After watching last week's Horizon League championship game, I considered Cleveland State as mentally tough a team as I've seen all year. The Vikings could not throw the ball in the ocean in the last five minutes, yet still found a way to hold on and upset Butler, stealing somebody's at-large bid.
Wake Forest has not been nearly the same team the past two months as the one that ran off a 16-0 start and topped the AP poll. Too young, too inconsistent, despite all that talent and athleticism (damn, Al-Farouq Aminu is a stud).
So should the dismantling we witnessed have been all that big a shock? I'm not sure.
Cedric Jackson pulled into the lead for the Stephen Curry Award (just ahead of Siena's Ronald Moore and his late three-point heroics) with a commanding performance from the start. Between 19 points, eight assists and that alley-oop you'll be seeing all weekend, he owned Wake like Ken "Mouse" McFadden owned Indiana in State's last trip to the NCAAs 23 years ago.
The Vikes may have had 13 shots fired back in their faces, but they harassed the Demon Deacons into 18 turnovers. Should be a pretty entertaining 12-13 slugfest with Arizona Sunday.
A few more thoughts:
* This was one of those years where it took until late Friday night for the tournament to really sizzle, between Cleveland State and the overtime Ohio State-Siena and Florida State-Wisconsin wars. Stop wondering out loud when the OTs, upsets and buzzer-beaters will show up. What, you didn't get enough late-night hoops after the Syracuse-UConn marathon last week?
* On almost any other tournament day, I'd be leading off by raving about North Dakota State's Ben Woodside. It wasn't just the 37 points, the marksmanship or the hustle. He was the sand in Kansas' shorts all day. On a day when Cole Aldrich's dominance inside proved to be the difference, Woodside was the one person in the building utterly unintimidated - he's my Player of the Day.
* I feel even better about picking Arizona State for my Elite Eight after Temple completely stuffed All-America James Harden (nine points on 1-for-8 shooting). Dan Glasser and Jeff Pendergraph each picked a pretty good day to throw down 22 points.
* Sucks to be a Boston College fan tonight. The hoop Eagles were ground to dust by USC and Taj Gibson's 10-for-10 shooting from the field, while the defending national hockey champs' season, in all likelihood is over. That team from the other end of Commonwealth Avenue (modesty prevents me from naming which one) scored three goals within 44 seconds midway through the third period and ousted BC from the Hockey East semifinals.
* You're on warning, Pittsburgh. Lavance Fields and DeJuan Blair bailed y'all out late, but that turnover-laden performance won't cut it again from here on in.
* Watching Stephen F. Austin coach Danny Kaspar on the sideline for one of the ugliest tournament games ever (Syracuse wouldn't have beaten 0-for-Big East DePaul with that weak effort), I felt relieved that ex-Dubya attorney general Alberto Gonzales has finally found gainful employment.