The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 21, 2013

No favorites to start March Madness

Brad Stevens is amused by all this talk of parity in the NCAA tournament.

The coach who guided little Butler to the national championship game two years in a row wonders why everyone seems to be saying all at once: Hey, there’s some pretty good teams beyond the glamour conferences.

Stevens remembers his first basketball job, as Butler’s director of basketball operations in 2001, when the Bulldogs easily won their first-round game as a No. 10 seed. They cruised past Wake Forest, an entry from the mighty Atlantic Coast Conference, after leading 43-10 at halftime.

Yep, 43-10!

“People at that time called those upsets,” Stevens said Wednesday. “Now they call it parity.”

It’s time to find out just how evenly matched these teams really are.

The prelims were wrapping up with two more first-round games in Dayton, plus a glimpse of college basketball’s future with the official unveiling of the new Big East Conference.

But, as everyone knows, the tournament really gets started on Thursday.

Sixty-four teams. Thirty-two contests. All going down in an exhilarating — and, yes, exhausting — two-day mosh pit of hoops.

By the time it’s done late Friday, we should have at least some answers to the most pressing questions: Can a 16th-seeded team beat a top-seeded team for the first time? Will the selection committee look smart for inviting so many of the so-called little guys at the expense of more established programs? Will the refs call more fouls than they did during a low-scoring regular season that often resembled wrestling more than basketball?

The only thing we know for sure is there won’t be a repeat champion.

Kentucky didn’t even get an invite to the 68-team party. Heck, the Wildcats’ season is already over, snuffed out by Robert Morris — a school near Pittsburgh, not some guy known as Bob Morris to his friends — in the National Invitation Tournament.

Hmm, maybe that’s an indication of what’s to come in the NCAAs, after a season in which no team established itself as a clear-cut favorite.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team was seeded first overall after romping into the tournament on a 10-game winning streak, joined the chorus of those using the P word.

In his mind, the constant exodus of one-and-down players from programs such as Kentucky, which essentially has to start over each season, has leveled the playing field more than ever before.

“There are no longer the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars or Bill Waltons or those great players from Carolina and Duke  — Christian Laettner and those people. It just doesn’t happen,” Pitino said. “You take a Colorado State with five seniors, they’re every bit as good as any of the number 1 seeds who play the game.

“Parity,” he added, “has set in. That’s what makes it so much fun. You really, really can’t pick who is going to win.”

Maybe so, but the odds are, one of those teams on the top line will emerge as the champion in Atlanta on April 8. That’s good news for the Cardinals and the other No. 1 seeds: Kansas, Indiana and Gonzaga.

Since 1988, when sixth-seeded Kansas won the national title, only once has the champion emerged from anywhere below a third seed (No. 4 Arizona in 1997). More telling, the team celebrating at the end is usually a No. 1 seed — 16 times that’s been the case during the 24-year span.

So, while it’s not unusual for an upstart such as Butler, George Mason or VCU to crack the Final Four, the cream usually rises to the top in the last game of the season.

Then again, it’s not so easy to tell who the little guys are anymore.

Take Gonzaga, the Jesuit school from Washington state that used to be known as a plucky upstart. Not now. The Zags are a full-fledged powerhouse, rising to the top of The Associated Press rankings and landing a No. 1 seed, both of which were firsts in school history.

The selection committee has recognized the changing order within college basketball, choosing 11 at-large schools from outside the big six conferences for the second year in a row, including teams such as Boise State and Middle Tennessee that appeared doomed after losing in their league tournaments.

The Atlantic 10, for instance, landed five teams in the field, while the Southeastern Conference got only three. Gonzaga beat out Miami for a No. 1 seed, even though the Hurricanes won both the regular season and the tournament in the hoops-crazy Atlantic Coast Conference — the first team ever to pull off that double and have to settle for a No. 2 seed.

“The seeds,” Pitino said, “mean absolutely nothing.”

1
Text Only
Sports
  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
    The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
    Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time.jpg Texas’ Strong prefers not talking about national title

    Charlie Strong riled up plenty of Texas fans during a statewide spring tour by saying the Longhorns wouldn’t be in the national championship game.
    The new coach toned down his honest assessment in future stops, then said Tuesday in his first appearance at Big 12 media days that he prefers not even talking about championships.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • NMHS hopes new playing surface generates excitement

    The St. Louis Rams coined the nickname “The Greatest Show on Turf” for their collective group or multiple Hall of Famer-caliber players in during the 1999-2001 seasons. If Rams can run on turf, why not Huskies? 

    July 22, 2014

  • FSU's Barfield, Jean-Charles named preseason All-Americans

    Chris Barfield and Jacob Jean-Charles earn preseason honors by being named to the USA College Football Division II Preseason All-American team.

    July 21, 2014

  • Baylor coach isn't buying schedule strength argument

    The College Football Playoff committee has vowed that strength of schedule will be a major criteria when selecting the four teams.

    July 21, 2014

  • Big 12 Commissioner says cheating pays

    Big 12 Commissioner says the NCAA lacks the resources to enforce its rules and that has to change.

    July 21, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos