I love this time of year — there’s a buzz, an excitement, a renewed fervor, a sense of possibility and hope for overcoming impossible odds. That’s right folks, the 2009 NCAA basketball tournaments are back! Granted, I liked it a lot more when I had 2 weeks’ Spring Break that fell exactly during the first two rounds – glorious days of non-stop basketball – but, we deal. And if need-be, we use sick days.
Most of the games (men’s and women’s) are on CBS (listings here including who is announcing so you can avoid Clark Kellogg) or the ESPN channels (listings here). The games are viewable through ESPN360.com and CBSsportsline.com I believe.
District Pride! Who do we have? Let’s see about the contenders…
Ladies First. Round 1 at College Park, MD – the Comcast Center (whatwhat!)
Maryland Terps (1)
v. Dartmouth Big Green (16)
at the Comcast Center, Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
The tournament is coming to the district, and not just on ESPN2. Maryland College Park will be one of the happy hosts of the first and second rounds of women’s play, with the Terps pitted against Ivy League Champ Dartmouth on home turf (Sunday 2:30 p.m.). By all accounts, Maryland should roll through that game with relative ease (sorry Big Green, it hurts me too) and will face the winner of Villanova-Utah. Maryland is very much one of the teams to watch in the women’s tournament – they could absolutely make it all the way with a strong squad led by the often unstoppable duo Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman.
While UConn is being hailed as the strongest squad in recent memory, I have hope and area pride. If the championship is Maryland-UConn it will be epic.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams (10)
v. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7)
in Piscatawa NJ, Saturday 2 p.m.
VCU is stoked. This will be their first NCAA tourney berth – something to celebrate for sure! Two years ago, Rutgers was in the championship game, but that was so two years ago. This year the Scarlet Knights were in and dropped out of the top 20, going 5-4 in January (including a loss to my Orangewomen, who, sad to say, only had 5 conference wins total). Then again, Rutgers only lost to undefeated powerhouse UConn by 10 points. “I don’t think theres anyone who’s gonna wanna play them in the Big east tournament or the NCAA tournament,” said UConn Head Coach and Hall of Famer Geno Auriemma (a.k.a. The Man). So – mixed messages – meaning have hope for the little guy (or gal, as it were)!
If VCU gets past Rutgers, they’ll most likely meet 2-seeded Auburn in the second round – a steeper challenge.
This is also the first year both the VCU Men’s and Women’s programs have both made it to the NCAA tournament – ever! Good job, Rams.
UVA Cavaliers (5)
v. Marist Red Foxes (12)
in LA, on Sunday at 10 p.m.
The Cavs gave Maryland one of its 4 losses on the season – no easy feat. Marist isn’t as storied as Maryland (or UVA) but they’ve made 5 NCAA bids in the past 6 years (Po-town stand UP). In 2007 the Red Foxes upset Ohio State and Tennessee State to get to the Sweet 16. That being said, UVA has been nationally ranked in the top 20, and Monica Wright (from Woodbridge) and Lyndra Littles are both scoring an average of 20.5 ppg and were named All-American regional finalists.
If they pull it out against Marist in the first round and the winner of Cal-Fresno State in the second, they’ll presumably be awarded for their efforts by a trip to Trenton, NJ and a match-up with (and I can only guess here) still-unbeaten UConn.
And on the Men’s side…
American University Eagles (14)
v. Villanova Wildcats (3)
Philly, Thursday 9:50 p.m.
Facing No. 3 seed Villanova would be a tough enough draw for the AU eagles in this tournament. How about playing Villanova at the Wachovia Center, their home court, in Philly? That’s just rough. That being said, if the Patriot League champs can hit their threes, it could maybe, possibly, sort of be a game? They have 5 seniors, so at least they made it to the dance this year – that’s pretty sweet in and of itself. Speaking of Villanova, that team is apparently where all the DC talent winds up, as the WaPo covered this week . Nova’s starting lineup alone consists of three District area ballers: Dwayne Anderson (St. John’s), Dante Cunningham (St. John’s, D.C., and Potomac, Md.), and junior guard Scottie Reynolds (Herndon).
“The kind of player you get from the D.C. area is very unique,” the Wildcats coach Jay Wright told the Post. He attributes this to the quality of the AAU programs in the area. So, six of one, half a dozen of the other with this game, I guess.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams (11)
v. UCLA Bruins (7)
in Philly, Today at 7:30 p.m.
Topped the CCA (Colonial) with a tournament win over George Mason, who they also defeated in 2004 and 2007 to get to the tournament, by the way (ouch GMU). Two years ago, the Rams met Duke in the first round in Buffalo, N.Y. and toppled the Blue Devils, 79-77. This season, they’ll be asked to do the same with the UCLA Bruins, owners of a record 11 national championships. However, they’ve got the vote of confidence of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption talking head and former WaPo columnist Tony Kornheiser , even though he couldn’t bring himself to put his alma mater Binghamton (15) into the next round over Duke (2). Where’s the Upstate NY love, Tony? Oh, he’s saving some (but not too much) for Syracuse, I see. Acceptable.
West Virginia U Mountaineers (6)
v. Dayton Flyers (11)
in Minneapolis, Friday 3 p.m.
I don’t know if you guys heard about this *ahem* 6-overtime game that went on recently in the Big East tournament? Yeah, the won that Syracuse won? That was pretty sweet… who was I talking about again? Oh right – West Virginia. They lost that battle royale (but not without a fight clearly). As a six seed, they’ll now meet Dayton (11) in Minneapolis, Friday at 3 p.m. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still missing the Pitsnogle days of WVU. God, did he graduate in 2006? I feel old.
v. California Bears (7)
in Kansas City Today at 2:55 p.m.
It was looking a little iffy for the Man-Terps. They’ve had their share of good – defeating top-ten ranked Wake Forest, Michigan State, and UNC for starters. They also, however, lost to Miami, who didn’t even make the tournament despite having the same conference record as the Terps, and to Georgetown, who just lost to BU in the NIT. Not only that – they lost to them by 27. Sheesh. But that was ages ago. Long before their two wins in the ACC tournament and tight game with Duke. If they succeed in stopping Cal’s downtown gun Jerome Randle, who’s averaging 18.4 ppg, they could have it.
Who do you see when it all comes down to one? This is a very cursory local post. I know there’s a lot of Tar Heels fans (including WLDC writer KatieT) and Cameron Crazies around town, and at least one Orangemen Fan (yours truly). Anyone else? I’m totally looking to find the other 5 SU fans in the district, and am open to discussing the merits of the Big East versus ACC.