Friday, March 19, 2010

Let’s hope the rest of the weekend goes like yesterday; I didn’t listen when told about the Huskies

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.


HenryFTP said...

While Mammon has obviously become the official mascot of the NCAA, why in the world would any television network pay more money to buy an inferior product (i.e., a heavily diluted tournament)? It's certainly a good story for a recently hot team like Ohio to beat an inconsistent major power like Georgetown. But if Cal and Washington, with some justice, have to earn some respect from John and others, at least they didn't go 7-9 in their conference as Ohio did. Introducing even more mediocre teams into the tournament will make the regular season increasingly peripheral and ultimately endanger the sport.

Gunnar said...

Washington and Cal are good teams, Arizona State is decent (although they lost their first game in the NIT or CBI). The rest of the PAC-10 is bad. Worst Arizona team in 27+ years, worst UCLA team in decades, Stanford struggled too. Lets not get carried away with Big East NCAA tourney teams finishing any lower than 3rd in this years PAC-10.

The thing I don't like about the bracketology experts, is that on January 1st, your conference and it's teams are labeled for the rest of the year. Bracketology does not allow for a team improving during the conference season.

John, I heard you on the Gas Man's show Wednesday, he did warn you about UW being good. They have a good shot against NM too, but I don't see them beating West Virginia.

Chris Wilson said...


A devil's advocate argument for tournament expansion: It seems, at least subjectively, that over the last 5 years (at least) that seeding in the tourney is nearly irrelevant. Seeds 4-13 are not separated by much. Assuming this is true, doesn't diminish the regular season. Success in the regular season that leads to a "high" seed doesn't mean much anymore. If the tourney was to expand, teams that did well in the regular season would likely get a bye or at least play a team in the 1st round that is more likely inferior, thus rewarding a successful regular season. I just feel that the regular season means less and less now and an expanded tourney might breathe new life into the regular season. Thoughts?

Mike M. said...

Am I the only one who notices how the officiating changes once the touney starts? Games during the season are controlled by ticky-tack fouls being called to all of sudden it is no blood no foul. The referees have to be told to let a lot of stuff go uncalled. I am the last one who wants to see the refs decide the game, but it seems to go a little far in the other direction. Any insight into this, John?

wick said...

Well, one thing that would perhaps improve the tournament is to throw out the seedings beyond 1-4. Clearly the "committee" doesn't know what they are doing. No way should double digit seeds win by double digits.

Just put everyone in a bag and let 'em suit up. Would anyone cry foul if Washington had played Cornell? Both should scare the heck out of a three seed. Richmond v. Butler? The margin is just too small to think that they are giving a five seed an advantage against a 12 this year.

Lowell said...


Your "Mea Culpa" about the Pac-10 is exactly the reason I enjoy reading you.

I wasn't very happy you didn't give UW more than one sentence in your predictions with the quip that they wouldn't even be in the top 10 of the Big East.

But as you said, that's why this is such a GREAT time of year. Thanks for being honest with us.

March Madness!

Go Huskies!


98119 said...

You want to look into those two retroactive bids pronto! Go Pac 10! Go Gas Man! Go UW!

John Cashman said...

John thanks for stepping up on the Pac 10 and Washington. The mea culpa showed you have class - and that you are coachable. The Tourney also shows what is wrong with college football. The same east coast bias you exhibited so brazenly (and so incorrectly - see Nova v. 10 seen St Mary's today) shows up even worse in college football, where the writers and pundits have all the say. At least in basketball teams like UW and Cal (yes they manhandled Louisville) have a chance to show the misinformed sports writers where they are wrong. In football the polls are the beginning and the end of the story and that is a shame. If there were even a 4 team playoff in football, USC wins 5 NT's during the Carroll ear I guarantee. Thanks for the blog!

brad - seattle said...

thats why youre so interesting to listen to. i catch you on gastineau's show often...and even when i disagree, your opinions are always well articulated...and when you are wrong, you actually SAY you are wrong. how refreshing!

im a huge pac 10 guy, and a husky fan. but truth be told, i wasnt even sold they'd go this far even as recently as the pac 10 tournament. but god bless em. and great job CAL too! my biggest beef has been not so much the downplay of the pac 10 (it HAS been down this year)...but the constant ESPN outright drooling over the Big East every night all season! hey..the Big East is a great conference in the NCAA...but come on...lets give love out west too!

but, as you state...the bottom line. GREAT basketball. just GREAT. i love with a passion this sporting event. it is so wonderful to see the NIU's of the world get a chance to take on and even beat the KU's of the world. and truth be told...even KU wouldnt have it any othe way! as coach boeheim said: "this isnt like football. we find out who the best teams really are in this tournament."

can you imagine how those kids from NIU must feel? or Cornell? or even UW or Xavier? truly the greatest sporting event!

now if someone can just knock out coach sleaze at will be even better!

Thanks john for your interviews and books. you do great work!

brad - seattle