BEST OF THE MADNESS
During the regular season, I reviewed each week with my Best of the Week awards. During the NCAA Tournament, I'll hand out best-of-the-day awards, baby!
Sunday, March 23 | Second Round
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Darnell Archey, Butler
Butler senior guard Darnell Archey hit big shot after big shot, pumping in eight of nine trifectas as the lowest seed left in the tournament made the Sweet 16 by stunning Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals.
TEAM OF THE DAY: Michigan State
Michigan State played hard in sending No. 2 seed Florida packing. Tom Izzo has his Spartans peaking at the right time with Chris Hill, Alan Anderson and company fired up.
COACH OF THE DAY: Cliff Ellis, Auburn
OK, I believe, I believe! Auburn proved it belonged in the Big Dance by making the Sweet 16 with an upset over Wake Forest. Ellis has motivated his players, and next up is a game against Syracuse in Albany.
SHOCK OF THE DAY: Butler over Louisville
The Bulldogs became the third 12th seed to make the Sweet 16 over the last three years. Butler made 14-of-22 trifectas to get to the winner's circle. That's pretty impressive for a team that didn't receive a single vote in the preseason coaches poll. Todd Lickliter and company belonged in the NCAA Tournament last year, and now they are making noise this time around.
DIAPER DANDY OF THE DAY: Billy Edelin, Syracuse
When freshmen Gerry McNamara and Carmelo Anthony struggled in the first half, point guard Billy Edelin stepped up and came through. Imagine if Syracuse had him all season long instead of sitting out 12 games due to a questionable NCAA ruling?
Edelin has really stepped it up lately and finished with 20 points today.
Saturday, March 22 | Second Round
CO-TEAMS OF THE DAY: Arizona and Gonzaga
What an amazing game between Gonzaga and Arizona! Under that kind of pressure, a lot of teams would have folded. This game was a classic, one of the best games in the tournament over the last decade.
It really was like a heavyweight fight, with both teams having opportunities to win. Gonzaga fought on despite an injury which sidelined Ronny Turiaf. Arizona, with veterans Luke Walton, Jason Gardner and Rick Anderson fighting, scrapping and clawing, did not want to lose. In the end, Gonzaga had two shots to pull off the shocker but it wasn't meant to be. Mark Few and Lute Olson can be proud of their teams.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Danny Miller, Notre Dame
The transfer from Maryland really set the tone for Notre Dame's win over Illinois by hitting all five of his 3-point attempts while scoring 17 points in the first half. Miller finished nine of 15 from the floor and scored 23 points in 38 minutes for Mike Brey's Irish.
SHOCK OF THE DAY: Notre Dame over Illinois
There were very few surprises on Saturday. There were those who felt Illinois could make a run at a Final Four berth. The Irish dominated from long range to get the big victory on Brey's birthday!
DIAPER DANDY OF THE DAY: Kevin Bookout, Oklahoma
After being shut out in just nine minutes in the opening round due to the flu, Bookout came through with a big performance against California. He made nine of 11 shots, finishing with 22 points.
COACH OF THE DAY: Kelvin Sampson, Oklahoma
He has kept his team together despite injury and illness. Some people felt California was capable of upsetting Oklahoma, but Sampson and company had other thoughts, advancing to face the Louisville-Butler winner in the next round.
Friday, March 21 | First Round
CO-PLAYERS OF THE DAY:
Marquis Daniels, Auburn; John Goldsberry, UNC-Wilmington
The Tigers won in an Maalox Masher over St. Joseph's and Marquis Daniels came through with big shot after big shot. He hit a big 3-pointer to send the contest into overtime and finished with 25 points. He is the best player in America among unsung performers that people don't know about. And even in defeat, John Goldsberry put on a tremendous performance. The freshman hit all eight of his 3-point attempts and almost singlehandedly stole the game from Maryland.
CO-TEAMS OF THE DAY: Auburn and Purdue
I felt that Auburn was a questionable choice for the NCAA tournament because of the cupcakes on its nonconference schedule. Cliff Ellis and company got a hard-fought win over St. Joseph's.
The Boilermakers were 3-6 in their last nine games entering the big dance. After being tied at halftime against LSU, Gene Keady's team went on a 13-0 run to start the second half en route to an easy win. Purdue outscored LSU 48-24 in the second half.
SHOCK OF THE DAY: Butler over Mississippi State
A number of people, including me, thought Mississippi State was a sleeper in that region, but now the Bulldogs are asleep. Butler's Brandon Miller hit the game-winning shot and sent them packing.
DIAPER DANDY OF THE DAY: Eric Williams, Wake Forest
In the first half against East Tennessee State, Eric Williams was dominant while ACC Most Outstanding Player Josh Howard was held to six points. Williams finished with 20 points and nine rebounds before fouling out.
COACH OF THE DAY: Rick Majerus, Utah
The Utes played shorthanded as Britton Johnsen was sidelined again due to mono. Utah still controlled tempo and did a great job defensively on Luke Ridnour. His reward for the win ... a date against the nation's premier team, Kentucky and Tubby Smith.
Thursday, March 20 | First Round
PLAYER OF THE DAY -- Travis Diener, Marquette
The brilliant play of sophomore guard Travis Diener saved Marquette on a day when superstar Dwyane Wade didn't score a point in a nightmarish first half. Diener shot just 39.2 percent from the field in the regular season, but he hit 9-of-14 shots Thursday, including 5-of-9 trifectas. Diener was sensational, especially while Wade struggled. Diener scored a career-high 29 points to help thwart a valiant effort by Holy Cross.
SHOCK OF THE DAY -- Central Michigan over Creighton
Some may consider 13th-seeded Tulsa's upset of fourth-seeded Dayton the biggest upset of the day, since Dayton was the lowest seed to post a victory on Thursday. But I disagree, because I was more surprised by the loss of sixth-seeded Creighton (led by Kyle Korver) to 11th-seeded Central Michigan and 7-footer Chris Kaman.
TEAM OF THE DAY -- Arizona State
Coach Rob Evans' 10th-seeded Sun Devils scored an impressive double-digit victory over seventh-seeded Memphis.
DIAPER DANDY OF THE DAY -- Dee Brown, Illinois
Freshman guard Dee Brown made made the difference with his energy and ability (16 points, eight assists, seven rebounds), sparking the fourth-seeded Illini to a 65-60 win over 13th-seeded Western Kentucky.
COACH OF THE DAY -- Jay Smith, Central Michigan
Jay Smith was the architect of Central Michigan's upset over Creighton in the West Region.