3:55 p.m.: Ohio is a great story, coming through the MAC tournament as the ninth seed and then storming through Georgetown, but this run won’t continue if it plans on bombing 3-pointers all game. The teams are tied at 10.
3:49 p.m.: Sixth-seeded Tennessee and 14-seed Ohio are taking the floor in Providence. The Volunteers knocked off San Diego State in the first round, and the Bobcats beat Georgetown in the biggest upset of the tournament so far. The winner of this game will meet the Ohio State-Georgia Tech winner in the Sweet 16.
3:48 p.m.: Six players have already scored for Butler, and the Bulldogs have an 18-10 lead.
3:37 p.m.: It’s pretty interesting that Butler was one of the most forgotten teams in the tournament this year. That team is like Gonzaga Junior after its flurry of tournament upsets earlier in the decade. Yet, the Bulldogs were matched up against UTEP in the first round, and everyone with access to a bracket thought UTEP was the team destined to make a run in this tourney. Butler slapped UTEP in the first round and has a 12-10 lead on Murray State early in this game.
3:25 p.m.: St. Mary’s, which has beaten Richmond and Villanova, will take on the winner of Baylor-Old Dominion. St. Mary’s won’t be favored or even expected to win (unless they draw ODU), but the Gaels aren’t going to be playing a powerhouse in the next round, either.
3:21 p.m.: Fifth-seeded Butler and 13th-seeded Murray State are underway at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Butler beat UTEP in the first round, while Murray State knocked off Vanderbilt, and the winner will move on in the West region to play the Syracuse-Gonzaga winner.
3:20 p.m.: Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds had a great collegiate career, but his last week on campus was horrendous. He was 2-for-11 for eight points in the loss to St. Mary’s, and Reynolds combined to shoot 4-for-26 (15.4 percent) in the tournament.
3:16 p.m.: St. Mary’s is the first team in the Sweet 16, knocking off Villanova, 75-68. Omar Samhan led the way with 32 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, while guards Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova combined for 29 points and five 3-pointers for the Gaels.
3:11 p.m.: I just can’t stand sloppy basketball. Villanova has the Gaels trapped in the backcourt with four or five seconds remaining before the violation, and Domonic Cheek goes out of his way to foul Matthew Dellavedova, who is an excellent free-throw shooter. Aside from a few minutes against Robert Morris and a 10-minute stretch Saturday against St. Mary’s, Villanova has looked disinterested in this tournament, almost as if it expected to stroll through the bracket.
3:09 p.m.: Beautiful clutch possession by Villanova. Maalik Wayns dribbled into the paint, straight into a defender and fell out of bounds before getting off a shot. You’ve just got to love great basketball.
3:06 p.m.: Omar Samhan blocked Reggie Redding’s shot from the lane, and Mickey McConnell will head to the line. He’s an 83.7 percent free-throw shooter, and Villanova is toast.
3:04 p.m.: And Mickey McConnell does it again. The sweet shooter splashed a 3-pointer off the glass to give St. Mary’s a 68-65 lead with 1:15 remaining.
3:03 p.m.: It’s 65-65 with 1:35 to play. Georgetown is the only top-3 seed to lose so far in this tournament, and Villanova is trying to keep it that way.
3:00 p.m.: Villanova has the momentum and is finally playing some Big East basketball — not that Big East basketball is a good thing this week — but St. Mary’s just isn’t backing down. The Wildcats trail, 64-63 with two minutes to play in Providence.
2:49 p.m.: Hey, there’s a Scottie Reynolds sighting in Providence. The Villanova star has had a miserable time in this tournament, but he just hit a 3-pointer and then hit a runner on the next trip for a personal 5-0 run to give ‘Nova a 61-59 lead.
2:43 p.m.: Omar Samhan is getting LeBron James treatment from these officials. He just got away with another walk before leaning in to give St. Mary’s a 55-53 lead with 8:01 to go. Bill Raftery acknowledged the travel and then said, “I like the non-call.” So, either Raftery is rooting for St. Mary’s, or he thinks refs should swallow the whistle on traveling violations in close games.
2:41 p.m.: Villanova has rallied to take its first lead since it was up, 11-9, early in the first half. The Wildcats have a 53-51 advantage with 9:41 remaining in regulation due to a 9-0 run.
2:32 p.m.: Villanova is finally attacking in this game, and a 9-2 run got the ‘Cats back into it. But Omar Samhan might have gotten away with steps and scored to put St. Mary’s ahead, 49-44, with 13 minutes remaining.
2:19 p.m.: The teams are back in action in Providence, and the Wildcats have some work to do.
1:58 p.m.: St. Mary’s has a 38-31 lead on Villanova at the end of the first half, and Omar Samhan leads the way with 15 points and six rebounds. Villanova showed some life at the end of the half, but the Wildcats aren’t playing nearly enough defense and couldn’t shave too much off of their deficit.
1:51 p.m.: That’s how you “stoke” the fire. Corey Stokes hit a pair of 3-pointers in 37 seconds, and he’s got ‘Nova within 33-27 with two minutes left in the first half.
1:46 p.m.: At this point in the game, Villanova is giving me no reason to believe it’s better than St. Mary’s. I also said this with about three minutes remaining in the second half of the Bob Morris game, but St. Mary’s is a little more tested and has more confidence than that Bob Morris squad. The Wildcats just look like a lost basketball team right now, and it’s a continuation from Thursday.
1:37 p.m.: Sticking with the Omar Samhan theme, the St. Mary’s center has 12 points and six rebounds in the game’s first 13 minutes, and his team has a 27-19 lead. The Gaels have a good recipe for tournament success with Samhan leading the way. They’ve also got solid guard play, charged by Mickey McConnell’s sweet shooting touch. If Villanova doesn’t wake up, this team could get blown out of the building.
1:33 p.m.: Omar Samhan has two fouls just 10 minutes into this game. He’s picked up at least four fouls in six of his last nine contests, and he has fouled out twice in that span. He picked up three first-half fouls Thursday against Richmond, and that was tough for St. Mary’s to deal with because Samhan was an offensive juggernaut in that game, scoring 29 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Villanova has to challenge him to put him on the bench.
1:28 p.m.: St. Mary’s center Omar Samhan has obviously made a name for himself during the last few days, but his inability to stay out of foul trouble is really going to scare NBA teams that might be scouting him. Samhan is a senior, so he should have adjusted to that part of the college game long ago. Big guys in the NBA — think about Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson, as two of many examples — always, always have a tough time avoiding foul trouble in their first few years in the league. Samhan will never be able to stay on the court if he keeps drawing fouls in the NBA.
1:18 p.m.: Villanova has come out playing some basketball, which is much better than whatever it was playing Thursday against Bobby Morris. But Mickey McConnell just hit a nonchalant 3-pointer from Hartford to give St. Mary’s a 14-11 lead with 13:19 to play in the first half.
1:12 p.m.: I went to Villanova once on Memorial Day Weekend in 2005. I helped my friend’s sister move out of her apartment, and the next night, my friend and I drove to the Bronx to watch David Wells’ first start in Yankee Stadium as a member of the Red Sox. Your lives are all better now that you know this.
1:07 p.m.: Villanova and St. Mary’s are underway in Providence in the only game going on right now. And if you missed the opening tip, you’ve got to find a way to track down the highlight. The referee tossed it almost directly to St. Mary’s.
1:03 p.m.: It’s just weird hearing Verne Lundquist talk about Jay-Z, especially when he says things like, “We are a multi-generational music stop. ‘On to the Next One.’ Who else, but Jay-Z.”
12:57 p.m.: CBS is really over-exploiting this “One Shining Moment” thing. I thought it was corny to begin with, but playing it this early in the tournament? Come on, be better than that.
12:50 p.m.: Yeah, it’s beautiful out, but remember this: The sun will be back, my friends. March Madness only comes around once a year. Don’t worry about getting that tan on. Just grab a bag of chips, order some pizzas (send one my way, please) and watch Villanova try not to mess this thing up again. And if you really must go outside, bring your laptop with you, and don’t forget to tell everyone that NESN.com’s live tournament blog is the reason behind those unsightly tan lines. After all, it’s all about having a story to tell.
8:00 a.m.: It’ll be a sweet day for eight teams that advance from the remaining 32 and into the Sweet 16.
Top seeds Kansas and Kentucky are in action, and so is Ohio, which is one of the tournament’s best underdog stories.
Stick with this live blog for a few hours of run-and-gun coverage before the rest of the NESN.com staff takes you into the night.
Here are the three games we’ll focus on during this time slot:
No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 10 St. Mary’s, 1:05 p.m.
No. 5 Butler vs. No. 13 Murray State, 3:20 p.m.
No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 14 Ohio, 3:35 p.m.
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