Tonight Maryland will take on a hot Houston team, by which time we will have found out whether Morgan State was able to do what Robert Morris couldn’t and ruin a lot of people’s brackets. It seems inappropriate during this monumental time in sports to talk about anything other than March Madness, though I am sure we will give a glance here and there to the rather unnerving trends going on at the Orioles’ Spring Training (Koji hurt again, really? Does his body only let him pitch on the other side of the Pacific?). Either way, I had to take this week’s edition to talk about some of the best moments from Day 1 of the NCAA tournament and tell you what games to keep an eye out for. Let’s line up for the kick…
Don’t Call it an Upset
In my opinion, if the worse-seeded team is expected to win, then it cannot be called an upset. If (12) Siena beats (5) Purdue, this will not be an upset. Why? Because I have never seen a team that looked so lost after losing just one player. You would think that someone could pick up the slack or at least make this team respectable. Even when Cleveland is without LeBron James they still play like a playoff team. Without the resume built by Robbie Hummel, Purdue does not sniff the NCAA tournament in the first place.
Missouri is the same way. Not only do they play in a better conference than Clemson (sorry, the ACC is down this year compared to the Big 12), but since December 12th they have only lost one game to an unranked team. Clemson on the other hand is once again a product of a hot start and fading down the stretch, getting a 9-7 conference record. However, most important to me is the fact that they are Clemson. Doesn’t this team and this athletic program as a whole have a long and storied tradition of coming in with a fury and then petering out. I see no reason why Missouri should have the 10 seed and Clemson the 7 seed, but that’s the way things go. If Missouri wins you can’t call this an upset.
From the consensus #1 team in the country to ousted in the 1st round, Texas had a glut of talent but couldn’t decide on what rotation to keep on the floor. Towards the end of the season the Longhorns were substituting left and right, trying to get all their great players on the floor in the right situations. At a certain point a team has to pick their best 6 or 7 guys and go with them for most of the minutes, because the rotating in and out didn’t work. I know you have a lot of talent, but it is okay to let that amazing backup power forward sit on the bench if it gives the team a better shot to win. I have never seen a team struggle so much with so much talent, and it showed in the loss to Wake Forest.
Villanova, too, seemed completely out of sorts against Robert Morris and for all intents and purposes should have lost that game. Were it not for a rash of fouls against Robert Morris late in the game and one of their better defenders fouling out, they would have. Villanova is the better team, but they, like Purdue and Texas, fell apart towards the end of the season. I love watching this team when they have 4 guards on the court and are running that fast, precise offense and getting steals on defense. For much of yesterday’s game, they just looked sloppy. They can’t stay that way if they are going to beat St. Mary’s.
Best Games to Watch on Day 2
If you are lucky enough to be out of work today (once again, save me some wings and beer), there are a couple games I am really looking forward to, and not necessarily because I think they will be good games:
(3) Pittsburgh vs. (14) Oakland – If Pitt loses, I think we can start to raise serious questions about this whole “Big East Superiority” thing. We took it too far with the SEC in football, and maybe the Big East is not the dominant basketball conference we thought it was.
(5) Temple vs. (12) Cornell – Honestly, I just want Cornell to lose because they seem to be everyone’s sleeper team. I get it, they have a 7 footer and they are very talented. But it seems like every analyst has them as their Cinderella, and it’s just not creative anymore.
(1) Duke vs. (16) Arkansas-Pine Bluff – Just for the chance, the slimmest of possibilities, that Duke might choke it away in the first round. How delicious would that be?