Western Kentucky and BYU stunners highlight monster sports Tuesday

Western Kentucky and BYU overcome double-digit deficit to tip off the Big Dance. Syracuse’s Fab Melo ruled ineligible for the NCAA tournament. Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Courtland Finnegan signings highlight NFL free agency. Bucks trade Bogut for Monta Ellis as NBA trade deadline looms. Sid the Kid returns on Thursday.

The Madness is upon us and if Day One is indication, it’s going to be a wild wild ride. The fireworks started early in the day and off the court when Syracuse Orangemen big man Fab Melo was ruled ineligible by the school. Melo was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year and the seven-footer was an eraser down low in the paint. Melo avgd 7.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg and his loss severely hurts No.1 seed Syrcause’s National Championship hopes. Melo missed several games with eligibility issues in January. The Orange were undefeated with him in the lineup until their Big East tournament loss to Cincinnati.

A pair of big comebacks highlighted Tuesday’s opening two first-round play-in games in Dayton. Western Kentucky is the only team in this year’s Big Dance with a losing record and the Hilltoppers found themselves down 16 in the second half of their game with Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils couldn’t seal the deal as WKY came storming back to win 58-58 on a TJ Price three-pointer with just 16 seconds left. Western became the first team since the 1988 Danny and the Miracles Kansas Jayhawk team to win while commiting 28 turnovers. The Hilltoppers face Lentucky Thursday in Lexington.

Iona came out with both guns blazing in building a whopping 25-point first half lead and led 55-40 at the half. The Gaels went cold in the second half going 9:00 minutes without a score and knocking down just 17 second-half points in a 78-72 loss in the biggest collapse in NCAA tournament history. Noah Hartstock had 23 points including several long threes that triggered the the comeback. Brandon Davies had 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Coogs who move on to face Marquette.

In the NIT, UMass won a 101-96 double-OT shootout at Mississippi State. Seton Hall edged fiesty Stoney Brook 63-61. Iowa downed Dayton 74-65, Tennessee handled Savanah State by fourteen. Northwestern survived Akron 76-74 while Middle Tennessee State throttled a disintersted Marshall outfit 86-78. Oregon, Washington, and Stanford were all double-digit winners on the NIT late show.

In the CBI, Princeton and Washington State were upset winners downing Evansville and San Francisco respectively. TCU took care of business in a ten-point win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In the CIT, five of six home teams held serve with only Robert Morris breaking through at Indiana State. Old Dominion, Mercer, Georgia State, Toledo, and Weber State all defended their home courts. Quinnipiac at Penn and Delaware at Butler are the feature matchups on tonight’s CBI card. Cal Fullerton at Loyola Marymount highlights tonight’s CIT action.

Dwight Howard may have played his final home game as a member of the Orlando Magic and he made it count. D12 scored 24 points and pulled down 25 rebounds in Orlando’s overtime victory over Miami. The Lakers and Denver also won in extra time. Oklahoma City lost its second straight home game collapsing late to Houston. Toronto, Indiana, Dallas, and Golden State also won. With the trade deadline at 3:00 PM EST on Thursday, the Bucks sent Andrew Bogut to Golden State for Monta Ellis in a five-player deal.

NFL free agency began at 4:00 PM EST on Tuesday and first day action was fast and furious. Among the major signings were WR Vincent Jackson going to Tampa Bay on a five-year $55 million dollar deal. The Redskins inked WR Pierre Garcon to a similar five-year $42.5 million dollar deal. Ex-Titan CB Courtland Finningan and the Rams have agreed to a $50 million dollar deal. Reggie Wayne has re-upped with the Colts and the Saints were able to keep Marques Colston.The Dolphins sent wideout Brandon Marshall to the Bears for two third-round picks after the former UCF problem child alledgedly was involved in an altercation at a club. Marshall will be reunited with Jay Cutler with whom he had his best years when both were in Denver.

The hottest ticket in New York this week is the Thursday showdown between the Penguins and Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers lead the Pens by six points in the Atlantic Division and in the battle for the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh has won nine straight and will have the servies of Sidney Crosby who has missed the last three months with concussion like symptoms.

In tonight’s first-round NCAA play-in games at Dayton, Lamar is a three-point favorite over Vermont in the 6:40 PM EST tip. The winner will face North Carolina on Friday. Cal is -3 over South Florida in the nightcap, the winner to face Temple Friday in Nashville. Feature games in the NIT on Wednesday are Minnesota at LaSalle, Central Florida at Drexel, and Nevada at Oral Roberts. The Explorers are giving three to the Golden Gophers, the Dragons give seven to the Knights, and the Wolf Pack catches 5 1/2 from the Golden Eagles in Tulsa. Northern Iowa at St Joes and Valpo at Miami Florida will also draw strong interest.