovers in Wake Forest's first two games of the tournament. I feel he is the best diaper dandy in the nation right now.


The Big West defeated the Big East, and another No. 12 seed has knocked off a No. 5 (for the second time in this tournament; No. 12 Manhattan beat Florida on Thursday). Give coach Bob Thomason's team credit -- when Providence made a late run, Pacific did not fold.

Carney had a double-double (26 points, 10 rebounds) in his impressive performance against South Carolina. He also hit six trifectas.

Many people felt that Vanderbilt would fall to No. 11 seed Western Michigan -- that seemed to be a popular upset pick. But the Commodores prevailed. I've always liked Stallings since his days as an assistant under Roy Williams at Kansas. Stallings has done a solid job with an underrated Vanderbilt team.

Xavier notched an impressive come-from-behind win over Louisville. The Musketeers rallied from a double-digit deficit to defeat Rick Pitino's team and advance. Xavier has now won 14 of 15 games.

Giddens, the freshman guard, had a solid overall game (17 points, four rebounds, two blocks). He contributed to Kansas' rout of Illinois-Chicago.


Sophomore guard Gerry McNamara scored 43 big points, and he was clearly the player of the day. He put on an offensive clinic in the first round. McNamara was clutch with key shots and big free throws all game long.

Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez's star keeps getting brighter and brighter as his Jaspers upset Florida 75-60. Hey, it's time for the administration at St. John's to start listening and make a call to Gonzalez. He brings passion, talent and a love for New York to the table that could help the university.

After just missing out on an NCAA bid last year, the Pirates had a lot to prove this year. Senior point guard Andre Barrett (19 points, 6 assists) took full advantage of his first NCAA tourney appearance. Seton Hall was down in the first half but would not be denied. As a reward, the Pirates get to play Duke.

The Jaspers surprised Florida 75-60, making this the 16th year in the past 17 that a No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5. Manhattan's five city kids put on an unbelievable show, led by the brilliant play of guard Luis Flores (26 points).

Freshman guard Chris Paul was clutch down the stretch for Wake Forest with four big free throws. He posted game highs with 22 points (12-of-15 from the free-throw line) and 7 assists.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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