The Madness Has Begun – From the Bird’s Nest
I've made no bones about the fact I love the NCAA Tournament.
I miss games because of my commitments, especially on the weekend, but I watch as many games as I possibly can. I even downloaded the tournament app which allows me to watch all of the games on my phone, or listen to the radio broadcast. Four bucks. Money well spent.
I've filled out my bracket, but unfortunately, it was before Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for Syracuse. I had the Orange going to the Final Four. Now, I'm not so sure.
I haven't found many people who are into the "First Four," started last year when the NCAA tournament expanded to 68 teams. In fact, if you get into a pool with your bracket, those games usually aren't even part of the contest. Of course, those who downgrade the First Four conveniently forget VCU was a part of it last year.
And went from the First Four to the Final Four.
Me? I like all of 'em. Because at the end of the day, college basketball is great, no matter who's playing.
If you passed on the first two games of the First Four last night, you probably are wishing you hadn't. Because both of them defy description.
I didn't see the Western Kentucky/Mississippi Valley State game. I was doing Cajuns baseball. And, I knew I wouldn't have time to watch it had I recorded it. So I followed the score during the baseball game. And, when the Delta Devils were up by fifteen with just five minutes left, I figured it was over and the Hilltoppers were going to lose to a team that eleventh place Troy beat. Twice.
But as they did during the Sun Belt Conference tournament, the 'Toppers came back with a vengeance. And, minutes later when I checked the score again, they had drawn within one. T. J. Price's traditional three point play turned out to be the game winner. The team that trailed in the second half of all their Sun Belt tournament games, twice by double-digits, had done it again. Their reward is to play top-seeded Kentucky. Yep. The team 'Topper fans love to hate. Now, it may not be pretty. But if you're going to be a sixteen seed, you might as well play another team from your own state.
The comeback was the biggest in the final five minutes in NCAA tournament history.
The next game was even crazier.
Everything Iona threw up in the first fifteen minutes of the game went in the basket. Or at least it seemed that way. WKU scored 59 points in their win. Iona scored 55....in the first fifteen minutes. They led by 25. They looked like a team that would hang a hundred on BYU, which would have started the debate whether the Cougars belonged in the tournament at all.
But Iona didn't score the rest of the first half and a 25 point lead was down to 15 at the break. And, in the second half, BYU held Iona without a point for more than nine minutes, and their 17-0 run got them within a point.
The Gaels were done. Seventeen points in the final 24 and a half minutes. It was the biggest deficit anyone had ever faced in the tournament in a winning effort.
Two sixteen seeds. Two fourteen seeds. Incredibly exciting basketball.
It might be a good idea to check out Lamar/Vermont and Cal/USF tonight.