Where are thou, upsets?
Et tu, buzzer-beaters?
The things we love most about this tournament were in relatively short supply today. We'll just have to hang our big hats (and Vince Gill's) on Duke-Belmont. But history tells us that a relatively sedate first day is usually followed by a wild and wacky second day full of shocks and fantastic finishes.
Belmont came to D.C. with the attitude I wish every 15th seed had - unafraid of a big-time team and carrying plenty of belief in their own game. They didn't fell compelled to let the air out of the ball when it wasn't their personality. They hustled, jacked up threes and stayed in the Dookies' faces. If only somebody had gone to the ball when they had it under Duke's basket with three seconds left - talk about the wrong time to have an offensive breakdown.
But as a lifelong Celtic fan, it was great to see Gerald Henderson make the coast-to-coast dash that saved the Blue Devils. Now he can compete with his dad's steal at the Forum that bailed the Celts out against the Lakers in the '84 Finals.
I'm still looking for some Petey Sessoms Award nominees, however, a tradition from my old blog. Petey was a swingman for Old Dominion who impressed the hell out of one of my colleagues iat the '92 tournament when he threw down 30 points in a first-round loss at Worcester. Three years later, there we all were in the sports department cheering for him on a magical Friday night when he and his 35 points willed the Monarchs to a triple-OT upset of third-seeded Villanova. Petey just seemed to symbolize the relatively unknown player from a low seed who could carry his team to a major upset. I'm all ears when it comes to nominees, folks.
A few odds and ends from Day 1:
* Duke goes out Saturday. Arizona did a great job taking away Joe Alexander, but West Virginia found plenty of offensive firepower elsewhere on the court. Disciplined offense and tenacious perimeter defense are awfully hard to beat.
* So much for everybody's upset pick. Michigan State stayed cool when Temple took Drew Nietzel away, and the Owls couldn't quite compensate for the defensive job on Dionte Christmas.
* If only Norman Dale could've come out with the tape measure and shown some of these teams the baskets are 10 feet high, just like they are everywhere else. Kent State scoring 10 points in the first half? Mississippi Valley State managing only 29 in 40 minutes?
* Have Xavier coach Sean Miller and Jimmy Kimmel ever been photographed together? Well, Jay Wright at Villanova looks like a better-dressed Kimmel. Wonder if either's wife ever recorded "I @#$%ed Dick Vitale."
* My initial review of March Madness On Demand (the tool that allowed me to live-blog for SI.com tonight - Channel 12 in Providence didn't pick up West Virginia-Arizona until early in the second half): Logging on was easier than I anticipated, with a brief wait this afternoon and none tonight. The picture is fine, despite the occasional freeze after first signing on. My only issue was with the sound - it sounded like I was on a descending plane while fighting a bad cold, thankfully without my ears actually popping. I had no sense of the crowd noise in the arena.
* Looking ahead to Saturday (after a 13-3 Day 1): I stand by Notre Dame over Wazzu. Kansas rolls UNLV. Wisconsin handles Kansas State easily. Michigan State grinds Pittsburgh. Stanford tops Marquette. UCLA takes a rock fight against Texas A&M. Xavier nips Purdue. And West Virginia...well, I'm not sure beating Duke would be that big an upset.