The Longest Day of the Year

03.20.09 9 years ago 74 Comments

Gonzaga Battleproof
As our March Madness live-blogger put it at the beginning of Dime’s all-out Big Dance coverage, Thursday was one of the few “guy days” of the calendar year — like the Super Bowl, only since it starts in the middle of the workday, you’ve got people sneaking TV’s into the office, hitting the “Boss Button” on their monitors and stashing live-streaming iPhones in desk drawers. Pound-for-pound, is there a better sports day out there? We doubt it … The game of the day had to be UCLA’s win over Virginia Commonwealth. Josh Shipp (16 pts, 8 rebs) and the Bruins led by 10 at the break and were in control most of the second half, until Eric Maynor (21 pts, 6 rebs, 7 asts) led a late run and made it a one-point game with under a minute to go. After Larry Sanders‘ swat on Darren Collison resulted in a shot-clock violation, VCU had the ball with 11 seconds left and a chance to steal a win. Maynor shook a midcourt trap but got stuck on the left elbow with Collison all in his face; he threw up a fallaway J, but it barely caught rim and UCLA moved on … Contrary to what the final score alone said, Memphis/Cal State-Northridge was also one of the better games. The 15-seed Matadors led early and were ahead a few different times in the second half; Roburt Sallie (35 pts, 10 threes) was pretty much the only reason Memphis wasn’t getting cracked, then the Tigers put it all together for one 9-0 run that gave them enough breathing room to finally pull away for the win. Anyone who has Memphis going far in their bracket has to be worried after seeing how they played yesterday … The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds rolled easily: UConn smashed Chattanooga by 56, even though Jim Calhoun (ill) missed the game after being taken to the hospital; North Carolina beat Radford by 43 despite Ty Lawson (foot) sitting out; Duke had no trouble with Binghamton; and Blake Griffin put up 28 points and 13 boards in Oklahoma’s rout of Morgan State. In the second half, one of Morgan State’s players got ejected when he basically suplexed Griffin over his head for no reason. Even mild-mannered Greg Gumbel seemed fired up about it, like he wanted to extract some Beach Justice … One of the most hyped matchups of the day was Jon Brockman vs. Jarvis Varnado in the Washington/Mississippi State game, which turned into Brockman (10 pts, 15 rebs) pretty much using Varnado (7 pts, 3 rebs, 4 blks) as a Q-tip. If you missed the 37 replays of it yesterday, wait until “One Shining Moment” and you’ll see the play where Brockman grabbed a rebound, got clipped in mid-air and hit the ground HARD, but popped right up and sprinted downcourt as the crowd went nuts. Brockman was like John Matrix in a jersey and shorts … Washington Nike Battleproof

Technically, the biggest upset of the day was 12-seed Western Kentucky beating 5-seed Illinois, but if you took the seeds away, it was obvious WKU was just the better team from start to finish … Maryland (over Cal), Michigan (over Clemson) and Texas A&M (over BYU) also pulled upsets that weren’t really upsets; in Michigan’s case, once they got accustomed to Clemson’s full-court press, it was Manny Harris simply imposing himself as the best player on the court, putting up 23 points, seven boards and six assists. Harris might have solidified his spot in this year’s Lottery if he decides to go pro … The NBA rolled out its biggest guns to compete with the college kids, but neither LeBron (vs. Portland) or Kobe (vs. Golden State) — not to mention Dime’s newest cover athlete, Brandon Roy — could steal the show … LeBron (26 pts, 11 rebs, 10 asts) and B-Roy (24 pts, 7 rebs, 7 asts) traded shots down the stretch in the fourth quarter, with Roy getting himself to the free throw line six times in the final two minutes. In overtime LBJ scored off the tip-off, and the Cavs never trailed after that … Cleveland committed only two turnovers — both of them by Mo Williams — tying the NBA record for the least ever in a game … Kobe scored 21 (9-25 FG) in a win over the Warriors, even though L.A. continued its trend of blowing second-half leads. This time they did it twice, once in the third quarter and later in the fourth before hanging on … Did you see Luke Walton trying not to laugh after he dunked on Ronny Turiaf? … And in the non-national TV game, which was actually pretty important as far as playoff standings go, the Hawks beat the Mavs. Joe Johnson scored 24, while Dirk Nowitzki had 23 points and 12 boards in the loss … During the UCLA game you might have seen THIS DUDE buried deep on Ben Howland‘s bench. Think about it: that guy will be able to walk around for the rest of his life and tell people, “I played ball at UCLA.” And it’ll be true … We’re out like Binghamton …

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