4:00 p.m.: I’m signing off for the day. Syracuse’s dominance has been the story of the day to this point, but there are some developing storylines starting up. Cornell has an upset of Wisconsin in its sights, Evan Turner is blowing up for Ohio State and Michigan State leader Kalin Lucas suffered an injury. The first three and a half days of college ball have been a whole lot of fun, but these last few hours could still bring many more things to light.
3:53 p.m.: The CBS crew said Kalin Lucas is doubtful to return, and Maryland has started the second half really buckling down on its press. Lucas wasn’t a big scorer in the openin g half, but his poise, leadership and ball-handling skills could be priceless if the Terps are successful with their fullcourt pressure.
3:50 p.m.: Michigan State junior guard Kalin Lucas, who is averaging 15.1 points per game this season, left with an ankle injury. The Spartans exploded for a 48-39 lead in the opening 20 minutes, but Lucas only had four points before hobbling off the court. That’s a big story to keep an eye on.
3:44 p.m.: Evan Turner kept Ohio State in the game in the first half, and his teammates have come out strong after the break. An 11-4 run has given the Buckeyes a 39-30 lead.
3:42 p.m.: Ryan Wittman leads Cornell with 14 points, and three of his teammates have at least seven points in the opening 20 minutes. Clearly, the Big Red won’t rely on just one guy to key an upset.
3:39 p.m.: If there were any fears the Cornell-Wisconsin game would be a low-scoring, boring affair, they were washed away after that first half. The Big Red have a 43-31 lead at the break, and they’ve looked very comfortable against the Badgers.
3:31 p.m.: West Virginia has a 30-25 lead on Missouri at the half, and the Mountaineers are being led by a monumental performance by Da’Sean Butler, who has 19 points and has hit four 3-pointers.
3:26 p.m.: Both Cornell and Wisconsin can really shoot — each team is above 50 percent from the floor — and if this game stays close all the way to the end, we’re guaranteed to get some really good highlights. The action has opened up a little bit, and Cornell has a 30-23 lead.
3:15 p.m.: Ohio State rallied to take a 28-26 lead on Georgia Tech at the half, and the Buckeyes got 16 points from Evan Turner. He’s a one-man show who is trying to prove he’s good enough to single-handedly carry that team deep into March.
3:07 p.m.: This is a down year for the NCAA, and the notion that the rest of the country has caught up to the traditional basketball powers is one of those one-time aberrations. One thing that can’t be discounted, though, is the smaller schools are starting to become better equipped to handle this tournament because they establish the core of their roster over the course of a few years, and that solidarity really helps in pressure situations. Teams like Kansas, North Carolina and Syracuse will always get the better talent, but it can be hard for those programs to establish a flow that extends from season to season due to the number of players who leave school early. Last year’s UNC team was an exception in that regard.
3:04 p.m.: Cornell could be the third double-digit seed to advance to the Sweet 16, and that’s not even counting ninth-seed Northern Iowa. St. Mary’s and Washington are t he other two big seeds to advance to the second week of tournament action.
3:01 p.m.: Cornell is jumping all over Wisconsin in the first five minutes. Jon Jaques and Ryan Wittman each have seven points, and the 12th-seeded Big Red lead, 14-4.
2:54 p.m.: Cornell has an early 6-0 lead on Wisconsin. The Big Red are doing well on the breakout, and they’re getting great play in net.
2:49 p.m.: Speaking of that 2006 Wisconsin team — because I know how much you love my college hockey anecdotes — the Badgers beat Cornell, 1-0 in triple overtime, earlier in that tournament. It was the longest scoreless game in history. Wisconsin and Cornell meet on the court right now, and my insiders tell me there will be much more scoring in this game.
2:46 p.m.: This Ohio State-Georgia Tech game is being played at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, which hosted a tremendously entertaining men’s college hockey national championship four years ago. Wisconsin escaped Boston College, 2-1, in a thriller, and the place was rocking with Badger fans. That was a fun game to cover.
2:43 p.m.: No. 2 West Virginia and No. 10 Missouri have tipped off in Bu ffalo for the right to play Washington in the Sweet 16. West Virginia beat Morgan State in the first round, and Missouri is coming off of a win against Clemson.
2:40 p.m.: Michigan State has jumped on Maryland early, taking a 15-7 lead in the opening minutes. I’ve actually been to both campuses. I went to State’s season-opening football game against Idaho in 2006, and drove down to Maryland for its game against North Carolina in 2009. Now that you know this, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
2:37 p.m.: Georgia Tech has run out to a 12-4 lead early against Ohio State, and the Yellow Jackets have been playing with some real confidence for a couple weeks now. But as strong as Georgia Tech can look, it can also play equally bad. This could be a streaky game.
2:33 p.m.: Fourth-seeded Maryland and No. 5 Michigan State have tipped off in Spokane, Wash., and the winner gets Northern Iowa in the Sweet 16. Maryland knocked out Houston in the opening round, and Michigan State eliminated New Mexico State.
2:31 p.m.: Glen Rice is in the house watching his son, Glen Rice Jr., who plays for Georgia Tech. The elder Rice was a great shooter in the NBA, and he was even better in those NBA Live games in the mid-90s.
2:27 p.m.: Ohio State is paced by Evan Turner, who is one of the nation’s outstanding players. He hit that buzzer beater to stun Michigan in the Big Ten tournament, and if you watched any highlight shows in the last week, you definitely saw Turner’s answered prayer.
2:25 p.m.: Georgia Tech was nothing more than an above-average team throughout most of the season, but the Yellow Jackets really came on in the last couple of weeks when Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal got into a groove. Favors is a guy who could develop some strong national attention if he can lead Georgia Tech to an extended tournament run.
2:20 p.m.: No. 2 seed Ohio State and 10th-seeded Georgia Tech are u nderway in the Midwest Region in Milwaukee, and the winner gets Tennessee in the Sweet 16. Ohio State beat UC Santa Barbara in the first round, and Georgia Tech knocked out Oklahoma State.
2:11 p.m.: Syracuse finished off Gonzaga, running away with an 85-65 victory in Buffalo and setting up a Sweet 16 matchup with Butler. Ohio State and Georgia Tech will tip off in a few minutes.
2:07 p.m.: This is how I would classify Syracuse’s huge win against Gonzaga: It’s an impressive performance relative to the way other top seeds have struggled this weekend, but in the grand scheme of things, Gonzaga isn’t a team worth getting very excited about. The Orange will close the weekend with one of the best two-game stretches in the field, and they’ve got plenty to build on going forward. But don’t crown Syracuse just yet. That said, Butler might have just thrown its game plan out the window and fallen to the floor in the fetal position.
1:55 p.m.: Gonzaga has cut nine points off of Syracuse’s lead. Now, it’s only got to do that three more times in the next 6:32. ‘Cuse leads, 76-53.
1:46 p.m.: My goodness. Syracuse has hit a dozen 3-pointers, Wes Johnson has 26 points, and Syracuse leads by 32 points. Should we talk about the weather or something? Maybe that health care bill?
1:43 p.m.: Southwest’s “Bags fly free” commercials aren’t overly funny on the surface, but the thoughts of these things actually happening in real life kind of make me laugh. Don’t judge.
1:31 p.m.: It’s pretty crazy that Rick Jackson’s first-half foul trouble actually turned into a good thing for Syracuse. It allowed the Orange to really focus on their guard play, and Wes Johnson (17 points), Andy Rautins (19 points) and Brandon Triche (13 points) have 49 of Syracuse’s 62 points with 15 minutes remaining in the game.
1:27 p.m.: Syracuse has opened the second half on a 12-2 run to take a 59-34 lead. Unless you’re a Syracuse fan, this game is about as entertaining as the Boston Bruins’ power play.
1:22 p.m.: They’re back at it in the second half, and Andy Rautins just hit a 3-pointer from (insert town outside of Buffalo) to give the Orange a 50-32 lead.
1:00 p.m.: Gonzaga could use some help from John Stockton and Adam Morrison. The Bulldogs are getting completely outclassed by Syracuse, which leads, 47-32, and has gotten 15 points from Wes Johnson and 13 from Brandon Triche. The Orange have hit 7 of 14 from 3-point range, and they’ve got that Buffalo crowd holding strong behind them.
12:52 p.m.: Stop us if you heard this before. Wes Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer to give Syracuse another 9-0 run, and the Orange lead, 41-28. ‘Cuse is rolling in this one and playing really well.
12:39 p.m.: Who needs size when you’ve got Wes Johnson, a potential top-five pick in June’s NBA draft. Johnson hit a step-back jumper to give Syracuse a 9-0 run and a 31-21 lead. Johnson has 12 points with less than seven minutes to play in the opening half.
12:32 p.m.: Wow, huge blow for Syracuse. And I mean a huge blow. A lready without Arinze Onuaku, the Orange just lost Rick Jackson with his third foul just 11 minutes into the first half. It was a gamble to keep Jackson in the game with two fouls, and he only lasted a couple of possessions before getting called for his third foul. Gonzaga really has to exploit Syracuse’s lack of talented size in the middle of that zone.
12:25 p.m.: There’s no question in my mind: Mark Few looks like a hockey coach.
12:17 p.m.: The Orange are struggling inside without Arinze Onuaku. Gonzaga center Robert Sacre has four points and three rebounds with 14:17 to play in the first half, and the Bulldogs have a 13-10 lead.
12:11 p.m.: So much for that zone defense. Gonzaga immediately beat the Orange on the first possession of the game, as Matt Bouldin connected with Elias Harris for an alley-oop.
12:02 p.m.: Top-seeded Syracuse is getting ready for tip-off with eighth-seeded Gonzaga in the West Region, and the winner will battle Butler in the Sweet 16. Syracuse throttled Vermont in the first round, and Gonzaga is coming off of a victory against Florida State.
9:57 a.m.: This is the last day of the greatest basketball weekend of the year, which is tough to think about.
But you can still read NESN.com’s live tournament blog through those welled-up eyes. I’ll have you covered through 4 p.m. before the rest of the NESN staff takes over.
Here are the games we’ll focus on in this time slot:
No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 8 Gonzaga, 12:10 p.m.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech, 2:20 p.m.
No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 Michigan State, 2:30 p.m.
No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Missouri, 2:40 p.m.
No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Cornell, 2:50 p.m.
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