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March Madness 2015: Winners And Losers


We are in day two of the meatiest part of the men's Division I college basketball tournament. And so far, not too much damage. A couple of number three seeds went down yesterday, but not really enough to wreak havoc in office pools. Joining us for March Madness update in both the men's and women's tournaments is NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Hey, Tom.


GONYEA: So like yesterday, 16 games today with the men. Any noteworthy results to report?

GOLDMAN: Well, no real madness so far. The higher seeds are winning, including number two Kansas and number two Virginia. And over yesterday and today all the five seeds beat the 12 seeds seeds. And 12 over five has been a common occurrence in recent years, but not this year.

GONYEA: You were courtside in Portland, Ore. yesterday for a lot of basketball. That actually sounds like a lot of fun. Any impressions to share?

GOLDMAN: Well, first I want to share a locker room moment, Don. When I went into the Texas Southern locker room after the team had lost to Arizona by 21, I wanted to interview one particular player. And the guy in the locker next to his offered me his chair. Wow.

GONYEA: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: These guys, obviously, still are kids who respect the media. That will change if they move on. On the court - so many great players who will never get close to playing professionally. One guy you probably will see in the NBA - Arizona forward Stanley Johnson, the Pac-12 freshman of the year, and I saw why yesterday. The way he moves around the court. He doesn't so much run as he flows. He knocks down three-pointers effortlessly and he can elevate to shocking heights. And he doesn't even look like he's working hard. He's an important piece in a very good Arizona team that's considered one of the few that can challenge mighty Kentucky. And in general out there, Don, tough physical defense. There's definitely more than a touch of football in the men's college game.

GONYEA: Rough defense has been identified as one of the culprits for slowing down the games in recent years and inhibiting the kind of scoring that fans really like. Are we seeing that broadly - widely in this tournament?

GOLDMAN: Well, yeah, you are. I mean, it's part of the men's game now. Of the 32 teams of that played yesterday, I was lucky enough to see one of the two that scored in the nineties. That was Arizona. But the average scoring yesterday was 65 points per team. That's not a lot. There is concern over the decline of offense. It was voiced recently by saving CBS analyst Seth Davis in a kind of manifesto he wrote this month. It was dramatically titled "Crisis On The Court." And it offered remedies for how to pick up scoring and the pace of games. There's still a lot of love for the men's college basketball and a lot of money being generated at the top level. But will that pot of gold continue if the game starts to turn off the casual fan who wants exciting, high-scoring basketball?

GONYEA: The women's tournament starts today - 16 games today and then tomorrow. We've heard all about defending champ, UConn. Give us some of the other highlights.

GOLDMAN: Other number one seeds will be fun to watch - South Carolina, Maryland, Notre Dame. Princeston, the only undefeated team, was named and 8 seed, which was kind of a slap. And Princeton with a chip on its shoulder should be fun. As far as players, Notre Dame freshman forward Brianna Turner, a rugged defender who could help in a match against mighty UConn, Princeton guard Blake Dietrick, the team's leading scorer and big part of the Tiger's success and, of course, the Kevin Durant of women's basketball, tall and talented Breanna Stewart for the UConn Huskies. She can score inside and out - the best player out there. That's just a few. There are more. Sometimes the tournament brings out stars we don't even anticipate.

GONYEA: And we're out of time. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

GONYEA: That's NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman with an update on March Madness. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.