“The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven.” – Knute Rockne
Perfect No More
A general lack of upsets continues to be the theme in this year’s tournament, as only two more lower seeded teams won in today’s early session. If you were one of those contestants counting on a lot of upsets, the lack of madness in March Madness is taking its toll on your score. That’s not to say that we’ve had no surprises so far, though. The few of us who maintained perfect brackets into today finally saw that perfection evaporate, the last two spoiled by USC’s comeback victory over favorite SMU, which was probably the most exciting game of the day.
- Best Thing I Heard An Announcer Say Today – “Good offense trumps good defense,” says Grant Hill. I think I have to agree with that.
- Funniest Thing I Heard An Announcer Say Today – “Nothing like calling the last 18 seconds on one handheld microphone.” – Jim Nantz, after audio issues at their site forced his three-man crew to huddle around a single, old-school handheld mic.
- It Is St. Patrick’s Day, After All – The university of Michigan continued riding its wave of good luck, beating Oklahoma State by four points even though the final score read 92-91. Oklahoma State beat the buzzer with a three that left them one point short. Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, it seems to me the committee is not paying attention. For two years in a row now they had an opportunity to have the Notre Dame Fighting Irish play on St. Patrick’s Day only to place them on the opposite day both times. That seems like an obvious snub to me, not to mention an enormous missed opportunity at nearly unlimited promotional tie-ins.
- Avoiding The Strikeout – The Baylor Bears avoided the trifecta of ignominy by refusing to be upset by a double-digit seed for the third consecutive year, throttling New Mexico by 18 points.
- The One That Got Away – The game that first busted my perfect bracket was Seton Hall’s failure to close the deal on Arkansas, making two crucial mental mistakes in the game’s closing seconds. First, Khadeen Carrington turns the ball over with a traveling call with his team down one point and about 18 seconds to go. Left with no choice but to foul to stop the clock, the Hall’s Desi Rodriguez shoved Jaylen Barford in the back. The officials deemed that he did not make a play on the ball, making it a flagrant foul. This gave Arkansas two shots and possession, sealing the game. The call, while technically correct, was controversial, as many pundits viewed it as the refs taking the game out of the players’ hands. No doubt that call will be the topic of many discussions on Monday, but speaking of officials…
- Can We Get On With It, Already? – Basketball at both the college and professional level continues to suffer from excruciating stoppages of play as officials review calls to supposedly make sure they get them right. While I agree, in principle, with efforts to eliminate correctable officiating mistakes costing a team the game, there are several things wrong with the current system, in my opinion. First of all, reviews should be reserved for possession and point value issues ONLY. All of this stoppage of play to determine if someone committed a flagrant foul or not seems like so much theater and courtroom drama to me. Regardless of what is allowed to be reviewed, reviews should be limited to 30 seconds, 60 seconds, tops. Granting teams undeserved time outs and effectively icing free throw shooters runs counter to the stated intent of the review process, i.e., to keep officiating from determining the game’s outcome. And finally, either have the reviews in play the entire game or not at all. It is preposterous statistical nonsense to assume that plays in the last two minutes are more important than in the other 18 minutes of the half (or 38 minutes of the game, whatever the rule says).
- A Long Time Ago In A Tournament Far, Far Away – The last time the Rhode Island Rams won an NCAA Tournament game, my oldest daughter, Andrea Little, freshman at the University of Indianapolis, was barely a month old. Today the Rams provided the early session’s only other upset in addition to the USC defeat of SMU. Speaking of sessions…
- Hash Tag Madness – Those of you following me on Twitter know that I’ve been tweeting off and on, though the sickness I’ve been battling has poured some cold water on that activity. Provided I have enough characters left, I try to tag every tweet with #JeffsMarchMadness. You might be amused to know that when I get to #Jeffs in the typing process, Twitter suggests the hashtag #JeffSessions. I guess we know what’s been trending lately.
- 11 Is The Magic Number – It means nothing at all, but I would like to point out that the only two upsets of the day were both 11 seeds. Maybe 11 is code for “as good as two number 1s”. In fact, I just heard Jim Nantz remind me that three of the four 11 seeds have advanced to the round of 32, as EKS-zave-yer provided one of yesterday’s two upsets as well. USC’s win also continues the tradition of a First Four winner advancing to the round of 32.
- I Never Want To See That Again – One of the side effects of watching so many consecutive hours of basketball over a short period of time is that the popular commercials start to haunt me in my dreams. One that I am particularly done with is that FEAST energy bar commercial where a bunch of high school athletes (and one rather uninspired Serena Williams) unintelligibly sing some popular song, off key, with their mouths full of food. Didn’t your mama ever tell you not to talk with your mouth full? On the other hand, I’m loving the new Buffalo Wild Wings take on their old theme of BDubs being the place that secretly controls all of sports. My hands down favorite so far is the one where the guys tell the server to “take #7 out of the game” when she asks if she can get them anything else. In the next frame, a bewildered, sweaty #7 basketball player shows up at their table, asking them their names and how he got there. Outstanding.
- March Madness Is A Hair-Raising Experience – As mentioned last night, alert minion Bryson Davis observed that one of the many fashionable hairdos in this year’s dance seems to be the Odell Beckham two-tone curly top. I also noticed Michigan’s C.J. Wilson has the Elfrid Peyton top-heavy thing going on, while Oregon’s Dillon Brooks sports the Russell Westbrook faux hawk. And then of course there is the increasingly popular man bun, about which I have absolutely no comment whatsoever.
A Few Awards
The judges are still reviewing all of the alias submissions and narrowing them down to a few worthy winners, a difficult task, I’m sure you can imagine. So look for the best alias awards in this evening’s final commentary. For now, here are a few kudos from the first 24 games.
- The Two Peas In A Pod award goes to Raleigh Wade and Chris Johnson, both of whom have just one loss, but are currently tied for 19th in the standings.
- The I Can’t Believe I’m Not In Last Place award goes to Paul Smith, who has fewer wins (8) than anyone else in the contest, yet sits alone in 304th.
- The Airball award goes to Kyle “Taking a shot at this” Yates, currently tied for last place. Hang in there, Kyle.
- The Unicorn award goes to Andrew “Indiananite” McGruire. Besides also being in the tie for last, every Hoosier knows that there is no such thing as an Indiananite.
- The Look Out Below award goes to Lea Smirniotis who dropped from 2nd to a tie for 61st when Rhode Island won.
- And finally, the Aren’t You Glad You Entered After All? award goes to Angie “make it or brack-it” Davis, sole possessor of first place. Angie informed me earlier today that she almost didn’t enter this year, which of course explains why she is winning.
Alright minions, that’s all for now. More to come after tonight’s session, including the Best Alias awards.
The Wizard of Whiteland