March 23, 2008

Then There Was 32

The first round of the NCAA Tournament is written. One step closer are we on the road to crowning a new - or perhaps a familiar - champion.

Is there any question in anyone's mind which is the best conference in women's basketball this season? It's the Big 12 hands down, and they are proving it in a big way.

Eight NCAA Tournament teams, the most of any conference. Eight NCAA Tournament victories later, and the Big 12 makes up a quarter of the field.

And the eighth Big 12 victory was a microcosm of the difference between the two conferences of which the opponents belong.

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Afternoon Of Few Surprises

Eight of Sunday's 16 opening round games are over and eight more teams are firmly implanted into the second round. And the resounding theme of the second day of NCAA Tournament action was double-digit wins.

Five of the eight games ended up with lopsided margins as only Nebraska and Xavier could play a close game until the buzzer sounded. The 8th-seeded Cornhuskers won that matchup, 61-58, as did all of the higher seeds in the morning and afternoon sessions.

There have been no surprises yet today.

Here's a look at some of the early actions top stories:

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Sooners Advance...For Now

Illinois State gave a wonderful effort, but in the end, Oklahoma had too much firepower for the 13-seeded Redbirds to handle.

Point guard Kristi Cirone proved to be a stone-cold Goliath killer and showed the heart of a champion but it wasn't enough against the likes of Courtney Paris and the Big 12's Sooners. Oklahoma won 69-61 and advances to the second round.

But the underlying story in this game, to me, is Oklahoma's vulnerability. All season I've given them the benefit of the doubt. Surely, with a force like Paris, how could the Sooners go wrong?

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Don't Forget About Us

Yesterday I gave you 16 names to follow on day one of the NCAA Tournament.

Many of them had big games. So, let's do it all again. Here are 16 more names that you have probably never heard of but will make a big difference in today's games:

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Staying East Of The Mississippi

It's Sunday. The weekend is nearing an end. Thankfully, because the locations of today's first round games - College Park, Md., West Lafayette, Ind., Norfolk, Va. and Bridgeport, Conn. - are all in the Eastern Standard Time Zone, these games will be over at a normal hour.

There are 16 more games of opening-round action today, and just as all four No. 2s played on Saturday, Sunday sees the four top seeds hit the court.

I'll tell you right now. I'm predicting four victories by the top seeds. No need to even go over them.

Like Saturday, many of today's games have already been predicted and studied here. And the first game of the day falls under that category as we start in the Spokane Regional where Xavier (9) and Nebraska (8) get set to tangle.

I went with Xavier.

Here is the rest of the day's action:

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March 22, 2008

Day One Recap

Sixteen teams find themselves one game closer to the goal that was priority number one from the moment they set foot in their rickety gyms back home.

Sixteen are going back to those gyms empty handed.

There were some upsets. Most games went according to seeding. Here are some other notes and top performances from the first day of action: for the

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Tourney's First Upset

Five games had come and gone and five higher seeds advanced to the round of 32. The sixth broke the mold.

And I called it, too.

The Hartford Hawks, the 10-seed in the Oklahoma City regional, met the Big East's Syracuse Orange and juiced their northeast neighbors, 59-55, in Baton Rouge, La.

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Welcome Back, Kia

It must be something about the NCAA Tournament that awakens a sleeping giant within Kia Vaughn's 6-foot-4 frame.

The last time Vaughn saw 20 points next to her name on the stat sheet was in last year's National Championship game. She went this entire season without putting up the magic number, and at times looked visibly uncomfortable on the floor for the defending national runners-up.

She just wasn't the same Kia that dominated on Rutgers' journey to Cleveland last year. As if the regular season was nothing but a long waiting period between moments to shine, Vaughn rose to the occasion in the tournament once again.

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Great Start

Often times, the difference between being lauded as the hero and chided as the goat can be entirely insignificant, yet altogether catastrophic.

For Georgia Tech junior Jacqua Williams, today's opening round game against Iowa State was one of those times.

And unfortunately for the ACC's leader in steals, it was one steal she didn't get that cost her team the free throws that increased Iowa State's lead to three and took the stinger out of the Yellow Jackets' chances. The 10th-seeded Buzz lost to the 7th-seeded Lady Cyclones, 58-55, in Des Moines, Iowa.

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If You Don't Know, Now You Know

There are 16 games on the first day of NCAA Tournament action. One of the best things about the women's NCAA Tournament is that teams who never get much publicity get to stand out in the spotlight for at least one game.

This country is full of excellent women's talent that most people have never heard of. Shoot, some of the best players on the best teams in the country slip the minds of even the most knowledgeable sports fan.

I couldn't believe my ears when my good friend and big-time sports enthusiast - he's a Buffalo Bills fan, though - asked me, "Who's this Candace Parker?"

So with 16 games today, I will highlight a player the country should be aware of in each.

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Saturday Is Day One

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.

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