Well, surprise, I’m terrible at NCAA tournament brackets, and once again, my bracket is completely broken before the Sweet 16 round even starts. Oh, well, the pressure is off, now that my bracket is torn up and in the trash, and I, along with millions of others with busted brackets, can watch the rest of the tournament with ease and enjoy close games without actually having to go for a team we care less about.
Meanwhile, there are those lucky suckers who still have two, maybe three, teams on their bracket still in it. For them, it will be another stressful weekend of heartbreaking college hoops.
Now that I got that off my chest, can I just say how exciting this tournament is, year after year? It really is the best tournament of the year. At one time, I may have thought that the NFL playoffs were the best, but those guys are dead to me right now. There are a thousand storylines that come out of this tournament. First, there was the University of Northern Colorado Bears who made the tournament for the first time ever. Yes, they lost to San Diego State in their first game, but they made it. (And CU didn’t.)
Speaking of other mid-major teams that made the tournament, how about Virginia Commonwealth Universities’ surprising run? They had to beat USC to get into the tournament and then, as an 11 seed, took down 6-seed Georgetown and handily beat 3-seed Purdue 94-76. VCU who?
Then there’s 12-seed Richmond still making a run after they beat Vanderbilt and Morehead State. And once again, Butler is breaking hearts all over the place with yet another surprising run into the second weekend of action after they beat Old Dominion in the first round and then, in the biggest surprise game of the tournament, beat the number 1-seed Pitt in one of the most controversial finishes I have ever seen.
Just when it looked like Butler may have the win with 1.4 seconds left, Butler’s Shelvin Mack drew a stupid foul when he ran into Pitt’s Gilbert Brown as he tossed up a desperation shot near half-court. On the double bonus, Pitt’s free-throw shooter made his first shot from the line, tying the game, but missed his second and in rebounding, Butler’s Matt Howard was fouled with .8 seconds left in the game and was given two free throws. He made the first and won the game.
It was right then and there, I said I would never see an ending to a basketball game like that again in my life. It was an amazing change of emotions in a very short timeframe of a basketball game. That may not only be the best finish of the tournament, but maybe even the best finish of the year. I still can’t believe what I saw.
I give credit to the refs in those crazy last seconds of the game. They called it tight all the way to the end. If they had decided to refrain from blowing the whistle only because the game was in its last second, that would have been bad. Of course, I am not from Pitt, and I thought it simply spectacular.
And like just about every other year, the tournament brings a ton of controversy. After Tennessee got routed by Michigan 45-75, its beleaguered head coach Bruce Pearl was fired. I know he was busted for recruiting violations earlier this year, but the University of Tennessee screwed up by releasing information that after the Tennessee’s tournament run, they were going to fire him. Why they wouldn’t wait to release that information after the tournament was completely over is beyond me. Frankly, I don’t think Pearl, who I like, or his players, really cared about the tournament, because his tenure on the team was coming to an end.
While there are a lot of surprise teams still alive, there are a lot of top-seeded teams still in it as well. Anyone who had filled their brackets out with top-seed teams going all the way is doing pretty darn good. It’s a lesson I have yet to learn.
Here’s to another weekend chock full of drama, heartbreak and madness of college hoops. I can’t wait.