What's Happened In March Madness Thus Far? Robert Siegel speaks with sportswriter Stefan Fatsis for an update on March Madness.

What's Happened In March Madness Thus Far?

What's Happened In March Madness Thus Far?

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Robert Siegel speaks with sportswriter Stefan Fatsis for an update on March Madness.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is in full swing. Sixteen games were played yesterday. Another sixteen will be in the books by the end of the day today. And joining us now to discuss the proceedings now is NPR's Mike Pesca. Hi, Mike.


SIEGEL: And catch us up on what's happened so far today.

PESCA: Well, I think the most exciting game of the day, and this was between two closely matched teams, was Villanova versus George Mason. Now, George Mason, of course, as everyone knows, was a surprise Cinderella entrant into the Final Four in 2006. They've been okay recently.

But they, to end their season, went on a tremendous run. And this is one of the themes of the tournament this year, because they were playing Villanova, which comes from powerhouse conference Big East. But Villanova ended the season with five consecutive losses.

This was a very close game. George Mason mounted a comeback and they held on and ended the game with an emphatic dunk that actually effect the outcome but it was pretty cool to look at.

And so, this theme of teams that had been playing well up until the tournament you know, another such team is Michigan and they did well in their game today, too.

SIEGEL: Right. They were they played against Tennessee, a game which you would've thought would be a close one.

PESCA: It was another one of these, just like the George Mason and Villanova game, eight and nine games, the two closest seeded teams that could...

SIEGEL: The eighth seeded team against the ninth seeded team in a bracket...

PESCA: Right. And those are the two closest teams that can play against each other in the first round. And Tennessee was good all year, but hanging over them was the fact that their coach Bruce Pearl may be fired as early as, I don't know, in a minute or two, because Bruce Pearl committed violations, recruiting violations.

And it wasn't just that he committed some violations. In 2008 he had a barbecue cookout for some recruits at his home. But he violated the bump rule. And what the bump rule is, is the NCAA allows for that if coaches are going to be in these top high schools, or just going about their business, you might bump into a recruit. And that's fine, you can't fined just for bumping hey, I know you, you're the coach of a top team. But what you have to do is report this to the NCAA and he did not report it to the NCAA.

And the big problem for Pearl is that his bumping into this great player happened about four days after he held this press conference where he cried, where he said I'm sorry about the recruiting violation. Then it came to light that he further violated a rule. So he could be in a lot of trouble and out of a job.

SIEGEL: Unreported bumping.

PESCA: Yeah.

SIEGEL: There are four number one seeded teams. How are they doing?

PESCA: The number one seeds usually do well and they have been doing well in this tournament. And I think for all the talk that there is parity and even the so-called poorer conferences in college basketball have gotten better, there are still some elite teams and there are still some teams that barely earn their way into the tournament, and we see that.

The interesting thing that happened with a number one seed today is that Duke, a powerful, powerhouse team, got back who could be Kyrie Irving, who could be the best player in the country. And he had only played eight games all season. He's a freshman who's probably going to go to the NBA next year. He's probably going to be a top five pick.

And Duke, which was already a top seed, hadn't even been playing with him. He played really well. That's very frightening for everyone else in the tournament.

SIEGEL: Was he on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

PESCA: He's if he is, I think he's going to avoid the curse.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Okay. Now, we've been talking about the NCAA men's tournament. The women also begin their tournament.

PESCA: The women start tomorrow. And this tournament is the story of the four top seeds. And because Connecticut has been so dominant in women's basketball, it's easy to define everyone by Connecticut. I mean, Connecticut is one top seed in a region.

Then there's Stanford, the team that broke Connecticut's historic winning streak. Then there's Baylor, who could be the best team in college basketball, who Connecticut narrowly beat earlier this year. And then there's Tennessee, coached by Pat Summit. The coach of Connecticut, Geno Auriemma, does not get along well with Pat Summit, bad blood between them. Connecticut, to get to the championship, might have to go through two of these three great rivals.

SIEGEL: Okay, Mike, thanks for filling us in.

PESCA: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Mike Pesca

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