NCAA Saturday Open Thread - UCLA, Bulldogs, And Mid-Majors

36 teams are done, and we are ready for the games that will determine the teams that go on to the Sweet 16. Eight games today begin at

UCLA's 78-76 win Thursday over Michigan St. means the Pac-10 has a team in the hunt for one of those Sweet 16 spots today. The Bruins (23-10) face Florida (27-7) this morning, at 11:45 AM PDT, and it's on CBS.

The Bruins may have chalked up their 100th. Tournament win in their own minds a little too soon Thursday, having used a 15-2 run to open a 23 point lead over the Spartans, only to see a barrage of Michigan St. three pointers spark a rally that brought them back within one point, before the Bruins put away the 78-76 win. UCLA will need a complete game, and better shooting on both free throws and three pointers, in order to overcome the Gators, regular season SEC Champions.

Those mid-major Bulldogs are at it again as well, with both Butler, who advanced to last year's NCAA championship game, and Gonzaga, easily the most national brand of anything ever to come out of Spokane, in big games tonight.

Butler (24-9), the Horizon Conference Champion, is in deep waters, against Pittsburg (28-5), who finished first in the Big East in the regular season, and the #1 seed in the Southeast region. The Panthers are only 4-3 of in the last month, though. The Bulldogs are on a roll, having won 10 straight games, including Thursday's 60-58 win over Old Dominion on Matt Howard's buzzer beating putback. TBS has the game this afternoon at 4:10.

Gonzaga (25-9), Champions of the West Coast Conference, takes on another Western team, BYU. The Cougars (31-4), regular season champions of the Mt. West, of course feature Jimmer Fredette, who dropped 32 points on the Terriers, as BYU advanced past Wofford 74-66, continuing their post-season drive absent center Brandon Davies. The 'Zags, only a #11 seed, are on a 10 game roll, did what they do Thursday, destroying an over-rated St. Johns (21-12) team out of the Big East Thursday 86-71, killing the Red Storm 41-18 on the boards. CBS has the 4:45 game that will ensure there is a team from the West in the Southeast Regionals, even if UCLA can't overcome Florida.

Mid-Majors Move On

The surprise story of the day Thursday, which will continue today, and on to San Antonio next Friday, is the march of the Mid-Majors, as in addition to the various Bulldogs, both the Richmond Spiders (28-7) and the Morehead St. Eagles (25-9) also advanced. And since Richmond and Morehead St. meet today, at 2:15 on CBS, it guarantees that either a #12 or a #13 seed will be in the the Sweet 16.

The Eagles' Demonte Harper drilled a three pointer with 4.2 seconds left to dispose of Louisville (25-10), another Big East team regarded highly enough to have received a fourth seed.

The Spiders' Kevin Anderson, who scored a game high 25 points, scored all 5 of the points Richmond scored in the last 5 minutes of the game, as they held off Vanderbilt (23-11) 69-66. The Commodores, and Oregon product Brad Tinsley, who finished tied for third in the SEC in the regular season, wound up losing 5 of their last 8 games.

Despite their low seeds, the Cinderella in the Southwest Regional will be a hot team, as both Morehead St., the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament winners, and Richmond, who won the Atlantic-14 Tournament, have both won 12 of their last 13 games.

On last mid-major interest that is also a west coast interest is the West Regional's second seed. Mt. West Tournament Champion San Diego St. (33-2) meets Temple (26-10), the runner up this year in the 14 Member Atlantic 10, at 3:10 on TNT. The Aztecs began their NCAA Tournament run by pulling away from Big Sky Champion Northern Colorado for a 68-50 win, behind double doubles from both Billy White and Kawhi Leonard, while the Owls got an off-balance 18 foot jumper by Juan Fernandez with less than a second left to defeat Penn St. 66-64.

Here's the complete broadcast schedule for the day (all times adjusted to be PDT):

Saturday March 19, 2011
Time Away Home National
9:15 am West Virginia #5 Kentucky #4 CBS    
11:45 am UCLA #7 Florida #2 CBS    
2:15 pm Morehead St. #13 Richmond #12 CBS    
3:10 pm Temple #7 San Diego St. #2 TNT    
4:10 pm Butler #8 Pittsburgh #1 TBS    
4:45 pm Gonzaga #11 BYU #3 CBS    
5:40 pm Kansas St. #5 Wisconsin #4 TNT    
6:40 pm Cincinnati #6 Connecticut #3 TBS    

 

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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