Thursday, March 18, 2010
Behind The Scoreboard
The NCAA Selection Committee threw the final dart at its big selection board Sunday afternoon and set the stage for the men’s collegiate championship playoffs. The selection gurus admitted every team would not be elated with the final spread.
Of the 65 teams which would have their dancing dreams come true, 31 would be easy to pick. Those were the champions of the various conference tournaments. Winners of those are automatic selectees. The remaining are considered “at large bids” and will be the pool from which the 34 are gleaned. These will ride the proverbial bubble until the pins are stuck into the unfortunate ones beyond the cutoff.
In the last days and games leading up to the conference champions, fans can expect to be treated to some of the most exciting contests of the season. This high level performance is not just found in the major conferences but cuts across the entire spectrum. From the MEAC and SWAC to the Big East and Big 12, the goal is the same – get the big ticket to the Big Dance.
All of these “dance dreamers” are aware of the utter prestige of just getting the tickets and they are very cognizant of the fact that this is a six-step waltz – from the thrilling 32 to the sweet 16, through the elegant and elite eight, to the fantastic and final four to the “toughest two.”
When going forward, sometimes it is exciting to take a look back, like to the same time a season ago. Were there any of the number one seeds in this current tournament bracket in the same position last year? The top slot holders this year are overall number one Kansas, number two Kentucky, three Duke and four Syracuse. The answer is easy – no! Last time out it was Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and North Carolina. Are either of the “toughest two” from last season here? Well, Michigan State is number five in the Midwest Regional (No. two last year in the same venue), but the Tar Heels didn’t make the cut.
And there are those who some of us were really rooting for to break into the field of 65. Memphis, Miss. State and Ole Miss immediately spring to mind. The Rebels just didn’t have enough juice in the end and Memphis ran out of steam in the C-USA. The ’Dawgs took their hunt right down to the fence. Their last ditch hope was the SEC Tournament title against Kentucky. It was a beaut! MSU was forced into an overtime by a last second shot by a freshman Wildcat. Actually, it was one-tenth of a second shot. John Calipari and his young new team got the OT victory and the number one seed in the East. It canceled the ’Dawgs’ ticket to the Big Dance. MSU had entered the brackets last season by this route.
I was pulling for the Bullies at the end. Hey, I am not a Mississippi State fan but Mississippi is my state. We ended up with four SEC teams in the brackets this year.
One has to applaud the teams going dancing for the very first time ever. Wofford of Spartanburg, S.C., a name not even heard of by most sports fans has made the big time. And the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a team which used to appear regularly on the Rust College Bearcats’ schedule, will face Winthorp in the “play-in game.” If successful, the Golden Lions will face Duke as the 16th seed in the South Regional.
The littlest dogs in the hunt, the Wofford Terriers, will meet the Badgers of Wisconsin as the 13th seed in the East. As it has been said before, “Ah. Fame is such a short lived creature.”
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