I was flooded with email concerning my choices of best arena, coach, state flower and so on from each regional. EACH being the operative word. Not the ENTIRE tournament, just EACH regional.
If you didn't see your school in one regional, try checking the regional that it actually is in. Too many of you who attended these supposed contenders for best academic school apparently can't read very well.
That said, I mistakenly listed Georgia Tech as the school with the best academic reputation in both the St. Louis and Phoenix regionals. This error was particularly disappointing since I am a product of the University of Massachusetts, often referred to as "the Harvard of Amherst, Mass."*
(*non-Amherst College division.)
Anyway, lots of Stanford alums wrote in to complain about the Georgia Tech/Phoenix Regional mishap. In support of their school they offered lists of Nobel Prize winners, Rhodes Scholars and quoted SAT scores.
So I quickly fixed the problem.
The school with the best academic reputation in the Phoenix Regional is ... UTEP.
Now on to the People's Voice. My comments, as always, appear in italics.
SAINT JOSEPH'S (March 11: "Hawks still are a No. 1")
I am not a St. Joe's fan. I think that they played in a fairly weak league this year. They do, however, still deserve to be looked at as a No. 1 seed. With the parity in college basketball today, going 27-0 is a hell of a feat no matter what league you're in. Let's think back over the past few years.
Wasn't it said that no college team could beat UNLV or Kentucky or Duke or North Carolina? That happened. May the seeders keep them a No. 1 because of their season. If they are a fluke we'll know it real soon.
Blowing Rock, N.C.
I'm curious, how many teams have ever been awarded a No. 1 seed after taking a beating like St. Joe's did [in the Atlantic 10 tournament]? St. Joe's is a pretty good team, no doubt. They are not on the same level as Duke, Mississippi St., Kentucky, Illinois and other major college programs. This team is, like most small to mid-major programs, a paper tiger that showed ... that it does not deserve a No. 1 seed. St. Joe's is simply the media darling right now.
I have no problem with people arguing that St. Joe's doesn't deserve the No. 1 seed. It's their argument that I hate. People say St. Joe's strength is based on media perception, and not reality, because they ran up their win total in a weak league. Now, certainly there are some pathetic teams in the A-10 – Duquesne, Fordham ... UMass – but there also are some good teams.
The A-10 boasts four NCAA selections, including a strong Xavier team that, on any given day, was exceptional. So the argument about the weak league is more perception than reality. I predict a good week for the A-10. This is a pretty good league.
Great commentary on the importance of the St. Joe's loss. The knuckleheads were already screaming that the Hawks don't deserve a No. 1 when they were down at the half!
They do deserve that seed. I would like to point out, though, that the way they looked [in the A-10 tourney] was reminiscent of a great Iowa State team in 2001 that bullied its way through the Big 12, only to hit the wall and lose to Baylor in the first round of the Big 12 tourney. Of course that carried over to the loss to Hampton the next week. St. Joe's will hopefully not repeat that woeful performance, but the parallels are too many to ignore.
Do you honestly think St. Joe's would be 27-1 if it were in the Big 12? There's not a chance. Go ahead and make them a No. 1 seed ... so long as my OSU Cowboys are the No. 2 seed in the same bracket. I'll be thrilled.
They wouldn't be 27-1 because if they were in the Big 12 they would never have been able to recruit all those Philly kids to the Great Plains.
CONFERENCE USA (March 10: "C-USA's untimely demise")
Great write-up on C-USA's demise. I call it the Andre Braugher conference. Great actor, but underappreciated.
In your C-USA column, you answered your own point. The Big Ten will remain, yet C-USA could not hold on to anything. Flash in the pan. It has become "fashionable" to push for the so-called mid-majors, and this will soon cycle out.
You hit the nail on the head. However, the truly sad part is that the football programs were starting to make some noise. Still non-BCS mind you, but you do have to crawl before you can walk. This is truly sad.
MID-MAJORS (March 14: "Torture by committee")
I agree with your thoughts on the mid-majors. There was so much pressure for Kent State to win as the MAC season came to a close. One loss would/could ruin all the hard work of the season. [It was as if there were a] target on the Flashes' backs.
On the other hand, in some conferences (SEC, ACC, etc.) there seemed to be no sense of urgency because they knew they were in and even the conference tournament was meaningless except for determining a seed.
There is a solution for the problem of whether to invite mid-major teams with excellent records or high-major teams with so-so records to the NCAA basketball tournament: Invite both types.
Expand the tournament to 80 or even 96 teams. If 80, the top 16 get a bye in the first round. If 96, the top 32 get a first-round bye.
Fill the NIT field after the first round has been played.
The expanded field will likely yield many competitive games between mid-majors and high-majors, and the lowest-seeded teams may actually have a chance to win a game.
San Marcos, Calif.
Why not have the NCAA hold four qualifier games instead of just the one game to find the 64th team? They could have a special round to qualify for the 16th seed in each bracket. ESPN would love it, and so would I. The real beauty would be that four extra (instead of just one) teams would get to play for the last spot.
For both of the above, my thought is: If it ain't broke don't fix it. In fact, I wish they'd do away with the play-in game. I doubt Lehigh feels like it really made the NCAA tournament.
Why doesn't NCAA basketball adopt a rule that a team has to win at least half its conference games or win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA tournament? That would add to the importance of conference games and not give Florida State so much credit for losing twice to Duke.
I am against arbitrary rules such as that. What if the team in question went 12-0 outside its conference against top teams? The RPI is the issue. Right now, who you play is three times more important than whether you actually win the game. The NCAA needs to rework its formula.
I would like to know if the referees are going to give crybaby coaches like Coach K of Duke the best calls during a game?
Looks to me like the committee tossed aside the usual bong and brought the crack pipe this year. Duke gets a top seed? Five losses, two to unranked teams, and they get a top seed? How many games does Duke have to lose to not get a top seed? Six? Ten? Twenty?
Virginia Beach, Va.
You incorrectly named Mississippi's state flower.
It is actually the satellite dish.
You got two things wrong in your column.
Prettiest campus goes to Richmond over Wake.
Most likely upset also goes to Richmond.
Go Spiders. I'm objective I swear.
I read that you believe Northern Iowa could upset Georgia Tech because of its shooting. Just remember Tech had the best defensive FG percentage (.386) in the best conference in basketball this season.
Enjoy your column, sir. I was tickled to see you mentioning the UAB Blazers ... I was in the stands when UAB beat Cincinnati, sitting with my son who now attends UAB. The atmosphere was everything you would ever want at a college game. It may not be Cameron Indoor, but Bartow Arena was hopping with a record-setting crowd and that electricity you hope to get but seldom do.
I'm just praying we get to keep coach Anderson for a couple of years before the other schools come waving the big bucks. Personally, I'd love to see him do a John Chaney act and just stay, but I don't see it happening. We'll just enjoy the ride while we can.
I watched the Blazers at the C-USA tournament last week and loved them. Anderson is a coaching star in the making. What he's done with that program is amazing. As good as UAB is now, it should only get better.
You make an interesting point about the opening-round game, that it should go to the last two at-large selections and not two conference winners. Thanks for a very entertaining and intelligent preview of the tournament.
Christopher W. Hall
My Gamecocks might fall prey to the chicken curse once again and drop out no later than the first two rounds, but thanks for the shout-out to the 'ole garnet and black!
It's good to see that sports commentators see the value of such kick-ass colors. Now if we can just get our football fans to get on the same page about wearing those colors to every game, we might be quite intimidating.
How can you say that Wake's mascot is the toughest? I know that the whole idea of picking these things is for fun, but you've got to give the nod to the Saint Joseph's Hawk. He never stops flapping. He's been assailed by other mascots, and yet he keeps flapping for more than two hours at a time. I'd like to see the Deacon do that.
The Hawk's continuous flapping makes it the most impressive cardiovascular mascot, but as I noted, an evil religious leader can wreak serious havoc on the world. The Demon Deacon is the toughest mascot in college sports.
Do you think the Monmouth Hawks have a realistic shot of winning in the first round against Mississippi State? I went to a few games this year at Boylan Gym in West Long Branch, and when Monmouth is on its "A" game the Hawks are tough to beat.
Their defense most nights is like a straightjacket, and [it's] a little team with a big heart. With mostly seniors and a savvy coach in Dave Calloway, Miss. St. had better beware of the Hawks by the shore!
Atlantic Highlands, N.J.
This is the best part of March Madness. Trash talk from Monmouth.
Didn't the girl in "Clerks" go to Seton Hall?
Very good on the "Clerks" reference ... but to take it one step further, she transferred from Seton Hall to Monmouth.
(OK ... my name is really Kevin McDevitt)
In reference to your "Clerks" comment, I would like to add that she transferred from Seton Hall which, as you know, is a No. 8 seed in the same region. This is discovered when she is talking to "Snowball" in the convenience store. That's a strange coincidence and definitely a great movie.
A really strange coincidence would be if on Friday, Monmouth scored 37.