If the early games in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday were kind of a bust (except for the Memphis vs. Cal State Northridge game; sorry, no love for the “scrappy underdogs” - way to blow it, Matadors!), then the late games were … marginally more exciting. There was an actual upset, with No. 12 Western Kentucky taking down No. 5 Illinois, 76-72.
But then again, most experts were predicting that Western Kentucky would win this game ahead of time, due to the loss of the Illini’s starting point guard Chester Frazier with a broken hand, and the return of Hilltopper’s mascot from a broken right … orange blobby thing.
No, the late games were more notable for the near misses than the upsets. Take No. 6 UCLA, which almost fell apart completely against Virginia Commonwealth, nearly blowing a 10-point halftime lead and having the ball in the hands of Rams star Eric Maynor with time expiring and a chance to win the game. (Not the person you want with the ball if you’re UCLA - just ask Duke) Fortunately for the Bruins, Darren Collison came to the rescue, forcing a hurried, off-balance miss from Maynor to hold on to a 65-64 win.
Speaking of blowing a lead … poor American. Just like their namesake economy, their 14-point second half lead against Villanova went into a deep recession, and there was no bailout package coming from the government. Playing in front of a partisan Philadelphia crowd (thanks, seeding committee!), the No. 3 Wildcats rallied later to survive a scare from the No. 14 Eagles, 80-67.
(Note to American University: nice try in attempting to gain our sympathy with your name: the American Eagles. Why don’t you just call yourself the American Heroes Who Died On 9/11 Who Will Weep In Heaven If You Root Against Us? It’s about as subtle.)
Not having trouble advancing was No. 2 Oklahoma, who trounced No. 15 Morgan State 82-57 behind 28 points and 13 rebounds from star Blake Griffin. However, Griffin did have one moment of problems: specifically, when the Bears’ back-up center Ameer Ali decided to practice his armbar takedown on Griffin after they got tangled up together:
It should go without saying that Ali was ejected, and then immediately escorted to St. Louis for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Ali says the whole incident was unintentional and “a misunderstanding,” which I would only believe if I was Billy Packer and he was a Duke player who just shattered Tyler Hansbrough’s face.
(Not only has Griffin had to deal with this and sustaining a concussion a few weeks ago, but remember the cheap shot he received from USC’s Leonard Washington at the start of the year as well. Either Griffin in such a pacifist than he makes Gahndi look like Genghis Khan or he’s going to snap and pummel someone to death with his sneaker by the end of the tournament. Maybe this explains why he feels the need to lash out at society by peeing in bushes.)
For those of you who are part of the 80 percent of American males who managed to come down with a 48-hour bug starting yesterday morning, your slate of games today look good enough to help you cope with your “debilitating illness”. There are several games that have “Upset Special” written all over them, which probably means that the games will go chalk all day.
In other sports news from last night you might have missed as you polished up your…ahem…resume for a Rhode Island strip club’s job fair:
- Martin Brodeur might be the winningest goalkeeper in NHL history, but the CBC reports that he might be the losingest ex-husband in the history of hockey: an appeals court ordered him to pay $500,000 a year in alimony to his ex-wife Melanie DuBois until 2020.
- It might be a sport played by drunk men with pot bellies, mullets and porn mustaches, but damn it, you must respect the rules of etiquette in bowling! The SACRAMENTO BEE reports that a dispute about who had right of way to bowl turned into a brawl at a Rocklin, CA, bowling alley featuring one man knocking out another man’s tooth with a bowling ball. <RUN FUNCTION TO READER: INSERT “BIG LEBOWSKI” JOKE HERE>
- BUGS & CRANKS is focusing their considerable hatred on Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, and his decision to spend Spring Training living on a houseboat. Apparently, if there was ever a movie made about Arroyo’s life, it would star Matthew McConaughy. And it would probably suck, but your significant other would drag you to it because he’s so “dreamy” and “laid back.”
- Your semifinals for the World Baseball Classic are set (yes, that’s still going on) after Japan’s 6-2 victory over Korea. The defending champion Japanese will take on the U.S. in one game on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, while Korea faces off against Venezuela.
- Speaking of the WBC and your apparent apathy to it, LARRY BROWN SPORTS says that Red Sox slugger Kevin Youklis is very upset with American fans for not showing up to the team’s games at the World Baseball Classic. This means you, Joe Six-Pack: even if you’ve lost your job, your house is being repossessed and your kids are being forced to share the same pair of shoes, that’s no excuse for not coughing up $45 a person for cheap seats.
- How about a hearty welcome to the MLS for the Seattle Sounders, as Drew Carey’s expansion team drubbed New York Red Bull 3-0 in the team’s inaugural game. But I don’t care how many games this “new” Sounders team wins: I doubt they’ve have a music video of their highlights as cool as this collection of highlights from the NASL team in 1975 set to “The Hustle”:
- I know he’s only been on the job for a couple of months, but here’s a friendly bit of advice to President Barack Obama: it’s probably not a good idea to make jokes about the Special Olympics, as the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR says you did on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” last night.
- I guess they are teaching Hawaii Warrior football players to not quit on a play, but this is ridiculous: the HONOLULU ADVERTISER says that cornerback JoPierre Davis was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting the same female student twice within a four month period, and then knocking her unconscious at a nightclub. Big surprise: this isn’t his first run-in with the law.
- While we wait to find out what athletes named come up as clients in the Houston prostitution ring, the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER has news of another brewing scandal: a secret, late-night warehouse that offered sex, drugs and high-stakes card games to its clients. When the club was raided, at least one former NFL player was there, and other athletes are said to be “frequent patrons.”
- Yawn: another day, another LeBron James triple-double, going for 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. His feat led the Cavaliers to a 97-92 overtime victory over Portland as Cleveland tied an NBA record by committing only two turnovers - and one was at the end of overtime.