They say that March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. While that may be true when it comes to matters of meteorology, it’s just the opposite when it comes to sports. March comes on quiet and unassuming; football lies dormant, the NBA and NHL echo in the background (numbed by the novocaine that is a meaningless regular season), and baseball rumbles quietly on the horizon. That’s when college basketball comes storming in, instilling madness in us all.
Suddenly that unassuming little lamb becomes a big ol’ nasty lion.
Sure it’s cliched, but no one can deny the pure excitement the bracket of 65 brings to fans everywhere. Just look at the frenzy our little campus fell into at the mere possibility of a tourney bid.
Unfortunately, my exuberance over the tournament comes a bit late. The bubbling field of 65 has been narrowed to just four. Just as natural selection caused that slow lamb to fall prey to the lion, all of the tournament’s Cinderellas have seen the ends of their pumpkin carriage rides and gone home to be maids again. While late-round games may feature higher stakes and a higher level of play, they lack something in the sheer joy and amazement that Cinderella teams inspire in us all. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the best of the field of 65.
— (13) UNC Wilmington 93, (4) USC 89: Many pundits had the Trojans in the Final Four. Instead, they fell prey to the Seahawks in the opening round. The win was made all the more impressive by UNC Wilmington’s ability to hold on to the win after USC forced an overtime period.
— (5) Indiana 74, (1) Duke 73: A Duke loss this early seemed almost unthinkable. Jason Williams had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds but missed the free throw on the 4-point play. A rare mistake for the nation’s best player cost the Devils a chance at the repeat.
Most Predictable Upsets
— (8) UCLA 105, (1) Cincinnati 101: The Bearcats seem to have a penchant for choking. A Huggi-bear departure for West Virginia could be a blessing in disguise.
— (12) Creighton 83, (5) Florida 82: Creighton has threatened teams in each of the past two tournaments, finally getting over the hump against Billy Donovan’s overrated Gators. Though many saw it coming, few could have anticipated the drama Terrell Taylor’s game-winning three at the end of the second overtime provided.
— Kent State Golden Flashes: While yellow light may not seem the most intimidating foe, the Flashes did indeed prove Golden in reaching the Elite Eight.
— UCSB Gauchos: What does Santa Barbara have to do with Argentinean cowboys?
— Hawaii Rainbow Warriors: The most colorful combatants ever to step on a court.
— Tulsa Golden Hurricane: Notice that there’s only ONE Hurricane at Tulsa. Maybe that’s why it’s Golden.
— Southern Illinois Salukis: Just what is a Saluki? A dog prized by the Egyptians. And you know about all the Egyptians that have settled in Southern Illinois.
— Murray State Racers: Works great for track, but otherwise lacks something. Maybe the basketball team should be the Shooters.
— Western Kentucky Hilltoppers: They certainly do hold the high ground. Not that it helps.
— Pepperdine Waves: Watch out! They’re lapping!
— Wesley Stokes, Missouri: Though it may not have seemed possible, this sophomore Tiger’s game was almost as big as his hair.
— Quin Snyder, Missouri: It was a clean sweep for Mizzou in the coiffure department. Snyder’s luscious locks must inspire confidence, the Tigers went farther than anyone expected.
Best TV Feature
— Live Look-ins: CBS’ policy of peeking in on the other games in action provided fans with a little taste of all the action. Gumbel, Kellogg and company also did a good job of switching fans away from routs to games coming down to the wire.