Yes! The first two days of the NCAA Tournament!
Along with baseball opening day, the Indianapolis 500, and a few other events, there’s nothing on the annual sports calendar I anticipate more.
Upsets! Cinderella stories! Teams you’ve never heard of rising to the occasion!
Massive bracket fail! Well, that’s part of my tradition.
So what goodies did we get this year?
Cleveland State over Wake Forest? Check. Siena’s double overtime win over Ohio State late Friday? Yeah, it kept me riveted into the wee hours of Saturday.
Uh, a pair of middling power conference teams (Oklahoma State, Wisconsin) with buzzer-beater wins over two other middling power conference teams (Tennessee, Florida State) on Friday?
And? Bring the Madness!
Umm, Bill Raftery said “onions!” a few times?
The first two days of the tournament were an unmitigated snooze-fest. Yeah there were some close games, but nothing happened that approached compelling March’s of recent years. Very little came close.
Usually, the first two days of the tournament are like the device from Men In Black … the games magically rid me of the contempt I reserve for the NCAA Tournament committee for whatever injustices I perceive that perpetrated, usually against mid-major schools. Not this year.
As recently as a week ago, I was not a fan of going beyond the current 65-team NCAA Tournament field. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, blah, blah, blah.
Well, it’s broke. It’s time to expand the field. Bring on 128 teams. Take the NCAA Tournament back to the level we all love because the NCAA has screwed up a good thing by cowtowing to the power conferences.
This season was the breaking point for me. I always had faith in the non-subjective data the committee has used — RPI, end-of-season success, success vs. tournament teams, etc. Until recently, the committee created a balanced field, even if I might have had a beef or two about an individual team that did or didn’t make it.
The 2006 Tournament, the mid-major high-water mark, when George Mason made the Final Four and when the Missouri Valley Conference got four bids, is the turning point. Since then, it seems the committee has moved the chess pieces around to suit the ends of the bigger schools.
RPI? Ask Barry Hinson or Tim Jankovich how much the NCAA cares.
Body of work? It depends on which body has more power conference bling.
Creighton beat at-large Dayton in December, won 11 of 12 to end the season and had a RPI in the low 40s. The NCAA committee let out a collective “meh.” Body of … whuh?
Arizona lost five of six to end the season, had a RPI in the 60s, yet, their win over at-large Kansas in December had the committee’s tongue wagging and they got their ticket punched. Body of work!
The committee doesn’t appear to care that power conferences can control their body of work through advantageous scheduling, while mid-majors can’t. It rises to the level of the golden rule … he who has the gold rules.
At least the committee didn’t do its recent trick of pairing mid-majors against each other, either via first or second-round matchups. Easy not to do when there aren’t enough mid-majors to pull it off.
When the non-power conference at-large bids go from 12 in 2004 to four in 2009, that’s not some cyclical “thing” that’s going to correct itself, it’s a trend. When TV money is allocated based on how many bids each conference receives (see, “He who has the gold …”), it’s a trend that makes the rich richer and makes suspicious souls like me angrier.
Putting aside the notion that the tournament it its current form has the best 65 teams in the NCAA — it’s not, it never has been, and likely never will be — I still find it hard to fathom that after 24 years, the NCAA hasn’t figured out that the romance of the 65-team tournament is not so much attached to its best teams, but to its best stories.
A significant percentage of what’s made the tournament a phenomenon is from contributions of smaller schools or what small-school athletes have done. It started with Indiana State in 1979 and several other mid-majors have been blessed since to be that team that captured everyone’s imagination.
With 128 teams, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get those stories. Everyone’s happy … the power conferences can’t get much more of a share than what they already have, but they’ll be joined by much of their mid-major brethren. It would be a true NCAA Tournament, one that has better representation of all 30 of its leagues, not just the few at the top.
The NCAA could pretty easily legislate it to make it compelling and not water it down too much. No under-.500 teams unless they win their conference tournaments. All regular-season champions that didn’t win their conference tournaments would get automatic bids, which would add weight to the regular season. Teams could be seeded regionally in the opening rounds and re-seeded later … anything’s possible.
Anything’s better than the power conference snooze-fest fed to us on Thursday and Friday.
• Spare a thought for David Hughes — Tribune-Star sportswriter David Hughes is currently in the hospital and is dealing with an illness that has had him hospitalized for over a week. Any thoughts and prayers for him would be appreciated.
Hughes, a lifetime Hautean, justifiably has many friends in Terre Haute and beyond. Some he knew before he joined the paper, some he’s made since. His friends here at the Tribune-Star wish him the best of luck along with a speedy, pain-free recovery.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please check out Golden’s blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.
Yes! The first two days of the NCAA Tournament!
- From the Press Box
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Content McKenna has enjoyed seeing ISU's progress
It all happened so fast in June 2010.
One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
MVC can't wait on Crieghton to move forward
Will they go or not? That’s been the question that the Missouri Valley Conference and Creighton have been faced with since rumors of the Bluejays’ potential exit went public in December.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Can Sycamores reverse fortunes heading into MVC Tournament?
Mastery of a basketball season comes in many forms. Mostly, it comes in forms that involve avoidance of turnovers, anemic scoring and poor defense.
The mechanics of X-and-O success in basketball are obvious, but what’s often overlooked in building a successful campaign is managing the rhythm of the season, which is the hardest thing of all.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Accountability isn't Lansing's alone in ISU's recent struggles
Taking ownership has always been one of Indiana State men’s basketball coach Greg Lansing’s strengths.
When ISU has lost games in his three seasons at the helm that it was expected to win, Lansing has always been willing to fall on the sword and take blame for it.
TODD GOLDEN: Indiana State has far more occasions to rise to
Rejoice, Indiana State basketball fans. The Sycamores’ 68-55 victory at No. 15 Wichita State on Tuesday is worthy of celebration.
TODD GOLDEN: Big plays in last 10 minutes story of the season for Indiana State
You’d think I’d have learned by now.
It’s 20 games into Indiana State’s men’s basketball season and I still expect the Sycamores’ offense operate like a well-oiled machine from the opening tip.
Sycamores blossom on Hawaii trip
Quick quiz … what’s the state flower of Hawaii?
Don’t worry. I can’t just rattle state flowers off the top of my head. I had to look it up too, even though I’ve seen them all over the place in Honolulu.
I didn’t even know that Indiana’s state flower is the peony, which replaced the apparently unloved zinnia in the 1950s.
Hawaii’s flower, and they’re ubiquitous in Waikiki tourist shops and in actual flora on Oahu, is the yellow hibiscus.
The yellow hibiscus is big, bold and bright. I’ve never seen one blossom, but I imagine it has to be a beautiful sight.
What I have seen blossom — and it’s the only reason flowers would be brought up in my column — is the Indiana State basketball team at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU needs to have its realignment head on a swivel
Have you ever driven past a cow pasture during a severe thunderstorm? If it’s really bad, the cows will congregate in a herd to protect themselves from the tumult.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU AD Prettyman keeps it close to the vest
Do you want to know who’s on the short list to become Indiana State's next football coach?
TODD GOLDEN: Trent Miles leaves Sycamores with giant legacy
To glean perspective on Trent Miles’ time as Indiana State’s football coach, I went back into the Tribune-Star’s archives to remind myself of what the football program was like when Miles arrived to rebuild it.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Scoreboard watching and the threat matrix for ISU
Indiana State football coach Trent Miles reaffirmed his belief Tuesday that a victory over Youngstown State on Saturday will propel the Sycamores into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the first time since 1984.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Twists and turns, but Luck passes eye test
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck made his much anticipated Lucas Oil Stadium debut Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Looking back and forward at ISU athletics
It started in State College, Pa., and ended in Eugene, Ore. Few Indiana State athletic seasons have spanned the nation in as many sports as 2011-12 did for the Sycamores’ athletic teams. And from coast-to-coast there was glory and heartbreak alike.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU progresses under Prettyman
He didn’t say a word, but it was as clear as Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman sat in the PK Park dugout and watched the Sycamores take batting practice prior to their NCAA Regional at Oregon last Thursday, he beamed with pride.
TODD GOLDEN: MVC pitching helped prepare Sycamores for regional
Nick Petree, Pierce Johnson, Ty Blach.
These aren’t just elite-level starting pitchers Indiana State’s baseball team faced this season. They comprise three of the last five pitchers the Sycamores faced period.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU baseball has pluses, minuses for tourney bid
Last Thursday, when Indiana State’s baseball jumped around in a celebratory dogpile after clinching the Missouri Valley Conference regular season championship at Bob Warn Field, no one thought that a little over a week later, the dreaded NCAA Tournament bubble would fly over Terre Haute.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Subtle switch has fostered MVC baseball parity
When Indiana State was crowned as the regular season baseball champion of the Missouri Valley Conference last Thursday, it marked the fifth different regular season champion the league has had since 2005.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU has done enough to be in NCAAs
When you get older, you’re supposed to get wiser. I don’t know if I qualify, but I’m trying.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: TH’s Murans back in the Derby … this time with favorite
When Terre Haute native Paul Murans experienced his first Triple Crown horse racing run as part-owner of Mucho Macho Man in 2011, the experience was — to borrow a phrase from one-time Marquette coach Al McGuire — seashells and balloons.
TODD GOLDEN: IHSAA debate interrupts more pressing issues
State Senator Mike Delph has sowed a 15-year-old wind and put the emotional class basketball debate back on the public’s mind.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU eyes prize one game at a time
Most baseball fans know that the baseball season — even a college baseball season — is a marathon, not a sprint.
TODD GOLDEN: Grass is green enough for Indiana State in Missouri Valley
Take a look around the Missouri Valley Conference landscape and it would be easy to assume that a significant portion of the league membership is searching for perceived greener pastures.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Sycamores are Odum’s team now
Soooo … who wants to talk about the 2012 Indiana State men’s basketball season?
FROM THE PRESS BOX: ISU will face uphill climb in MVC in 2013
The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinals are always scintillating. No more so than Saturday when Illinois State upset 15th-ranked Wichita State 65-64 and when No. 25 Creighton took care of business with a 99-71 victory over Evansville.
Arch Madness indeed.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Effort, heart, concentration are fleeting for ISU
Every time Indiana State’s men’s basketball wins a game, you think to yourself, OK, now is when these Sycamores live up to their potential.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Peyton’s place belongs to Eli
The good people of Indianapolis justifiably puffed out their chests throughout Super Bowl week as the city received deserved rave reviews for the job it did as hosts of Super Bowl XLVI.
TODD GOLDEN: Teammates, colleagues express their loyalty to Weatherford
Sometimes you worry whether someone is stopping to smell the roses when they smell rosiest.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Does melted ice reveal Belichick's heart of gold?
If you’re into Youtube — and who isn’t these days? — there’s a vintage television profile of then-Cleveland Browns coach Bill Belichick posted on the popular site.
TODD GOLDEN: Indiana State men caught between expectation, reality
The Missouri Valley Conference is hush-hush on how it puts together its matchups for the annual conference schedule.
- More From the Press Box Headlines
- TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet