Saturday March 22nd, 2008

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Villanova band chanted as the final seconds ticked away early Saturday morning on the No. 12 seed Wildcats' 75-69 win against fifth-seeded Clemson. "UP-SET CI-TY! UP-SET CI-TY!"

Cinderella still has her castle about 70 miles up Interstate 4 in Orlando, but she also has a place by the water. Four games, four wins by double-digit seeds over their single-digit brethren. We saw mid-major cannibalism (No. 12 Western Kentucky 101, No. 5 Drake 99 in OT), David shocks Goliath (No. 13 San Diego 70, No. 4 Connecticut 69 in OT), David takes Goliath behind the woodshed (No. 13 Siena 83, No. 4 Vanderbilt 62) and a game that - by the time it tipped off - only would have been shocking had the higher seeded team won (Nova-Clemson).

"They're going to have some name for this," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I don't know, it's got to be the Tampa Turmoil or something. It's incredible what happened here today."

Never before had more than two five-seed-or-more underdogs won at the same site on the same day. Friday, all four did. That's one more upset -- using the above definition, which comes straight from NCAA headquarters -- than the entire 2007 tourney and one fewer than the 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2000 tourneys.

After they watched Western Kentucky guard Ty Rogers drain a three at the buzzer to beat Drake, Wright and his assistants hung their heads in mock dread. That was the 12-5 upset for this tournament, they joked. We don't stand a chance. But even after the Wildcats fell behind by 16 late in the first half, no one in the St. Pete Times Forum could dismiss them. They certainly didn't give up on themselves.

"I don't really see the NCAA as upsets anymore, because every team that gets here is obviously a good team," Villanova forward Dante Cunningham said. "Anything can happen. That's why it's called March Madness. It gets crazy sometimes."

How crazy? We saw two definite Shining Moments. The first came when Rogers -- whose mother, Ruth, has taped the One Shining Moment montage for longer than he can remember -- drained that three-pointer from the wing. The second came when San Diego guard De'Jon Jackson arced a jumper over the outstretched hand of UConn forward Stanley Robinson with 1.2 seconds remaining to send the tiny Catholic school to the second round for the first time in four tries. We may also have seen a third. The Moment producers typically use one or two images to convey the agony of defeat, and they couldn't pick a better one than Clemson guard Terrence Oglesby on his stomach, slamming his fists into the floor after missing a driving layup in the final minutes.

The players weren't the only ones breathing the upset pixie dust. After playing their team to a win, Western Kentucky band members donned blue T-shirts and played for the Toreros, whose band followed the San Diego women's team to Palo Alto, Calif. When we last left San Diego marketing director Chris Morales, he was trying to talk Siena band members into becoming honorary Toreros. "Upset karma, baby," Morales said to Siena's cheerleaders a few minutes before the Saints began their wire-to-wire thrashing of the Commodores.

Of course, one of the losing coaches had to ruin everyone else's fun with logic. "The nature of the NCAA tournament is about matchups. It's not about seeding," Vandy coach Kevin Stallings said. "Do you get a matchup that is good for you? Siena obviously got a matchup that was good for them. Western Kentucky got a matchup that I thought was good for them. Obviously, San Diego made the most of their matchup."

Stallings is wrong. It's not all about matchups. It's also about mojo. And magic. How else do you explain Siena's dominance, Jackson's rainbow or Rogers' prayer?

"Got to love the NCAA tournament, don't you?" Western Kentucky coach Darrin Horn said minutes after Rogers' shot. "What you just saw out there is why this is the greatest show on earth."

Ready for some better news? The fun isn't over. Because all four double-digit seeds won, two certainly will keep dancing until at least the Sweet 16. Once they get there, history won't be on their side: 12 and 13 seeds are a combined 1-17 in Sweet 16 play. But why worry about that now? Why not just enjoy spring break with Cinderella? The ball lasts all weekend.

"We're going to have some wild games Sunday," Wright said with a smile.

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