The NCAA Tournament – Dancing Awkwardly
In my defense, when I suggested last week that you follow my lead as I guide you through empty brackets, possible upsets, and office pool conquests, I may have stumbled a bit.
Accurately predicting that the Colorado Buffaloes would win their first NCAA Tournament game since 2012, the Kansas Jayhawks would lose early, and that Gonzaga would end up playing Baylor in the Championship may have been overshadowed by my other prediction.
The Pac-12 is in for a rough tournament. Look for Oregon State, USC, and Oregon to all go out in the first round.
Full disclosure. I failed to even bring up the UCLA Bruins as I had them falling to Michigan State in the First Four. A bunch of junior varsity games you play just to qualify for the round of Sixty-Four.
A closer look at the Big Dance, and what we have witnessed so far.
- The Conference Call – When the Tournament began, experts marveled about the prowess of the Big Ten as Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa were all top seeds. The Pac-12 was considered an afterthought, represented by twelfth-seeded Oregon State (17-12). A team that only made the Dance by winning their conference tournament. No longer an afterthought, the Pac-12 has gone 10-2 since the games began, including four teams making the Sweet Sixteen, and three more playing in the Elite Eight.
- It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Underdog – Oregon State is the ultimate underdog in this tournament. Projected to finish last in the Pac-12, the Beavers upset Tennessee (-8.5), Oklahoma State (-6), and Loyola (-6.5) on their way to the Elite Eight. Where, coincidentally, they’ll be underdogs to the second-seeded Houston Cougars (-7.5).
- Bet Probably Incorrect (BPI) – ESPN offers fans a BPI, or Basketball Power Index, that offers a predicted win percentage based on a variety of statistics and probability. For example, Texas was given an 80.9% of beating Abilene Christian, Florida an 87.2% probability of defeating Oral Roberts, while Virginia’s chance of moving on against Ohio was listed at 85.9%. All three teams lost.
- Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh, My – Well, at least Tigers. There are plenty of teams named Tigers in the tournament such as LSU, Clemson, and Missouri. Lots of Bulldogs, a few Wildcats, and multiple Spartans. If originality counted, my final would have to consist of the Iona Gael’s meeting up against the North Texas Mean Green.
- In Defense of the Zone – Jim Boeheim and the eleventh-seeded Syracuse beat San Diego State (6) and West Virginia (3), before finally falling in the Sweet Sixteen. The success of Syracuse is often credited to the struggles of playing against their zone defense, a system rarely used and difficult to prepare for. The irony is that Coach Boeheim has been using that same defensive zone….for the last 52 years.
- Divine Intervention – The Most Valuable Player on the Loyola Ramblers stands at only five-feet tall. Jean Dolores Schmidt, or Sister Jean as she is known, is the 101-year-old Chaplain whose cheer, and apparently, prayer, got them to the Sweet Sixteen before meeting up with Oregon State.
- Still Undefeated – The Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-0) breezed through the first few rounds and remain the only undefeated team still in the tournament. Unless you count COVID-19 and their victory over VCU.
- Adult Content Warning – With tournament participants named Cougars, Beavers, Trojans, and Oral. It’s a little surprising the South Carolina Gamecocks didn’t make the field.
Sadly, there is no laughter when it comes to the tragic death of Grand Canyon University basketball player Oscar Frayer. Frayer, only 23-years of age, was killed in a car accident just days after playing in a first-round game against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Images via usatoday.com, insidehook.com, nypost.com, dreamstime.com