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So far, the Sixteen is Sweet

March 24, 2011 - Neil Rudel
Hope your bracket isn't too dented.

I'm happy to report that I'm leading the Mirror pool (35 entries) and even more proud that my 20-month old grandson Dominik is in fifth place -- ahead of many notables, including Cory Giger.

Dominik apparently didn't have Syracuse coming out to the Sweet Sixteen.

Anyway, I'm sure things will change, and I'll fall back to the back. In the meantime, a few observations while getting set to enjoy the rest of the Dance:

*The first or second round as it's apparently now known is much more interesting than the third. Maybe it's because of the drama created by the lower seeds and maybe because you've expended more energy on the first two days or maybe because it's the weekend and you have something else going on, but Saturday and Sunday don't come close to matching Thursday and Friday.

*I hope that Pitt sooner than later cracks the door to the elusive Final Four. That will prevent Jamie Dixon from being haunted for the rest of his life over how he coached, or didn't coach, the final minute when -- twice with a one-point lead and the ball -- the Panthers either called timeout and didn't make the shot they took or didn't get a shot off at all in allowing Butler to steal the game. Dixon also should have taken his players off the foul line after Gilbert Brown tied the game with two seconds left.

*Pitt would have won the game in overtime.

*Based on the way Temple played against San Diego State, Penn State stood an excellent change to deck the No. 2 seed, had the Nittany Lions not fallen at the buzzer to the Owls.

*I'm thinking San Diego State is the most fragile of all the 1-2 seeds this weekend and will lose to UConn.

*Since his sexcapades in that Louisville restaurant were disclosed, I don't root for Rick Pitino and am surprised -- actually shocked -- CBS has invited him to join its group of analysts.

*The addition of the Turner networks have benefitted the Big Dance in that all games are now shown in full and we get more of Charles Barkley.

*The overrated coaching stat of the tournament was the fact that Fran Dunphy of Temple was 1-12 in NCAA games entering the PSU game. First of all, he dominated the Ivy League and was often coaching as a lower seed. And just as often, the Quakers were scaring the heck out of someone. Dunphy can coach my team any time.

*Is there a more accomplished mid-major coach than George Mason's Jim Larranaga?

*Former St. Francis coach Jimmy Baron didn't make the NCAA field, but he led Rhode Island to another 20-win season.

*I like the style Coquese Washington has injected into the Penn State women's program and believe she'll build on this year's success. Very tough loss in the second round at home to DePaul, though.

*Speaking of the women, there seems to be fewer blowouts this year and perhaps a bit more parity than in the past.

*Anybody hear from Rene Portland lately?

*My friend Bob Larson makes a great point about Long Island, the Northeast Conference representative. LIU entered the field 27-5 and received a No. 15 seed, which is about par for the course for the NEC. St. Peter's, though, got a 14 seed -- even though Robert Morris, the NEC runnerup, blew out the Petes by 25.

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