I have said many times that March Madness is the single best sporting event of the year. In fact, I have also said that March Madness is the only thing that the NCAA does that justifies its continued existence. The men’s basketball tournament this year has not disappointed.
Starting today and going through Sunday night is my favorite part of the tournament. It is the fulcrum between quantity and quality for the games; last week saw 48 games in 4 days but some of them were hugely uninteresting. Next weekend will probably give us 3 excellent games involving 4 teams that are playing very well. But this weekend gives us fewer games than last weekend – – but the anticipation is that at least 10 of the 12 games on tap will be good games. Today and tomorrow, we will see the Sweet Sixteen in action; I also think of this weekend as the Sweet Spot in the tournament.
Before I get to the games themselves, I want to make two observations about the announcing on the games so far this year:
- Just when did the basketball become “the rock” and/or “the orange” and what might it take for the announcers to resume calling it “the ball”?
- Similarly, why has “an assist” been renamed as “a dime”? Why so cheap? An assist guarantees at least 2 points; that ought to be worth at least “a buck and a quarter”.
Here are my capsule comments on the games scheduled for tonight and tomorrow night:
- Michigan/Villanova: The Wolverines have a huge size advantage; anyone with eyesight clear enough to retain a driver’s license can see that. The question is if Villanova can shoot enough threes to overcome that size differential…
- Kansas/Providence: Two totally different basketball styles here; that alone will make this game interesting to watch. Should be entertaining – – unless either team gets a 20-point lead in the second half; I do not think either team can rally from that kind of deficit against the other guys here.
- UCLA/UNC: This is a battle of the college basketball bluebloods. In addition, UNC is the scariest team not seeded one through three left on the board. After watching the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament and then again last week, I wonder how they managed to lose 11 times this year.
- Purdue/St. Peter’s: How can any game with St. Peter’s in it in 2022 be anything other than worth the time to tune in? The Peacocks remind me of the Al McGuire teams at Marquette; they play relentless defense and rebound the ball very well; they win despite lack of any great shooters…
- Duke/Texas Tech: Another game with two significantly different styles of play should make this an entertaining game. In addition, I have enjoyed watching Paolo Banchero every time I have seen him play this year. He is not the best player in the country, but he is fun to watch.
- Miami/Iowa St.: It is 10-seed versus 11-seed. The winner here will become the “Certified Cinderella for 2022.” And yes, I know that St. Peter’s is a 15-seed and is still alive…
- Gonzaga/Arkansas: I will surely watch this game – – but this is not a game that I find compelling
- Arizona/Houston: I have enjoyed watching Houston play defense because they do so with such enthusiasm. Other than that, however, my anticipation level for this game is “Meh!”
Shifting gears and changing sports… News broke on Tuesday that Ashleigh Barty who is currently ranked #1 in the world in women’s tennis has decided to retire at the ripe old age of 25. Here is the central part of her explanation for her decision:
“I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level anymore. I am spent.”
I have mentioned here several times that a former colleague is a tennis fan – and player – who often lobbies for me to put out “Tennis Tuesdays” as a supplement to “Football Fridays”. Naturally, when I read about this news, I contacted him and asked what he thought about this surprise retirement. Here is his response in toto:
“I have zero thoughts about Ashleigh Barty.”
So much for my attempt to get a unique perspective on the situation; at least I tried.
I did use Google to find the current ranking of women tennis players by the WTA. I learned something from looking at the Top 50 ranked players in the world:
- There are only 7 players from the US ranked in the Top 50 and none are in the Top 10.
That is probably a significant reason for women’s tennis to receive only marginal coverage here in the US. It seems that tennis coverage mirrors golf coverage. If the story is about Serena Williams, it gets some play just as happens in golf with Tiger Woods. Other than that …
Finally, I will close today with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
Jogger: Someone who thinks he can forestall death by doing something that looks like it is killing him.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………