Hero of the Second Round: Patrick O’Bryant, Bradley. The luck of the Irish didn’t run out on St. Patrick’s Day for O’Bryant. He scored 28 points in the Braves’ second-round upset of Pittsburgh, including a perfect six-for-six from the free-throw line in the final . O’Bryant plays as if he’s just realizing that he’s 7-feet tall and beginning to discover his talent. It was in full bloom on Sunday.
Goat of the Second Round: NC State’s 3-point shooters. You can’t run the Princeton offense very well when you shoot 3-for-22 from behind the arc. Texas scores an impressive win Sunday after a shaky first-round victory.
Game of the Second Round: LSU’s 58-57 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday. Darrel Mitchell’s game-winner followed Acie Law’s jumper that had given the Aggies a two-point lead. This one was a battle on both ends of the floor.
Other Notes: UCLA held off Alabama despite shooting an atrocious 5-for-13 from the line. … Villanova never trailed against Arizona on Sunday and still only won by four points. … Gonzaga made the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001 after three straight appearances between 1999 and 2001.
Conference Roundup: That sucking sound is the air coming out of the Big Ten. After having the second-most bids in the tournament, the conference is shut out of the Sweet 16. Of its six teams, three lost in the first round, and four lost to lower-seeded teams. You could argue that only Indiana redeemed itself, getting to the second round and playing Gonzaga tough. Meanwhile, the MissouriValley vindicated itself by placing two of its four teams into the Sweet 16, beating two Big East teams, a Big 12 team and an SEC team to get there. Even Billy Packer conceded the performance of the mid-majors, when he pointed out that the Valley and the Colonial leagues had as many teams in the Sweet 16 (three) as the ACC and Big 12.
The full tally: Big East 4, Pac 10 2, ACC 2, SEC 2, Missouri Valley 2, Big 12 1, Conference USA 1, West Coast 1, Colonial 1. In other words, mid-majors snagged five of the 16 spots.
Player to Watch: Marcus Williams, Connecticut. It’s becoming abundantly clear that the Huskies look to Williams when the game is on the line. The knock on Connecticut has been the lack of a step-up player, but Williams was that guy in victories over Albany and Kentucky. In a Washington bracket that has lost seeds 2, 3, and 4, the Huskies are in the driver’s seat to get to Indianapolis, and Williams is the one with the keys.
Game to Watch: Several good ones on tap for Thursday and Friday. Two that look particularly appealing are Gonzaga-UCLA and Villanova-BostonCollege. The Bruins, traditionally a high-scoring team, are built around defense this year, and it will be interesting to see what they try to do to stop Adam Morrison. ‘Nova and BC have a history from the Eagles’ days in the Big East, and the Wildcats had trouble with Arizona’s front line Sunday. BC’s is even better, though the Eagles may not have quite the team speed that Arizona did.