The 68-team field for the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is fixed. All that remains is to play the games – well, and for me to have my annual fun with the names of players participating in the tournament and the team mascots too. So, before we get started on that, let me get a few other peripheral notes out of the way:
No team was snubbed by the Committee. Selection here is an art and not a science; therefore, there is no way to show that Team A (the one that got in) was unassailably less qualified for the Tournament than Team B (the nominal “snubee”)
Seeding really does not matter all that much. If a team is going to win it all, it needs to win 6 straight games against whomever shows up as the opponent at tip-off time.
Location does matter. The Committee needs to try to assure that teams do not play de facto home games in the Tournament and therefore have to ship some teams out to distant venues. Hey, if that is such a huge burden, all the team that has been “exiled” has to do is turn town the invitation. No one is forcing them to participate…
The NCAA likes to beat fans over the head with the message that NCAA student-athletes do so with no real hope of becoming professionals in their sport. The ads they run show lots of perky youngsters saying that they are “going pro” except they mean “in life” and not “in sports”. For the gymnastic teams and the badminton teams, I can buy that; for the “revenue sports”, not so much… Nevertheless, here are some players in this year’s Tournament whose name might indicate their focus in life and hence their major as the move toward graduation:
Ron Baker, Sr. Wichita State – – Food Science
Jabari Bird, Jr. Cal – – Ornithology of course
Jalen Bond, Sr. Temple – – Finance
Bennie Boatwright, Fr. USC – – Mechanical Engineering
Alex Caruso, Sr. Texas A&M – – Music
Lawrence Cooks Jr. Hampton – – he can open a restaurant with Ron Baker
A.J. English, Sr. Iona – – nah, too easy
Eric Green, Sr. Holy Cross – – Sports Management – golf
Makai Mason So. Yale – – Structural Engineering
Deondre Parks, Sr. South Dakota St. – – Agronomy
Craig Ponder Sr. UNC-Wilmington – – Philosophy
Ikenna Smart Fr. Buffalo – – he can major in anything he wants and be successful
Diamond Stone, Fr. Maryland – – Geology
Thomas Walkup Sr. Stephen F. Austin – – Real Estate Management
Roger Woods, Sr. Arkansas-Little Rock – – Forestry
The Selection Committee gave us a Maryland/South Dakota St. game in the Round of 64. The mascots here are pretty close to matching the tortoise and the hare. The Selection Committee probably would have found a way to pair South Dakota University – if they were Tournament qualified – with Cal St. Bakersfield. That game would have been the Roadrunners versus the Coyotes…
We have several players with numbers following their names:
Joel Berry II, So, UNC
Gary Payton II, S. Oregon St.
Frank Mason III, Jr. Kansas
Wade Baldwin IV, So. Vandy
Surely many of the players with no numerical description after their names could rightly be considered “Joe Flabeetz I”. So all we needed was a “Sam Glotz V” to get a numerical lineup for the All-Tournament Numerical Suffix Starting Five…
Oh, and the All-Tournament Numerical Suffix Team should also include Edward Joyner, Jr. (Hampton) as its honorary coach.
Allow me to pause here to insert a comment on college basketball from Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald:
“North Carolina coach Roy Williams is fine after fainting during a game. Apparently, he passed out after hearing a Kentucky player planned to return for his sophomore season.”
The Tournament could name an All-Presidential Team:
Jalen Adams, Fr. UConn
Brice Johnson, Sr. UNC
Shaquille Harrison, Sr. Tulsa
Nigel Hayes, Jr. Wisconsin
Justin Jackson, So. UNC
Oh, and do not forget that Austin Peay – the 16-seed in the South Bracket – is called The Governors. Governors like to try to become Presidents so maybe the All Presidential Team should get their awards on the campus of Austin Peay. Just a thought…
The Selection Committee gave us one game between Cats and Dogs in the first round. Villanova (Wildcats) take on UNC-Asheville (Bulldog)s in the South bracket.
It will not be easy for Seton Hall to play Hampton in the Midwest bracket. However, if they do meet, it will be the Pirates versus the Pirates – – Blackbeard versus Captain Kidd.
In the Midwest bracket, we could also see Texas Tech play Middle Tennessee. That would pit the Red Raiders against the Blue Raiders.
Stephen F. Austin starts both Trey Pinkney and Demetrious Floyd. Pinkney and Floyd. Hmmm.. Wonder if they ever thought of using Comfortably Numb as the background music for their practices?
Perhaps if Middle Tennessee does well, their coach might be hired on at a bigger school such as TCU. If that were to happen Kermit Davis would be coaching the Horned Frogs. How appropriate is that?
Iowa meets Temple in the first round in the South. Iowa’s coach is Fran McCaffrey; Temple’s coach is Fran Dunphy. Too bad the game is in Brooklyn and not in San Francisco.
Since the winner of too many office bracket pools is someone who would not know a basketball from quart of pus, here is a suggestion from Brad Dickson (Omaha World-Herald if you had forgotten) as a way to identify such people from the outset:
“Companies should keep Louisville in their NCAA tournament office brackets to weed out people who couldn’t identify a photo of a basketball but usually still win.”
Players who do very well in the tournament need to recognize that they might be putting themselves at risk by doing so. Think about it; the Philadelphia 76ers will have a high draft pick in this year’s NBA draft. Someone just might “play his way into Philly” with some outstanding play over the next few weeks. I shall consider the players properly and thoroughly briefed on this matter…
Look at the Midwest bracket that the Committee put together. It is just a tad overloaded with Bulldogs; Fresno State, Gonzaga and Butler are all among the low-seeds on that side of the bracket. Do you think that the NCAA is trying to get some sort of sponsor relationship started with the Westminster Dog Show?
Look at the West bracket that the Committee put together. This is the “Natural Rivalry” bracket with:
Oregon and Oregon State
Texas and Texas A&M and Baylor
Texas and VCU (The Shaka Smart Confrontation)
Duke and UNC-Wilmington
Texas and Oklahoma
Virginia and Hampton.
If the Committee had chosen Harvard as a second Ivy League school, I am pretty sure they would have been in the West bracket along with Yale.
In the South bracket, a game between Temple and South Dakota State would be a predator/prey game between Owls and Jackrabbits. In the same bracket, a game between Wichita St and Buffalo might be dubbed the Grain Bowl; Wichita St are the Shockers; Buffalo is coached by Nate Oats.
In the East bracket it is interesting to note that Stephen F. Austin (the Lumberjacks) is coached by Brad Underwood. Seems appropriate… Stony Brook is in the tournament for the first time. They are the Seawolves which is a bit confusing because wolves are not sea creatures. Once familiar with the tournament, perhaps Stony Brook will be back some day with a less confusing mascot.
The Selection Committee will swear that they make their decisions purely on the merits of the teams involved and are not influenced by outside factors – – such as TV ratings. Maybe so … However, consider the potential 2nd round matchups they put together:
Kentucky could play Indiana – no rivalry history there
Villanova could play Temple – two Big 5 teams from Philly
Texas could play Texas A&M – no rivalry there.
In the East, the early round game to watch is West Virginia versus Stephen F. Austin. The Mountaineers might just go on to play in the East Regional final game; the Mountaineers might just lose this first round game to the #14 seed in the East.
In the South, the early round game to watch is Cal versus Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors have no household names in their starting lineup but they do have experience. They start 3 juniors and 2 seniors – not a commonplace lineup these days. That experience might propel Hawaii as the #13 seed in the South into the second round.
[Aside: Riddle me this… Hawaii is ineligible for next year’s Tournament based on a ruling by the NCAA as reported here. All of the violations occurred in the past so some Hawaii players will pay a price for actions that none of them had anything to do with. Not cool under any circumstances, but why impose the sanctions next year and allow this year’s team to play?]
In the Midwest, the game I want to see will be down the road a bit. In each of the last two seasons, Michigan State eliminated Virginia from the tournament. This year they are the #1 and the #2 seeds in this bracket. That would be an interesting re-rematch.
In the West, there are two low-seeded teams that could be problematic opponents in the early rounds. VCU (#10 seed) and Northern Iowa (#11 seed) could both advance and both have plenty of upperclassmen in their lineups.
It would take both teams making it to the Final Four to see Xavier play Virginia. If that happens Myles Davis would be playing for Xavier and Tony Bennett would be coaching Virginia. That would be easy listening…
Of course, if you have a nostalgic streak you can root for Yale (#12 seed) here. The last time they were in the NCAA Tournament, John Kennedy was President, the Beatles had not yet come to the US and Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game against the Knicks. Or, you could root for Holy Cross (#16 seed if they win the “play-in” game) as the school that gave basketball Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn and Togo Palazzi.
Did someone ask for a Final Four prediction? Really, you expect me to do something that serious in a rant filled with basic nonsense? Well, if you insist:
If you prefer something more akin to longshots:
If you love the ACC:
UNC/Miami/Virginia/Duke (and it would be an added “touch” if Miami were the team to eliminate Maryland)
If you are a fan of Catholic colleges:
Notre Dame (or Providence)/Villanova/Gonzaga/St. Joe’s
Enough silliness for today – and for the year to be sure. The games start tonight and although none of the four “play-in” games are particularly compelling, they serve an important function. Think about the last time you dined at a fine and upscale French restaurant. After you sat down and got the menus and placed your cocktail order, the chef sent out an amuse-bouche. That is the name of that small complementary appetizer that is provided just to get wake up your taste buds and get your gastric juices flowing as you begin to peruse the main menu. The 4 “play-in” games are the amuse-bouche for the Tournament to come.
Finally, I want to thank CBS for their 2-hour program on the Bracket Selections. That’s right; I want to thank them. They provided a needed public service and they have not gotten credit for it. We had lost an hour’s sleep on Saturday night due to Daylight Saving Time and CBS gave me back that hour right away with their programming. Here is tip of the hat to CBS…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………