No. 13 Siena Saints (27-6, MAC)
No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers (27-5, Big 10)
2:30 P.M. EST
Spokane Arena, Spokane, WA
On Feb. 17, Purdue knocked off Evan Turner and Ohio State in Columbus. The Boilermakers were then the No. 4 team in the nation. They would shortly move up another spot. And, now, just a month later, everyone you talk to thinks that they're going to be beaten by the champions of the MAC.
What happened? Robbie Hummel, the junior forward who was faraway and the team's best player, wrecked his knee and went under the knife. Hummel had scored 29 first-half points in the aforementioned win at the Ohio State University. And he will not be playing today. He'll be on the sidelines probably in a suit that his parents bought for him.
Without Hummel, the team looked dismal in a loss to Michigan State, then beat Indiana, Penn State and, Northwestern; before getting rocked by Minnesota in the second game of the Big 10 Tournament.
So, there is a good reason why everyone is so down on Purdue. But I don't think we should be this down on them. Hummel was not the second-coming of Danny Manning. Or John Wallace. Or even Rex Walters. He was averaging 15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Those are solid numbers but nothing irreplaceable. He wasn't leading the team in any one category. I agree that Purdue is out of the title conversation but I don't think they're out of the Final 32 even if they're facing Siena, a team quickly becoming a name-brand midmajor.
Siena will apply defensive pressure on Purdue, trying to speed up the tempo to obscure their lack of size. They want this game to get into the 70s. But I don't think they get there. I think this Purdue club has got a huge chip on its shoulder and has all of the underdog motivation that would normally inspire the team in Siena's spot. I think that Hummel's teammates want to show you that they're not just a bunch of stiffs who'd been holding tight to coattails all year.
ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi: Purdue
SI's Seth Davis: Siena
President Obama: Siena
No. 13 Oakland Golden Grizzlies (26-8, Summit)
No. 4 Pittsburgh Panthers (24-8, Big East
3:05 P.M. EST
Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
First of all, this so-called "Oakland" is not from the Bay Area or the North NJ suburbs. What gives? This Oakland University is located in Rochester Hills, Michigan and it was founded by the widow of John Francis Dodge, who I would imagine is the man ultimately responsible for the baby blue Dodge 600 I drove in high school.
I'm undecided if I hold this against the Golden Grizzlies. I mean, I loved that car. Bench seats front and back. Baby Blue inside and out.
In his team-by-team breakdowns of the entire field of 65, ESPN.com's bracketologist Joe Lunardi lists a Will Lose When... scenario for each team. For Oakland, Lunardi writes:
The opposition plays a slow, grind-it-out game and gets back on defense. This will prevent Oakland from playing the high-tempo style at which they excel.
Could that be any more Pittsburgh?
ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi: Pitt
SI's Seth Davis: Pitt
President Obama: Pitt
No. 10 Missouri Tigers (22-10, Big 10)
No. 7 Clemson Tigers (21-10, ACC)
2:50 P.M. EST
HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY
In a matchup of two teams with tiger mascots, I figured that you'd prefer a smattering of of Tiger Woods' sext messages to porn star Joslyn James in place of whatever soft-headed analysis I might have to offer.
Tiger:Sent: 06:01 PM 07/30/2009:
n room 201. You can come down the stair well next to your room. Make sure absolutely no one sees you
Tiger:Sent: 03:19 PM 08/29/2009:
I need that so bad
Tiger:Sent: 03;29 PM 08/29/2009:
Tiger:Sent: 03:30 PM 08/29/2009:
Me to. I would wear you out
Tiger:Sent: 03:32 PM 08/29/2009:
I have no idea. I would love to have the ability to make you sore
Tiger:Sent: 07:12 PM 09/07/2009:
No turkey unless it's a club sandwich
Tiger:Sent: 07:32 PM 09/08/2009:
You felt amazing to baby. How much was your flight by the way
ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi: Clemson
SI's Seth Davis:Clemson
President Obama: Mizzou
No. 13 Wofford Terriers (25-8, Southern)
No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (23-8, Big 10)
3:05 P.M. EST
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, FL
I studied abroad during my junior year in college. I left these shores and went to London to study English literature at Kings College. While there, I played soccer for the Kings College Badgers. Prior to that, I hadn't given much thought to the badger. But there was a Welsh grad student (Since the best players never attend school in the UK, there is no NCAA and the rules allow for lots of "strange" things, like grad students.) called Gareth that was always selling us on the ferocity of our namesake.
Usually he would badger us with this topic while riding the train back from our grounds. With campus right along the Strand, our fields and facilities were out in the suburbs a few stops past Wimbledon out of Waterloo Station. And after a few post-match pints, Gareth would often let us know that badgers were not to be trifled with. If you ever came across a badger, Gareth insisted, you would not want to mess with it.
ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi: Wisconsin
SI's Seth Davis: Wisconsin
President Obama: Wisconsin
WWOD?: The Badgers
No. 12 Utah State Aggies (27-7, WAC)
No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies (23-9, Big 12)
4:45 P.M. EST
Spokane Arena, Spokane, WA
Get your lettuce ready! It's a battle of agricultural schools! Oh yeah. And you know that nobody is as ready to roll after daylight savings time then a bunch of farm folk!
This game provides an opportunity to talk about an evergreen problem of bracket-filling: How do you rate the second-tier team from a top-tier conference versus the top-tier team from a second-tier conference?
A&M played a tough Big 12 schedule and has really established itself as solid program recently. Texas' Aggies have advanced to the second round in each of the last five years. But Utah State's Aggies garnered an at-large bid from the WAC thanks to an efficient offense (8th in field goal percentage) that rarely turns over the ball (5th fewest).
When I look at Stew Morril's methodical State ballclub, I'm reminded of Al Skinner's Boston College teams. They're both disciplined and patient, and (when they've got the right talent) they give themselves a chance to win against anyone in the country. However, they can't come from behind because the whole gameplan is predicated on slowing things down and controlling tempo. At some point that will dump Utah State out of the Dance. Just like it does for Skinner's Eagles.
But not today. Utah State is one of just three teams (along with Kansas and Gonzaga) with 25 wins in each of the last three years. 2010 will be the year that Utah State gets its first tourney win since 2001.
ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi: Utah State
SI's Seth Davis: Utah State
President Obama: Texas A&M
WWOD?: Texas A&M