Sunday March 13th, 2011

Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker scored 130 points in five games during the Big East tourney. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

1. We can only hope that the first days of the NCAA tournament will be as good as Selection Sunday Eve. It contained more than enough theater to save us from mind-numbing discussions about bubble teams' RPIs. The first moment of brilliance came from New Haven, Conn., on an Internet-only broadcast in the early afternoon, where Princeton guard Douglas Davis hit a leaning, buzzer-beating jumper to stun Harvard, which had been seconds away from its first trip to the tourney since 1946 (a loss to Ohio State). Davis' only "mistake," he said, was falling over after the shot -- because he immediately found himself at the bottom of a frenzied mob of Princetonians.

Isaiah Thomas

Isaiah Thomas lifted UW to the Pac-10 tourney title with a killer, step-back jumper. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Washington's Isaiah Thomas did not have to worry about a mob. None of the fans at the sparsely attended, 6 p.m. ET Pac-10 tournament final made it onto the Staples Center floor after his step-back stunner beat Arizona 77-75 in overtime and reminded the country the Huskies are still a formidable NCAA tournament team. Thomas may have been concerned, however, about making the head of CBS announcer Gus Johnson explode, as both his play-call ("SHAKE, CROSSOVER, STEPBACK, AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!") and summation ("COLLLLLD BLOODED!") reached peak levels of mania.

If only Gus had been available in New Haven earlier in the day, or cloned himself to be simultaneously in Cleveland, where overtime of the MAC final was concluding around the same time as Thomas' shot swished. The MAC's endgame drama featured two blocks on the last possession -- Akron 7-footer Zeke Marshall swatted Kent State's Rodriguez Sherman in the lane, and then the Zips' Steve McNees put a hand on Carlton Guyton's three at the buzzer to seal a one-point win. For good measure, the celebration briefly turned into a skirmish after Akron players inadvertently stepped on a sulking Michael Porrini of Kent State, and security guards came running in amid the streamers.

With Jimmer already tucked into bed by San Diego State by the 9 p.m. hour, the late-night stage was all Kemba's. His final move that sunk Louisville was a drive-and-dish -- to Jeremy Lamb for the game-winning layup in overtime -- but UConn's Big East tournament title was historic because of Walker's week-long body of work. The junior guard strung together an unprecedented run of five virtuoso performances in five days, carrying the Huskies -- the tournament's No. 9 seed -- to a championship and a possible No. 3 seed in the NCAAs. No team had ever won five straight at the Big East, and no player had ever dominated the tournament like Walker, whose 130 points (including 19 Saturday) broke the previous record by 46. To think his performance will be replicated at the Garden anytime soon ... well, that would be madness.

2. Jimmer has bigger issues to worry about than being outshined by Kemba. BYU's 18-point loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West title game could result in a major flip of the top lines of the West Region. The Cougars entered the day with an outside shot at a No. 1 seed if they could present a reassuring, sans-Brandon Davies win over the Aztecs to the selection committee. The fallout from Saturday's blowout is that SDSU is now likely to earn either the No. 2 seed in Anaheim, while BYU will likely get shipped to the New Orleans regional as a 3- or 4-seed. (The Cougars and Aztecs will be in separate regions to avoid a fourth meeting, and BYU needs to be at a Thursday-Saturday regional, so the Big Easy is the logical destination.)

As for who's going to get the No. 1 seeds? Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame. In that order. The rest of your seeding answers can be found in Andy Glockner's latest projection of the Field of 68.

3. For the sake of the bracket, Selection Sunday's on-court action is less about Duke-Carolina than it is about ... Dayton. The Flyers, despite having great potential for excitement -- Chris Wright is still on their roster, after all -- were excruciatingly painful to watch during Atlantic 10 play, bumbling their way to a 7-9 league record. They have no shot at an at-large bid and entered the A-10 tournament with a 0.9 percent chance of earning an automatic bid. But after three straight wins -- over UMass, Xavier and St. Joe's -- Dayton is in the A-10 title game with status as The Last Bid Thief Standing. Its opponent, Richmond, has big fans in bad-résumé land: Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Colorado and USC will all be watching ... and sweating.

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