Halfway through the round of 64, let's hope Friday brings more thrills, and fewer blowouts, than Thursday ...

  • Action: Oregon, Cal and Arizona win as Pac-12 goes 3-0.

    Reaction I: No matter what happens to Colorado and UCLA on Friday and regardless of the Saturday results ... even if the league doesn't win another game ... it has been a successful tournament. Expectations were low. Respect (from fans, media and the selection committee) was almost non-existent. And for good reason: the conference wasn't very good from November through Selection Sunday. But March Madness is the great eraser of negativity.

    Reaction II: Looking ahead ... With Harvard taking out New Mexico in the biggest upset of the day, by far, No. 6 Arizona has a terrific chance to reach the Sweet 16. Or so it would seem. You'd like to think the Wildcats would prepare for Harvard with the same sense of urgency they would have for New Mexico. But the unavoidable sliver of relief that comes with seeing a bracket open up, well, that can be an unstoppable, lethargy-inducing force.

    Reaction III: With UNM out and Gonzaga looking vulnerable against Southern, the West looks to be soft, soft, soft -- and there for the taking, Buckeyes.


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    Reaction IV: The wins by No. 12s Oregon and Cal over Oklahoma State and UNLV, respectively, were remarkably similar. Cal's victory was far more harrowing, sure. But in both cases the lower seeds from the Pac-12 were the aggressors and in control for most, if not all of the second half. And both contained ultra-gifted freshmen on the other team (OSU's Marcus Smart and UNLV's Anthony Bennett).

    Reaction V: One final similarity: Both 12s were masterfully coached. Oregon's Dana Altman and Cal's Mike Montgomery made their younger counterparts (Travis Ford and Dave Rose) look silly. They designed superb gameplans and had their teams immaculately prepared -- although perhaps Cal should have spent a few more minutes at the foul line this week!

  • Action: Cal beats UNLV 64-61.

    Reaction I: The Bears needed Allen Crabbe to lead and he did just that, with 19 points (on 15 shots) and nine rebounds. Justin Cobbs had a solid floor game, as well (free throw issues aside).

    Reaction II: But the story of the game was actually two stories: Cal's zone -- a brilliant move by Montgomery -- it was the most zone that one of his teams has played since his Montana days -- and Cal's frontcourt: David Kravish with nine rebounds and three blocks, and Robert Thurman with 12 points (the game of his life, given the circumstances). Kravish and Thurman, along with Richard Solomon, gave Cal a physical presence up front that has been absent on many occasions this season. The Bears were -17 in rebounding in the regular-season losses to UNLV the past two seasons. Thursday, they were just -1. They also clamped down on Anthony Bennett, holding the gifted freshman to 4 of 11 shooting.

    Reaction III: This was a big victory personally for Montgomery, as well. Not only was it his first tournament win over a higher seed since March '98, it also redefines his season: It will no longer be remembered for The Shove.

    Reaction IV: Up next: Syracuse, the original zone team. The Orange are bigger and more athletic than anyone in the Pac-12. They're beatable, but the Bears will have to play even better -- tougher, smarter, more efficient -- than they did Thursday.

  • Action: Saint Mary's loses to Memphis 54-52 as Matthew Dellavedova's game-winner sails long.

    Reaction I: It was a tough, tough shot -- would have been epic had it fallen.

    Reaction II: A terrific effort from the Gaels given the week they've had and the matchup problems posed by Memphis' athleticism. But Randy Bennett's coaching, Dellavedova's grit and Brad Waldow's production (17 points) kept SMC in the game far longer (39:59) than anyone had the right to expect.

    Reaction III: Of course, it helped that Memphis imploded down the stretch, as the Tigers have been known to do. Were they as well coached as the Gaels, it would have been a 15-20 point game.

    Reaction IV: I can't help but wonder what the future holds for the Gaels with the NCAA sanctions that will undermine recruiting, strip them of scholarships and force Bennett to miss the first five games of WCC play next season. The future is murky, indeed.

  • Action: The Mountain West experiences a nightmare day as No. 3 seed New Mexico and No. 5 seed UNLV tumble.

    Reaction I: Combined with Boise State's loss in the First Four, the Mountain West is 1-3 in the NCAAs, with San Diego State playing Friday and the win courtesy of Colorado State. This, after what had been a first-class season for the conference and soaring expectations for March Madness. (New Mexico was a trendy Final Four pick for those who didn't like Gonzaga.)

    Reaction II: Now all the work the MWC did from Nov. — March will be back-burnered in favor of the last impression -- that of a conference collapsing in the NCAAs. It has happened to every league. The fact that the MWC was good enough in the first place to experience a nightmare tournament is a good sign.