Opening Madness

The first round of the NCAA tournament featured upsets and nailbiters
Friday, March 18, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:09 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 7, 2008

The upsets just keep on coming for No. 12 seeds.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee beat Alabama 83-73 on Thursday, the 16th time in the last 17 years at least one 12th-seeded team won a first-round game in the NCAA tournament.

It was the 24th time a 12 beat a 5 since that run began in 1989. The only year the seven-line upset didn’t happen since then was 2000.

And it was the 27th such upset since the field went to 64 teams in 1985; the only other year a 12 didn’t get at least one was 1988.

Last year, Pacific beat Providence and Manhattan defeated Florida in 12-5 matchups.

The other three 12-5 games are Friday: Villanova-New Mexico; Michigan State-Old Dominion; and Georgia Tech-George Washington.

Thursday was Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s day.

The Panthers shot 52 percent from the field against an Alabama team that held opponents to 34 percent shooting this season. They also forced the Crimson Tide into 19 turnovers, seven over their average.

“We expected this,” Wisconsin-Milwaukee forward Joah Tucker said. “It wasn’t a big surprise for us.”

The Panthers lost 70-69 to Notre Dame as a No. 12 seed in 2003.

Alabama was one of the surprises of last year’s tournament, making a run to the regional final that included a win over top-ranked and top-seeded Stanford in the second round.

But that was last year, when the Crimson Tide started as a much safer No. 8 seed.

“Last year it seemed the sun was shining on us pretty good,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “Today, we just didn’t play that well.”

CLOSE ONE: Washington took a lot of heat over its No. 1 ranking since the field was announced Sunday.

The Huskies didn’t exactly shut up the doubters with an 88-77 victory over Montana in the first round.

No top seed has ever lost to a No. 16 and the closest any came last season was 19 points, Saint Joseph’s margin of victory over Liberty.

The closest a 16th seed has ever come are the one-point losses by Princeton to Georgetown and East Tennessee State to Oklahoma, both in 1989.

PAUL’S BACK: Chris Paul was back and Wake Forest won.

The preseason player of the year returned from his one-game suspension with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Demon Deacons beat Chattanooga 70-54.

The sophomore guard was suspended after punching North Carolina State’s Julius Hodge in the groin during the final regular season game.

Paul missed Wake Forest’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinal against North Carolina State, a loss many feel cost the Demon Deacons a No. 1 seeding.

STREAKS MEET: The two longest winning streaks in Division I met in the first round and the longer one is over.

Gonzaga beat Winthrop 74-64, its 13th consecutive victory. The Eagles had won their past 18 straight.

Winthrop had one streak extended as it dropped to 0-5 all-time in the NCAA tournament, all since 1999.

WHAT BIG EAST?: Pacific has to be hoping the Big East is looking for a West Coast member.

The eighth-seeded Tigers beat Pittsburgh 79-71 on Thursday, the second year in a row they beat a team from the Big East in the first round.

Last year, Pacific beat Providence 66-58 in the opening round as a 12th seed.

“Being here last year and knowing what it takes to get a victory definitely helped this team,” said Big West player of the year David Doubley, who had 17 points against the Panthers. “Hopefully it will help us in the next round on Saturday.”

Pacific, which lost to Kansas 78-63 in the second round in 2004, will play top-seeded Washington on Saturday.

HOT EAGLES: When a team goes “50-50” it usually has a good game. Boston College went well beyond shooting 50 percent overall and 50 percent from 3-point range.

In their 85-65 victory over Pennsylvania on Thursday, the Eagles shot 57.7 percent overall (30-for-52) and 66.7 percent from beyond the arc (8-for-12).

It’s easy to see why the Eagles feel a lot more like the team that started the season with 20 straight wins and reached No. 3 in the poll, rather than the one that ended the season going 4-4 in its last eight games.

“We were very aggressive, we made shots,” said Craig Smith, who had 15 points and 13 rebounds. “It was kind of like how we started 20-0. I definitely feel we have our swagger back.”

MOST AND LEAST: Kentucky’s 72-64 victory over Eastern Kentucky may have been closer than most thought it would be, but the result didn’t mess with history.

The win was the Wildcats’ 96th in the NCAA tournament, the most by any school.

The loss dropped the Colonels to 0-6 all-time in the tournament, tying Nebraska for the third-worst record in NCAA history.

The only schools with worse records are Louisiana-Monroe (0-7) and North Carolina A&T (0-9).

POISON IVY: Penn’s 85-65 loss to Boston College extended the Ivy League’s losing streak in the NCAA tournament to eight games. The last win by an Ivy League team was Princeton’s 69-57 first-round victory over UNLV in 1998.

LONG TRIP: Pittsburgh won this season’s “Long, Strange Trip Award” as the Panthers took 19 hours to get from their western Pennsylvania campus to Boise, Idaho.

Mechanical problems with the charter plane required a long layover in the Sioux Falls, S.D. airport where the team held a walkthrough practice while waiting for a replacement plane.

Pacific beat Pittsburgh 79-71 on Thursday, but the Panthers wouldn’t use the trip as an excuse.

“We did lose a day of practice, but it still shouldn’t have affected us because we had a good practice yesterday,” Pitt senior Chevon Troutman said.

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