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With prelims done, bruising NCAA matchups loom

Only one severe tumble so far, and that was Blake Griffin getting flipped onto his back. Other than that scary sight, make this NCAA Tournament a monster’s ball.

Defending champion Kansas. Big East bombers Louisville, Connecticut and Pittsburgh. The Tobacco Road twosome. Tyler Hansbrough and a bevy of All-American big men, Jim Boeheim and a bunch of coaches with rings.

No room for the little guy at this party. Siena, Butler, Cleveland State? Not a George Mason among ‘em.

A year after every No. 1 seed reached the Final Four, so much for parity in men’s college basketball: For the first time, the top three seeds in every region advanced. Hardly an upset, hardly anyone upset at the selection committee.

“I’m not an expert, but I thought this year, for some reason, it seemed the easiest to pick 64 teams,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said Monday. “I thought it was pretty clear this year more than most years. When you look at how it’s ended up, I think they proven to themselves they did a very good job.”

So did any fan who played the chalk in their pools. It worked for President Obama – he correctly picked 14 of the 16 teams still competing.

Griffin picked himself off the floor and helped the Sooners hammer Morgan State. Oklahoma and its star now are surrounded by power teams from proven conferences.

“The teams that are all on top . . . have done a good job being the teams they’ve been all year and haven’t given up anything,” Griffin said.

At No. 12, Arizona is the lowest seed left. Other than that, it’s No. 5 Purdue.

And once again, March Madness becomes a tale of two tournaments: The first weekend is for the bracket busters, then it’s time for bruising matchups.

All those early forecasts this event was wide open? North Dakota State, East Tennessee State and Morehead State gave good accounts, up to a point. But going into the round of 16, it’s more like invitation only.

“It’s a little deceiving, because there were a lot of close games,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said Monday. “A missed shot here or there and another team could have broken through.”

Few said he thought the pod system, which rewards top seeds by letting them play closer to home, was a factor in them advancing. He likes the concept, especially after the Zags, from Spokane, Wash., opened in Portland, Ore.

Making it to the Sweet 16 won’t satisfy the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Bill Self, Jim Calhoun, Tom Izzo, Pitino or Boeheim – the seven coaches left in the tournament who already have won championships. John Calipari is eager to join them, too, after his Memphis Tigers missed a slew of late foul shots and lost last year’s title game to Kansas in overtime.

Arizona, with its own championship pedigree, also has aspirations of winning twice this weekend, making it to Ford Field in Detroit. This is the 25th straight year the Wildcats made it to the tournament, but with their lowest seeding.

“I think they get them right probably 99 percent of the time, and in our case with our record coming in, it’s probably correct,” UA interim coach Russ Pennell said. “But once you start playing the games, seeding, I think you can throw it out a lot of times, because it really comes down to one-game seasons.”

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This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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