Okay where were we? It’s 2:00 PM and DirecTV has restored all my channels to their proper working order. Xavier/Georgia is the only close game.
2:00 Nine and a half minutes to play in DC...more and more of the country is going to end up here watching Georgia and Xavier. The Bulldogs are up five, 49-44.
2:01 Portland State gave it a good run but they are, after all, Portland State. Kansas is up 66-42 with less than eight to go, and I’m probably not going to spend much more time typing about that one.
2:02 The next set of games isn’t that far away. Stay tuned for coverage of Kentucky/Marquette, Kent State/UNLV, Oral Roberts/Pitt, and of course, Baylor/Purdue.
2:02 Georgia’s in a 2-3 zone...of course, that means you have to get out on shooters. Oops.
2:03 B.J. Raymond just knocked down a three and it’s 49-all in DC.
2:03 And there’s another three. That’s a quick 10-0 run, and timeout Georgia.
2:04 That takes my attention back to Michigan State/Temple. I’ve said in other Bleacher Report columns that I can see any Big Ten team winning three games or losing in the first round.
So far, the Spartans don’t look like first round victims. It’s 54-38 midway through the second half.
2:05 If the Spartans do anything well, it’s rebound. They just got an extra offensive possession...and now it’s 56-38.
2:05 Back to Xavier/Georgia and one of my all-time college basketball pet peeves. Georgia takes a timeout to stop the run, instead of waiting for a dead ball to get the TV timeout.
So we get a set of four or so commercials, come back to the Verizon Center for one possession, and we’re promptly into another set of commercials.
2:06 Little bit of a zone press from Temple. It doesn’t matter right now though, as State’s clicking on all cylinders.
2:08 “If the Spartans do anything well...” Another rebound and a dunk stretches the lead to 19.
2:09 Neitzel just got his fourth foul to go with five points. I’m really shocked that State has played so well without major contributions from No. 11.
2:10 Xavier scores again to stretch the lead to two possessions. Does Georgia have enough in the tank?
2:10 Well, that was interesting. ‘Dawgs score, Xavier runs it right back the other way for what looks like a wide-open dunk, and out of nowhere Dave Bliss blocks the shot (and, according to the officials, fouls the Xavier player in the process).
2:11 The fans vehemently disagree with the foul part.
2:11 Xavier’s made 12 free throws in a row. That’ll help the Musketeer cause.
2:12 Steal Xavier. Layup. And one.
2:13 The run is now 17-2. Bulldogs down eight with five to go...gotta find a hoop.
2:13 Great move by Gaines, the senior guard for UGA. Back to six. Georgia’s working their tails off on defense.
2:14 And after having nowhere to go for 33 seconds, Lavender squirms into the lane and gets a floater to go. Lead’s back to eight. Georgia can’t trade hoops at this point.
2:15 Three-pointer Georgia. They won’t go away.
2:15 On the small screen, Michigan State just hit a big shot to buy a little extra breathing room. The lead had shrunk from 20-plus to 13 without Mr. Neitzel, but now it’s 16 again.
2:16 According to that commercial, Papa John’s is the official pizza delivery company of NCAA Basketball. I’ll have to keep that in mind later tonight.
2:17 Kentucky/Marquette is the only game in the next time slot that isn’t waiting for a first contest to conclude.
The Golden Eagles and Wildcats should tip off in the next 15 minutes—even as an 11 seed, who really wants to play Kentucky in an NCAA tournament?
2:18 Temple’s turning up the pressure with under five minutes to play. Good luck trying to turn the Spartans over. It’s 64-50 in Denver.
2:19 Xavier 61, Georgia 57. Crucial possession for the X-men as we approach the three-minute mark. Lavender thought about the three, worked it inside instead, and the Musketeers’ C.J. Anderson is headed to the foul line.
2:20 Free throw discrepancy anyone? Georgia’s attempted a grand whopping total of four. Xavier’s over 20 attempts so far.
2:21 Don’t look now, but Temple’s within 10. Might be time to put Neitzel back in.
2:22 Georgia gets a friendly bounce and the Xavier lead’s down to four. If that was at the other end, it would have been a foul.
2:23 15 seconds later—“Gonna be a foul on Georgia.” We’ve heard that once or twice.
2:24 1:45 and counting, Dawgs down five with the ball. GREAT DUNK! We have a one-possession game, ladies and gentlemen. Timeout. Xavier.
2:25 Back in Denver, Michigan State gave up a rare rebound, and Temple has a chance to cut the lead back down to 10 from the charity stripe.
2:26 And they do. Here’s the press again. Almost a steal, but MSU survives and scores on the resulting 3-on-1.
2:26 Christmas misses (insert joke here). 68-56 with 2:34 to play.
2:27 In what will go down as the tournament’s first of (hopefully) many nailbiters, Xavier is up three with 81 seconds to play. Lavender goes to the line on a ridiculous touch foul call and now Xavier is up five.
Lavender has 13. The ankle must be okay.
2:28 If you ask me, that was a really bad time for Georgia to miss two free throws.
2:29 XU by seven. 51 seconds left. This game’s officially in the “it would take a miracle” category.
2:30 We have another game underway. Two Midwestern teams, Marquette and Kentucky, battling in the South region in...Anaheim, California. Who ever said the tournament had to make sense?
2:31 Georgia just missed a 30-foot triple, and that will just about wrap things up in DC. Xavier’s going to advance, along with Michigan State (72-61) and Kansas (don’t even know the score because it was so one-sided my TV quit showing it).
2:32 Out in Anaheim, I picked Marquette to survive UK. Of course, this means Kentucky is out to a quick lead. 8-4 with the ball.
2:34 Xavier 73, Georgia 61. Final.
2:35 Wesley Matthews of Marquette just hit the first brilliant shot of the day. A little double-clutch scoop as he fell to the ground in the lane. Mr. Matthews, welcome to the Sportscenter Top Ten.
2:39 Two consistently good basketball programs battling in the early going out West. Two television screens here in Ohio showing the exact same thing because none of the other games have started yet.
Kentucky’s up 10-8 and doing their best to neutralize the explosive Golden Eagle guards (America, meet Dominic James and Jerel McNeal).
2:42 The officials are letting them play at the moment. The paint is no place for the timid, as Marquette gets a big-time move to make it 10-all.
2:43 I understand Howie Long doing commercials during the NFL playoffs. But why March Madness?
2:44 Completely off-topic: did you know Howie Long’s son will be a top NFL draft pick in five weeks or so?
2:44 Now you do.
2:46 Kentucky’s into its fifth straight scoreless minute. I’m not sure they have enough balance to win this one.
Senior guards Crawford and Bradley are the only Wildcats to score in the first nine minutes of the contest.
2:48 Marquette’s continuing to play well. 16-10 Eagles.
2:50 Time to get this posted to the Internet. I’m expecting things to pick up in the next installment as we jump from one game to four. See you at 3:00 PM!