By Dan Shanoff
Page 2 columnist

3 'Cuse/14 Manhattan
Tip time: 12:15 p.m. ET (East/Boston): Since my entire bracket success is a title-game run by Syracuse, they better freakin' win. But how can you not want to see an intra-state upset?

7 St. Joe's/10 Auburn
Tip time: 12:25 p.m. ET (East/Tampa): One of those games on your bracket where you don't know (and, frankly, aren't inspired by) either team. A classic toss-up. Watch St. J's Jameer Nelson, though.

1 Kentucky/16 IUPUI
Tip time: 12:30 p.m. ET (Midwest/Nashville): Unless Kentucky is taking the afternoon off, here comes a stomping.

1 Texas/16 UNC-Asheville
Tip time: 12:30 p.m. ET (East/Birmingham): How can you not love the under-.500 Bulldogs, who won the 64-vs.-65 play-in game in OT. How's that for mojo?

6 Okla St/11 Penn
Tip time: 2:35 p.m. ET (East/Boston): The Cowboys have lost 8 of their last 12. But Penn's undefeated Ivy League record doesn't exactly give anyone the shivers. Except, maybe, Cornell.

2 Wake/15 E. Tenn St
Tip time: 2:45 p.m. ET (East/Tampa): Take a gander at the country's most underhyped All-American -- Wake's Josh Howard, an impossible matchup for ETSU.

8 LSU/9 Purdue
Tip time: 3 p.m. ET (South/B'ham): The Tigers may be the streaking, physical squad that can upset Texas -- if they don't play like "January LSU" and get thumped first.

8 Oregon/9 Utah
Tip time: 3 p.m. ET (Midwest/Nashville): If "The Simpsons" was made into a live-action movie, is there any question that Utah coach Rick Majerus would play "Comic Book Guy?" Speaking of comics, Ducks PG Luke Ridnour is some kind of super-hero.

Evening Set
A year ago, everyone had USC on their "Final Four sleeper" list; they got upended by UNC-Wilmington. The Seahawks are back (the Trojans are not), and the defending champ Terps better not take them as lightly as Southern Cal did.

Picks: Looking over my bracket for today: My gosh, it's all chalk -- not a single upset. That's not a good sign at all. ...

12:25 ET
Syracuse/Manhattan has tipped. Jaspers super-scorer Luis Flores is nasty, but 'Cuse all-world freshman Carmelo Anthony is nastier, including a couple jumpers and a lane-clearing dunk.

12:29 ET
Band Watch (a favorite thing in the Tourney Quickie): Syracuse joins the "rugby" bandwagon, orange base with a wide blue stripe across the chest.

12:32 ET
Manhattan's uniform tops are striking: Base green with a white outline along the sides and the shoulders. It almost makes the front of the jersey look like a little practice jersey. Gotta get me one of those.

12:38 ET
Auburn and St. Joe's tipped a couple minutes ago. Auburn is trying to pressure Hawks PG Jameer Nelson, but it's not all that effective.

Meanwhile, you've got to consider the on-location team pep-bands as integral to the Big Dance atmosphere as any buzzer-beater or upset.

Nice crowd in Boston today, too, as opposed to the empty afternoon arenas in Indianapolis and Oklahoma City yesterday.

12:41 ET
Auburn's Kyle Davis is putting on a dunking display. Ridiculous. Meanwhile, there's a constant damp spot on the court in Tampa due to some leaking from the arena roof. We'll see how that might affect the teams.

12:44 ET
Texas has tipped with NC-Asheville, and it ain't pretty early. Meanwhile, there's another No. 1 that's playing: Kentucky, having very little trouble with overmatched (but scrappy) IUPUI.

12:47 ET
Asheville has no answer for James Thomas, who does what he wants in the paint. He also does what he wants fashion-wise, with some attractive braids, extra-wide ("Ben Wallace-esque") wristbands and the highest socks you've seen. Are those over the knee?! Amazing!

12:50 ET
I'm feeling awful good about my Syracuse-to-the-title-game pick right now. (Oh, if THAT doesn't jinx it ...) Meanwhile, IUPUI gets about two hours of national TV time right now -- you'd think it would sport jerseys where you could actually read the player number. But it has the dark-number-on-dark-jersey thing, which I've never understood.

12:53 ET
A Manhattan player gave Carmelo a cross-body-block as he drove the basket. 'Melo stayed on his feet, and Konovelchick bounced off him onto the deck. That's how strong Anthony is.

12:57 ET
IUPUI band: Gold and maroon rugbys ... rugbys, did you have to ask? It's the pep-band uniform, come Tourney time.

IUPUI: Is that the only palindrome team in Division I? Hmmm ...

1:00 ET
Guaranteed to make some All-Hair team: Joseph Barber, a forward for Asheville. Platinum blonde, and he throws in the high socks for good measure.

1:10 ET
The first upset of the day is brewing (if you consider a 10 over a 7 an upset): Auburn with a double-digit lead over St. Joe's nearing halftime. A little bit of Auburn full-court pressure is going a long way.

1:17 ET
Halftime (or near it) in all four games. No. 1's Texas and Kentucky had huge leads, that have now settled down into more like commanding leads. Still, underdog Asheville and IUPUI are hanging around. Did the No. 1s go out too fast? The crowd in Birmingham is starting to come around to cheer for Asheville!

1:27 ET
So all four games are at halftime. Time to take a little stock: Kentucky is thumping IUPUI; Asheville, after early intimidation, closed the gap with Texas to 10 and has won over the Birmingham crowd; Auburn has got St. Joe's befuddled with a press and some nice dunks by skywalker Kyle Davis; and Manhattan is hanging around with Syracuse. And you know that "hanging around" is all you need to do, until the last four minutes.

1:39 ET
Back in play. Asheville apparently has no fear of Texas. Now, you can teach fearless, but you can't teach size, which is what's keeping Texas ahead right now.

1:43 ET
Now St. Joe's is showing a little pressure of its own, and Auburn can't take like it can give. I'm not sure I sense a tickle in the Tiger throats, but certainly paying attention to it.

1:50 ET
Games to watch: Syracuse holding off Manhattan and St. Joe's storming back on Auburn, which is folding like a cheap tent. Seems like holding a lead in the Tournament this year is much harder than creating one.

While watching St. Joe's come back on crumbling Auburn, you have to wonder if Boston College would have lost this lead (TIE GAME!!) ... or Seton Hall (a 13-0 St. J's run!) ... or Tennessee (well, maybe Tennessee).

1:59 ET
The Auburn mascot is wearing a "Superman" T-shirt, but its team isn't playing so super. St. Joe's is shooting better than 50 percent in the second half. But now that St. Joe's has come back, can it maintain the intensity? Or will Auburn wake up?

2:03 ET
Wow, Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez is high energy. This guy is going to make a great major-conference head coach, maybe as early as this offseason. He doesn't strike me as a SEC guy, but maybe Penn State? Just throwing it out there. He deserves a shot.

2:06 ET
Just caught a glimpse of Mary Anthony, Carmelo's mom, sporting an appropriately orange T-shirt and mouthing "That's my boy!" (Maybe my own mom is hitting "Refresh" at her desk, saying the same thing.)

2:14 ET
There's a perfect antidote to 1/16 snoozers: A taut back-and-forth matchup between a 10 (Auburn) and a 7 (St. Joe's). The Tigers owned the first half and the Hawks the second. Following the last TV timeout, this is the thriller to watch. (In the other non-1/16 game, Syracuse is cementing a lead late over Manhattan.)

2:23 ET
Syracuse wins, and as much as it would have been nice to see a Manhattan upset, I've got 'Cuse in my title game (a lot of people are sleeping them into the Final Four), so we're all breathing easy. As Jim Boeheim probably is, too. Remember when Syracuse had that awful loss to Richmond back in the late '80s? Of course, they didn't have Carmelo Anthony (17 pts) back then.

2:31 ET
Marquis Daniels! Coolly steps up with the clock winding down and hits not just a two to take the lead for Auburn -- but a THREE, from the top of the key, to go up two! This guy is the coolest player of the tourney so far.

2:33 ET
How clutch is St. Joe's Jameer Nelson! Ball in his hands with six seconds to go, he drives to the hoop, puts up a shot -- and is FOULED! With half a second on the clock, he sticks BOTH free throws. OT, baby. It's the most exciting game of the tournament yet.

2:39 ET
Most fans stopped paying attention about 10 minutes into these blowouts, but both Texas and Kentucky easily advances. UK will play the Utah/Oregon winner. Texas will play the Purdue/LSU winner. Oregon and LSU wouldn't be easy outs (not that I'm projecting or anything).

2:40 ET
Jameer Nelson OWNS overtime.

2:43 ET
And Auburn's Marquis Daniels is right there with Jameer Nelson as Mr. OT Clutch. Auburn by 1.

2:50 ET
Well, it looks like "10 over 7" is the new "12 over 5."

2:51 ET
Two possessions of botched execution on offense blew St. Joe's chances at beating Auburn, which pulled the seed upset and makes the SEC 2-0 on the day. St. Joe's Pat Carroll throws up an air-ball three at the buzzer as Auburn wins by two.

3:12 ET
Did you grab a breather? Because the late-afternoon set is underway. 11 Penn is confounding 6 Oklahoma State in Boston (but have to hit their shots to take advantage) ...

After a slow start, LSU (an official Quickie Bandwagon team) looks like it might be starting to heat up against Purdue in an 8/9 game ...

Utah and Oregon just tipped off in Nashville. Winner gets Kentucky, so it's almost like "You can have it!"

3:15 ET
Oregon's Luke Ridnour: He's All-Hair Team for sure (coming next week to Page 2).

3:19 ET
Penn coach Fran Dunphy has a moustache that is refreshing in these days of the image-conscious college-hoops coach.

3:24 ET
In Boston, the crowd is overwhelmingly pro-Penn. Don't know if they're just pro-underdog, anti-Oklahoma or what ...

3:37 ET
Who says Ivy League schools are so smart? Penn was caught with six players on the court and got slapped with a T at the end of the first half. Still, they are just a point behind Oklahoma State, and the Quakers are starting to grow on me.

3:47 ET
Utah's Tim Frost is sweatier than any player I've seen in the tournament so far. He's also got a tangled mop of hair, which has to make him a candidate for the All-Hair team. But he's also having his way on Oregon in the paint.

3:53 ET
Utah PG Marc Jackson is outplaying his Oregon counterpart Luke Ridnour, completely dictating the pace of the game in Utah's favor.

3:56 ET
Wake Forest freshman Eric Williams is a load  both on the weight scale and as a lane-clogger. East Tennessee State isn't having much fun in the paint, but are throwing a zone at Wake. Williams plays like a young Oliver Miller. (Is that actually harsh to say?)

4:03 ET
Penn's doing more than hanging around -- they're holding their own with Oklahoma State, unbothered by the Cowboys' tough D. That's almost as impressive as East Tennessee State staying within shouting distance of Wake Forest. A 15-over-2 upset brewing? Won't go there yet....

4:15 ET
Penn is just a few points down on Okla State, and we're looking at another thrilling 6/11 game finish, after yesterday's exciting C-Mich/Creighton (11 wins!) and S. Illinois/Mizzou (11 loses!) games.

4:23 ET
You know what's unlikely? That a sneaker brand that relies so heavily on street cred (And 1) sponsors a team with so little of it (Penn). But the Quakers' black unis are nice, with nice big numbers, which we love. Meanwhile, Penn knotted it up with OSU at 50 with 10 minutes to go. Love it.

4:39 ET
Instant fan-fave Penn is keeping it close, but Quickie Bandwagon team LSU is getting pounded, which doesn't bode well for my LSU-over-Texas pick for the second round. Whoops.

4:41 ET
If you look up "crusty" in the dictionary, there's gotta be a picture of Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton.

4:44 ET
There are two schools of thought about teams that almost make it the year before: (1) They come back the next year, experience under their belt, and do better (see Maryland, from the Final Four in '01 to the title in '02). Then there's (2) They come back next year, a little more cocky, and they get surprised in the first round (see Oregon, from the Elite Eight last year to the ropes vs. Utah at the moment).

4:47 ET
When the announcer says "Brad Nuckles" for East Tennessee State, I kind of giggle. Maybe it's just the result of cramming so many games in my system. Nah, couldn't be that ... By the way, ETSU is hanging in there against Wake!

4:49 ET
Just flipped through the Purdue-LSU game, which LSU is currently losing by 18. Then I scanned my bracket, just to punish myself by staring at how I put LSU in the Elite Eight. Oy.

4:58 ET
How is ETSU still in this game with Wake? A 15 keeping up with a 2? (By the way, there's still more than 10 minutes left, which is more than enough time for Wake to blow them off the court.) Basically, Wake has been stunned into submission. But WF seems to be coming alive as I type this, so we'll see where we stand in a few minutes.

5:11 ET
ETSU tied up with Wake?? With 4:30 to play?? You've got to be kidding me. It's at this point that the 2 seed feels the throat-tickle and the 15 seed figures, "Why not us?"

5:18 ET
As someone just noted to me, "Oregon was living on borrowed time." And when Luke Ridnour flew into Nick Jacobson when Jacobsen was shooting a 3, that time ran out. Jacobson hit two of three, Oregon blew two chances at a last-second game-winner, and the Utes advance.

5:22 ET
Purdue just put the thumping on LSU, and finally that game came to a merciful end. The Boilermakers are going to give Texas a game on Sunday, make no mistake.

5:25 ET
ETSU and Wake. ETSU's Tim Smith just hit a 3 on a second-chance shot to tie it up with Wake! With less than 30 seconds to play! And I'm not sitting down anymore!

5:34 ET
Down two in the final seconds, ETSU's Tim Smith -- a hero a minute ago -- took a long 3 with Josh Howard in his face and missed it, rather than drive (his specialty). And that's the difference between an upset worthy of great historical legacy and just another close win for a top-ranked team.

5:40 ET
The unlikely run by 15-seed ETSU to the final seconds of its game with 2-seed Wake Forest was the ultimate cap to a great pair of afternoon sessions covering eight games.

There was one "real" upset (10 Auburn over 7 St. Joe's in an OT thriller preceding the ETSU/WF game that makes Tampa the hottest pod by far) and a pair of 9-over-8 "upsets" (Utah over Oregon, Purdue over LSU). Two No. 1s (Kentucky, Texas) blitzed a pair of 16s and Manhattan's dream of a 14/3 upset over Syracuse fell short.

Heading into the night session -- and the weekend's second-round games -- the Tournament might lack for volume of upsets, but not for close, exciting finishes.