Friday, March 20, 2015


So it's halftime of the two best days in American sport, and already I am winged out, beered out, OMG-ed out. There have been some great first days of the NCAA Tournament.  But none better than this one.

It was the kind of day that made a coach (Georgia State's Ron Hunter) fall off his chair. The most talked-about shot was a game-winning 3-pointer that never got to the rim. And a bunch of actual scholars (Harvard) nearly took down Theory of Breathing/Underwater Basket-Weaving U. (North Carolina).

For the game of the day, you had to wait until evening, when Purdue and Cincinnati swapped the lead 16 times, the Boilers blew a seven-point lead with 48 seconds left in regulation and Troy Caupain's no-hope, double-pump layup beat the buzzer to force overtime and eventually get Cincinnati home. Two 14 seeds won in the tournament's first four hours. Another (Northeastern) probably should have.

If you were a fan of chalk, Kentucky was there for you, idling past a Hampton team so comically undersized you were tempted to check if its point guard wasn't a certain B. Baggins. If you were a fan of the bizarre, Bryce Alford's aforementioned game-winning 3 had your back; down two with 11 ticks left, he came off a curl, launched a wheezing fallaway jumper that was going to gasp its last somewhere around the front rim -- and got a reprieve when an SMU player unaccountably went up and grabbed it as it tumbled toward oblivion.

Goaltending, SMU. Three points, UCLA. Game, set, match, UCLA.

 Tell me something more weird than that's going to happen today. Or something more weirdly heartwarming than watching R.J. Hunter straight-line a game-winning dagger 3 for 14-seed Georgia State against 3-seed Baylor, prompting Hunter's dad, Ron, to fall to the floor, his ruptured Achilles (don't ask) failing to support him.

You know that one makes the One Shining Moment montage. Caupain's layup, too. The Goaltend Heard 'Round The World. On and on.

It was a day when brackets exploded in a shower of   "I can't believe I picked Iowa State!" and "Georgia State?! Who the hell is Georgia State?" Four double-digit seeds won. Eleven games were decided by fewer than 10 points. Nine were decided by fewer than five.

It bore out what everyone was saying, which is, with the possible exception of Kentucky, anybody can beat anybody in this tournament. The distribution of wealth in college basketball -- particularly upperclassmen wealth -- has never been more ecumenical. If the one-and-done rule has done anything remotely positive for the college game, that's it.

And now, we get to do it all over again today.

It can't help but be anticlimactic. Can it?

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