Semis: Cincinnati 69 Maryland 57; Gonzaga 74 Wisconsin 61
Big statement win for the Bearcats, who are hoping to contend in what should be a weaker Big East this year. Maryland got a good game from Greivis Vazquez in this one, but Cincy dominated everywhere else, particuarly on the boards where they held a decisive 45-31 edge. Yancy Gates had another big game, with 17 points and 13 rebounds. As Big East forwards go, Luke Harangody will get all the ink, but let's keep an eye on Gates as the season progresses.
Gonzaga also sent a message that maybe they won't be that far down this year. After starting the season with a near-miss at Michigan State, they handled Wisconsin last night in game the Zags controlled from the opening tip. Wisconsin was horrible from three-point range, shooting 5-for-24, but the mere fact the patient Badgers were settling for that many long jumpers is testament to how much Gonzaga controlled the flow of the game.
Consolation: Arizona 91 Colorado 87 (OT), Vanderbilt 68 Chaminade 41
Chaminade shot 23 percent from the floor. Not much to add after that. In the other game, two guards, Nic Wise from Arizona and Cory Higgins from Colorado, put on a show with 30 & 28 points respectively. But of these two teams, Arizona is the one with traditional expectations and the fact they needed to shoot the lights out from treyland (14-for-24) to barely survive Colorado, suggests a lot of improvement is needed. They've got a new coach in Sean Miller and they are not experienced, so this is a normal growth process. But they are not yet where they need to be to continue their longest-in-the-nation streak of 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament bids. Improvement needed.
Back in the continental U.S.A, Texas used a balanced offense led by swingman Damion James to beat up Pitt 78-62, and showing that Pitt is another team with a long way to go in rebuilding from the personnel they lost. And checking in on Pat Knight at Texas Tech, his team is already 6-0, but barely surviving Stephen Austin last night, 63-61, doesn't bode well for his ability to win in a year he must establish himself as a solid coach in his own right.
We'll be back tomorrow to wrap up Maui, as well as look at the semi-finals of the Preseason NIT, which goes tonight in Madison Square Garden. LSU plays UConn and Arizona State pairs up with Duke in an ESPN doubleheader.