BOISE, Idaho -- Marquette was a popular pick as one of the high seeds that could fall in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and the Golden Eagles almost did on Friday. Utah State, a No. 11 seed, held a six-point lead with under five minutes remaining after trailing most of the game, but fifth-seeded Marquette survived 58-57 as their superior athleticism carried them in a tight finish.
Utah State's play-calling system is unique to say the least. Two assistant coaches (who look a lot alike) hold a stack of placards as thick as the Boise phonebook. In one stack are a series of words and numbers written in red and in the other everything is printed in blue. On a given set, one of the coaches will flip to a page with a term like "Front 5" while the other will display something like "Punch Back." One is a dummy card, and only the players know which is the real call and which is a decoy.
The Golden Eagles get the winner of Missouri/Cornell and they better pray that the Big Red pull off the upset. The stretches of lackadaisical defense and scoring droughts that almost led to the upset Friday will be more costly against the talented Tigers.