Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Upsets Galore

The nasty scratch on Mississippi senior Jada Mincy's right cheek suggested it wasn't a completely bloodless revolution, but the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament were marked by a mostly peaceful uprising of the hoops proletariat.
Mid-majors and major-mids of the world unite.

"Absolutely, we watched it all night," Mincy said about a second-round upset frenzy that began on Monday night in Stanford, Calif, when Marist upset Middle Tennessee and Florida State topped the second-seeded Cardinal.

"Armintie [Price] is my roommate, so we watched it -- curfew was at 11, but we were up until 12-something watching Marist. I love Marist, I fell in love with Marist four days ago when they played Ohio State. Those girls are just wonderful."

Sorting through the wreckage of the bracket -- something usually reserved for the men's side when it comes to the first two rounds -- you find three No. 2 seeds out of commission in Maryland, Stanford and Vanderbilt. Also absent from the Sweet 16 is fourth-seeded Texas A&M, knocked out by George Washington from the Atlantic 10.

For the first time since the bracket expanded to 64 teams, no region will have all four top seeds in the Sweet 16. And for the first time ever, the MAC and the vowel-happy MAAC will be represented during the tourney's second weekend.

Geno Auriemma's top-seeded Connecticut Huskies avoided the upset bug against Wisconsin-Green Bay, but not before the Phoenix headed to the locker room with a 40-38 halftime lead. Like the Mississippi players, Auriemma had watched the revolution unfold on television the night before. Unlike the aptly named Rebels, he wasn't entirely comfortable with the coup.

"I don't know what you're supposed to think," Auriemma said. "You almost start to think, 'Well, they all can't lose.' And then you see another drop and you say, 'Why not?'"

But with his ticket to Fresno safely punched after a second-half run that allowed the Huskies to win by 24, Auriemma offered the perspective of someone who has seen enough of these tournaments unfold to know of what he speaks.

"I think it's been the best tournament we've had in a long, long time," Auriemma said. "And I don't know that you can say the committee didn't get it right. I don't think there is anything wrong with where they put people and who they matched up. I just think maybe we're underestimating how large the pool is of good teams. There is still a huge disparity, obviously, between 1 and 16, 2 and 15, but as you get closer now, it's really good, it's really fun."

Although they come from different backgrounds, small-conference champions like Marist and Bowling Green and major-conference teams like Florida State and Mississippi are united in a common goal. And they're feeding off the energy each creates.

"That was really inspiring for us," Mississippi's Ashley Awkward said. "We were calling each other in the rooms, 'Oh my God, Marist won … Oh my God, FSU,' so it's like the underdogs are taking over. We're not worried about the seeding, we're not worried about that number behind us, we just want to play ball."

And while the four top seeds are now even more the prohibitive favorites to reach Cleveland, you never know what might happen.

"This is the year of miracles," Mincy said. "This is the year anything can happen. This is the year that the aggressor, the one that has the most heart, will win."

Those in Dallas, Dayton, Fresno and Greensboro have been warned. The revolution is coming.

Lady Rebs Upset Terrapins to Advance to Sweet Sixteen

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -Maryland fell into Ole Miss' trap and the defending NCAA champion never got out.

Ole Miss (23-10) used its stifling defense to steal the ball 15 times and force 29 Maryland turnovers and the Rebels upset the No. 2 seed Terrapins 89-78 in the Dayton Regional on Tuesday night.

Armintie Price scored 29 points to lead the Rebels, the same Ole Miss team that was blown out by the Terps 110-79 at a tournament in the Bahamas in November.

This time there was a lot more on the line.

Ole Miss will play No. 3 Oklahoma in the Dayton Regional semifinals. The third-seeded Sooners beat Marquette 78-47 on Monday.

Kristi Toliver led Maryland (28-6) with 24, including 14 in the second half when the Terps cut a 23-point lead to seven.

Maryland made its final run with 6 minutes left after Ole Miss' Alliesha Easley was injured battling for and offensive rebound and Shantell Black hit two free throws to make it 75-60. The Terps, led by Toliver, went on a 12-4 run to make it 79-72.

But Shay Doron and Marissa Coleman fouled out late, and the Rebels hit their free throws down the stretch.

Ashley Awkward had 22, and Easley had 16 for Ole Miss, which scored 42 points off Maryland's turnovers.

Coleman had 20, 13 after intermission, and Crystal Langhorne added 14 for Maryland.

Ross said November's loss came before her team had found its running, pressing, trapping identity.

It was on display from the start this time. After trailing 6-2 early, The Rebels went on an 18-0 run, led by Price, who hit her first six shots.

Ole Miss forced Maryland into 20 first-half turnovers, stealing the ball 10 times.

The Rebels led by as many as 23 and took a 47-30 lead into the half.

Doron, who scored 21 points in the first round, finished with nine.

Ole Miss shot over 55 percent from the floor and won despite being outrebounded 46-29.

The Terps early exit matches the quickest departure for any NCAA champion. Purdue in 2000 and Notre Dame in 2002 also went out in second-round games.

Maryland had won its last seven NCAA games. The defending national champions had beaten 31 consecutive nonconference opponents, including Harvard, 89-65 in the first round.

Price had three steals and needs just four more for 400 in her career. That would make her just the second player in women's NCAA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 400 assists and 400 steals. The other is former USC star Cheryl Miller.

This was Ole Miss' 17th trip to the NCAA tournament, and their 10th trip to the semifinals, but the first appearance in the third round since 1992.


Ole Miss defeated Maryland 89-78. The win over the Terrapins avenged a 110-79 loss earlier this season (Nov. 25, 2006).

Ole Miss will face No. 3 seed Oklahoma in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship.

The win over No. 6/6 Maryland was the Rebels third victory over a ranked opponent this season.

Senior guard Armintie Price finished with a game-high 29 points. In 13 games this season, Price has 20 points or more.

Ole Miss forced Maryland into a season-high 29 turnovers, 20 of those miscues came in the first half.

Ole Miss led 47-30 at the half. The Rebels 47 point first half output was the most a Maryland opponent has scored this season.

The Rebels improved to 21-2 when leading at the half. Ole Miss also improved to 7-1 when scoring more than 80 points.

Ole Miss jumped out to and 20-6 lead with just under 13:30 to go in the first half. The Rebels led by as many as 23 points in the opening period. The 23-point deficit was the most Terrapins have trailed all season.

Ole Miss had two players score 20 or more points for the first time since Awkward (23) and Price (30) turned the trick against Arkansas in double overtime on Feb. 4, 2007. The last time it happened in regulation prior to the Maryland game was on Dec. 2, 2006 against Illinois, Price (34) and Easley (25).

It also is the first time Ole Miss has advanced to the Sweet 16 since 1992.

Maryland's second round loss to Ole Miss Tuesday night ties an NCAA record for the earliest exit by a defending national champion who qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame (2001 champion) and Purdue (1999 champion) both lost in the second round in the following year. Notre Dame lost, 89-50, to Tennessee on Mar. 23, 2002, while Purdue fell, 76-74, to Oklahoma on Mar. 25, 2000. Old Dominion, the 1985 champion, did not qualify for the 1986 field.

David Crist QB May Commit Early to Tigers

One of the top quarterbacks in the country is headed to Baton Rouge this weekend. Notre Dame High School quarterback Dayne Crist is set to make an unofficial visit to LSU to take in the Tigers spring football game.