Saturday Is Day One

By Jeff Lippman - March 22, 2008

Like a 50's middle school sock hop, the boys are on one side of the dance floor and the girls on the other. And never the two shall meet.

The men have been dancing for days. It's the ladies turn to cut a rug.

Saturday sees 16 First Round games, the first exit on the long highway to Tampa. All the action starts at noon with two games, a battle for Texas and an ACC/Big 12 showdown.

All the first round games have been predicted, but that doesn't mean there isn't lots to talk about.

Saturday's Action:

Oklahoma City Regional

UT-San Antonio (15) vs. Texas A&M (2) - Baton Rouge, La. - Noon
If everything is bigger in Texas, one has to wonder whether they can bring that notion to the Bayou.

Gary Blair's A&M squad started the year off slow after winning the outright Big 12 regular season title last season. They were supposed to be an elite team, but after losing four of their first five Big 12 contests, they were anything but.

Fast forward to now and the Aggies are one of the hottest teams in the nation after winning the Big 12 Tournament title over a solid Oklahoma State team. With players like All-Big 12 First Team forward Danielle Gant, All-Big 12 First Team and Big 12 Tournament MOP Takia Starks and All-Big 12 Second Team guard A'Quonesia Franklin, I expect the Aggies to keep on rolling.

This may be the Roadrunners first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but it should be a short one.

Hartford (10) vs. Syracuse (7) - Baton Rouge, La. - 2 p.m.
Syracuse is making just its second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 20 years and they hope to make it a good one. And although I picked the upset in this game, Big East Coach of the Year Quentin Hillsman and his two freshman phenoms, Tasha Harris and Erica Morrow, will have his troops ready.

But I picked the Hartford Hawks in this one and I'm sticking to it. Syracuse will be back, don't worry, but the Hawks have a special team this year. The Hawks have two First Team All-Conference performers in center Danielle Hood and forward Erica Beverly and a third player, guard Lisa Etienne, was the America East Tournament's Most Outstanding Player and is peaking now.

It's funny to think, but as the Hawks have been to three NCAA Tournaments in four seasons, they have much more experience than the major conference Orange. And coach Jennifer Rizzotti knows a thing or two about winning. She was a member of Connecticut's 1995 National Championship team and won the Wade Trophy in her next season as the Player of the Year.

Greensboro Regional

Georgia Tech (10) vs. Iowa State (7) - Des Moines, Iowa - noon
Although we've already studied this game, there is one thing to pay close attention to.

I truly believe that Georgia Tech is the better team and will win this game, however, Iowa State is basically playing a home game in Des Moines. Doesn't seem fair to the Buzz, it's not like ISU's play this season or in the Big 12 Tournament earned them home-court advantage, or anything.

I'm still going with Tech, how 'bout that.

Auburn (11) vs. George Washington (6) - Stanford, Calif. - 2 p.m.
I'm picking the SEC over the A-10 here.

Call me an Auburn-lover, but I still think Nell Fortner and DeWanna Bonner have the goods to get it done over an overrated-all-season GW squad.

George Washington's point guard, senior Kim Beck, is the real deal, however, and will do everything in her power to advance in her last season as a Colonial.

I'm not saying that George Washington won't win, I'm just picking the upset. That's all. Gotta pick some upsets every now and again.

Robert Morris (15) vs. Rutgers (2) - Des Moines, Iowa - 2 p.m.
Robert Morris averaged 74 points scored per game this season. That won't happen against Rutgers.

I'm imagining a final score in the 40s for the Colonials, as the Scarlet Knights advance in their quest to get to the Elite Eight and another battle against Connecticut.

San Diego (14) vs. Cal (3) - Stanford, Calif. - 4 p.m.
This could end up being a better game than most expect. It's a battle of California and it takes place in the Golden State at the Golden Gate in the Bay Area. That makes it a home game for Cal, as the Toreros must travel all the way from the state's southern tip.

The Torero men advanced yesterday by beating Connecticut and I wouldn't put it past the women to pull the upset either. I expect that Cal takes this game with their three junior stars leading the way, but watch out for San Diego's point guard Amanda Rego, who can drop dimes all over the court.

Spokane Regional

Fresno State (14) vs. Baylor (3) - Albuquerque, N.M. - 2 p.m.
Baylor has been struggling as of late, failing to secure the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and then failing to win the Tournament altogether and not even making the final. With that said, the Bears will regroup and should be able to beat back their opponent today.

Wyoming (11) vs. Pitt (6) - Albuquerque, N.M. - 4 p.m.
The Panthers have to travel a lot further than the Cowgirls, and I think that could be the difference in this one.

It is the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the Cowgirls, but just the second for Pitt. The Panthers won one game and lost one game in last year's tournament. They have the senior experience in Mallorie Winn and Marcedes Walker, but I think the Cinderella can get it done today.

New Mexico (12) vs. West Virginia (5) - Albuquerque, N.M. - 8:30 p.m.
Led by the sweet shooting of Meg Bulger - the sister of quarterback Mark Bulger - and LaQuita Owens, the Lady Mountaineers should make short work of New Mexico.

Cleveland State (15) vs. Stanford (2) - Stanford, Calif. - 8:30 p.m.
Wow, Cleveland State, I know you are a 15-seed, but jeez. You'd think the selection committee would have a little more respect.

Not only do the Vikings meet the best possible two seed - Stanford really deserved a top seed - they have to meet them on their home court!

That sucks, Vikings.

Montana (13) vs. Vanderbilt (4) - Albuquerque, N.M. - 10:30 p.m.
See here for explanation of this one...

Just so you know, I'm picking Montana.

Western Kentucky (10) vs. UTEP (7) - Stanford, Calif. - 10:30 p.m.
This might be the matchup the nation knows least about. So let's shine some light on the subject.

Well, Western Kentucky is making its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance and UTEP is making just its first. But, the Miners are ranked in the AP at No. 23. Western Kentucky finished the season with a record of 26-7, but the Miners finished at 27-3. And I don't expect them to suffer their fourth loss today.

New Orleans Regional

East Tennessee State (14) vs. Oklahoma State (3) - Des Moines, Iowa - 8 p.m.
Don't expect any upsets in this one. The champions of the Big 12 meet the champions of the Atlantic Sun and I like the Big 12's chances in that battle. Andrea Riley will run all over the Buccaneers. She scores at least 20 and her team wins by at least the same margin.

DePaul (10) vs. Marist (7) - Baton Rouge, La. - 8 p.m.
What a great game between fairly unknowns!

The Blue Demons were one incredible Ketia Swanier lay up away from being the second team to defeat Connecticut this season a few weeks ago. The Red Foxes were the darlings of last year's tournament, making it all the way to the Sweet 16. Almost all of the pieces are back for Brian Giorgis' squad, but it the missing piece that will hurt the most. Point guard Alisa Kresge didn't do much scoring for Marist last season, but she was their heart and soul in the Tournament. And eventhough Meg Dahlman and sophomore Rachele Fitz are great players, they will miss Kresge's leadership when it counts most.

Doug Bruno, skipper of the Blue Demons, knows how to win and will find a way to get it done in this one.

Florida State (11) vs. Ohio State (6) - Des Moines, Iowa - 10 p.m.
This isn't exactly a nightcap worth waiting for.

Neither team is getting out of the second round alive, but I'm picking the Seminoles to pull the upset.

Jackson State (15) vs. LSU (2) - Baton Rouge, La. - 10 p.m.
The end of the night in Baton Rouge wouldn't have been something to stick around for as 15 vs. 2 matchups generally are blowouts. But seeing as though its the home team, LSU, playing in front of the home crowd, the people will stay and watch their Tigers advance.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 10:06 AM on March 22, 2008

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