NCAA Hoops: the Power of 24

Paul McGuillicuddyAnalyst IMarch 24, 2008

As if we needed any reminder of the dizzying fervor that can be created by college hoops, this weekend packed a flurry of action capped by five games on Sunday decided by a total of 24 points.

The Miami Hurricanes made a dramatic comeback, but the Longhorns of Texas held on for a three point victory, 75-72. Memphis continued to spurn everything free but managed a 77-74 triumph over Mississippi State. Western Kentucky won by nine over San Diego, while the Davidson victory over Georgetown, and the Tennessee overtime defeat of Butler caused CBS to break with decorum.

When the dust settled, all number one seeds advanced. The top four seeds held serve in the East, and five lower seeds – Michigan State, Western Kentucky, West Virginia, Davidson, and Villanova – danced to the sweet sixteen.

In all 18 games were decided by single digits. Seven of those were one possession games, and five went to overtime.

The week started with many well-respected basketball minds making statements such as: there are too many teams in division one basketball; the committee should do away with automatic bids, and the committee does not get the sixty-five best teams into the NCAA tournament.

The week ended with the reassurance of why we watch sports: on any given day, any given team can rise up and win a game.

Maybe the NCAA committee does not get the top sixty-five teams in the nation, but it certainly gets the top 40-45, and that is enough. Without automatic bids we would have missed out on the dramatic performances such as those provided by Siena and San Diego.

No disrespect intended to the fans of Syracuse, Virginia Tech, and UMass, but your teams could not have done any better than Davidson or Western Kentucky did this weekend. While the Hilltoppers were an at-large, and the Wildcats would have earned a bid any way, the removal of automatic bids would take away from the NCAA tournament’s overall impact.

Number one seeds, UNC and Kansas, faced little resistance while advancing through the first two rounds. Did anyone else question why Huckleberry Hound…er…Coach Roy had Psycho-T in a thirty point game with five minutes remaining? The way that kid plays, I could easily have seen an injury.

Meanwhile UCLA and Memphis barely escaped. The Bruins continue their charmed existence which makes me wonder if they are destined for victory.

I don’t know where he got his degree, but John Calipari is definitely a spin doctor. It is becoming humorous to hear the Memphis coach explain how free throws are not affecting his team’s performance. Guess what John – I’ll be surprised if the Spartans of MSU don’t take advantage of your team’s weakness from the charity stripe.

I could kick myself for overlooking MSU. Don’t know if Tom Izzo is a Patrick Swayze fan, but his teams through the years have been able to bump and grind their way to wins in March. Gotta love Drew Neitzel. He is a goatee short of the black and white Ed Norton in American History X. Beyond that, the senior seems intent on pushing his team through the dance.

Saturday night I thought I’d be singing the praises of a couple of Catholic institutions. Marquette had a seven point lead on Stanford late in the game. Then the Eagles displayed a monumental misuse of the clock that had the better half proclaiming: “Why are they shooting with nine seconds left on the shot clock?”

Simultaneously, Notre Dame was making a run at Washington State, but Tony Bennett’s Cougars were way too disciplined to let a lead slip away.

The finest episode of the weekend had to be Sunday afternoon as Stephen Curry led the Wildcats’ slaying of Georgetown while Butler did everything but beat Tennessee. The two games packed so much action that CBS did away with the frivolous segues provided by Greg Gumbel. For fear of missing any of the action CBS finally came to their senses and simply switched back and forth between games without any announcement. It was great.

Butler exposed Tennessee’s inability to run half-court offense, but the Bulldogs could not seal the deal, and the Volunteers advanced.

I cannot add anything that hasn’t already been said about Curry, but surely coaches around the country who are proponents of their players getting big in the weight room can’t like the sophomore’s performance in the tourney. If Curry uses the weight room, it’s not for much more than a few reps.

Can’t wait for Thursday.