MILWAUKEE -- Some quick halftime thoughts from a game that looks unlikely to fall in line with the insanity of Thursday's upset bonanza:
Pittsburgh has been able to get easy buckets in the paint almost at will. Oakland hung around for much of the first half thanks to some efficient offense of its own, but the Golden Grizzlies' stretchy 3-2 zone hasn't been much of a puzzle for the Panthers. Oakland will have to either find a way to keep Pitt out of the middle of that zone -- good luck -- or just hope to go on an offensive flurry of their own in the second half. Neither seems particularly likely.
"Flurry" isn't the best way to describe Pittsburgh's offensive performance in the first half. There's no real individual brilliance on display. Instead, in typical Jamie Dixon-esque fashion, the Panthers have slugged and slogged their way to a really impressive first-half point total. Their lineup is balanced, they're getting easy looks, and they're converting. It's simple. It's impressive. It's working.
Oakland's Ledrick Eackles completed one of the craziest and-1's you'll ever see ... until it was waved off as an offensive foul. Eackles drove into Pittsburgh guard Travon Woodall, bounced off, flicked the ball at least five feet above the rim and then watched from his prone position on the ground as it softly trickled through the hoop. Even as a charge, it was a beautiful thing to behold.
Woodall has been a consistent presence, coming off the bench and scoring five points, not to mention running the Panthers' show from the point position. Leading scorer Ashton Gibbs spent much of the first half on the bench and didn't register a point.
Not usually an offensive presence, Pitt center Gary McGhee scored eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, anchoring Pitt's balanced attack throughout the first. (Guards Jermaine Dixon and Brad Wanamaker likewise added eight points apiece.)
It's usually easy to tell the little guys from the big boys -- the No. 14 seeds from the No. 3s -- merely from the uniforms each team wears. (Tiny schools' unis typically look far more like the jerseys you might see at your local high school gym. Sometimes worse.) Oakland's uniforms have plenty of that know-it-when-you-see-it mid-major quality, but that doesn't stop them from being some of the coolest threads in the entire tournament. The Golden Grizzlies sport an all-black uni with gold lettering and trim, which they back up with all black socks and all black shoes. It's a tough look. An added bonus: Oakland's players' names are placed conspicuously beneath the numbers on the back of their uniforms. As the old saying goes, variety is the spice of awesome jerseys. Or something like that.