Hey, did you all know that bags fly free on Southwest? Just checking. And other thoughts . . .
The NCAA second round started with a bombshell — and that exploding sound you heard was the Big East Conference’s reputation. If you watched St. Mary’s dispatch Gonzaga in their conference championship game, you weren’t surprised that they won in the first round (picked it) and you fully expected them to give Villanova all it wanted.
What I didn’t expect was for Villanova to play like a team of five guys who acted like they’d just met yesterday.
I must say this for the Big East implosion in the NCAA Tournament so far — it has been total. This has been the most disappointng showign since “Shutter Island.” A failure of execution, coaching, preparation. What else is there? I don’t think anybody had big numbers of Big East teams advancing to the Sweet 16, but the meltdowns of Georgetown and Villanova have stripped all of the luster off an eight-bid league that will now, at best, have the same number of Sweet 16 representatives as the nation’s mid-majors.
Other developments . . .
KANSAS DOWN TO NORTHERN IOWA: I once covered a game in Northern Iowa’s UNI Dome — back in my Missouri Valley Conference beat writing days — in which a group of students ran laps around the entire dome for the whole game without ever appearing to pay attention to what was happening on the court. A lot like what some Kansas players are doing now. Epic upset forming. I won’t say more about it to jinx it, even though it would wreck my bracket — and everyone else’s, including President Barack Obama, who reportedly just ordered Congressional Democrats to push through a Kansas victory by themselves without GOP support.
LOUISVILLE, LOUISVILLE, LOUISVILLE. I don’t think the past year has been more tumultuous than Denny Crum’s final season, but it has been close. I’ll have an extended blog entry on Louisville and its season soon — or maybe I’ll save it for the Tuesday column. But here’s a preview.
I had no sooner watched Rick Pitino walk out of Lucas Oil Stadium last season — leaving his team with still time on the clock for their media interviews after losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight last season — than I started wondering what was wrong. I wasn’t the only one.
No less an observer than Howard Fineman — former Courier-Journal staffer and now Washington bureau chief for Newsweek, and a big-time Louisville basketball fan — sent a note along to say he’d been watching people for a long time, and something with Pitino didn’t look right. We found out soon what it was — with his revelation of a sexual encounter with Karen Sypher and subsequent allegations of extortion against her.
Now, we’re faced with a different set of questions over what has gone wrong. Because while no one expected him to field an elite team this season, this group was far less cohesive than it should have been, and seem to look less so as the season went on.
FINAL NOTES: Tough loss for Murray State, not getting a potential game-winning shot off against Butler, but what a season the Racers had. They ought to be proud.
MY BRACKET PROGRESS? Check for yourself. Click on the small bracket above.