It was strange going outside for the first time since Wednesday today. The light was almost too much. There were all these… other people. I had been totally cut off from the world for almost a week, and I wasn’t prepared for the change.
Just kidding. I did leave a few times during the first weekend of the tournament. Of course, that was mostly to go watch basketball with other people.
It was definitely an entertaining weekend of games. The first wave on Thursday, which featured 3 different 3-14 matchups, didn’t seem like it would be a good way to start. Then, two of the 14s (Georgia State, UAB) won and the other (Northeastern) nearly pulled off the upset.
After that, the upsets mostly subsided until Saturday, when NC State knocked off Villanova. For whatever reason, Villanova coach Jay Wright just cannot get his team to play up to expectations in the tournament. I made the mistake of picking them to go far in a couple of my brackets but fortunately, it is still looking good for me. It seems like the best scenario would be Arizona winning it all, with Utah also making the Final Four. Wisconsin beating Gonzaga in the final game would also be good for me, but I’m in a pool with a lot of people from Wisconsin (so Wisconsin is by far the most commonly picked champion after Kentucky), so I think the Arizona scenario is better.
Anyway, with the first weekend complete, I thought I’d do a few random “awards”:
Most Exciting Game – Every year, there is a ton of competition for this. I could go with any of the five 1-point games on Thursday. Villanova vs. NC State or Butler vs. Notre Dame from Saturday would also be good choices. But I have to go with Wichita State vs. Kansas.
It wasn’t that close in the last few minutes, but how could anyone – besides Kansas fans – not love seeing Wichita knock them off? Kansas has refused to schedule Wichita for years, saying they have nothing to gain by playing them. The Selection Committee did basketball fans everywhere a favor by doing as much as they could to make sure we got this matchup (they said they didn’t even notice that these teams were a 2-7 pairing in the same region… yeah, right). For a while on Friday, it looked like Indiana would ruin it by beating Wichita, but they kindly lost the game.
I don’t think I’ve been as excited watching any half of basketball that didn’t involve my team as I was watching the 2nd half of Wichita State-Kansas yesterday. And not just because I picked Wichita to beat Kansas in all of my brackets. Kansas is among the “good old boys” of college basketball, a program whose arrogance exceeds its recent accomplishments. Wichita State is an up-and-comer, a mid-major trying to make its case to be a top-flight program. And they put the world on notice yesterday by absolutely dominating Kansas physically, and probably ensuring that Kansas won’t schedule them for another 100 years now.
Biggest Dud – Iowa vs. Davidson – this was a 7-10 matchup that Iowa won by 31 points, the largest margin ever in a 7-10 matchup. Terrible.
Most Unlikely Hero – Bryce Alford, UCLA. Normally a volume shooter – he averages 15.6 points per game while only shooting 40% – Alford went a ridiculous 12-16 from 3 over the weekend, including 9-11 Thursday against SMU. He’s a big part of the reason that a team few people, including me, thought deserved to be in the tournament is now in the Sweet Sixteen.
Team to Watch Out for Next Year (That No One Else Will Tell You to Watch Out for) – UAB. I am not saying they’ll be a 1 seed, but don’t be surprised if UAB wins C-USA and gets a fairly high seed. They’re young and they now have the experience of winning in the tournament under their belt.
Coolest Names – This is a tossup between Tum Tum Nairn of Michigan State, and Tekele Cotton of Wichita State. Honorable mention goes to Scoochie Smith of Dayton.
Best Announcing Team – Marv Albert, Len Elmore, and Chris Webber (with Lewis Johnson as sideline reporter). Albert has always been one of my favorites and I have always liked Elmore. Webber was very polished in his first foray into announcing. Also, I loved the points he made about why Kansas should schedule Wichita State late in that game.
Coolest Moment – I am not even going with an actual play or part of a game here. I am going with the Maryland band playing the Ninja Turtles theme song during a timeout in the game against West Virginia last night. As someone who was, well, young in the late 80s and who still has a bunch of TMNT action figures, this… was… awesome.
Well, I’ll pass the time until the Sweet Sixteen by, you know, handling my responsibilities and actually participating in normal life. What a concept.
Oh yeah, and by watching some of the NIT. A couple of observations from tonight’s action: Old Dominion-Illinois State had a thrilling last few minutes, and Murray State is good. They need to schedule better so that they can make the NCAAs. Also, these experimental rules – the 30-second shot clock and the wider area around the basket in which a charge can’t be called – are not good for the game. But, that’s another post for another time.
The countdown to Thursday night at 7:15 begins…