Monday, March 22, 2010

On 16 Unsolicited Observations About the NCAA Tournament So Far

1. Here's something I don't understand: Every one of us spends the entirety of our day shuttling between six different applications, fourteen browser windows, twelve thousand ITunes songs, four Skype phone calls, and three Blackberries. We own three-hundred inch super Ultravox (TM) high-definition televisions, and we watch them while Googling Tom Penders' lifetime record and Twittering about Gus Johnson and commenting on our former college roommate's Facebook status. And yet CBS believes we are incapable of comprehending split-screen technology? That somehow, displaying two games at once, if only for seconds at a time, might somehow induce seizures in small children? Forgive me, but if there are two games coming down to the wire, I would like to see them both. And it boggles my mind that CBS purchased an entire channel (College Sports Network) only to stock it, during the two busiest college sports days of the year, with mid-major coaches sitting in a studio discussing visits to the Yale Club.

2. Two teams I mistakenly overestimate or underestimate in my bracket, year after year: Villanova and Wisconsin.

3. This is the first time in several years that I didn't pick a Mid-American Conference team to win a first-round game.

4. The Big Ten is a hit-and-miss conference, but Tom Izzo and Matt Painter might be two of the five best coaches in America.

5. Glen Rice could not possibly have a son playing college basketball, unless there is some sort of Dharma time loop involved. Or unless I am aging at a depressingly fast rate.

6. I refuse to believe that Duke is "peaking."

7. When and why did Bob Huggins start dressing like Turtle from Entourage? The guy loses his job, abandons another, and now he gets to dress down? I would like to have his agent.

8. A year ago, Penn State defeated Baylor to win the NIT Championship. Now, Baylor is potentially a Final Four team, and Penn State is plugging the holes on a sinking vessel.

9. I doubt that Cornell can beat Kentucky, but that game will at least become a proxy for a discussion that no one ever really wants to have, which is: Do we care whether college athletes actually graduate? At Maryland, Gary Williams was forced to defend the school's graduation rate of eight percent. This, at a school that was enveloped in academic scandal two decades earlier--and back then, Lefty Driesell made many of the same arguments.* Nothing ever really changes here; the question is whether we even want the system to change. If you don't, you should probably be pulling for the Wildcats.

10. Syracuse and Kentucky are clearly the two best teams remaining, but given the way this tournament has gone, I will be surprised if they meet in the final.

11. I never really liked Kansas that much, and I can't say why, except that in a midseason game, I saw Sherron Collins miss a clutch free throw. That pretty much shaped my entire perception of that team.

12. So at this point, Gonzaga is no longer even the best team in its own conference. I have no idea if they're a massive disappointment or if the fact that they even make the tournament every year is a miracle in itself.

13. It's hard for me to root against Steve Alford (for some reason, I have a vivid memory of this story about Alford proposing to his wife), especially when he's wearing a bright red sportjacket.

14. Most underrated CBS announcing team: Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel.

15. My original Final Four: Kansas, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Syracuse.

16. My revised Final Four: Syracuse, Michigan State, Kentucky, Baylor

*If only someone would write a book about that era in American sports. And if only that book were currently available for pre-order...

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