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March 15, 2007

Basketball gods playing favorites

You didn't miss much while you were at work Thursday.

If you can't remember the last time that could be said of the early games in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, well, neither can I.

But there was nary an upset to be found early Thursday, though No. 11 seed VCU through in a "more mild than you realize" upset of sixth-seeded Duke later.

The first game to tip off on Thursday was Davidson-Maryland. Davidson hung in for a while, but eventually the 13th-seeded Wildcats got tired and the Terrapins rushed past them, 82-70.

Twelfth-seeded Old Dominion led fifth-seeded Butler at the half, but a cold-shooting streak for the Monarchs (six-plus minutes without a bucket) and a few big 3-pointers from the Bulldogs and ODU was on ice. It wound up 57-46, and the game tape is not on its way to the Hall of Fame.

Penn, the Ivy League champ and a No. 14 seed, made a run at Texas A&M and actually held a lead briefly in the second half. Then the roof caved in, and the Aggies rolled 68-52.

There really wasn't much to get excited about. Davidson freshman guard Stephen Curry - son of former NBA player Dell Curry - showed that he has big things to come with 30 points against the Terps. Outside of that you could have napped through the early action. No team blew up a bracket; every higher seed prevailed in the first eight games.

Two sixth seeds, Louisville and Vanderbilt, were two of Thursday's most impressive teams. The Cardinals and the Commodores dominated their opponents from the outset.

Rick Pitino's squad blasted Stanford 78-58. The Cardinals had five players score in double figures; the Cardinal pulled a virtual no-show.

Somewhere Jim Boeheim is wailing again about the injustice of it all. Stanford was one of the last teams into the field, and his Syracuse team that went 10-6 in the Big East was left on the NIT scrap heap.

Vanderbilt was unstoppable in the first half. The Commodores rained 3-pointers down upon George Washington to the point Colonials coach Karl Hobbs was ready to throw himself into the Potomac.

Vandy was cold-blooded in a 77-44 triumph, the second biggest rout of the first eight games played in the tournament (Georgetown throttled Belmont). Redshirt freshman George Drake had tied his season high of eight points less than 7 minutes into the game. Vandy hit 11 of its first 22 3-point attempts, led 45-20 at the half and never let the score get any closer.

At least the 3-6 matchups in the second round look very intriguing. Washington State will play much better defense than George Washington. But Vanderbilt is a little more explosive than the Cougars' first-round opponent, Oral Roberts.

Texas A&M and Louisville, on the other hand, should make the scoreboard operator's thumbs sore. It will be an up-tempo affair played in the 70- to 80-point range.

As for Friday's games while you're at work, well, doesn't something interesting have to happen? The longer we go without a major upset, the more some unsuspecting high seed will be ripe for it. We want it. We need it. It's March Madness, not March Mildness.

Something tells me Friday might be a good day to play hooky.

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