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Time for the after party

That party left quite a mess, didn't it?

As they clear the rubble from the first weekend -- a shard of Pittsburgh, a scrap of Syracuse, some residue of Vanderbilt -- we should take notice. The sky is the limit with this NCAA Tournament. Anything goes.

VCU in Houston for the Final Four? Richmond? Butler? Again? Why not? These are not fan imaginings. They are indisputable possibilities.

The only No. 1 seed which played like a true No. 1 was Ohio State but the Buckeyes' bench is shakier than Bruce Pearl's coaching career. So what happens if someone gets into foul trouble? Ohio State and the other high seeds remaining see danger lurking. Being a Cinderella is so passe. These lower seeds want to play well past midnight.

"You know," said VCU's Joey Rodriguez, "we got a lot more to do."

Which is why this event is so fascinating to watch. Here are some winners and losers from the first week of the tournament:


VCU -- The Rams exposed Southern California as a fraud in the first round and caught Georgetown with point guard Chris Wright at less than 100 percent, but their 18-point victory Sunday over third-seeded Purdue without a doubt proved VCU can rumble with the big boys. By the way, the Rams have been playing since last Wednesday. After the Purdue game, VCU forward Jamie Skeen declared, "Look at us now." We're still watching.

Ohio State -- The tournament's No. 1 overall opened with victories over UT-San Antonio and George Mason by an average margin of 30.5 points. Keep in the mind this is a Buckeyes team that lost 2010 national player of the year Evan Turner to the NBA and only got better. It's an indication that Thad Matta is building Ohio State into a perennial national contender. Coach K has to pass the torch to someone eventually and it might as well be Matta.

Jimmer Fredette -- Grand performances in the NCAAs don't necessarily give NBA prospects like Fredette a major boost, but it's a sure bet they couldn't keep their eyes off him. In wins over Wofford and Gonzaga, the nation's leading scorer averaged 33 points and Zags coach Mark Few said afterwards, "Believe it or not I thought we defended him OK." Apparently, Fredette leaves people somewhat dazed, too.

ACC -- The league isn't exactly dancing around because three of its teams are in the Sweet 16 but when you consider this was supposed to be a down year and only four teams were invited, it's a strong indication of the conference's strength. Duke, North Carolina and Florida State moved on, giving the ACC the most Sweet 16 teams.

Billy Donovan -- More than a few people were crying about how the Gators didn't deserve their No. 2 seed, but now that No. 1 Pitt has been eliminated from the Southeast Region, all that stands between Donovan and a fourth Final Four is BYU and either Butler or Wisconsin.


Big East -- Wasn't it nice for the Big East to allow 14 other teams into the Sweet 16? And UConn and Marquette had to beat Big East teams to advance. Villanova, St. John's, Georgetown and Louisville were all bounced in the second round, while Pitt and Notre Dame were eliminated by lower seeds in the third round. One of the problems is the league lacks star power aside from UConn's Kemba Walker. Lots of solid talent everywhere, but no one dominant enough to carry his team deep into March.

Texas -- There wasn't a bigger tease this season and it finally caught up to the Longhorns. We should have known Texas wouldn't get out of the first weekend after barely slipping by Oakland, and Derrick Williams and Arizona were just too tough at the end. Less than a month ago, Texas was considered a team capable of being placed on the No. 1 seed line.

Michigan State -- That the Spartans even made the tournament is a bone of contention for some, but their quick ouster proved at minimum they should have been in the First Four game. Tom Izzo and company will be back but if they listen closely they can hear footsteps. John Beilein and the Maize and Blue are on the rise.

Utah State -- Mid-majors shouldn't cry about their low seeds when they can't back it up with at least a second-round victory. Utah State was seeded 12th and lost to Kansas State to end its season at 30-4 but the Aggies' waist size expanded thanks to all the cupcakes on the schedule. In the future, they would be better served playing a more challenging non-conference schedule to prepare for the NCAAs.

Ben Howland -- UCLA barely beat a mediocre Michigan State before it was eliminated by Florida in the third round. Howland made three consecutive trips to the Final Four but the bottom fell out in 2009-10 at 14-18 and the Westwood faithful won't cut him any slack after a second-round ousting. Howland is on the hot seat.


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