And They're Off: The 2009 NCAA Tournament Is Under Way

Nathan AtkinsContributor IMarch 19, 2009

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 14:  Fans celebrate the Memphis Tigers win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane during the Championship of the Conference USA Basketball Tournament at FedExForum on March 14, 2009 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Memphis beat Tulsa 64-39. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)


The tournament has officially begun. 

Never mind the play-in game, it is now time for Madness. 

Well...not yet at least, but it's coming! 

Analysts were predicting that within our lifetime a 16 seed will upset a one seed. This year they were hoping for Chattanooga. 

Those analysts will have to wait 'til next year before they make another lofty prediction such as that. 

UConn, the No. 1 seed in the West Region blew out the Mocs from Tennessee, 103-47. 


But UConn wasn't the only number one seed to dominate their opponent.

North Carolina handled Radford without Ty Lawson, (as if anyone thought they wouldn't) 101-58. 

Good grief! 

There were a few more entertaining games, such as LSU and Butler. 

After Butler lost the Horizon League tournament to Cleveland State, I thought they would come out angry and hungry, desperate for a win. But, I was wrong. They kept the game too close and came up short 40 minutes later, losing 75-71. 

The Butler Bulldogs have tarnished my bracket by losing in the first round, but I'm sure the feeling of defeat hurts much more than the few dollars I just lost. (Had them losing to UNC in the second round ).

Memphis came out flat, allowing Cal State-Northridge to keep the game way too close. With five minutes left in the second half, Memphis was down one point against CS-Northridge. They pulled away and pulled it out, winning  81-70.

Texas A&M beat BYU 79-66. No surprise there. 

Maryland beat California, another incorrect pick by me. I thought the Golden Bears would be excited about their NCAA bid for the first time in three years. But, no, they weren't. They lost to the Terrapins 84-71. 

Washington won in glorious fashion led by forward Quincy Pondexter's 23 points in a 71-58 rout of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. 

Purdue beat Northern Iowa as well, 61-56. Forward Robbie Hummel was one point shy of a double-double with nine points and ten rebounds.

As of right now, I'm 7-2. 

Also as of right now Villanova is losing by ten to American University, 41-31. I'm confident 'Nova will pull it out.

American was hot coming into the tournament with a thirteen game win streak. But, their shooting will cool off in the second half, look for veteran experience from 'Nova to take over and win the game. 

Gonzaga is struggling with Akron, no surprise here. As I said in a previous post, Gonzaga has a tendency to get bounced in the first round. Who knows if they will pull it off, for their sake I hope so. 

Texas is ahead against Minnesota 39-35. Texas is the better team, but don't count out the coaching ability of Tubby Smith. The former University of Georgia and University of Kentucky coach knows what he's doing.

In 1996, he took the Bulldogs to the Sweet Sixteen, and in 1998 won the tournament with the Wildcats. I expect Texas to close out and finish strong, but calling a Minnesota victory an upset, would be an exaggeration. 

Michigan is ahead against Clemson 27-24. Clemson looks like the better team, no question. But, never underestimate a team's drive and hunger. Michigan hasn't been in the tournament for 11 years! I expect Michigan to win the game. 

Binghamton and Duke are yet to play. Duke will win, but look for Binghamton to give them a tough time.

No team is more overrated than the Duke Blue Devils; there is also no team that underachieves more in the NCAA tournament than the boys from Durham. 

Western Kentucky and Illinois haven't tipped off yet either. Each year a 12 seed upsets a five seed, that game is right here.

Illinois is without steals and assists leader Chester Frazier. The Illini have struggled since his injury, limping through the Big Ten Tournament until getting hammered by Purdue 66-56.

The Hilltoppers on the other hand come into the tournament with a seven-game win streak; along with two guards in Orlando Mendez-Valdez and AJ Slaughter, who average 14.0 and 15.8 points respectively. 

VCU is scheduled to play UCLA. I don't like UCLA, I think they're overrated as well. Eric Maynor from VCU is a giant killer, defeating Duke in the 2007 tournament. 

The Rams have improved though, adding Larry Sanders (11.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 2.7 bpg). Maynor is still going "beast mode" in the words of Marshawn Lynch, averaging 22.4 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.5 rpg, 1.7 spg and is shooting 36.7% from beyond the arc.

Statistically, the teams are evenly matched: VCU averages 72.0 points per game and allows 63.4, UCLA averages 76.0 and gives up 63.3.

Maynor will be the difference. 

As for the final game, Morgan State against Oklahoma? 

Morgan State's biggest threats on the block are Marquise Kately who averages 11 ppg and 5.4 rpg, along side Kately, is Kevin Thompson who averages 9.1 ppg and 7.2 rpg.

Kately and Thomson combined average 20.1 ppg and 12.6 rpg. 

Blake Griffin averages 21.9 ppg and 14.3 rpg. 

Two men can't equal the same amount of output that one can. That fact alone will carry the Sooners through the first round, Morgan State isn't even a speed bump on Oklahoma's journey to the second round. 

As I leave, here are the last updates of the night:

Michigan- 46 Clemson- 32 (13:40 in the 2nd Half) 

Minnesota- 44 Texas- 47 (13:35 in 2nd Half)

American- 47 Villanova- 36 (16:33 in 2nd Half)

Akron- 38 Gonzaga- 35 (Halftime)


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