Sunday, March 20, 2005

Insert Overused NCAA Tournament Phrase Here
By Ben Valentine

Yeah, that's right. It's Tourney time again. I'm not exactly complaining; the events of March are some of the most exciting of the sports year. Where else but in March college basketball would I ever refer to the West Virginia Mountaineers as "my boys?" And don't get me started on brackets. I went from pleased to pissed to very pleased in a three day span.

Pleased equates to me being in first place in my pool. An eight for eight Saturday lept me from the bottom tier of the standings to the top. With such gutsy picks as UW- Milwalkee and my boys from West Virginia over Fake... I mean Wake Forest , I nailed all of Saturday's elite games. Sunday was a down day; only six right. The Big East, a usual baston of reliability, let me down as UConn joined Syracuse in the world of upsets that never should have been. If you couldn't guess from my tone, those were two who let me down. But it wasn't just me. Lots of people were hurt by them and others. Where did it all go wrong? Well let's take a look in what I'm calling me "Sweet Analysis"
Kevin Pittsnogle and the Mountaineers have become a Valentine favorite.

1. A Southeastern blunder

When the brackets came out for the NCAA I was at home without access to the internet, something I didn't regain until Saturday. As I result I could not post the most important rule of the NCAA tournament; avoid the SEC like the plague. They are without question the most overrated conference in the sport. Every year they get high ranked teams in and every year they flop. Florida, Auburn... Kentucky is the only exception. Too many people took Alabama to go far. Florida... well those who picked the Gators deserved what they got. LSU couldn't even beat a UAB team who didn't deserve to be in the tourney. Mississippi State won a game, crushing Stanford. But they were a low eight seed. No real pressure. Bottom line an SEC team can surprise from below, but they will always flame out if ranked highly. Why did I take UW Milwalkee to the sweet sixteen? Alabama was round one, BC (other story entirely) was round two. Speaking of BC...

2. Big East surprise

The fact the Big East has at two teams in the sweet sixteen isn't a huge surprise. The fact it's Villanova and West Virginia, rather than UConn, Syracuse or Boston College is other. Well maybe Nova and BC aren't. After all, Nova's got impressive out of conference wins on their schedule, something thats always a good indicator of NCAA success. BC struggled to finish the year, getting expelled by the Mountaineers in the second round of the Big East tournament and looking miserable doing it. They were an easy bet to crash out in round two. But UConn, Cuse and West Virginia... what happened? Syracuse I swore I would not take to go deep, but listened to the hype and picked them to go to the final four. Mistake. I forgot Syracuse was inconsistant all year and Big East tourney aside, they were still a two man team. Granted Vermont got a lucky game to win, but Cuse didn't exactly deserve it either. As for UConn... they deserve their own section.

3. U got Conned by the front court

That's right. The big men for the Huskies have all the talent, but putting it together... that's another story. I really wanted to root for them too. With my new corn rows hair style, Sportszilla says I look like forward Josh Boone. That's certainly as good a reason to root for a team this time of year as any. The problem was against NC State, Boone didn't show up. I began to wonder if he was actually in Worchester Massachusetts and not in an NYU dorm room. That's a problem for when you're playing in the NCAAs even if you played a team that lost to St. John's. The truth is the Huskies were one of those teams that every knew were unreliable but hoped their talent would prevail. It didn't. They'll be a team to be reckoned with next year when their guards mature.

Or maybe I'm being conned again...

When Josh Boone looks like me on the basketball court, there's a problem.

4. Mountain Madness

How bout West Virginia? They were the hot team that actually continued to be hot in the tourney. But the difference between them and say... Syracuse, is that they are a good TEAM. If a Pittsnogle doesn't have a good game, a Gandsy can still step up. If they aren't hitting the three, they still can convert if they're running their backdoor cuts well. If you fall asleep, they will make you pay. Wake found it out the hard way. I think they'll go down to Texas Tech in the next round, mainly cause I picked the Red Raiders in my bracket, but it should be a great game. And it's another game where I get to hear the names, Gandsy, Pittsnogle and Herbert (pronounced Air-Bear) again.

5. Burned Burned Burned

It's unavoidable. In the NCAA pools, you're going to get let down by someone. But some culprits seem to do it more than others, if you're not careful. Usually these are teams from conferences that people tend to overrate or programs with a name. Wake Forest is the former; they played in a mediocre ACC and beat no one out of conference. Out in round two. Syracuse was a program with a name but a spotty track record. Out on day two. Duke falls into the latter catagory two. They were swept by a team that didn't even MAKE the tournament; Maryland (who lost three times to ACC powerhouse Clemson). Yet they get a number one seed while a team like Washington, who has good out of conference wins this year, is maligned for their number one seed. There's a reason I have them in the championship game and it's not just because Sportszilla has influenced me. It's because Washington has proven their team this year can win against the top teams of the nation, unlike a lot of other teams in this bracket. Can they go out in the next round? Sure. But I like thier chances at a title better than Wake's.

So that's a "short" analysis of the tournament to this point. I could have written more, but there will be plenty to comment on in the weeks ahead. Besides the tournament doesn't start up again until next Thursday. I'm sure someone will want to rant bout something thing in the time between now and then. There's is a reason they call it March Madness after all.


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