With apologies to the two or three Mid-Week Madness followers out there, we’re going to deviate from the norm the next couple of weeks until all this Big Dance stuff sorts out itself.
That being noted, we present a few things to watch as the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament unfolds, starting tonight and tomorrow night in Dayton, Ohio, with doubleheader play-in games – otherwise known as the first round.
Before touching that dial, or grabbing that remote with the jaws of life, here are some things and names to keep in mind, to ponder or just argue about. With a literary tip of the cap for what’s on tap, consider it an Elite-ish Eight approach to topics.
Peyton Siva, Louisville, senior G. Considering the Cardinals are the overall top seed, you’d expect plenty of chances to get a gander at this whirling dervish of quick feet and even quicker hands. The two-time Big East tourney MVP is worth several moments of your time and just might provide a memorable one.
It’s getting to be a little mid-major mania when it comes to March Madness anymore. For the second year in a row, the non-power conference lot has been bestowed 11 of the available 37 at-large berths for the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.
The Mountain West and Atlantic Ten head that list, grabbing four apiece. The bigger deal, really, is seeing the West Coast (Saint Mary’s), Sun Belt (Middle Tennessee State) and Missouri Valley (Wichita State) conferences squeeze an extra place beyond their automatic qualifiers.
Before going crazy about the tables turning, though, keep in mind that cycles happen and, frankly, are pretty common in sports. Just this millennium, in fact, we’ve seen a mid-major rising greater than this current “experience.” In 2003 and ’04, 22 of a total of 68 slots went to the non-power schools, including 12 of 34 that second year – which stands as the height of mid-major acceptance thus far.
Call it a pre-emptive strike. Call it craziness. Call it whatever you like.
It doesn’t really matter, because here it comes regardless – an alternative take to what is sure to be conventional-wisdom seeding on Selection Sunday.
Specifically, the focus here will be on the No. 1s that will be announced for this season’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.
All of us know what they’ll be before a single tip-off takes place in the ACC, A-10, Big Ten and SEC postseason finales. We’re looking at top-ranked Gonzaga, Duke, Indiana and Louisville. Bank on it.
No argument here on the first and last ones noted above. But the middle two – sorry, no way do either deserve such billing on the March Madness stage. If this is truly about “rewarding” the teams who proved themselves to be worthy of such distinction throughout the 2012-13 campaign, no way are Indiana and Duke No. 1s.
Stacked up against the other big-boy leagues of college basketball, it always was going to be viewed as the little brother, the new kid on the block, the intruder on a set stage.
Forever the neophyte due to its youth compared to the likes of the Big Ten, the Pacific 12, the SEC and the ACC, the Big East seemed to be in a constant state of having to prove itself – to those other circuits, to fans, to media, maybe even to itself.
The question is an interesting one to ponder, given the fact the circuit, already a reconfigured amalgamation many times over, really, truly is seeing its end unfold this week. Yeah, the Catholic 7 will bolt the conference and take the name with it, but the spirit of the circuit departed long ago.
There is no denying that the Big East was every bit the equal, if not the superior, of every one of those aforementioned leagues at certain points since its inception 34 years ago. However, part of its charm, its intrigue, its attraction was the almost parochial attitude it had about its entity and the way it viewed those outside of it.
It’s a crapshoot.
If anything has become clear this college basketball season, it’s that nothing is clear.
With each passing week, just as it seems we finally have everything nailed down, we’re delivered yet another sobering, ice-water-to-the-face reality check.
Yeah, Gonzaga’s rise to the top of the polls Monday sent chilling bolts of disgust through the veins of every red-blooded, front-running, BCS-only proponent in America, but that wasn’t enough apparently. No, even with the Zags taking over as No. 1, everyone knew the best team out there was Indiana. Mid-major maniacs couldn’t argue.
The Hoosiers would be the headliners in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. They’d be given favorite status and favored seeding. Hey, kudos to the Bulldogs, but Indiana deserved it.