Monday, March 23, 2015

Da Weekend, in so many words

So now we're on to the Sweet Sixteen, and everyone can breathe for a second. And while you do, a few brief thoughts to chew on around the cheery fire you've made from your many brackets, at least one of which had Hampton winning it all ...

(Because, you know, it's the Madness, and men can dream).

1. Never, ever, ever pick against Tom Izzo in Da Tournament. Ever.

Well, at least until he gets to the Sweet Sixteen.

This is because Izzo goes to the Sweet Sixteen the way most of us go to the store for a gallon milk, and it really doesn't matter what he has. This time around he's got Branden Dawson and Travis Trice and that Valentine guy, and the usual collection of lunch-bucket Who's Thats.

Doesn't matter. It's March, and in March (to borrow a line from "Slapshot"), the Spartans put on the foil. Easiest pick in the tournament, them over Virginia.

2. Speaking of  Izzo ... coaching matters.

This is obvious in a college game in which coaches get nine gazillion timeouts, a circumstance that at times makes the product nearly unwatchable. But every year we seemed to require reminding.

And so the Sweet Sixteen comes up, and, whoa, hey, looks who's there.  Izzo. Krzyzewski. Rick Pitino with a flawed Louisville team. Bob Huggins with a flawed West Virginia team. John Calipari and Bo Ryan and Mark Few and Roy Williams and all the usual suspects.

Like you were expecting something different?

3. Can we please stop calling the likes of Wichita State, Butler and Gonzaga mid-majors?

Had a friend of mine observe, after the Shockers held off Indiana, that there was a day when Indiana would never have lost to a Wichita State team that had better talent. Well, yes, and there was also a day when the horse-and-buggy ruled the road. Both of those days are gone.

That's less a reflection of what has happened to Indiana than what has happened to college basketball generally. The one-and-done rule has changed the game fundamentally, in the sense that they've destabilized high-gloss programs and elevated programs who must still do it the old-fashioned way, with players who stick around for three or four years.

Thus, mid-majors are not really mid-majors anymore. Wichita State has won more games than any program in college basketball across the last three seasons. Gonzaga has been to five Sweet Sixteens  since the turn of this century. And Butler ... well, we all know about Butler. They've gone from the Horizon League to the Big East and have lost in the first round of the Da Tournament only once since 1999. They're a major program playing in a major conference now.

  So ... enough. Everybody's got players now. Even the "mid-majors."

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