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6:00 am
Sun March 18, 2012

NCAA Madness Marches On

The madness marches on. Sunday holds eight more games in the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball tournament. On Saturday, thankfully, there were no major rip-up-your-bracket upsets. That is, if your bracket was in still in one piece. But there was plenty of drama. Two of the most exciting games were at the sub-regional in Portland, Ore.

March Madness isn't just screaming crowds and grown men and women chanting things like the University of New Mexico's "Everyone's a Lobo, woof, woof, woof." In fact, sometimes there's drama in hushed silence.

That was the sound last night as New Mexico star forward Drew Gordon lay on the court grimacing, clutching his left knee. His head coach, Steve Alford, bent over him and told him to breathe. It was only the first half in the game against Louisville, but it suddenly looked bad – for Gordon, a senior, and for the Lobos.

But these are young and elastic athletes. When the New Mexico pep band serenaded the team as it ran off the court at halftime, Gordon was running with them, his knee taped. His return was critical – late in the game, he was in the middle of a fierce rally from 15 points down. The Lobos got within two points, but couldn't get over the hump.

In the Louisville locker room, a bunch of happy, heavily tattooed players talked excitedly about heading to the next round – and the importance of not blowing 15-point, second-half leads.

"We got a little too happy, a little ahead of ourselves," senior guard Chris Smith said. "Thought the game was over, you know, but it wasn't over. A lead is fool's gold in the NCAA."

The Virginia Commonwealth Rams were mining that same fool's gold in the opening game last night. A quick refresher: The Rams were last year's tournament "David" – a low-seeded, mid-major school that toppled Goliath after Goliath on its way to the Final Four. In this tournament, the 12th-seeded VCU opened a 9-point, second-half lead over fourth-seeded Indiana.

But then the shots stopped falling and Indiana surged. With the score tied at 61, Hoosier guard Victor Oladipo put his head down and drove hard to the hoop. When his attempt was blocked, he shot the ball instead to Will Sheehy, whose baseline jumper won the game, 63-61.

A dramatic moment, but it may be forgotten as soon as Sunday, replaced by other moments. Such is the nature of the madness, but for the principals, those moments will endure.

"Our team was really just making a push, and that was pretty much icing on the cake," Sheehy said.

"This really stings," said VCU's Rob Brandenberg, whose 3-point shot for a win at the buzzer rimmed out.

And VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart opened his postgame press conference with a big sigh.

"As far as how long it'll take me? Forever," he said. "I don't get over games like this. I didn't get over the Butler game last year. Just gotta move on, though. What's done is done."

But Indiana and Louisville are departing Portland happy, setting a course for the sweet 16.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today, eight more games in the NCAA Division 1 men's basketball tournament. The madness marches on. Yesterday, thankfully, no major rip-up-your-bracket upsets. That is, if your bracket was still in one piece. But there was plenty of drama. Two of the most exciting games were at the sub-regional in Portland, Oregon.

NPR's Tom Goldman was there.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CHANTING CROWD)

CROWD: Everyone's a Lobo, woof, woof, woof. Everyone's a Lobo, woof, woof, woof.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: You know, March Madness isn't just screaming crowds and grown men and women chanting things like the University of New Mexico's, everyone's a Lobo woof, woof, woof. In fact, there's sometimes drama in a hushed silence.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD)

GOLDMAN: This was the sound of nothing last night as New Mexico star forward Drew Gordon lay on the court grimacing, clutching his left knee as his head coach, Steve Alford, bent over him and told him to breathe. It was only the first half in the game against Louisville, but it suddenly looked bad - for Gordon, a senior, and for the Lobos.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Halftime: Louisville, 26...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING, APPLAUSE AND A PEP BAND)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: ...New Mexico, 25.

GOLDMAN: Ah, but these are young and elastic athletes. When the New Mexico pep band serenaded the team as it ran off the court at halftime, Gordon was running with them - his knee taped. His return was critical. Late in the game, he was in the middle of a fierce rally from 15 points down. The Lobos got within two points but couldn't get over the hump.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Final score: Louisville, 59; New Mexico, 56.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)

GOLDMAN: In the Louisville locker room, a bunch of happy, heavily tattooed players talked excitedly about heading to the round of 16. And the importance of not blowing 15-point second-half leads.

Chris Smith is a senior guard.

CHRIS SMITH: We got a little too happy, a little ahead of ourselves. Thought the game was over. You know, but it wasn't over. A lead is fool's gold in the NCAA.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: The Virginia Commonwealth Rams were mining that same fool's gold in the opening game last night. A quick refresher: The Rams were last year's tournament David, a low-seeded, mid-major school that toppled Goliath after Goliath on the way to the Final Four. In this tournament, another low seed, 12, and last night, another Goliath in VCU's sights, as it opened a 9-point, second-half lead over number four seed Indiana.

But then, VCU's shots stopped falling and Indiana surged. With the score tied at 61, Hoosiers' guard Victor Oladipo put his head down and drove hard to the hoop, as heard here on TBS.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Hoosiers on the run. Oladipo has it blocked. Sheehey - yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

GOLDMAN: Will Sheehey's baseline jumper was the game winner - Indiana 63-61. A dramatic moment, but it may be forgotten as soon as today, replaced by other moments. Such is the nature of the madness. But for the principals, it'll endure.

Will Sheehey on the shot:

WILL SHEEHEY: Our team was really just making a push, and that was pretty much icing on the cake.

GOLDMAN: VCU's Rob Brandenberg, whose 3-point shot for the win, at the buzzer, rimmed out.

ROB BRANDENBERG: This really stings.

GOLDMAN: And VCU head coach Shaka Smart who opened his postgame press conference with this:

(SOUNDBITE OF A SIGH)

GOLDMAN: And ended by saying:

SHAKA SMART: As far as how long it'll take me? Forever. I don't get over games like this. I didn't get over the Butler game last year. You just got to move on though and, you know, what's done is done.

GOLDMAN: But for Indiana and Louisville: happy departures from Portland, setting a course for the Sweet 16.

Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.