Favorites marched in as lions, go out like lambs

Initially, it didn't seem like the March of yesteryears. The "madness" was elsewhere: The Dow soared nearly 500 points in one day. And a truck driver was arraigned in Los Angeles on Tuesday for stealing all 55 Oscars just days before Oscar night. Incredible!

Then last Sunday, delirium struck. Cinderella arrived. The mighty fell. The underdogs rose. It was the craziest second round in college basketball history: eight of the top 12 seeds lost.

In college basketball, the best of plans can go awry on any March day. Just ask Temple coach John Chaney. He pinned his hopes on his point guards, but his fancied Owls came up short, hooted out of the tournament by the Seton Hall Pirates, 67-65.

Last night was Sweet 16 time, followed by the Elite Eight. By Sunday night, the Final Four will emerge. At this point, intensity splits "March madness" in two: March sadness and March gladness.

Here's what's in store:

With much of the top seeds blown away, Duke, Michigan State, and Iowa State survived as the most shock-resistant biggies. Duke may be the No. 1 team in the polls, but on the parquet it's Michigan State.

For Duke, the key players have been the seasoned Shane Battier, freshmen Carlos Boozer, and Jason Williams. For Michigan State, the tone has been set by playmaker Mateen Cleaves. Iowa State has the star, Marcus Fizer. The player of the year in the Big 12 has been a prolific scorer in the tournament.

Piping-hot UCLA, which has won eight straight games, including a 105-70 thrashing of Maryland Sunday, could trip Iowa State (in a game late last night). Meanwhile, Louisiana State's big men, Stromile Swift and Jabari Smith, have played like fireflies: sometimes glowing, sometimes invisible. Ohio State's Michael Redd has been another exciting player.

But the most amazing story is Gonzaga, led by Richie Frahm and Matt Santangelo. They have been this year's big surprise. They were last year's big surprise when they made it to the round of eight. Some are predicting that they will be next year's big surprise, too.

Temple's quotable Chaney will be wrenchingly missed at post-game press conferences. Still, in college basketball, rarely are there more dull moments than delights. It's unpredictably colorful, just as is the Wise Owl himself.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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