The Cinderellas Go Today...Both Of Them

By Jeff Lippman - March 24, 2008

Do you know how many upsets there were in the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament?

Three. Just three.

And 9th-seeded Purdue - the Big Ten Tournament champs - beating 8th-seeded Utah - a team that didn't win its smaller conference tournament - can hardly even be considered an upset.

No, in reality, there are only two teams remaining who even draw the slightest resemblance to anything considered a Cinderella remaining. OK three if you count 7th-seeded UTEP, but they were the higher seed in their first round game.

The 10-seed out of the Oklahoma City region Hartford and the 11-seed in New Orleans Florida State are the only two teams to pull big upsets in the first round as they beat Syracuse and Ohio State, respectively.

And both play in Monday's second round of action. Here is a breakdown of the games:

Spokane Regional

Pitt (6) vs. Baylor (3) - Albuquerque, N.M. - 7 p.m.
The Panthers are coming of a too-close-for-comfort game against Wyoming in the opening round. Baylor, on the other hand, had little trouble dispatching of 14th-seeded Fresno State, beating them by 21 points.

For Pitt, the key to the game will be the re-emergence of second-team All-Big East performer center Marcedes Walker. Walker looked sluggish in only scoring 13 points in the Panthers' opening round win. They also need to continue getting big play from first-team All-Conference guard Shavonte Zellous and another big game from Sophronia Sallard wouldn't hurt.

Baylor is only three years removed from winning the national championship in 2005 but senior Angela Tisdale is the lone player remaining from that team. Instead, the Bears ruled the Big 12 for most of the season, but ended up falling short for both the regular season and tournament crowns. However, the Bears looked very solid against the Bulldogs in the opening round. Angela Tisdale scored 26 points and the Bears will need more of the same to move to their fourth Sweet 16 in five years under coach Kim Mulkey.
PICK: Baylor

West Virginia (5) vs. Vanderbilt (4) - Albuquerque, N.M. - 9 p.m.
For break down of the game click here.
PICK: Vanderbilt

UTEP (7) vs. Stanford (2) - Stanford, Calif. - 10 p.m.
Monday's late game features a UTEP team that is 28-3 after their impressive first-round victory over Western Kentucky. The Miners destroyed the 10th-seeded Hilltoppers, 92-60, as their back court - a trifecta that includes Natasha Lacy, Jareica Hughes and Kasia Krezel - combined for 51 points and 16 assists.

Stanford is also coming off a very impressive win, of course theirs came against the 15-seed Cleveland State. Last year the Cardinal came into their second round game with a very similar pattern. Last year, the Cardinal won 27 of 28 down the stretch, gained the 2-seed and ultimately were upset by Florida State. This year, the Cardinal are riding a 19-game winning streak and that same 2-seed. But make no mistake, this is a different Cardinal team.

With the senior Candice Wiggins being a lot more steady than the junior version, and with the tandem of Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen down low, this might be the best Stanford team we've seen in years. In last year's game against the Seminoles, Wiggins choked. That is still in her mind. She won't let that happen again.
PICK: Stanford

New Orleans Regional

Florida State (11) vs. Oklahoma State (3) - Des Moines, Iowa - 7 p.m.
Remember how I knew that Florida State would defeat Ohio State in the first round? Well, that really wasn't because it was the Seminoles. My prediction makes more sense in formula format: Team X against Ohio State = Team X wins. See, it's not just FSU. It's Team X.

With that said, the 'Noles did look impressive in their 60-49 win over the Buckeyes on Saturday. Tanae Davis-Cain scored 27 points - something she will need to continue - and FSU out-rebounded OSU, 49-35.

Oklahoma State, however, wasn't overly impressive against East Tennessee State. The Cowgirls did win the rebounding edge and should prove a lot tougher to out-board for FSU than OSU was, but winning by only 12 points and tying in the second half probably doesn't sit well with coach Kurt Budke.

Budke will have his troops regrouped, though. And it's not like Andrea Riley wasn't herself. The sophomore spark plug scored 26 points to lead the Cowgirls and Maria Cordero added 23, well above her average of 10 ppg.
PICK: Oklahoma State

Marist (7) vs. LSU (2) - Baton Rouge, La. - 7 p.m.
Little Marist from Poughkeepsie has won three NCAA Tournament games in the past two years. That in incredibly impressive for such a tiny school.

LSU has been to four consecutive Final Fours...I think I made my point.

Tennessee ended the Red Foxes run last year, and it will be another SEC team to end it in this year's tournament. The Tigers will be too much for Marist to handle. Who is going to stop Sylvia Fowles? 6-foot-3 Meg Dahlman? Good luck, Meg. Oh, and it's a home game for LSU. As if they needed an advantage.

Greensboro Regional

George Washington (6) vs. Cal (3) - Stanford, Calif. - 8 p.m.
What a good day for Bay Area basketball fans!

Berkeley and Palo Alto are just miles apart and with both of today's games featuring the Bears and Cardinal, local fans have a treat in store. And it starts with the Bears' game against 6-seeded George Washington.

The Colonials are coming off an uninspiring first-round win over Auburn. The good news for GW is that A-10 Player of the Year point guard Kim Beck scored just three points in that game and they still won. Beck shouldn't have such a poor repeat performance. Still, the Bears are one of the toughest opponents the Colonials will have faced all season.

Cal is coming off a very impressive win in front of a partisan crowd against San Diego. The Colonials should prove a much tougher challenge, but it was very good to see 2006 Pac-10 Player of the Year Davenei Hampton and Ashley Walker play so well. You would think the tournament experience was with the Pac-10's Bears, but it's the Colonials who have been her before. Cal is coming off its first NCAA Tournament win in 15 years and is looking to make its first-ever Sweet 16.

This should prove a highly entertaining game. The matchup between Alexis Gray-Lawson and Beck should be worth the price of admission alone. And don't forget the battles down low between Jessica Adair for GW and Walker and Hampton for Cal. I give the edge to the Bears, being slightly more athletic and having the relative home game.
PICK: California

Iowa State (7) vs. Rutgers (2) - Des Moines, Iowa - 9 p.m.
Iowa State should be very worried that Rutgers' first round win by 43 points was their largest margin of victory on the entire season. The Cyclones should be shaking in their category-5 boots that the Scarlet Knights amassed a season high in assists in that game. The fact that the 85 points Rutgers scored was their highest output on the year? Iowa State is about to get blown away.

The Cyclones could score just 58 points in a win over Georgia Tech in the first round. The Yellow Jackets like to run. Their defense allows you to score. Rutgers' doesn't. Robert Morris likes to score, they just couldn't against the Scarlet Knights. And neither will Iowa State.
PICK: Rutgers

Oklahoma City Regional

Hartford (10) vs. Texas A&M (2) - Baton Rouge, La. - 9 p.m.
It's funny, but for some reason, I think the day's only upset might occur in this game. It's not that I believe the Hawks are better than Texas A&M, one of the hottest teams in the nation right now. It's the style these two teams play that could be the difference.

Both teams play defense, and lots of it. Their stats look identical. Both are averaging 65.4 points per game on the season. A&M is giving up just two points more than the America East's leading defensive club. Because of this, the game will be low scoring. It will be a grind-it-out defensive effort that will have both teams in the game throughout.

Morenike Atunrase led the way for the Aggies in their opening round win over UT-San Antonio. She will need to come up big in the scoring column again for the Aggies to pull this one out. Someone, on either team, will have to step up their scoring and hit the big shots when it counts. And there will be big shots to hit.
PICK: Texas A&M

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 12:15 PM on March 24, 2008

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