First round gut reactions
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 best game of the day?
Seth Davis: The Duke-Belmont game was definitely the best game of the day -- you could tell Belmont was going to be a tough opponent because both of those teams play the same. I think both would be uncomfortable in a slow-down style and both were happy to run-and-gun, but Belmont outscrapped [Duke]. There's some edge that Duke lost in the last three weeks of the season, and it'd better get it back because West Virginia is a very good team. The Blue Devils have to rediscover their defensive edge. Belmont played a great game -- it's just evidence the world [of basketball] is flat: There's not much difference between the Belmonts of the world and the Dukes.
SI.com: What about Georgia?
SD: The Bulldogs played extremely well. Xavier answered the bell, but what happened was Georgia was outtoughing, outscrapping the Mukseteers -- it wasn't until halfway through the second half that Xavier was able to match that and surpass that. Give Xavier credit for knowing its identity and rising to the occasion but also give credit to Georgia. I've always thought highly of coach Dennis Felton, he runs a disciplined program, his players graduate, his teams play hard and they were just about getting ready to fire him when they made that improbable tourney run. Now, they've already said he's coming back, but they had to make that run.
SI.com: The biggest surprise?
SD: Kent State -- I was surprised how poorly Kent State played. The Flashes came out too hyped and they were not the team that I saw all season long. They're shorter, but tougher, smarter and more composed than the teams they were playing. They only put up 10 points in the first half [which tied a tournament record]. I think UNLV is pretty good, but I think Kansas will overwhelm the Rebels.
SI.com: The biggest upset?
SD: Kansas State over USC wrecked my bracket. Michael Beasley ended with 23 points and five at half time, eight of his total points were at the foul line. He had a solid game but he didn't go beserk. K-State got a lot of production elsewhere. Bill Walker's not a three-point shooter but he shot 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, Ron Anderson had 12, Clent Stewart had six. [Coach] Frank Martin did a good job with Beasley after he picked up two fouls in the first five minutes of the game ... he knew they couldn't win without him, but they also couldn't win with him having two fouls. Coach Martin did a great job of shuffling him in and out and it ended up that USC got in foul trouble. K-State against Wisconsin is going to be a great game. Wisconsin is a great team all around, but K-State has two players who are better than anyone Wisconsin has.
SI.com: What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
SD: Gonzaga-Davidson might be the best game of the day. It's two mid-majors who are very talented and it will come down to who's making their shots and staying out of foul trouble. Gonzaga has height with Josh Heyvtelt, but he's not always dependable. When he's on, he's a talented big guy who can step up and make shots. If he has a good game he can make a difference for the Bulldogs. On the Davidson side, they've got two very talented guards in Stephen Curry and Jason Richards.
There's also Drake-Western Kentucky. It's another game of mid-major teams, and Drake's a team that I think a lot of people know about but haven't seen play. I think the team is more athletic than people anticipate and Western Kentucky's very athletic too. They have Courtney Lee, a 6-foot-5 senior guard, who could be a first-round draft pick in the upcoming draft. if he plays as well as he can play, Drake might in trouble.
SI.com: What's your upset watch for tomorrow?
SD: My upset special: Siena over Vandy. Siena is a quintessential mid-major, small in all five positions, an undersized so-called big man in Alex Franklin -- the Saints slumped when he got hurt, but when he got healthy, they found their stride and won the conference tournament. They have to make their shots, but the tough thing about Siena is it has three or four players who are capable of putting up 20 points. Vanderbilt has to show up defensively. The Commodores didn't play well away from home this year and that's one thing to look at when you're look for an upset.
SI.com: Anything else?
SD: I have to give props to Michigan State -- they're hating me in Lansing because on the Selection Show I picked Temple, and Michigan State didn't just beat the Owls, they embarrassed them. Dionte Christmas came in averaging 20 points per game, he scored three [Thursday] and shot 1-for-12 from the floor. Michigan State played great defense and got great production from their non-stars ... Drew Neitzel was 2-for-11, and if I saw that stat before the game, I would assume Temple was going to win. I have to give the Spartans their due, they proved me wrong.