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Published: Monday, 3/21/2005

Dreamers get money's worth in 1st 2 rounds

We're two rounds into the NCAA tournament, and already half of the top 16 seeds have been eliminated.

Wake Forest, Connecticut, Boston College, Florida, Syracuse, Oklahoma and Gonzaga all suffered unexpected losses. And let's not forget that No. 14 Bucknell stunned No. 3 Kansas, the preseason tourney favorite.

Week Two of the tournament is when the heavyweights start throwing their weight around. But the first two rounds are for the dreamer in each of us.

BEST GAME: West Virginia 111, Wake Forest 105 in double overtime.

It was intense and heated and filled with drama. West Virginia had the game won 10 different times, but Wake Forest kept battling back.

The Mountaineers won on sheer determination and will power. In the end, they simply wanted the victory more than Wake Forest.

BEST PLAYER: Utah sophomore center Andrew Bogut.

Bogut led Utah to impressive tournament wins over UTEP and No. 3 Oklahoma. Against Oklahoma, Bogut faced double-team pressure and attempted only seven shots.

Bogut, however, dominated at both ends of the court despite scoring a season-low 10 points after scoring 24 in the UTEP win. He diversified his game, grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out a career-high seven assists.

Utah ran its offense through Bogut, a skillful 7-footer who started for Australia in the 2004 Summer Olympics. During a stretch of more than 10 minutes in the second half of Utah's 67-58 win over Oklahoma, Bogut either scored or assisted on every basket or trip to the foul line.

Bogut's disruptive presence at the defensive end forced Oklahoma into shooting only 31 percent from the field.

WORST ANNOUNCER CALL: Duke, the No. 1 seed in the Austin Regional, held off Mississippi State yesterday - no thanks to CBS announcer Billy Packer, a noted Atlantic Coast Conference apologist who's sensitive to the fact that Duke has a reputation nationally for receiving favorable treatment from officials.

Late in Duke's 63-55 victory over Mississippi State, Packer remained mute when officials gave Duke the benefit of the doubt on some non-foul calls while taking great pains to point out when fouls were called against the Blue Devils, bringing up the Duke conspiracy theory for good measure.

Packer's lack of objectivity during yesterday's national telecast ruined an otherwise excellent game.

BEST COACHING JOBS: Tie between West Virginia's John Beilein and Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Bruce Pearl.

People in northwest Ohio should be following West Virginia's tournament run under Beilein with great interest. Beilein replaced Dan Dakich, who had accepted the West Virginia job before withdrawing to return to Bowling Green.

Beilein has turned what was considered a bad coaching job three years ago into one of the better jobs in the country. Not to mention making himself a hot candidate for other coaching jobs when the tournament ends.

Ditto for Pearl, whose 12th-seeded Panthers of the Horizon League upended No. 5 Alabama of the Southeastern Conference and No. 4. Boston College of the Big East and will face top-seeded Illinois of the Big Ten in the Chicago Regional.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Boston College wasn't a basketball miracle. This is the NCAA tournament, remember?



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