So, anyone out there who wants to change the NCAA Tournament after what we saw yesterday, raise your hand.
Are you kidding me? It took about five minutes to understand that this was going to be one of those days—and we can only hope one of those weekends—where if you turned your head for more than a minute you were likely to miss something spectacular.
The loudest noise I heard in the bowels of Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville was at the moment when Florida and BYU were in their first overtime and CBS switched over to the final seconds of regulation in the Villanova-Robert Morris game. A cheer went up because there were still three minutes left in the Florida-BYU overtime and everyone wanted to see what would happen in Villanova-Robert Morris.
But at the instant Scottie Reynolds appeared on the screen with the basketball, he was gone. Someone at CBS had remembered that in Florida you can’t switch away from a game involving Florida. Poof! Reynolds disappeared as screaming broke out around the TV sets where almost everyone had stopped what they were doing to watch.
Reynolds didn’t score but Villanova won in overtime, one of the few high-seeds that got into trouble and survived yesterday. Already, Old Dominion had taken down Notre Dame and as we all know the single-digit carnage continued late into the night. Even my Lehigh Mountain Hawks, the No. 63 seed in the tournament, hung with the No. 1 seed Kansas for a long time
Of course the most stunning upset of the day was Ohio taking down Georgetown and making it look relatively easy. I’m sure my three or four Georgetown ‘fans,’ (the ones who keep hacking into my Wikipedia, proving their computer skills are equal to my 12-year-old daughter) will somehow see this as a diss, but the fact is there were few teams in the country more wildly inconsistent this season than the Hoyas.
At their best, they could beat anybody. At their worst they could, well, lose to a team that went into its CONFERENCE tournament as a No. 9 seed. If this is it for Greg Monroe as a college player you would have to label his career a disappointment. Although he was brilliant at times, showing the kind of all-round court skills that will likely make him a top five draft pick, Georgetown didn’t win a single postseason game the last two years. A clearly splintered Georgetown team fell apart last year and lost in the first round of the NIT to Baylor. This Georgetown team seemed to right itself with a rout of Cincinnati and three wins in The Big East tournament only to lose to Ohio.
IF Monroe were to return next year, the Hoyas could be a preseason top five team. If not, they’re probably more middle-of-the-pack Big East.
Which, based on yesterday, isn’t as impressive as it appeared to be. Pull up a chair Pac-10 fans, this is the part you’ve been waiting for.
Washington beat Marquette yesterday and, if you throw in Georgetown and Notre Dame losing and Villanova squeaking by a No. 15 seed—we DID get to see most of the overtime down here—it was a bad day for The Big East.
And, apparently a bad day for me too. Yup, I said there was no way Washington would beat Marquette and I ripped The Pac-10. Needless to say the Pac-10/Washington fans are out looking for me today. As they should be. Heck, even Kevin O’Neill—or at least someone claiming to be Kevin—posted that his USC Trojans would whip Cincinnati and that Syracuse would finish third in the Pac-10. One guy went even further: He said Rick Reilly picking the Huskies is proof that he’s better than me.
Now, if California beats Louisville tonight I will go back to the committee tomorrow and use every bit of influence I have to get the Pac-10 two more bids retroactively. (I watched Louisville practice yesterday. I know they’ve been up-and-down all year but this is a group that beat Syracuse twice this season. I think they’re a dangerous dark horse in the south bracket).
Seriously, I was warned by my friend Mike Gastineau in Seattle who sees Washington a lot more than I do, that the Huskies were a hot club. I didn’t pay attention and I got burned. Just remember one thing: this is EXACTLY why I don’t do brackets!
The real bottom line is that yesterday was just a wonderful day of basketball. Five double-digit seeds won and several others came extremely close. Montana scared the heck out of New Mexico; St. Mary’s took down Richmond; Wake Forest beat Texas in overtime in the game someone had to win. It was good stuff—even with the endless commercials and the halftimes that lasted longer than many marriages.
The guy I felt worst for if truth be told was Mike Brey. He did a terrific job of completely remaking his team’s playing style a month ago to adjust to the absence of Luke Harangody. That change produced a six game winning steak that jumped the Irish from outside the bubble to a No. 6 seed. They got a tough draw in Old Dominion, which came out of a league that didn’t have its best year but still had a half-dozen solid teams. Now, people will no doubt focus on the last loss (as often happens) rather than the great run the Irish made prior to the last loss.
Finally, even though I know this will probably fall on deaf ears, can someone with more influence than me—that would be almost anybody—please SCREAM at the basketball committee and the suits in Indianapolis to NOT CHANGE this tournament. The Super Bowl is the most popular sports event we have but there is nothing—NOTHING—more fun than this tournament. I’ve often said through the years that the NCAA Tournament is so good that even the NCAA can’t screw it up.
Except that they can. And probably will. So enjoy today and the weekend because it may never be like this again.