- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

Get used to the highlights of Chris Lofton’s jumper from the near corner with less than a second left. The sophomore guard’s shot propelled Tennessee into the second round and ensured the Volunteers would not play the role Syracuse, Arizona, South Carolina and Iowa State did in losing to 15th-seeded Richmond, Santa Clara, Coppin State and Hampton, respectively.

Hot hands

Not sure if anyone figured Alabama’s Jean Felix would go berserk, but go berserk he did. The Crimson Tide gunner made eight 3-pointers on his way to 31 points — easily a career high. He’s the kind of guy who can swing from making everything to making nothing from game to game. UCLA’s defense also could play a role if he disappears tomorrow.

This just in: Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison is above average. The star forward dropped 35 points to save the Bulldogs against 14th-seeded Xavier. Only one of Morrison’s teammates (J.P. Batista) reached double figures, and it seems likely the ‘Zags will get zinged sooner or later if Morrison doesn’t receive more help. Those Final Four hopes in Spokane could be dashed as early as tomorrow.

Ten angry men

The NCAA selection committee delivered a pair of puzzling seedings Sunday when it gave Tennessee a No. 2 seed and Nevada a No. 5. Neither pick looked much better yesterday. The Volunteers’ trip back to their hotel down High Point Road in Greensboro had to be filled with sighs of relief after they survived underrated Winthrop.

Nevada won’t even play again after stumbling against Montana. The Wolf Pack fell behind early and never completely recovered, denying junior star Nick Fazekas another run through the tournament.

On the bright side, much-maligned at-large pick Air Force stayed close to Illinois for about 28 minutes to sort of justify its inclusion. That’s not to say Missouri State, Cincinnati or Florida State wouldn’t have done better.

Busting a bracket

No one should have thought about slipping Oklahoma into the second weekend of the tournament. The Sooners rattled off four one-point victories before losing their regular-season finale and falling in their Big 12 tournament opener. It’s tough to even call their loss yesterday to Wisconsin-Milwaukee an upset.

Chic Final Four pick Boston College barely advanced, but there were probably some crumpled brackets around 2:45 p.m. yesterday. The Eagles did not handle the early start (10:40 a.m. in Salt Lake City) nor plucky Pacific very well. BC at least had the statement of team unity with its set of freshly shaved heads, but how much did going bald help the Eagles grab rebounds?

Catch a shooting (coaching) star

Winthrop’s Gregg Marshall has a 10-year contract extension that says he won’t be leaving the Rock Hill, S.C., school. Really, who can blame him? He has great job security, has won six of the last eight Big South titles, and there are worse places to live than the Charlotte area. Of course, Winthrop’s near-upset of Tennessee should have Marshall’s phone ringing anyway.

Mark Turgeon had already done enough to get his name in the discussion for any job openings, winning the Missouri Valley regular season and earning an at-large NCAA bid to satiate a knowledgeable and energetic fan base. The Shockers’ first NCAA victory since 1981 only adds to Turgeon’s resume.

March = misery

Seton Hall coach Louis Orr didn’t need a 20-point loss in the first round after barely reaching the NCAA tournament. The classy Orr has been under fire all season despite a solid showing in the Big East’s new colossal confederation format, and this result won’t help.

Conference call

So far, so good for the Missouri Valley, which earned a victory in the first game of the day as Wichita State knocked off Seton Hall. The Big East got off to a slow start, losing both The Hall and Marquette in 7-10 games. The SEC won its first four games (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana State and Tennessee), but here’s betting no more than two survive to next week.

Air traffic control

The George Washington-UNC Wilmington game might be the early leader for the wackiest of the tournament, but CBS certainly wouldn’t have guessed it when the Seahawks went up 64-46 with about 11 minutes left. Much of the audience (including those in Baltimore) was then shifted to the Gonzaga-Xavier game, only to be switched back in the latter stages of the Colonials’ 19-0 run to take the lead.

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