* Michigan and Clemson tip it off. As everyone has stated, this is the intriguing contrast in styles, with Clemson’s full-court pressing uptempo game versus Michigan’s zone D and three-happy offense. And right away, Clemson almost forces a turnover by trapping one of UM’s guards in the corner.
* This is gonna be tough for Michigan. It’s immediately evident they don’t have enough athletes to run with Clemson, and a lot of their guys look overwhelmed by the press. It’s only 7-3 right now, but they need to figure this press out ASAP.
* Michigan goes on an 8-0 run to take the lead and is handling the press better. Manny Harris, the Wolverines’ star two-guard already more rebounds (four) than the rest of his team (three).
* Harris squares up with a man in his face and calmly drains a three to put Michigan up by six. I’m thinking he’s going pro this year. “Manny just being Manny!” cries the announcer as we go to commercial break.
* CBS break away from Michigan/Clemson (17-13, UM) for the start of Gonzaga/Akron. Since I’m in the same state as the Zags, we’re probably getting this game from start to finish.
* This game isn’t five minutes old and I’ve already seen like 4-5 great passes from both teams. Nothing flashy or fancy, just good displays of vision and getting it to the right guy. This is the game to watch if you’re a purist.
* Another great pass by Steven Gray inside to Josh Heytvelt for a dunk puts Gonzaga up by two. Right after that, some short White kid on Akron gets his LeBron on by spiking a layup off the glass, albeit after a foul. I read somewhere that LeBron didn’t fill out a bracket this year, but called Akron to win it all.
* Akron has a guy named Humpty Hitchens, who is 5-foot-9 and went to Chillicothe H.S. in Ohio. I need him to have a big game today. I also need a cheesy announcer to scream, “Step off, he’s doing the Hump!” after one of his big buckets.
* Austin Daye gets a tip dunk and Jeremy Pargo hits a three (right in Humpty’s nose), and Gonzaga leads by four. I have to check the mock drafts and see if Daye is still projected to be a Top-5 pick next year. I don’t know, I’ve just never seen it with him. He’s got size and he’s smooth, but he just doesn’t seem like a Lottery pick to me. At least not yet.
* Scoreboard check: American is up 10 on Villanova at halftime, Michigan is beating Clemson by nine early in the second half, and Texas is beating Minnesota by six early in the second half. Here, Akron is up three on with 3:20 left in the half, and Gonzaga just turned it over. Bad news for the Zips: Humpty got hurt earlier and hasn’t returned. Good news: Their big European kid is working Heytvelt in the post for buckets.
* Akron’s Nate Linhart drops a three, then Pargo comes back and scores on a drive right before the buzzer. It’s 38-35 Akron at the break. Linhart has 13 points and is setting himself up for a Bryce Drew flashback. Can you believe that was ELEVEN years ago?
* CBS goes to Texas/Minnesota, just as A.J. Abrams comes off a screen running a full sprint, catches and raises from NBA range to wet a three. Next possession, he hits another three in transition. Abrams can be a beast in college, but what about on the next level? I’m seeing Daniel Gibson at best, but probably more along the lines of J.J. Redick. Just as I wrote that, Abrams hit another triple to put Texas up by a dozen.
* Post-dinner scoreboard check: Texas beat Minnesota by 14 (my first L in the brackets), getting 26 points and eight threes from Abrams; Villanova is up 13 on American with 30 seconds left; Michigan beat Clemson by three behind Manny Harris’ 23-7-6 line; and Gonzaga is up seven on Akron with 7:20 left.
* Heytvelt hits a three from straightaway, looking very Okur-ish while scoring his ninth straight point and putting Gonzaga up double digits. I just checked NBADraft.net and they have him projected to go 35th in the Draft, a few spots ahead of UConn’s Jeff Adrien. Sounds about right, although I’d take Adrien to have a better pro career.
* Zags on a 24-4 run and increasing the lead to 15. Bedtime for Akron. In that same interview where LeBron (jokingly, of course) said Akron would win the whole thing, he implied that he would have gone there had he gone to college. I’d always heard Ohio State. What kind of numbers do you think a freshman LBJ would put up playing for Akron? And if he’d stayed a couple years, could he have won a national championship there? Think about ‘Bron in ’07; that was the year he led the Cavs to the Finals. He would have been a senior in college.
* Pargo gets WAY up above the rim for a dunk that causes the building to explode. The kid he dunked on looked shocked that Pargo got that high and cocked his arm back that far. Are we sure this guy is related to Jannero Pargo? I’ve seen him jump like that before, and the hops are nowhere in Jannero’s league.
* Final stats from the Villanova game: Garrison Carr scored 22 for American with six threes; and Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson each scored 25 for ‘Nova. I just realized I’ve been typing “Dwyane” so much lately, I forgot how it’s normally spelled. I looked at the Villanova kid’s name for a godo minute thinking something was wrong with it.
* Gonzaga gets the W; Heytvelt finishes with 22 points and eight boards. For being everybody’s favorite underdog for so long, the Zags secretly have a history of underachieving in the tournament in recent years when they’ve gotten higher seeds. I was surprised they won this game so easily in the second half, and both Illinois and/or Western Kentucky are very beatable for them in Round Two. Mark Few‘s squad could actually coast to the Sweet Sixteen.