On a day in which one US Congressman admitted on national television that he engaged in "tickle fights" with his male staff members, it is may have been hard for many of you to focus on college basketball. With the Pac 10 and Big 12 joining the Big East in conference tournament action on Wednesday, you might have thought to yourself, "Self, I am going to watch something else tonight, or possibly read a book or even talk to my family." If you did that is understandable, but you missed three new entries into the NCAA Tournament and two teams that saw the door slam shut on their March dreams. A review seems in order (not of the tickle fights...you must read about that in Gary Parrish's column):
SUN BELT: North Texas takes down the Men of Troy
There has been a common theme in a number of these conference tournament games. One team gets up big, chews on the fat of success (ask your relatives from the South what that means), the other team comes back and ties the game up...and then the original leader gets their head back in gear and wins at the end. The latest version of this story came in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was hotter than a 2 dollar pistol on Tuesday night as North Texas took down the Troy Trojans 66-63. The big shot occurred with 22 seconds left when Josh White (no relation to Justice Byron White), hit a key free throw line jumper to put the "Mean Green" up for good. It was a great victory for North Texas and their Coach Johnny Jones, who in addition to having a fun name to say, also bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Cooper of "Hangin With Mr. Cooper" fame. Obviously buoyed on by that connection, Jones took his team to its first NCAA Tournament since 2007 and will hope to have a better second act in the NCAA Tournament than Mark Curry did in his post-Mr. Cooper life. North Texas became the tenth team in, and the first that I can say without equivocation, will not scare anyone in the Tournament and is actually so little of a threat that they qualify as a "Bracket Builder."
HORIZON: Butler Crushes the Will of Wright State
You folks at home dont realize this, but blogging on "One Blogging Moment" is a lot like making sausage, it is dirty and gritty and contains a lot of bad visuals that are better left out of the mind. Take for instance how we assign conferences. I assigned to the group based on a scientific "which games do I want to watch and which do I want to make someone else watch" system that I thought was fool-proof. Thus I ended up with both the Missouri Valley and the Horizon, under the theory that those mid-majors play great basketball and have a history of exciting basketball. Well lets just say that didnt work out. After the snooze fest that was the MVC Tournament, I got the stinker of all stinkers, Butler's shellacking of Wright State 70-45, as my final for the Horizon League. I looked for anything to entertain me during the game...focusing on the fact that the Butler coach looks like he is young enough to have his own paper route, the really cute Butler cheerleader who seemed to be looking at me through the television or the way that Butler guard, Shelvin Mack's name brigns back memories of a Cosby Show chant from the early 90s ("Shelvin Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in Black, Black, Black, with silver buttons, buttons, buttons all down his back, back, back"). None of it worked and I was still bored. Because Wright State gave the Bulldogs no game, we are still left with the question, "is Butler any good?" I dont know the answer but I do know that if I am a #1 seed, I want them as my #4 or #5 seed...Horizon good is not Kansas or Kentucky good. It just isn't.
SUMMIT: Oakland Makes Us Once Again Stop Caring about IUPUI
The streets of Rochester, Michigan are most certainly rocking with excitement again, as Oakland took down the fighting Pooeys of IUPUI, 76-64. I had high hopes for this game as well, and when the Horizon started becoming a bust, I quickly flipped to the Summit hoping for something, anything to get the blood flowing. Instead of hot Summit action, I got a rout in Sioux Falls, South Dakota so boring that the empty seats asked for their money back (that joke killed when Jack Benny told it in 1956). I was thus left with changing the channel to something called "Altitude" (seriously who knew that was an actual channel...and how much is my cable bill that I have a package that includes it?) to watch the Big Sky Semifinals, where I tried to convince Drew that there is an actual state called "Weber." Oakland moves on to the NCAA Tournament for what will be the 2nd appearance in the Big Dance in the school's history. In the regular season, Oakland lost to a lot of good teams badly (Kansas, Syracuse, Michigan State) and beat no one of consequence, so the likelihood of an upset is minimal. But their win at least stopped the hideous nature of the two 9 pm games tonight, so we should celebrate the small victories.
UCONN's BUBBLE BURST
Two teams probably saw their tournament hopes come to an end today, but if you are one of the 12 people who care about Charlotte basketball, take solace in your destruction of Louisville earlier in the year and get ready for the NIT. Nationally, the much more important story is the embarassment we saw from the Huskies today, who were playing with their NCAA Tournament lives on the line and put up the stinker of all stinkers in a 71-52 loss to St Johns. UConn was really never in the game and the overall performance waa enough to make Jim Calhoun call Coach K and ask how he was able to pull the whole "lets not count that year against my record" maneuver in 1995. UConn, a team that looked like it had Top Ten capability when it took Kentucky to the buzzer at Madison Square Garden in December, seemed ready to pack it all in and go home on Tuesday afternoon, as it took a loss that will sting for quite some time. We will see a lot of games over these next few games, but we will not see a more disappointing performance than the one from the Huskies today.
There was also a Big East shootout (they have those?) between Seton Hall and Providence, the setup of a Montana vs Weber State Big Sky Final and Atlantic 10 opening round games that could only be seen if you lived on a pirate ship off the coast of Florida. But yo can read about those elsewhere. What we are concerned with now is Wednesday, when you will have:
1. Two Conference Finals
The Big Sky and the Northeast Conference get it going as Montana takes on Weber State and Quinnipac plays Robert Morris. If anyone out there can name one player on each team, leave your computer and go try and meet a girl (or guy).
2. Big East Gets Amped Up
The odd structure of the Big East Tournament means that there are still four teams that wont play today, but second-tier teams like Louisville, Georgetown, Marquette and Notre Dame take the floor today in big games. Watch Notre Dame and Seton Hall at 7 pm, a game Notre Dame needs for seeding and Seton Hall could use to find entry into the NCAA Tournament.
3. Big 12 and Pac 10 Suit up
Three of the six major conferences will be in action on Wednesday as things begin for the Big 12 and Pac 10. The Big 12 is all about Kansas and a chance to see if the Jayhawks will roll through the field as most believe. I am interested to see just how good Baylor is...the talent is there and they are playing as well as any team not in the Big Three in America. We shall see how it all works out in the postseason. And at the Pac 10 Tournament, no one but California is safe for the NCAA Tournament, so the feel will be one of a smaller tournament, with a "win or you are out" type feel. Watch Arizona State and Washington...they may be headed to a Semifinal clash that could be an NCAA play-in game and would have more excitement than any other major conference game this weekend.
So there you go....today is the day it gets amped up. "One Blogging Moment" will have live, rolling coverage all day. Stay tuned and call in sick to work. Its about to get good...and if it isnt, "Hangin With Mr. Cooper" is out on Blueray.