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Saturday Sports: March Madness Continues


Ah, time for sports.


SIMON: Great basketball around the country, but where is the madness? We're four days into the men's division college one - division one college basketball tournament. No low seed buzzer-beating major upsets so far as the Northwestern Wildcats continue their march to triumph. And BJ Leiderman continues to write our theme music. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me. And that intro was more exciting than the games.

SIMON: Well, have they been a little like watching paint dry?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Well, for those addicted to the buzzer-beaters and crazy upsets that you mentioned, maybe. But there is still excitement. And for the most part, there's good basketball. I think in these first few days, Scott, you're seeing that with a few exceptions, the people who pick the teams and seeded them did a pretty good job. The higher seeds won 26 of the first round games. The lower seeds won only six. The lowest seed to win was a 12.

Now, 16 is the lowest seed. And that 12 seed, Middle Tennessee, was a 30-win team during the regular season. So they were really under-seeded going in. So while there was no craziness, it does set up the next round this weekend for some great matchups - a good, competitive tournament.

SIMON: No Davids over Goliaths yet, but what kind of moment stuck with you?

GOLDMAN: Well, let me break it up into winning moments and losing moments because both are significant. The winning moments, hey, let's give a hand to the state of Michigan, shall we? The University of Michigan won a tight game versus Oklahoma State. Wolverines are playing really well of late. And you throw in the plane accident they were in - their jet skidded off a runway - and there's this feeling they're also guided by the big P - perspective. Not that they were close, you know, to anything really serious in the accident, but it was scary. And then Michigan State...

SIMON: You're the only man I know who would - the big P is perspective. But go ahead, OK. I was thinking of something else entirely, yeah?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) And then there's - oh, God, how can I concentrate now?

SIMON: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: Then there's Michigan State. You watched the start of that game last night against Miami. And Miami went ahead early. And they looked like they might dominate. And the announcers kept saying, well, this is such a young Michigan State team with a bunch of freshmen. And they'll be great next year. Well, the Spartans beat Miami by 20. And those freshmen did OK.

And of course there's Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. The saying in East Lansing is the first three months of the year are January, February and Izzo. He wins in March. We'll find out next round how much magic he and the Spartans have when they face a very good and top-seeded Kansas team that won its first game by 38 points.

SIMON: And there were, if I might put it this way, memorable moments of loss, too.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. You know, I think a lot of people saw that video of the near fight between teammates on the University of New Orleans in a so-called play-in game on Tuesday of this week. A 6'9" player got angry with a 5-foot-8 teammate and briefly put his hands around the shorter man's throat. The bigger player apologized the next day.

And the kind of amazing thing that happened, the head coach Mark Slessinger, after separating the two, he benched the bigger guy for the rest of the game. There were six and a half minutes left. It was a really tight game. And in fact New Orleans lost by only a point. But the coach didn't hesitate to make a point at the most critical moment. He simply didn't accept the behavior. And it may have cost his team a tournament win.

SIMON: Yeah. And of course there was the foul that Northwestern somehow tricked a Vanderbilt player into committing in a Northwestern win. All right, I phrased that badly.

GOLDMAN: Poor Matthew Davis-Fisher (ph) for Vanderbilt. He intentionally fouled that Northwestern player who sank two free throws to clinch the game. And Fisher-Davis took full blame, calling it my dumb mistake why we lost. Some could say that the coach was also culpable because he was pointing at the guy who Fisher-Davis fouled. But, you know, the kid took the blame - pretty admirable.

SIMON: Women's tournament underway. Can anyone beat UConn?


SIMON: OK. That about does it. Thanks very much. (Laughter) Tom Goldman, talk to you later.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF LYMBYC SYSTYM'S "PARABOLOID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.