- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

Obviously the upsets were going to happen. They just came a little later than usual this time around. Wins over higher seeds by Southern Cal, UNLV, Tennessee, Butler and Vanderbilt have helped the tournament live up to its reputation as an event that’s tough to predict.

The first round saw just four upsets, including victories by two No. 9 seeds, which hardly count. (Historically, No. 9 seeds actually beat No. 8 seeds more often than not.)

Compare that to 2006, when there were a whopping nine first-round upsets, including wins by a No. 13 seed and No. 14 seed. The last time the first round recorded fewer than four upsets was 2000 with three. In between, there were an average of more than eight first-round upsets each year, including 13 in 2001.

This year’s second round indeed has been a little more topsy-turvy, but it still hasn’t been as wacky as last year, when there were five upsets in Round 2, including Sweet 16 appearances by an No. 11 seed (George Mason) and a No. 13 seed (Bradley).

Seventh-seeded UNLV enters the Sweet 16 as the lowest seed left in the field. It’s the first time since 1995 that a double-digit seed isn’t part of the tournament’s second week.

Texas trouncing

The Texas Longhorns were a popular Final Four pick because of Kevin Durant, but yesterday’s bad loss at the hands of Southern Cal showed that a one-man show doesn’t win games. Many people, pointing to the championship run of Syracuse and Carmelo Anthony in 2003, believed Texas was destined to cut down the nets. But the fact is that outside D.J. Augustin, Texas simply didn’t have enough talent to complement its star player.

Damion James was hot and cold, Connor Atchley was big but unproductive and Justin Mason never scored more than six points in the Longhorns’ last eight games.

Syracuse, on the other hand, had reliable scoring options in Gerry McNamara, Hakim Warrick and Kueth Duany.

Orange assault

Still looking for a Final Four sleeper? How about Tennessee?

The Volunteers have looked solid in their first two games against Long Beach State and Virginia, showing they can win by running up and down the floor and by playing at a more moderate pace. They won one game in a blowout but also showed they could score when they needed to in a close game against the higher-seeded Cavaliers.

(And give credit to Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl for calling for a foul against Virginia in the last 10 seconds instead of allowing the Cavaliers to shoot a potential game-tying 3. If Xavier had done that against Ohio State on Saturday, it would not be home right now.)

There are a horde of great defensive teams in this tournament, but history shows higher-scoring teams make the deepest tournament runs. The average offensive output by the last five national champions in tournament play is 79 points a game. Tennessee’s points a game during the regular season: 79. Eeeeeerie.

Saluki stifling

There’s Temple’s matchup zone. There’s Arkansas’ “40 Minutes of Hell.” And if Southern Illinois keeps winning as it did against Virginia Tech, its man-to-man defense will also go down in NCAA lore.

If any team can make the Final Four via its stingy defense, it’s Southern Illinois. Through two games, Chris Lowery’s crew has allowed a total of 99 points.

Yesterday’s win, against a Virginia Tech team that averaged 72 points a game during the regular season may have been the Salukis’ best effort of the year. The Hokies managed just two 3-pointers and at one point had as many turnovers as field goals.

Southern Illinois doubters might want to be reminded of the 2000 Wisconsin team that plodded its way to the Final Four, giving up just 55 points a game along the way.

What’s a glog?

CBS is enhancing its online coverage of the tournament by offering up-to-the-minute analysis as well as updated box scores. The text analysis, dubbed a “Glog” (short for game log, presumably) seems rather gimmicky at first, but it is actually a decent way to follow a game’s action. The “Glog” writers are able to offer a better description of the game’s action than simple play-by-play can provide. The “Glogs” offer context to the action and are in many ways more helpful than the television commentators.

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