Now this is the NCAA tournament

March, 21, 2009
After 36 hours of mostly predictable results, the 2009 NCAA tournament had its cork popped with a half-dozen upsets Friday.

The carnage was especially heavy in the Midwest Region, where the Nos. 4-7 seeds were upset by lesser seeds. No result was more shocking than No. 13 seed Cleveland State's 84-69 rout of No. 4 seed Wake Forest in Miami. The Demon Deacons, who were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point this season and have a roster chock full of NBA prospects, trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half and never threatened.

More than two decades after Cleveland State stunned Bobby Knight's Indiana team in the 1986 NCAA tournament (its only other appearance on college basketball's biggest stage), the Vikings advanced to play No. 12 seed Arizona in Sunday's second round. The winner will earn a surprising trip to next week's Sweet 16 games in Indianapolis.

The Wildcats, who were perhaps the last at-large team invited to the NCAA's 65-team field, upset No. 5 seed Utah 84-71 in Miami on Friday.

After the first round of play, one thing is clear: Top seed Louisville's path to the Final Four in Detroit is a heck of a lot easier, thanks to a boatload of upsets in its region. With Wake Forest, Utah and Ohio State falling Friday, the Cardinals won't face an opponent seeded higher than No. 9 until the Elite Eight in Indianapolis -- if they make it that far.

The Cardinals, the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, pulled away from feisty No. 16 seed Morehead State in the second half for a 74-54 victory in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday night. The Big East champions advanced to play No. 9 seed Siena in Sunday's second round.

The Saints, who beat Vanderbilt by 21 points in the 2008 NCAA tournament, helped the Cardinals avoid having to play Ohio State in its home state in the second round.

Siena, a Catholic liberal arts school of about 3,000 undergraduate students in Loudonville, N.Y., pulled an upset for the second season in a row, beating the No. 8-seeded Buckeyes 74-72 in double overtime in Dayton.

Saints point guard Ronald Moore made a 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left in overtime to tie the score, then nailed another 3-pointer with 12 seconds to play in double overtime to win the game.

Moore, a junior from Conshohocken, Pa., is known more for his passing abilities than his shooting. But Moore's pedigree suggests he was destined to make the game-changing shots: A cousin, John Salmons, plays for the NBA's Chicago Bulls; his uncle played for the ABA's Kentucky Colonels; and his older brother, Chuck, played at Vanderbilt and now plays overseas.

Wisconsin's point guard, Trevon Hughes, made the No. 12 seed Badgers' big shots in their 61-59 upset of No. 5 seed Florida State in an East Region game in Boise. Hughes scored five straight points to help the Badgers erase a five-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation, then made a three-point play with two seconds left in overtime to win the game.

Wisconsin became the third No. 12 seed to beat a No. 5 in this year's tournament (Western Kentucky defeated Illinois 76-72 on Thursday night), and advanced to play No. 4 seed Xavier in Sunday's second round. The Musketeers were an easy 77-59 winner over No. 13 seed Portland State on Friday night.

East Region No. 1 seed Pittsburgh struggled for much of its game against No. 16 seed East Tennessee State before finally pulling away with a 72-62 victory in Dayton. The Panthers led by only three points at halftime, and it seemed for a while as though a No. 16 seed might finally have a chance to win in the men's NCAA tournament. But Pitt forward DeJuan Blair flexed his muscles in the second half, finishing with 27 points and 16 rebounds, and No. 16-seeded teams fell to 0-100 since the NCAA field was expanded in 1985.

The Panthers will play No. 8 seed Oklahoma State in Sunday's second round. The Xavier-Wisconsin winner is Pitt's potential Sweet 16 opponent in Boston, and the bottom of the East bracket might present some roadblocks, too, after it held true to form Thursday.

North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the South Region, plays No. 8 seed LSU in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday. The Tar Heels' chances of advancing will be better if point guard Ty Lawson returns from a toe injury, but his status remains a game-time decision. UNC would face the Gonzaga-Western Kentucky winner in Memphis in the Sweet 16, and No. 2 seed Oklahoma and No. 3 seed Syracuse are still alive in the bottom of the South bracket.

Connecticut, the No. 1 seed in the West Region, was a 56-point winner over No. 16 seed Chattanooga on Thursday. But the Huskies might face the most difficult road among the top seeds because the top six seeds in the West are still playing after the first round.

Connecticut plays No. 9 seed Texas A&M in Philadelphia on Saturday. The Washington-Purdue winner would await the Huskies in next week's regional semifinals in Glendale, Ariz.

Of course, if the second round is anything like Friday night's action, everything can change between now and then.



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