Friday March 20th, 2009

SI.com caught up with Seth Davis, who's serving as a CBS studio analyst during the tournament, to get his impressions of Thursday's first-round action.

SI.com: What was the most important thing you learned today?

Seth Davis: It's hard to win. Outside of the 16-1 games, which were blown out of the park, I'm disappointed Cal State Northridge didn't hang around; but Memphis was pretty hairy for them. Memphis has to be a little shaken: It looked uncomfortable, nervous, and it couldn't handle the zone. It was a pretty simple zone Northridge threw at them, and the Tigers just couldn't make jump shots. For Roburt Sallie, his previous career high was 13 points and he had 35 off the bench; you'd be hard-pressed to find a more-shocking performance ... and they still struggle to win. You have to assume Sallie will score less than 30 against Maryland, so you have to ask where those points are going to come from.

SI.com: Maryland pulled a dangerous zone halfway through the game against Cal. Does that mean Memphis is in trouble?

SD: I think Maryland is a better matchup for Memphis -- if you're playing Memphis, you've got to play zone; but if you play zone, you're vulnerable to offensive rebounds and that's supposed to be Memphis' strength. But Greivis Vasquez had 27 points, and if he can do that Saturday, you have to like Maryland's chances. For Memphis, now that they have a game under their belt, they have to be a little more confident. This Memphis team, unlike last season, didn't have a great nonconference season, so it had to get its feet wet. But Tyreke Evans did not show up today, his numbers were pretty good. He had 15 points, but he only took four free throws, and Memphis went 12-of-24 from the line.

SI.com: Speaking of interesting games, what did you think about Eric Maynor's last-minute shot in VCU's loss to UCLA?

SD: Well you know, I thought VCU did pretty well to get that last shot. Maynor was great tonight, his numbers were not great -- he scored 21 points -- but it took him 14 shots, which isn't good. But he had seven assists, two turnovers, six rebounds and went 10-for-13 from the foul line and did a good job playing through his teammates -- unfortunately for the Rams, they had a lot of shot opportunities that didn't go down. Brandon Rozzell was 1-of-5 from three and Larry Sanders getting into foul trouble hurt his minutes; he went for 3-of-11. But back to Maynor, given the circumstances, I thought he kept his poise knowing everyone -- in the arena, in the state, in the world -- knew he was going to take the last shot. He got off a good shot off and I'm sure Ben Howland was holding his breath the whole way because the only question was is he going to make that shot? The guy who was great is UCLA freshman Jrue Holiday. Darren Collison was in foul trouble guarding Eric Maynor and Holiday made some key buckets in the second half, finishing with 13 points and six assists.

SI.com: What did we learn about UCLA from that game?

SD: UCLA's just OK, it's got Villanova in its next game, and UCLA may win that one. But I think you watch UCLA and you know it's a good team, it's a smart team, but it's hard to envision it making a deep run in the tournament.

SI.com: Speaking of Villanova, what'd you think about its close call?

SD: American played very well and then Villanova woke up. In the first half, 'Nova shot 2-of-3 from foul line and in second half it went 24-for-26, so I think it's safe to say it did a better job of driving the ball to the hoop. To me, it was a fascinating case study of the psychology of the tournament: Villanova was the favorite playing at home, while AU had no pressure: It could just play and it was making great shots. Garrison Carr was phenomenal and American led by 14 until Villanova got desperate, so 'Nova started playing with a greater sense of urgency and throwing up everything and attacking the hoop. It'll have to play like that from the opening tip to beat UCLA.

SI.com: Who's your MVP of the day?

SD: Roburt Sallie, for starters, he had 35 points, after all. A.J. Abrams was really good -- I think he ended up with 26, going 8-for-15 from three -- but he will not do that against Duke. Texas may win that game, but Minnesota's not a great team, Duke's a lot better than Minnesota. Clemson was my most disappointing team -- they were so bad at the beginning. Once Terrence Oglesby got ejected for a flagrant foul, things started turning around. He was just horrible, he went 1-for-7 from three, while Clemson was killing Michigan on the boards -- it had about nine offensive rebounds and couldn't hit a shot, couldn't hit lay-up runners, threes, nothing. Clemson had 27 points in the first half, and it was only losing by three. So then Oglesby gets ejected and Clemson has to play real basketball. It had to start trying to get to the foul line, and it chipped away two more minutes and they would have won.

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