Thursday, March 25, 2010
Behind The Scoreboard
Big names crash in big dance
One would probably have to do a little research to find a playoff quite like the one which is taking place in the NCAA finals this season. It was all systems go from the very first game. The little names made big splashes and some of the biggest names made big crashes.
There were six conferences which sent four or more teams into the fray. The Big East and the Big 12 sent the largest numbers – 8 and 7, respectively. By Sunday, the Big East had lost five games and the Big 12 three. The SEC, which had sent four, had lost just two. Vanderbilt and Florida left in the first round – Florida bowing out to BYU and Vandy falling to the Murray State Racers. Kentucky and Tennessee were the standard bearers left for the SEC, both sailing into the Sweet 16.
Back in the days when Hollywood was turning out movies which spoofed just about everything, a favorite saying came out of one of Mel Brook’s offerings – “a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.” More than a few high seeds were scratching their shorts and muttering the same words. There were major upsets and minor upsets. If the difference in rankings was three or more, then it was a major upset. Anything less was a minor and could have been expected to happen.
The ones which could be termed “monumental” would be Cornell of the Ivy League. Never winning an NCAA playoff game before, Cornell waltzed into the Sweet 16 after upsetting both Temple and Wisconsin. The Owls were a fifth seed and the Badgers were a four. Cornell? A 12th seed. Sportscasters are predicting this will be a subject for discussion in the sports world for eons to come.
And what about those “Hail Mary” boys of St. Mary’s? They disposed of number two seed Villanova, and number seven seed Richmond on their way to Indianapolis. St. Mary’s, a 10, had not been to the Big Dance since 1959. Would it be a real talking point if Cornell and St. Mary’s met each other on their way to the forum?
Perhaps it was unfair pairing ETSU with Kentucky in the first round in the East (for ETSU it’s déjà vu all over again. They met Pittsburgh in the same identical slot last season). It appears that if John Calipari was indeed guilty of any sins at his last station, the basketball gods have accepted his penance. He and his young team made it look awfully easy on their way to the 16. The Wildcats will face Cornell.
It is customary to save the worst upset ’til last. Kansas, the number one seed overall, was the first one seed to fall thus far. They were caught off guard, literally, by Northern Iowa. As Kansas’ coach put it “We knew they were pretty good. We just didn’t know they were that good.”
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