Thursday, March 27, 2014
Behind The Scoreboard
We’re moving from high school hype to March Madness (or March Mayhem if you are on the unfortunate end of things), in one easy stroke.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday the NCAA kicked off its “really big show” with the usual “play-in games,” this season expanded to a total of eight teams. That means a 68-team bracket with a notation that next season will probably bring another expansion. That opening was pretty mild and could have been a veiled prelude of what was yet to follow.
Since yours truly is partial to any and all things SEC, it didn’t go unnoticed that the SEC was represented in that play-in octagon of teams on the aforementioned dates. The Vols, whose coach (Cuonzo Martin), was under heavy fire (ire from fans) at the beginning of the season, picked up a play-in win over Iowa and then made it to the band of 32 with a shocking upset over number six seed UMass. The Vols had been given a tournament rank of 11 after the first victory. Tennessee was one of three teams making the cut from the SEC. The Gators and the Wildcats were the other two.
Incidentally, Florida was the lone representative that had finished the season in the Top 25 in the AP. Kentucky made it into the USA Today at 22. The Gators were numero uno in both listings.
On the distaff side, the women of the SEC had a half dozen teams in the NCAA Women’s bracket. Four of them were listed in the AP women’s Top 25. The Lady Vols ranked the highest (3) with South Carolina (8), Kentucky (10) and Texas A&M (15) following. Vanderbilt and Georgia also made the playoffs.
The bracket has kept me so busy that I didn’t have time to completely formulate a women’s bracket. Don’t worry ladies, I’ll catch up with you later on.
Very rarely have we mentioned parity when speaking of collegiate basketball but this season just might have indicated that a change is on the way. Starting with the Vols, the early rounds were studded with parity surprises, some of which were stunning, like Harvard over Cincinnati, SF Austin over VCU, Dayton over Ohio State, Stanford over New Mexico, Mercer over Duke, etc. As much as the nation was shocked over Duke’s defeat, the NoDaks (North Dakota State) slamming Oklahoma was the greatest. This, more than anything, assured Warren Buffett that his billion dollars wager was secure (not to mention busting my bracket wide open!).
It seems that the Sweet 16 was reached awfully quickly this playoff. From the South and the East, the games will be Florida vs. UCLA, Dayton vs. Stanford, Virginia vs. Michigan State and Iowa State vs. Connecticut. The Elite Eight from the West and Midwest will be Arizona vs. San Diego State, Baylor vs. Wisconisin, Kentucky vs. Louisville (these teams and coaches will be facing each other for the third time in the field of 16) and Tennessee vs. Michigan. You can bet that when a party this big is thrown, you can expect the Wolverines and the Spartans to be on the guest list.
Sympathy is expressed for the Memphis Tigers and their faithful (and daughter Veronica Ann), but Virginia was at the deep end of the pool.
Some commentator asked, “What would be a fitting reward for North Dakota for knocking off the Sooners?” One ready answer pops up – exempt them from shoveling snow for a week.
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