So the NCAA basketball regular season is over and the various conference tournaments have begun. Conference tournaments gives a chance for those schools who may have had a few too many losses during the season to make it into the NCAA tournament. And that breeds win or go home type mentality for those schools. For the teams who are already in the NCAAs, its their time to play for a higher seed in order to get an easier matchup for the big tourney. With middling schools playing with so much on the line, upsets are the recipe of the day. A number of top ranked teams losing in the early rounds of their conference tourneys. The first to fall was Kansas, then Clemson, then Oklahoma, then Pitt, and finally last but definitely not least UConn losing to Syracuse in a 6 OT marathon.
That game was a peach of a game to watch. UConn was down by 7 points with 4 minutes to play and valiantly fought back to take it into overtime thanks to a shot leaving Eric Devendorf’s fingertips .1 of a second too late. The momentum seemed to be in UConns favor with players on Syracuse starting to foul out, while their players found some way to stay in the game with 4 fouls. However, UConn couldn’t put Syracuse away. Syracuse did not take a lead in any of the overtimes until the sixth and final frame. Every player was exhausted, and had to find some little bit of energy to keep playing every time down the court. Jonny Flynn was an inspiration to Syracuse, he was able to keep the Orangemen in the game(he played 67 of the 70 minutes). The turning point was when UConn’s defensive giant Hasheem Thabeet fouled out with 3:51 left in the 4th OT . That allowed Syracuse to attack the basket without fear of a shot block from Thabeet. In the 6th and final OT, Syracuse came out and hit a couple shots early to take the lead and held it by making free throws until the end. What a game, you rarely see a game of this amount of heart and endurance. What is Syracuse’s reward? They get to play again 20 hours later against West Virginia who upset Pitt. Lucky them.
So what do I think about this years field of teams prior to the official bracket coming out? Well I’ll say that this year’s top teams are looking pretty shaky, teams have either lost recently or not played particularly well or played weaklings(Memphis?). Even North Carolina(a pals favorite team), was only able to squeak by VA Tech this morning, although without ACC PoY Ty Lawson. I doubt there will be a repeat of all four #1 seeds making it to the final four again. However, I think there are about 10 or so teams with a good chance of winning it all, far more than last year. A lot this year depends on which team can gain enough momentum to carry them through to the final game. It could be a March Madness full of upsets and surprises, but with scads of close hard fought games. It’ll be fun to watch. On a personal note, I’m happy my UW team made it in getting a #3 or 4 seed. Go Huskies!
Oh and a note on the economy of March Madness. Last year, Chicago law firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimated the big tournament cost employers around $1.7 billion in lost productivity. Just what our suffering economy needs, right? I say just make those who don’t like college basketball work harder to make up for those who aren’t philistines.