By Drew Olson Special to Published Mar 22, 2010 at 5:02 AM

The Super Bowl may get more hype, but the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament can hold its own in terms of thrills and chills provided and total pizza, beer and chicken wings consumed.

Here are some thoughts from the first weekend, which included disappointing losses by Marquette and Wisconsin abroad and some exciting basketball at the Bradley Center, where Ohio State and Xavier punched their tickets to the Sweet 16.

Upon further review: Sporting events always take on a different tenor when viewed on the DVR after the fact (especially when you know the outcome). That said, I don't know what to think about Wisconsin's 87-69 loss to Cornell Sunday in Jacksonville.

Was Cornell awesome, were the Badgers awful or was it a combination of both?

No matter how you answer that you have to give props to the 12th-seeded Big Red, champions of the Ivy League.

"Cornell did everything that they've been pretty much doing all year," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "They can beat you in so many different ways."

That's what so many vanquished Badgers foes have said over the past few years. Cornell carried the day with precise cuts on offense that led to easy baskets. They played solid defense. They didn't make mistakes. And, they made it difficult to play them from behind.

The fact that they shot the lights out didn't hurt, either.

"In all my coaching, all the experience I had on any team that I ever played on, this game here was as well executed that I couldn't even imagine that we could play that well in the stretches that we did," coach Steve Donahue said.

Tough question: The public address announcement of the Wisconsin score received cheers from many Marquette fans at the Bradley Center. It also prompted a question on press row -- would you rather lose a close game in the first round like the Golden Eagles did against Washington or win a game and then get blown out like the Badgers?

Bottom line -- losing in the tournament hurts. Period.

Another tough question: There will be 11 conferences represented in the Sweet 16. There were a number of upsets, including the shocker in which Northern Iowa upended top-seeded Kansas. 

Was this the best first weekend you can remember?

Stunning number: According to, Cornell scored 1.65 points per possession during its victory over Wisconsin. That is incredible efficiency.

Another stunning number: Guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon combined to play in 105 victories during their time at Wisconsin. By contrast, the Marquette trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews had 94 victories for the Golden Eagles.

Local hero: Former Pius XI star Korie Lucious hit the shot of the season for Michigan State. After Maryland's Greivis Vasquez hit a layup with six seconds left to give his the Terrapins a two-point lead, Lucious took a pass from Draymond Green, dribbled once to his left and hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.

Cinderella stories: Teams like Cornell, Butler, Northern Iowa and Xavier will get a lot of attention this week, but Purdue might be the biggest surprise in the field.

The Boilermakers were supposed to fold after losing standout Robbie Hummel to a knee injury on Feb. 24.

That didn't happen.

The Boilermakers overcame an 11-point deficit and beat Texas A&M in overtime to advance.

Cold as ice: What a difference a year makes. Last year, Scottie Reynolds drained a dramatic shot that sent Villanova past Pittsburgh to the Final Four. This year, he couldn't hit anything. Reynolds made 2 of 15 shots in an opening-round victory over Robert Morris and then 2 of 11 in a loss against Saint Mary's. That's 4 of 26. Yikes.

Pearl of wisdom: Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl seldom is mentioned among the top coaches of the game. Top characters, maybe. Top coaches? Seldom. That should change. Pearl got UW-Milwaukee to the Sweet 16 in 2005 and has taken the Volunteers through the opening weekend three times in five seasons. That's four of six seasons in the Sweet 16, folks. Not too shabby.

Big men on campus: Both coaches from Ohio -- Xavier's Chris Mack and Ohio State's Thad Matta -- were asked if the attention placed on their respective star players, Jordan Crawford and Evan Turner, would be a distraction next week.

"No, because (Crawford) doesn't carry himself any different than any of our other players," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "He's a great teammate. He's really enjoying being around his teammates. He shares the ball. We don't have to -- he doesn't have to get 35 for us to win.

"He's not Pistol Pete Maravich out there where the other four guys stand around and watch. Although at times it may look like it, it's because he's exceedingly talented. But it has nothing to do with him carrying himself a certain way. He's done a great job acclimating himself to being a integral part of our team."

Matta echoed the feelings about Turner.

"It's unavoidable," he said of the attention. "And Evan's not really into it. It's been amazing, and I've said this in Columbus. It's like pulling teeth to get him to come down and talk to the media. He's tired of it. I remember last year in Dayton, we were only there for a little while. The one thing he said is, 'I hate having to do all those. Can't we just play basketball?' That's who Evan Turner is and why he's so good. But he also is smart enough to know that it comes with the territory.

"I think our guys have a great appreciation for how good he is, and the better he plays, the better we play, which I think definitely helps things."

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Mack bristled a bit at the suggestion that the Musketeers are a "mid-major" team.

"We don't look at ourselves anything but being a high-major program, from the way we travel to the way we recruit to the amenities our kids enjoy," he said. "If you've ever been to our building on campus, the center is one of the nicest on-campus arenas in the country. We've been doing some great things with our program for the last 25 years. We've had 14 NBA players since 1993. We've won multiple championships. We've only, us and Michigan State, to be in the Sweet 16 the last three years.

"I think those things speak for themselves. I think sometimes other schools may get more publicity because we're in a hotbed area for college basketball. You could look 90 miles or 100 miles east, west, north, and south and you have some tremendous programs. From the Louisvilles to the UKs, the IUs, Ohio State. But you check our track record, it's pretty good."

No rest for the weary: Bars near the Bradley Center were packed this weekend, as thirsty fans caught pre- and postgame drinks -- in some cases, into the wee hours of the morning.

Between sessions on Friday, bars close to the Bradley Center -- especially those along North Old World 3rd Street -- did a steady business. Even with somewhat rainy weather, even the outdoor patio areas were hopping.

"It was a good weekend," said Scott Schaefer of the Milwaukee Brat House, 1013 N. Old World 3rd St. "We had a lot of fans in here and we were working some pretty long days ... but we've got a long week ahead of us."

The NCAA Tournament, at least the Milwaukee portion, is done but it will be another busy week for bar owners; the Bucks have home games Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the Admirals are home Tuesday and Thursday.

Kudos: Tournament director Jim Nasiopulos, media relations directors Lucas LeNoble and Michael Wittliff got little sleep over the last few days, as four years of planning and preparation came to fruition, but everything went off without a hitch.

Hats off to the staff at Marquette and the folks who run the Bradley Center for putting on a first-class tournament. The accommodations were top-notch and visitors were impressed. 

Take a bow, folks. It's deserved.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.