I have some work I need to do for school, but it is hard to get anything done when today is the day the Big Dance brackets are set and my favorite app opens for the post season! There’s about 45 minutes until the ACC championship tip-off, Go Cavs, beat dook!- but there are so many good basketball stories swirling in the air right now. Who’s gonna get that fourth #1 seed (maybe Virginia if they knock off the devils)? Is Wichita State gonna go perfect for the season (unlikely unless you are the Lady Huskies)? Is this the year that a #16 beast a #1? It’s never happened, but one of these years….
As we wait for the ACC to start so that they can finish, there were some good stories from conference championships around the country. Perhaps as not a surprise, but worth commenting on nonetheless Louisville beat UConn in fairly spectacular fashion. I have no love lost for Rick Pitino (and the particular shade of blue that the Cardinals play in hurts my eyes), but their run through the AAC tournament (does AAC tournament sound made up to anyone else?) has been thorough. They beat Rutgers by 61 points and the 10 points they beat the Huskies by belies a much harder game that was played. This was the fifth meeting in a row where the Cardinals beat the Huskies in double digits.
I was rather surprised that UCLA routed #4 Arizona, though I guess I shouldn’t have been. They are both strong teams and the rivalry growing between them leads to passionate play on both sides. Arizona’s defense was just ineffective against the Bruin’s quick offense. I am going to ignore the Wear twins in all future discussions of UCLA, for obvious reasons, but they were effective from mid-court for this game. UCLA won this game by 4 points, play was fast and fun, but the Wildcats did miss 6 free throws in the game. Those points left on the court could make all the difference between going to the Big Dance and going to the Big Dance as a #1 seed.
The shocker of the day was Providence’s 65-58 win over Creighton. I thought Creighton had that one, no problem. The Blue Jays have been hot and Buckets McDermott (click on this link you will not be disappointed) is an offensive machine. This game was a study in how a steady game wins the race. A good mantra to mediate on as we enter the live or die moments of the post season- you have to show up to the game and play a full 40 minutes (I’m looking at you Carolina) to win the title.
Wichita State is 30-0 and not the #1 team in the nation. Florida, a team with 2 losses, holds that spot. Some say because the Shockers play in the Missouri Valley Conference and not a traditional powerhouse conference is the reason they are not in the top spot. We are reaching a time in college basketball where complete domination by major conferences is coming to an end. With the shuffling of teams in and out of conferences (and creating them like the AAC), what it means to be in a major conference, or a mid-major, is changing. The ranking of college basketball needs to reflect that.
This team is 30-0. The first Division I men’s team to ever reach this mark in the regular season (remember St. Joe’s went 27-0 in 2003-04). While #2 in the nation is nothing to scoff at, I find the strength of schedule argument hard to take at this point. Yes, strength of schedule is something to take into consideration, but if you are at the end of March and no one has been able to take you down- you deserve the #1 spot on the poll. Especially when the team above you has TWO losses. One of Florida’s losses, against UConn, was one of the worst pieces of college basketball coaching I have seen in a long time. UConn had no time outs and Billy Donovan called one allowing the Huskies to set up a shot and ultimately win the game. That piece of coaching should, in no way, be rewarded.
Wichita State, keep doing what you are doing. Good Luck as you finish up your season and roll into March Madness!