A Chalky NCAA Tournament

Posted: March 25, 2007 in Big Ten, College Basketball, Illinois Fighting Illini, Sports

brian-randle-illinois-virginia-tech.jpg 

All of you probably thought that I had retreated to some remote cave after Illinois had a horrific second half of the second half meltdown to blow a game that they should have won against Virginia Tech last week.  Believe me, I had a nasty post all ready to go in the wake of the game that would have made Ron Guenther’s exuberance seem mild (note ttha Gregg Doyel, a columnist I like overall, really hammered Illini Nation in that link), but as soon as I got home from watching the Illini debacle, I received a phone call from my mother telling me that one of my close relatives had just passed away.  That quickly put everything in life into perspective and is partly to explain for my relatively long absence from blogging, as well as having to adjust to a new job and waiting for a new laptop to get delivered from some remote location in China.

Today’s post is being written as I watch Florida dispense of a spirited Oregon team, which goes to show you how fine of line there is between being a genius in the tourney (as I picked the Ducks to make the Final Four) and an idiot (how it always seems to go for me).  The one thing that I did when I approached my brackets this year was to avoid too much chalk, particularly in the wake of how last year’s NCAA Tournament played out so unpredictably.  Of course, after employing this personal strategy, we ended up having the most chalk-heavy tourney in recent memory.  This has led to the predictable complaints from the national media that there haven’t been any big upsets and that the NCAA screwed over midmajor schools in favor of the power BCS conferences.  The way I see it, however, is that the NCAA actually did a great job of putting together the tournament field for once.  If the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee picks and seeds the teams correctly, there should be few, if any, true upsets.  For instance, Southern Illinois was given a 4-seed when in the past it probably would have received a double-digit seed just because it’s a directional school in the Missouri Valley Conference.  What that means is that the NCAA really did a great job of which teams were truly deserving of its seeds, which means that it has borne out that there haven’t been too many surprises in this tournament.  While this might put sportswriters at a disadvantage in that there isn’t a George Mason-type underdog to fawn over, the NCAA should really be commended for obviously knowing how well each of the teams would do this year a whole lot better than the average observer.

If anything, the quality of play during this tournament’s second weekend was as high as ever and we ought to have a fantastic Final Four.  That’s honestly more compelling to me as a college basketball fan (despite the absence of Illinois) than a couple of upsets in the first round.

(Image from Journal Gazette/Times-Courier)

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