It’s always an exciting week of events leading to yet another fantastic finish of a weekend in Conference Tournament action. From the Princeton/Washington buzzer beaters, to the history-making U Conn five day-five game winning stretch, to the San Diego St/Kentucky championship beat downs.

Every game, shot and dribble of the basketball determining the post-season fates of these athletically gifted young men. As hopes and dreams are elevated or deflated based upon the success of a single shot or the inability to close out their opponent.

The goal?

A chance to play in the Big Dance. A chance to put your name in the hat with the best of the best and actually have a playoff to decide on the court, who is the number one team in the country. Some earned that right, others fell in backwards while yet some hopes were dashed by a 10 member committee where “everyone in the room has a different emphasis on different criteria. So when we go to vote, everyone selects the criteria they think is important to them and they ultimately vote.”

Says Gene Smith tourney committee president. What?! Are you kidding me?! This isn’t the Oscars where voting is subjective. It’s not a restaurant review where everyone’s taste is different.

It’s essentially black and white numbers, right in front you on the infamous blind resume. Loaded up with statistical information of wins, losses, strength of schedules, road games, conference games, RPI index ratings. It really is not that difficult. Sure when you get to the bottom of the 68 teams there might be a team or two that can be switched. That argument will never cease, even when there are 96 teams to choose from.

But get this: 13 teams with at least 11 losses, most since 1985.  7 teams with at least 13 losses, never been more than 3, and 5 teams with at least 14 losses and there was a total of SIX in the last 25 years.

What I find more appalling though is the seeding throughout the selected teams. By far the worst job I’ve ever seen!  Teams like a Kansas St. and Vanderbilt who had mediocre seasons at best wind up at #5 seeds.  The Wildcats lost 3 times to Colorado and the Buffaloes are not even in! The Commodore’s have an RPI ranking of 27 and in mid-20’s in the polls losing four of the last 7 games yet seeded as a TOP 20 team.

Then the Huskies of Connecticut that finished 9th in their conference, string together five consecutive wins, take the Big East crown, and are rewarded with a #3 seed meaning TOP 12 in the country. The Kentucky Wildcats follow a similar pattern by winning the SEC title yet are dropped to a #4 seed and the team they beat in Florida are rewarded a higher #2 seed.

The list seemingly goes on and on but the MOST egregious of all was Utah St. being ranked in the TOP 20 for quite a stretch and win their conference tournament with a record of 30-3 and are seeded 12th?! That’s an absolute joke!  That means had they lost that last game they wouldn’t even be IN the NCAA Tournament.  Just sickening, as were the players when we saw their faces when announced on CBS late Sunday afternoon.

Oh and by the way Clemson has ZERO wins against the TOP 50 teams, and they’re dancing.
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The HBO special that aired on Saturday evening about the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV found a special chord of emotion in my heart.  Growing up in Las Vegas from the 70’s onward and having a wonderful father who introduced me to sports and college basketball made me a diehard Rebel fan.

My memories of the grand opening of the Thomas and Mack Arena with Danny Tarkanian, Freddie Banks, Armon Gilliam lighting up the scoreboard in “The Shark Tank” are still vivid in my mind. As are the rolling out of the red carpet during player introductions and a dazzling display of fireworks and pyrotechnics INSIDE of the arena.

And never forgetting the ominous sound of the Jaws theme pulsating throughout the building and all 18,000+ fans opening and closing their arms in a gigantic great white shark CHOMP leading up to the tipoff.  I remember being hoarse from screaming before the game even started.

I can never forgot the eventual accumulation of the hard work and perseverance by Jerry Tarkanian and his fantastic coaching teams that took Greg Anthony, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Anderson Hunt and Moses Scurry to winning the most fulfilling accomplishment in college basketball–the National Title.

The city of Las Vegas erupted in a cataclysmic chorus from one end of the Strip to the other.  People running down the street, yelling and screaming.  Cars honking and screeching with “National Champions, UNLV, Rebels” written in shoe polish across the windows.

Yes there is the dark side to all this success as handed out by the massive amounts of suspensions and scrutinizing from the NCAA infractions committee that surrounded the Shark like pilot fish his entire tenure in Vegas. Not saying everything Coach Tark did was all roses but the segment also showed how UCLA was filled with its own bevy of indiscretions with “Papa Sam” Gilbert who seemingly supplied players with any goods and services they needed as they drove in the most expensive cars.

Of course the NCAA and John Wooden never saw any such things happening.

The overall most depressing time was the historic tragic loss to Duke the following season after beating them by a record 30 points the previous year. Even Tark knew they were in trouble that day when he held an early morning-same day practice before the game and said, “we are gonna lose, they are not focused.”

Of course the bogus charge call near the end of the game against the team’s leader and quarterback Greg Anthony was a HUGE momentum swing in the game and caused his dismissal from it by incurring his 5th foul.

Ultimately I will always remember those days with extreme fondness and watery eyes, through the highs of the wins and the lows of the tournament losses.

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Comments
  1. Mike says:

    This NCAA tournament has one of the weakest fields ever and what I remember most is Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and crew running wild on teams and trading turns leading the fast break.

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