March Madness As Never Before

This NCAA tournament has clearly been a more radically crazy March Madness than any of us have ever seen before. Not only are the favorite big seeds losing  —  they’re just getting completely blown out by 20 or more points. Good riddance Arizona, Virginia and defending champ North Carolina.

And No. 5 seed Clemson was beating No. 4 Auburn by 41, that’s right, 41 points before settling for a measly 31-point win 84-53!

Then, for the first time in 14 years, No, 7 seed Nevada makes the Sweet 16 by overcoming a 22-point deficit to No. 2 seed Cincinnati after finally taking the lead in the game with 9 seconds to go, 75-73.

There was much belittling of the NCAA for picking No. 11 seed Syracuse (which was left out of MM last year) to the tournament over USC. The Orange finished 8-10 in the ACC and was 4-9 against tournament teams. The only team less deserving than Jim Boeheim’s squad was Arizona State. Perhaps deservedly so, the Sun Devils lost an ugly play-in game against Syracuse 60-56.

Of course, yesterday the Orange beat No. 3 seed Michigan State, a team many bracket pickers slotted in as sure-things for a final four appearance, 55-53. The Orange were the last team chosen to round out the NCAA’s final 68 selections. Now Syracuse gets to face second-seeded Duke on Friday.

It was also good to be an eleventh-seed for Cinderella Loyola-Chicago too. With Sister Jean putting God squarely in the corner of the Ramblers (definitely my favorite tourney team name now that the Retrievers have been bounced), sure enough, they scraped off No. 3 seed Tennessee, 63-62.

Another No. 1 seed, Xavier, got bedeviled yesterday, 75-70, by No. 9 Florida State. The Seminoles were down by 12, 56-44, with only 10:42 left. Last year the revenge-minded ‘Noles had been bounced from the tourney by the Musketeers in the second round. Now they play fourth-seeded Gonzaga Thursday night in Los Angeles.

For only the fourth time in the last 33 years, or since the tournament expanded in 1985, two No. 1 seeds failed to reach the Sweet 16.

As confusion reigned in the NCAA’s, NITology was proving near perfect. All the top-4 seeded teams are still in contention into Round 2 except Boise State, which was bounced by No. 5 seed Washington, 77-74 in their opener.

No. 1 seed 24-11 USC plays No. 4 seed 25-10 Western Kentucky tonight at the Galen Center. Tip-off is 8:30 PT.  All-time, USC is 3-4 in NIT action.

 

Chimezie Metu won’t be playing, leaving USC in the lurch again. “Obviously he’s a really big part of our team so it’s tough not having him. But I mean we still have Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart,” said sophomore forward Nick Rakocevic (24 pts, 19 rebs against UNC Asheville).