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Spring Silliness finally arrives (what, we can't use "MM" no more?)
- Even without their star big man Kevin Love and his PIC Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to kick boute, UCLA managed to win the Pac 10 title, 67-64, thanks to 28 points from Darren Collison. UCLA's other reward was the #1 seed in the West Regional.
- The Pitt Panthers came into Saturday night's Big East championship tilt with memories of last year's painful loss to Georgetown still fresh in their minds. In a dogfight, Pitt upended the Hoyas' top-seed aspirations, 74-65. Pitt got the fourth seed in the South, while the Hoyas are #2 in the Midwest.
- North Carolina gained the overall top seed in the NCAA tournament with an 86-81 win over Clemson in the ACC championship. Tyler Hansbrough doubled his pleasure with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Wayne Ellington notched 24. All was not lost for the Tigers, though, as they earned the #5 seed in the Midwest regional.
- Kansas' Jayhawks became the top dog in the Midwest regional with an 84-74 Big 12 clincher over Texas, who became the number two in the South.
- It was a whirlwind weekend for Georgia's men's hoops squad, in more ways than one. The Bulldogs played three games in 36 hours en route to the SEC championship, beating Kentucky in overtime 60-56 early Saturday, Mississippi State 64-60, and the whodathunkit championship win, 66-57 over Arkansas. All this despite finishing only 4-12 during the regular season in conference play.
- The Bulldogs-Wildcats game was originally scheduled for Friday night, but a tornado that touched down in downtown Atlanta did some damage to the Georgia Dome and delayed the MSU-Alabama game for just over an hour. The remainder of the tourney was moved to the smaller-capacity Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Georgia Tech.
- How dismal was the Big Ten in 2007-08? Wisconsin, the conference champ by virtue of a 61-48 win over Illinois, did no better than a #3 seed in the Midwest regional.
- Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 26 points as Memphis capped an amazing season with a 77-51 rout of Tulsa in the Conference USA championship.
- Defending finalists Florida and Ohio State were not inserted into this year's field, so there'll be a new head for the NC2A crown in 2008.
- The rest of the conference champions who received automatic bids over the weekend:
- Patriot League: American (first-ever trip to the tourney)
- Mid-American Conference: Kent State
- SWAC: Mississippi Valley State
- WAC: Boise State (defeated New Mexico State 107-102 in triple OT in maybe the thrillingest final of the whole weekend)
- America East: UMBC (first-ever tourney appearance)
- Big West: Cal State Fullerton (first appearance since 1978)
- Mountain West: UNLV
- Atlantic 10: Temple (first appearance since John Chaney was the coach)
- Southland: UT-Arlington
- MEAC: Coppin State (the first-ever 20-loss team to make the field)
- CAA: George Mason (can you say threepeat?)
On to the pros
- Back when the Houston Rockets' winning streak began on January 27, the New England Patriots were still undefeated, as were Memphis (Tigers, not Grizzlies). Even more impressive is that the job has been done without Yao Ming and they have since shot up from two spots out of the NBA's Western Conference playoffs to the very top. On Sunday, the ascent was completed, as Rafer Alston led the way with 31 points in a 104-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
- The Detroit Pistons held on to the second spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to some help off the bench; Jarvis Hayes scored 29 points, roughly half as many as Chris Paul, in the Pistons' 105-84 rout of the New Orleans Hornets.
- Staying in the East, Dwight Howard got 18 and 12 (points and boards, respectively) and an unlikely backcourt tandem of Maurice Green and Keith Bogans combined for 30 points and 11-14 from the floor (Bogans' nine points came from off the pine) in the Orlando Magic's 122-111 win over the Indiana Pacers. The Magic clinched the third playoff spot in the East in the process.
Across the pond
- Deadlock returned to the top of the Premiership table as Arsenal's Kolo Toure salvaged a draw in the 85th minute against Middlesbrough. Meanwhile, Manchester United got three points to seize the top spot in a 1-0 shutout away at Derby County.
- It's shaping up to be a big Easter Sunday in the FAPL, as both matches pit the "Big Four" clubs against each other (ManU play host to Liverpool, while Chelsea and their London rival Arsenal will square off at Stamford Bridge). Look for reviews of those matches next week...
- Jeff Burton brought home the groceries and led Richard Childress Racing to a podium sweep (OK, it's not the other series that kicked off this past weekend) in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer followed close behind, while rookie driver Aric Almirola turned in a surprising 8th place finish and Dale Jarrett drove off into the sunset, finishing 37th in his final Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup race.
- Formula 1 got its 2008 schedule off with a bang as last year's rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton took the checkered (chequered) flag in the Australian Grand Prix.
Odds and Sods
- Major League Baseball continued the expansion of the game into terra incognita, as the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers competed in the first MLB game ever played in China. The two teams ended the game tied at three runs apiece, but it was assured that a good time was had by all. The next time west meets east will be next week, when the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics play two in Tokyo, Japan.
- Compared to the Rockets' streak, Tiger Woods' run of good luck on the links makes up in heft for what it lacks in longevity. Tiger won his fourth consecutive event of the PGA TOUR season with a 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
- A day after the aforementioned twister tore through the ATL, Atlanta Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a second-round pick in this year's draft. The deal, however, is pending the smoothing of any wrinkles in Hall's deal.
A couple of D's on SPD
Anyone who is Irish, as this column is being written in the dying hours of St. Patrick's Day 2008. I'm not Irish, but Erin Go Bragh! May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be at your head, and may you get half an hour before the Old Boy knows you're dead. (That's an Irish blessing, brah)
Tennessee Titans running back LenDale White, who was arrested over the weekend in Denver on charges of destruction of property, resisting arrest, and what is being termed as "disobedience to a lawful order/interference". Another YKW with poor judgment in the NFL; maybe the Bengals could make a trade for him ;-)
That's all for this week
The AWIR will join the Easter Bunny in March Madness, so until then, let's all be good sports...