I had to sacrifice any writing activities yesterday because it was the one day in the next 10 that looked decent enough to get outside and get some early spring yard work done. So apologies for being late with my NCAA tournament weekend one wrap up.
Something I think we can all agree on, whether your team won or lost, whether your brackets are shredded or pristine, is that was the god-damndest weekend in the history of the tournament! Upsets everywhere, fantastic finishes every day, some stellar individual performances, and the biggest shocker in the history of the game. That’s a lot packed into four days.
If you read my predictions, you know my bracket was toast late Thursday night when Buffalo pulled off the first Holy Shit moment of the tournament, blowing out #4 seed Arizona. Funny how I, and a lot of other people, fell in love with the potential of all of Arizona’s NBA caliber talent and ignored the big red flags that had been there all year: the team often failed to play hard and they generally had zero interest in defending anyone. But, like I said Thursday, given everything surrounding the UA program, there was a part of me that was absolutely fine losing my national champ on day one.
That was just a warmup for the real action Friday night. I was all set to go to bed around 11:00. I had had a late night Thursday watching games, was awoken early by my nephew, and spent about an hour at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in the nasty cold to watch L march. I was kind of wiped out. I forget what game I was watching, but I could feel myself fading fast. I was just about to head to bed when I noticed UMBC had jumped out to a six-point lead on #1 Virginia early in the second half. I decided to watch that game until UVa inevitably took over.
Which meant I was up for another hour watching the biggest surprise in tournament history. The craziest thing about that game to me wasn’t the final score, which was a first-class ass kicking and exactly the opposite of what you would have expected the score to be. No, bigger to me was how the Cavaliers utterly panicked with over 10:00 to play in the game. They started chucking threes without even looking inside or trying to move the ball. I have a long personal history of seeing high seeds taken down by low seeds who play the game of their life. And usually that sense of panic doesn’t set in until around the 5:00 mark. But here came Virginia, forcing shots early in the shot clock like they thought they only had a couple of possessions left.
If there was any doubt that this was the biggest upset ever, that clinches it. This game was effectively over with roughly a quarter of it left to be played! Despite being extra tired Saturday morning, I was pleased I stayed up to watch the end. And, yes, I was texting friends with messages along the lines of “Thank goodness it wasn’t KU!” Thanks for taking one for the rest of the power schools, Virginia!
* Glad Tom Izzo is taking some heat for Michigan State going out in a pathetic performance against Syracuse. There was no excuse for that. He had way too much talent to lose to that team. Which means next year, when he loses a bunch of pro talent but returns several solid players and brings in a deep recruiting class that lacks a Top 50 player, there will be all kinds of columns trashing this year’s team when the Spartans are again fighting for a Big 10 title.
* Man, that UMBC – Kansas State game was brutal. K-State fans should make no apologies for advancing. But that was some terrible basketball for the first 37 minutes until K-State realized, “Hey, we are 800% better than these guys,” and made enough plays to win.
* Loyola is fun to watch, especially in the last 10 seconds of their games.
* We were out eating and shoe shopping, so I missed the Carolina-A&M game. But good grief, Roy, what the hell was that? And where as that A&M team been all year?
* I picked Missouri to win their opening round game and then lose to Xavier. Naturally Florida State is the team that came out of that mini-tournament. Xavier utterly collapsed late in their round of 32 game. I’m still not sure how Florida State won that.
* I always thought if you complain about your draw and/or where the committee sends you, the Hoops Gods were supposed to punish you. So how the hell does Kentucky have the easiest path the Final Four of any traditional power? I’m not a biblically religious man, but this could be proof of Satan’s existence and that Calipari sold his soul to him many years ago.
* I’m not a big conference love guy. Yet I do approve of the Big 12 getting four teams through to the second weekend. Not sure any of them have a great path to San Antonio, but everyone has a shot.
* Terrible break for Purdue, literally, with Isaac Haas breaking his elbow and likely being done for the tournament. With a healthy Haas, their battle with Texas Tech is fascinating. Without him, Tech really should pull that one out.
* I’m not sure which was more impressive: Clemson’s absolute destruction of Auburn, or Auburn’s absolute failure to show up for that game.
This year, more than any other, proves that the NCAA tournament is the most volatile playoff in any sport. With the current rules of the game, the rise of the 3-pointer, the longer time outs, and the one-and-done nature of the games, it takes a very narrow combination of elements to produce an upset. For folks like me that support a team that is almost always ranked highly, there is a crippling fear that arrives with March that your team will be the one who goes 1–35 from 3 while your opponent goes 12–20 and pulls the upset.
But that craziness is what makes the tournament so much fun to watch. Where’s the fun in watching a bunch of Power 5 schools beat up on the mid-majors, then the top16 or so teams knocking out all the mid-tier teams from other power conferences?
Oh, I was pleased with KU’s performance. Survive and advance is the only assignment for the weekend and they did that. More about them later.