Lots to discuss, so let's to it...
The Madness Expands
- One of the first games of the day on Saturday provided a good deal of drama and excitement, as Georgetown and Louisville battle back and forth in a tight game where the Hoyas came out on top with the Big East regular-season title, 55-52, with some of the ghosts of the 1980s glory days in attendance in D.C.
- The annual Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron Indoor Stadium had some somber overtones going into Saturday night with the murder of UNC student body president Eve Carson still fresh on the minds of Chapel Hill denizens. After Carson's memory was honored, the Blue Devils and Tarheels provided a two-hour-plus outlet that saw Roy Williams' squad virtually own Coach K's five right from the opening tip, coming out of Durham with a 76-68 win. The 'Heels saw three scorers in double figures (Danny Green with 18, and Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough with 16 apiece).
- Memphis scored their third consecutive 30-win season on Saturday with a 94-56 bashing of UAB at home. The Tigers became only the second team to clinch a 30 threepeat in NCAA Division I history (Kentucky did it twice – in the late 1940s and during the Rick Pitino-Tubby Smith glory days of the late 1990s.)
- Texas clinched the Big 12 regular-season title with a 74-57 win over Oklahoma State; the clincher was made possible in part by D.J. Augustin's 20 points.
- Two days after getting help from a controversial blocking call against Stanford, UCLA got more help from the zebras as they proclaimed that Josh Shipp's game-winning basket went over the backboard but stayed in bounds. That call made all the difference in the Bruins' 81-80 win over Cal.
Tickets punched, bubbles stay afloat
- An interesting, yet dominating feature of UNC Asheville's squad this season has been a 7-foot-7 (we are NOT making this up) center named Kenny George. But, Winthrop played David to the Bulldogs' Goliath as the Eagles scored their eighth Big South Conference title and NCAA tourney bid in the last decade, 66-48.
- Belmont pulled a Chicago Bulls-style threepeat in the Atlantic Sun championship with a 79-61 win over Jacksonville. From here to the Big Dance, three times over...
- Austin Peay will be headed to the Tourney and their faithful will shout "Let's Go Peay" for the first time since 2003, as the Governors routed Tennessee State, 82-64 to win the Ohio Valley Conference championship.
- Drake, a surprise team this past season, clinched their first NCAA appearance since 1971 in a 79-49 no-doubter over Illinois State to win the championship of the Missouri Valley Conference.
- Three teams who had slim hopes of making it into the NCAA tournament at the start of Saturday's action saw their chances improve somewhat by day's end: Xavier defeated Richmond, 86-61, while Syracuse and Villanova also kept their aspirations alive with wins over Marquette and Providence, respectively.
On to the pros
- Even without star center Yao Ming, the Houston Rockets continue to make some significant down the stretch in the NBA. Further edification came on Saturday with a 106-96 win over the New Orleans Hornets to extend their winning streak to eighteen games.
- Some pundits looked ready called the Phoenix Suns' experiment with dominating-but-aging center Shaquille O'Neal an utter failure, as they had won only four games since the Diesel joined the lineup last month and virtually struggled from the beginning. However, the Big Aristotle manged to grab 16 rebounds and score 14 in the Suns' 94-87 win over the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs.
- Kevin Garnett put his name into the record books on Saturday night, as he became the 32nd player to score 20,000 points for his career and only the fourth active player to do so. KG's 15 points helped the Boston Celtics in their 119-89 rout of the Memphis Grizzlies.
- While the Detroit Pistons didn't play until Sunday night, they did get the Eastern Conference's second playoff spot thanks to a 111-91 win over the New Jersey Nets.
Back to March Madness ... sorta
- Remember George Mason when they upset Connecticut to reach the Final Four year before last? Well, something akin to that happened in Merry Olde England on Saturday, as Barnsley of the Football League Championship (one step away from the Premiership) nabbed a huge upset of Chelsea 1-0. It was by that same score that Manchester United fell to Portsmouth.
- Liverpool shut out Newcastle 3-0, with two quick Reds tallies before halftime. But, Everton F.C. tied them up for fourth place with a 1-0 win away at Sunderland.
- All the attention going into Sunday's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was on Carl Edwards after the tomfoolery surrounding his car. Edwards looked to have a threepeat in mind, but after his transmission blew 45 laps from the finish, Kyle Busch managed to take the checkered flag in the Kobalt Tools 500, scoring Toyota's first ever Sprint Cup win and the first for a foreign car maker since Jaguar in 1954. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart finished not far behind, but soon talked smack about the Goodyear tires on his car.
- It's like he never left; Aussie Casey Stoner took the win in MotoGP's 2008 season opener in the dark of Qatar.
Odds and Sods
- Boston Red Sox ace pitcher Josh Beckett fell off the mound before Saturday's spring training, suffering back spasms. Beckett wound up not pitching that day and team doctors advised to skip his next exhibition start. There is some hope that Beckett would get better before the season opener in Japan later this month against the Oakland Athletics
- How's this for sportsmanship? After playing five hours of hockey virtually non-stop, two teams in Michigan wound up sharing their state's title. Marquette High School and St. Mary's Preparatory of Orchard Lake (a Detroit suburb) played the regulation three periods and an astounding eight overtimes – EIGHT OVERTIMES, JERRY!!! – and were preparing for a ninth when the decree came that both schools would share the Division 1 Michigan state ice hockey championship, as players from both teams were virtually wiped out.
The D's are back
- Georgetown coach John Thompson III: here's hoping he has as much success this year as his papa did back in the day...
- We go from the best of sportmanship to none at all: In suburban Piitsburgh, the Jeannette High School boy's basketball team had just defeated Pittsburgh North Catholic in a state quarterfinal game. Afterwards, Jeannette's Terrelle Pryor (yes, the same who's also a college football prospect) was involved in an altercation near the NC locker room (see our Hot Links section). Word is that Pryor would face disciplinary action (a suspension) for the team's semifinal game and the state championship at Penn State. Way to up yer college prospects, Sparky...
That's all for this week
Until next week, as always, let's try to be good sports...