By Cory Mccartney
March 19, 2007
Tyler Hansbrough
Who Made The Biggest Statement?
Beware East Regional -- and the rest of the remaining 16 teams for that matter -- Psycho T has been unmasked. Tyler Hansbrough finally removed the clear plastic mask that was protecting his broken nose and made the biggest statement of the tournament's opening weekend. While he got out of his offensive rut in the opener, scoring 21 points in a win over Eastern Kentucky in a new form-fitting version of the mask, and looked much more comfortable than he did in scoring 30 total points in three ACC tourney games, he was back to his bruising best in the second-round win over Michigan State after he removed the mask. Hansbrough took it off with 12:55 remaining in the first half and scored 15 of his 19 first-half points, finishing with 33 points and pulling down nine rebounds as the Tar Heels advanced to the Sweet 16. If North Carolina is going to get to Atlanta, especially with a possible showdown with Georgetown on the horizon, this is the Tyler Hansbrough the Heels need: the bruising, physical one who plays with reckless abandon. The mask is off and Hansbrough is again his dominant self. This is, of course, great news for Roy Williams and the Powder Blue Nation and bad news for everybody else.
If The Glass Slipper Fits ...
Say hello to Sinderella. It's hard to believe we're fitting a UNLV squad that had an RPI as high as 10 this season with a glass slipper, but the Rebels are the most unexpected team left in the field. Mid-majors Butler and Southern Illinois aren't considered Cinderellas any more, so a UNLV team that has spent the season under the radar and knocked off second-seeded Wisconsin to become the lowest-remaining seed still alive will have to do. The fact remains that the only thing making the Rebels an underdog is the fact that nobody's seen them play and most of the nation is just getting acquainted with a team that won 28 games and the MWC tourney title. But alas, UNLV is a great story: it was picked to finish sixth in the MWC, has an underrappreciated star in Wendell White and the father-son combination of Lon and Kevin Kruger. At least one person who saw UNLV in action thought the Rebels had a legitimate shot against the Badgers; after falling to Wisconsin in the first round, Texas A&M Corpus Christi coach Ronnie Arrow said: "I think when all is said and done, Vegas will win that game." Arrow must have CSTV, The mtn. or Versus.
Who's Primed For the Picking?
Tennessee's Bruce Pearl will likely be hanging up his orange blazer for the year with Ohio State up next. The Volunteers hung with the Buckeyes in their January meeting, which OSU won 68-66, but it was when Greg Oden was still trying to find his game. As much as Tennessee likes to create steals off its vaunted press and lives and dies by the three-pointer, it's facing an Ohio State team that doesn't make many mistakes (committing 11.7 turnovers a game) and allows just 0.90 points per possession (ninth nationally). Simply put: it's not the best combination for these Vols. While Tennessee faced similar issues against a Virginia squad that was second in the ACC in field goal percentage defense, Ohio State's ability to take care of the ball offensively and the presence of Oden, who feasted on Wayne Chism and Duke Crews in just his 10th collegiate game, posting 24 points and 15 rebounds, will allow OSU to control the glass and the tempo. The Buckeyes have won 19 straight, a streak that started with that Jan. 13 win over the Vols and No. 20 will end Tennessee's longest tournament run since 2000.
On The Marquee For Next Round
Texas A&M vs. Memphis. The injury to Tigers star Chris Douglas-Roberts is the biggest question mark heading into this Sweet 16 showdown. Douglas-Roberts vs. Acie Law could be one of the best guard clashes in the tournament if Douglas-Roberts can go. Memphis answered a lot of questions in knocking off Nevada for its 24th-consecutive win. The Tigers showed poise in rising to the Wolf Pack challenge (the Tigers outscored Nevada 14-0 over the final 4:59 after their lead dwindled to 64-62) with a display of depth when Douglas-Roberts was knocked out with a sprained left ankle. The Tigers, though, will get their toughest test of the season from the Aggies, who can match Memphis' athleticism and won't let the Tigers dictate the pace that so often overwhelms their opponents. A&M will bring its hit-you-in-the-mouth physical game right at Memphis. But the most important factor for Memphis is Douglas-Roberts' status.
Ron LewisG - Ohio State
For all the hype Ohio State's freshmen get, the senior Lewis kept the Buckeyes' season alive. He had 13 points and hit a long three-pointer with two seconds remaining to force overtime as the South's top seed beat Xavier to make the Sweet 16.
Acie LawG - Texas A&M
Captain Clutch has been sensational in the Aggies' first two wins, following up a 20-point performance in the first round against Penn with 26 points, including two free throws with 1.7 seconds left, in the second-round win over Louisville.
Derrick ByarsG - Vanderbilt
Byars made the plays that kept Vanderbilt squarely in the spotlight. He had 27 points (19 after halftime), hit five treys (four in the second half and another in the first OT) and had a stunning block in the double-OT win over Washington State.
"I don't think I speak English well enough to describe how I feel right now,"
--Butler forward Julian Betko, a Slovakian, after the No. 5-seed Bulldogs edged fourth-seeded Maryland 62-59 to move on to the Sweet 16 for the second time in five years.
"The only thing you worry about now is survive and advance. You don't worry about how it looks at this point."
--UCLA guard Arron Afflalo, who missed 9 of 11 shots, but hit two key free throws late to finish with 10 points as the top-seeded Bruins survived Indiana 54-49 to reach the Sweet 16.
"I can't be more happy. We're going to see the arches -- and not the McDonald's arches."
--Oregon coach Ernie Kent after his third-seeded Ducks beat Winthrop to advance to play UNLV in the Sweet 16 in St. Louis. It's the Ducks first trip to the Round of 16 since 2002.
A No. 12 over a No. 5. A lock, right? Not this year. Since 1985, No. 12 seeds have 29 first-round wins over 5s. But for the first time since 2000, no 12 advanced past the first round.
Florida out-rebounded Jackson State 62-19 in its first-round game, setting a tournament record for rebounding margin. Florida had more offensive boards (23) than JSU had total.
Holy Cross lost its ninth-straight tournament game, falling to Southern Illinois in the first round. The Crusaders, who won the 1947 national championship, haven't won in the tournament since 1953.

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