UNLV, Texas, and Miami all helped their own cause

SONG SELECTION: The Bangles, “Walking Down Your Street”

A whole slew of fun games, punctuated by the buzzer beating shot from 35 feet out by Dennis Mavin which sent Florida International into the second round of the Conference USA Tournament over a gutsy effort by UT-San Antonio.  That final score was 57-54.

UNLV cruised past lowly Nevada, 67-46 in the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.  In the Big 12, Texas got a much needed win in Kansas City, outlasting Texas Tech 65-53.

Finally, the run of close games continued in the ACC as Miami got a much needed win to help their cause to be one of the last bubbles hoping to make the field of 68.  The Hurricanes were led by Sheldon McClellan’s 16 points and six rebounds in a resounding 59-49 win over Virginia Tech.

Next up for Miami, a match with their former football rivals in Notre Dame.

The first time these schools met back on January 17 when South Bend was blanketed with upwards of at least two feet in snow outside, the action was hot inside the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.

Notre Dame overcame a 17 point deficit in that game to win 75-70 when one of the hottest shooters in the country at the time in Angel Rodriguez really began to cool off.  That again will be the key for Thursday night–can the Irish get a great all-around performance from every guy on the floor and not let just Jerian Grant get his 25 or so points?

Easier said than done, since Head Coach Mike Brey had them practicing in 70 degree weather since Monday–and they were the first team to arrive before everybody else for the most prestigious conference tournament in all of college basketball.

Otherwise, not too many upsets of major note except for a pair of small head scratchers in Las Vegas and Chicago:

USC trailed by 14 at one point in the second half before going on a 21-4 run in the last nine minutes to upend the always crazy party school of Arizona State, 67-64.  They will face their inner-city rivals of UCLA on Thursday.

The first game of the expanded 14 team Big Ten Conference had some mini drama on Chicago’s West Side.  “The House That Jordan Built” had Penn State shut down Nebraska’s key offensive weapons and came away with a mighty impressive opening win 68-65.  D.J. Newbill was the game’s high scorer with 26 points.  Next up for the Nittany Lions, a second round matchup with 5 seed Iowa–who barely missed out on having a double bye thanks to Purdue pummeling Illinois on Saturday in West Lafayette.

The other game was not much of a contest as Minnesota easily cruised past lowly Rutgers.  Next up for the Golden Gophers, a grudge match with Ohio State.

As I close this blog for tonight, huge congratulations to the Lafayette Leopards of Pennsylvania as they hung out to defeat American University of Washington, D.C. by a close 65-63 score.  This will be the Leopards’ fourth trip to the Big Dance and first since 2000, in which they have come empty in their previous three tries.

With no automatic bids up until early Saturday afternoon in the Eastern time zone, my next set of blogs will mostly be reviewing the key games involving bubble teams and previewing the next day’s action.

Four more conferences will finish up the long laundry list of the 31 post-season tournaments.  Full schedule information, along with relevant TV and Internet radio or online streaming will once again be given for easy reference.

But first…I will close out this night with my final exclusive blog:  my Top Ten list of the greatest sites ever to host the Final Four and National Championships.

Enjoy, and please tell your friends to join in on the fun just in time for Selection Sunday.  See you all tomorrow!


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