NCAA Hoops Lookback: The Fatal Four

Due to, in no particular order, the following factors –

  • a super-concentrated acidic splash by John Oliver, indicting and ridiculing the entire NCAA basketball enterprise (can’t hyperlink right now, but it’s here: ),
  • my own manic attention to the CIS version of March Madness, spent watching the games of the (Ontario University Athletics) Wilson Cup and the following week’s Final 8 in Toronto (and a blizzard of hoops-related words that can be accessed just down there),
  • we don’t have a television hook-up, and apparently one of Howdy’s Current Foundational Principles (HCFP) is the refusal to pay for live-streaming of games on my laptop,
  • I don’t have many basketball friends,
  • increasing miles on the spectator-sport odometer, games-related grumpiness, impatience with commercials, crankiness over announcers’ clichés, and
  • (possibly?) growing good sense –

I didn’t watch any of the opening weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. (HCFP No. 2: the “play-in games” earlier in the week to decide the last four Cinderellas invited to the Big Dance of 64 do not count. Round 1 of the tournament starts Thursday, not Tuesday. Lines must be drawn. <cough> Ahem. Right. It’s not climate-change denial or global terrorism, but from tiny seeds does a mighty apocalypse grow.)

(None of which explains why I’m writing about it so late. I plead lethargy, sloth, intermittent apathy and mild existential angst. And books. I was tired of writing there for a bit — well, my own, anyway. Glad that’s all over now!)

Okay, and since truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues, and I do aspire to virtuosity of some kind or another, I clarify: I did invite myself to Bernie and Wendy’s living room for the second Gonzaga game in the opening weekend, in case they failed again to make it to the Sweet 16. The Zags did, though CBS had switched to Oklahoma/Dayton, which had very little interest for me even though Dyshawn Pierre is an Ontario kid I liked reading about from China last March, during the Flyers’ stirring run ascent to the Sweet 16, to national jock consciousness and, lest we forget, to millions of new dollars flowing to a previously obscure Ohio school. (Well, obscure from an athletic point of view, that is. To me. I know nothing of its standing in biomedical research or the teaching of the humanities.  And who would care about THAT?)

Yes, and I waited ‘til the actual weekend of the second weekend — also known as The Elite Eight — jimmied the rear door at Wendy and Bernie’s (twice), and lingered like an especially blue-cheesy smell in their otherwise pleasant back kitchen. Here’s what I saw:

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Not One Shining Moment

It’s a quarter to three on a sunny Tuesday afternoon on the third floor of my university’s School of International Business. (Note to longtime readers: yes, I teach in a business school. Rich kids, mostly. But I’m just here for the language. (English is my personal favourite.) I teach them literacy and love and great songs and joyful reading, yes, and comma faults and five-paragraph essays and there/their/they’re. Some learn.) That means that Monday night’s NCAA final between the Louisville Cardinals and the Michigan Wolverines ended about three hours ago, as we’re a half-day ahead of Eastern Standard Time where I live.

I like this ’13 team better than Chris Webber’s “Fab 5” team, but he was a superb player.

I know that former UM great Chris Webber came to the game, which was a burning question on American sports wires for a day or so. I know that Louisville’s coach, Rick Pitino, had a horse he owns win something big in the equestrian universe. I know that Cardinals star Russ Smith’s high-school coach died recently, and that emerging Wolverine freshman Mitch McGary has a learning disability and, for a while, weight problems that kept him bench-bound.

What I don’t know is who won.

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Forward to the Final Four

When last your confused hoops correspondent waxed prophetic in It’s All About Sports! after the first weekend of American collegiate March Madness, when his bracket was significantly hobbled, he predicted an NCAA Elite 8 as follows.

Some of them really are students, I swear. But this image is disgracefully disingenuous, not that this post really wades into that swamp of “Student Athlete” dismay.

Louisville was to play Duke. Bingo! (Okay, a number one seed against a 2; it hardly ranked with Nostradamus, but I’ll take my successes where I find them.) I picked Duke to win through to tomorrow’s Final Four, because I always do, because: A) they often do, and B) I’m a Blue Devils loyalist. Coach K is great, even if he does do too much commercial shilling, and I always argue that there is a large percentage of available high school recruits that Duke can’t even consider because they genuinely need to be students in Durham. (I hope this is still true.) Louisville was just too relentless, and too quick in the backcourt, for Duke.

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