Big Dance at a Glance:
By Dan Shanoff, CNN/SI
Read a new "Dance at a Glance" Thursday through Monday throughout the NCAA Tournament.
I had this great column written about how unusually boring the first day of the NCAA Tournament was, until Harold Arceneaux and Weber State "Showed" us why this sports event is more captivating than any other.
The game had all the ingredients: unknown school (even the most hard-core college hoops fan couldn't tell you where Weber State is -- Ogden, Utah), a "take-us-lightly...please" seed (14), a memorable individual performance (Arceneaux had his way with UNC's defense, scoring 36 points on a variety of swooping drives and improbable long-distance connections) and perhaps the biggest "name" team of all on the wrong side of a 76-74 upset (North Carolina, with those 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, 18 consecutive first-round tournament wins, and so many Final Fours, the famous color and the famous alumni and the famous shoe contract, all of which mean nothing today).
While you were sleeping, you might have missed another storied program get bumped when Detroit knocked out UCLA 56-53. But many predicted the No. 12 Titans' win over the No. 5 Bruins in the South.
Seattle turned out to be a pretty sensational sub-regional: Weber State's upset of the year, Gonzaga's combination of great timing and deadly accuracy, Stanford's sweat past Alcorn State, and Florida's second-half surge past Penn. We'll see if the magic continues Saturday when Weber State takes on Florida and Stanford battles Gonzaga. Cinderella will definitely be in the house.
You call this Madness?
Other than the Weber State shocker, what stood out about the first day of the 1999 NCAA Tournament?
The day side's greatest excitement happened off the court, when Minnesota suspended four players pending the outcome of an inquiry into allegations of academic fraud.
On the courts, the Dance was mostly a dud. Upset City? More like TopSeed Town. The opening miles on the Road to the Final Four are proving unfamiliarly smooth.
Which lower seeds beat higher ones? Oklahoma State and New Mexico, two No. 9s, came away with close wins -- but over eight seeds Syracuse and Missouri. They don't count (although the way New Mexico had been dogged as tourney unworthy since Selection Sunday, you'd think they wouldn't be able to beat the Little Sisters of the Poor, let alone the Tigers of the Big 12.)
Meanwhile, the only other paper upsets were No. 10 Creighton over No. 7 Louisville and No. 10 Gonzaga over No. 7 Minnesota. The former was no shocker; the Cardinals' seeding seemed too high from the start. And the Gophers -- where to start? -- were minus four suspended players, plus psychologically devastated by the scandal's eruption. They would have lost to your high school jayvee team, let alone a talented Gonzaga, smelling blood and playing a virtual home game in Seattle.
So much for these Cinderellas
Until Detroit, Weber State or Gonzaga make it to the Sweet 16, save your Cinderella stories. The wheels fell off the bandwagons for a few teams that came into the tournament with the blessing of conventional wisdom and the burden of being the experts' upset "locks."
Murray St.: A rookie 61-year-old coach makes for a great story and many liked the Racers' push-it-up style. Too bad they ran into Ohio State, a Big Ten team masquerading as tourney tough. Goodbye, Racers.
Valparaiso: Come on...this team used up a decade's worth of hoops karma in one shot last year. And Maryland is no Mississippi. Too much size, too much depth, too little Bryce Drew.
Penn: Perhaps we'd become spoiled by the tournament's Ivy League representatives lately. After all, Princeton's antiquated style of play was fun to watch, especially when they toppled big-name teams. Unfortunately, Penn plays like your run-of-the-mill major-conference team. Florida gave the Quakers a taste of the SEC and sent them back to answer to their Ivy brethren.
Siena: Now this was the tough one to take, because I had the Saints going to the Sweet 16. How can you not love a run-n-gun, three-point bombing group that had "upset" written all over them? Someone forgot to remind me: those run-and-press teams only shock standard half-court teams that can't handle the pressure. Arkansas wrote the genre's owner's manual. When two teams of similar styles go at it, take the one with more talent. A hard lesson to learn.
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