A crazy day on the (real) first day of the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully you all followed MnB's lead and vegged out and watched games. Michigan State did, amirite? Eh? I'm glad this tournament is never boring, despite the Selection Committee's best efforts.
Here's a quick recap of what went down last night, sorted into The Good, The Bad, and the downright Ugly.
The Good -
Best No-Call of the Year Highlights Faried Beating Louisville - And Morehead State won too, I guess. This man Kenneth Faried is officially a monster. More shockingly than a 13-4 upset, I've linked to a Dan Wetzel column that I actually like. There isn't any pith in this article, and I'm a big fan of this. Stick to writing, Dan, not one-liners. Video bonus: THIS IS AWESOME.
Butler Wins on Howard Tip-In At Buzzer - Before Morehead State shocked Louisville, I thought this was the game of the day, even though it was really early. I've got Pitt falling to this Butler team too, so I was probably happier than most. But this game went back and forth, and Matt Howard showed why he's a poor man's Zack Novak by showing some grit and winning this one for the Bulldogs. See what I did there? Don't let us down today, Zack.
Temple Squeaks By Penn State - Yep, another video link. You're welcome. Man, Battle took a deep three. I like rooting for the B1G as much as anyone, but come on, Penn State had no business being near this tournament after that lovely 36-33 game in the BTT.
Richmond Downs Vandy in Another Upset - This one wasn't so much an upset as an oversight by the Committee, seeing as Richmond's making its bones as a giant killer these days and Vanderbilt seems chronically overseeded all the time. I'd've liked to see Colorado or Va Tech in instead of Vanderbilt, but that's just me. I can't hate on an academic powerhouse too much though.
The Bad -
Michigan State Bounced by UCLA - Honestly, I'm torn on this one. It's good. Sort of. I've generally rooted for Sparty in March. But the MSU fanbase, with the exception of a few good chaps over at TOC, has been pretty unbearable the last few years. On the other hand, I always like to see Michigan teams do well. Meh. Even though Izzo's a great coach and I personally believe him to be less slimy than Mike Krzyzewski, I maintained before the tournament that State would struggle being down 2 1/2 point guards (with Lucas having lost consistency due to injury/loss of supporting cast, he gets a half). KJ sums it up:
The most exhausting Michigan State basketball season in memory ends in quite possibly the most exhausting manner possible. [...]
The fact that this season is over is a source of frustration and relief all at the same time. The lack of quit exhibited by the team eases the sting some; it also provides a final, haunting demonstration of how good the team could be when it was able to shed the burden of expectations and play the game with energy and a sense of excitement.
It's apropos, I suppose: A team that disappointed relative to preseason expectations for an entire season but never quit completely on that season disappointed but didn't quit in the final game of that season.
But just because you don't quit doesn't mean the season doesn't end.
I realize that we might be writing a similar piece this evening, as Michigan has an equally tough game ahead. So I'll keep this filed under "bad" because Sparty's schadenfreude has lasted nearly this entire season. Moving on!
Princeton Misses Chance Against Kentucky - Man, I was disappointed in this one. Princeton started off really flat, which I believe doomed them, because they fought like hell in the second half and down to the wire. At first, I wasn't sure why they belonged in the field over Tommy Amaker's Harvard bunch, but Princeton played tough and became the second Ivy in as many years to almost beat Kentucky.
Tressel Self-Increases Suspension to 5 Games - Not tournament related, and again, this is somewhat good, but come on. This isn't an act of contrition, it's an attempt to dodge a gigantic NCAA bullet. Unfortunately for Tressel and the Buckeyes, this isn't over. Kiss the 2010 season goodbye and say hello to some probation and scholarship losses. Tressel's statement reeks. This sucker is maddening:
Throughout this entire situation, my players and I have committed ourselves to facing our mistakes and growing from them; we can only successfully do this together. I spoke with athletics director [Gene] Smith, and our student-athletes involved, and told them that my mistakes need to share the same game sanctions. Like my players, I am very sorry for the mistakes I made. I request of the university that my sanctions now include five games so that the players and I can handle this adversity together.
Gaah. I'm sorry, but "facing our mistakes" and "covering up inelgible players" are different, mostly because the latter involves something called "cheating," not "growing as human beings." I have absolutely nothing positive to say about Tressel showing false humanity. I'm sickened. At least the comments on 11W are pretty funny, with NovaBuckeye earning the first ever Brewski awarded to a Buckeye for this gem:
Cincy Blows Out Mizzou - I thought the vaunted "40 Minutes of Hell" would provide a very, very mediocre Cincinnati team with more of a challenge than a Chris Wright-less Hoyas team did at the end of the BE regular season. Missouri looked really good at times this year, the highlight coming in a crazy overtime game against the aforementioned Georgetown team. Also, I despise all things Ohio, so this goes without saying.
The Ugly -
Clemson's Ridiculous Schedule - Clemson, otherwise known as the team Michigan's beaten twice in a row, suffered a brutal, brutal stretch in which they had to play their First Four game, fly somewhere really late, and then play their second-round game with very minimal preparation, something like a shootaround and brief film session. I like the hustled pace of the tournament, but Clemson really got screwed. I've had a soft spot for Clemson of late, because they're the one team south of, say, Washington D.C. that I wouldn't mind seeing win things every once in a while. Happy trails, Tigers - someone in the Selection Committee hates you.
First Four = Really Boring. Speaks for itself, but with UNC-Asheville providing the only excitement, did we really need to mess with the field and have all that drama for this? The buzz wasn't there. Thursday was the real first round. Speaking of which...
What's With the "Second Round" Designation? - This is really confusing, both from a historical comparative perspective and a common sense perspective. What good is a "first round" in which 64 of the 68 teams get a bye? Call it the "First four" or whatever but leave my first and second round games alone. This is roughly as bad as the Big Ten/Big Twelve/Legends/Leaders naming stupidity. Why do commissioners/committees insist on naming things badly?