Sunday, March 20, 2016

Madness. . . Madness. . .

Oh, we had such high hopes this year. . .  There was no over-archingly dominant team this year, and my Spartans had been on quite a roll, winning 13 of their last 14 games heading into the NCAA tournament, winning the Big Ten conference tournament, and grinding out tough wins against good teams in the final two games.  So we were eagerly looking forward to the NCAAs.  Honestly, this looked like our best chance in years to win the championship.  Unlike most of Coach Izzo's previous teams, it would have been disappointing not to make at least the Final Four.  This was Coach Izzo's best chance in years to win his second championship, and the stars seemed to be aligning perfectly.

We simply had no mental framework for losing in the first round.  I still can't quite believe we did.  It was all set up so perfectly for us.  Oh, I was a little concerned about the possibility of meeting Virginia in the Regional Final, especially since we'd eliminated them from the last two NCAAs, and they would certainly be extra-motivated to play us the third year in a row.  And I wanted no part of the possibility of seeing Purdue for a third time this season, since we'd split two grinding, gruelling games during the season.  But I never imagined we'd lose in the first round. . .

But we did lose.  In the first round.  Hats off to Middle Tennessee.  They played a tough, gritty, fearless game against us, and they simply couldn't miss, it seemed.  They smacked us in the face right from the opening tip, running out to a 15-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game, and forcing us to play catch-up the whole game.  We slowly clawed our way back into the game; twice, late in the game, we pulled within a single point, but each time, Middle Tennessee made the big plays, hit the key shots, made the clutch steals, and we made the crucial, excruciating turnovers.  And when the final horn sounded, we had lost the game.

To put the game into context - this is the 32nd year of the 64-team format for the tournament.  That means there have now been 128 games between 2-seeds and 15-seeds (and there were a lot of us who thought we 'should have' been a 1-seed; you'd be very kind not to rub that in our faces).  The 15-seeds have now won eight of those 128 games.  This was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.  But I have no basis for complaining; it was just our turn in the barrel, I guess.  If it wasn't my Spartans on the losing end, I'd smile, and shake my head, and mutter to myself about how crazy and unpredictable the tournament is, and this is why they call it March Madness, and so forth.  But wow. . . when it's our turn, it just stings.  Or makes you numb.  Or both at the same time.

If I step back, it almost looks like we got caught in some crazy weird vortex of fate (I don't really believe in the whole 'vortex of fate' thing, but, you know. . .).  Of the 32 winners of first-round games this year, ten of them - almost a third - are double-digit seeds:  two 10-seeds, three 11s, two 12s, a 13, a 14 and a 15.  I don't ever recall anything remotely close to such a massively crazy convergence of upsets in the same tournament.  And however it happened, my Spartans got caught in it.

(*sigh*)

Maybe next year. . .

To quote from The Bridge on the River Kwai:  "Madness. . .  Madness. . ."

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But hey, at least our women won. . .  ;)

12 comments:

  1. The Cal Bears were victims (sic), too.
    Some will make excuses because two starters were MIA, but to not make it out of the first round is a real disappointment.

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    1. Then to have only 2 of 7 from the Pac 12 make it out of the first round and then one more eliminated so far in the second.... hmmmmm!

      Maybe I will root for Gonzaga.

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    2. The B1G got three of seven teams through to the Sweet 16, but alas, we ain't one of 'em. . . And Purdue, who I was so concerned about? Gone even before we were. . .

      You might appreciate this - I was talking to a friend who has a degree from our sister institution down the road, and he said to me, "I trust we've heard the last of Appalachian State for a while. . ."

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  2. I think sometimes those #15 and #16 teams know what to expect from their opponent and the #1 and 2's know very little about their opponent, slight disadvantage, and then if they fall behind the pressure is a little more for the favorite. Upsets are what makes the NCAA's fun...for some of us.

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    1. Upsets are fun. . . until you're the ones being upset. Then they suck. Just sayin'. . .

      Clearly, our guys were completely unprepared for what they encountered. But typically the way these things go is that size and talent eventually have their effect. I mean, 120-8 is a long way from making 15-seeds a good bet. . .

      (*sigh*)

      I've been sighing a lot this weekend. . .

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  3. So many brackets ruined . . .

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    1. You'll forgive me if I'm less than fully sympathetic for all those ruined brackets. . .

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  4. I love the tournament as much as I hate it. 64 teams? That's insane, particularly with one-and-done. But then, there's no clear way to figure out which teams belong in a championship fight when there's hundreds to choose from, so what're ya gonna do. At least Syracuse was kind enough to trash Middle Tennessee for ya, eh?

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    1. Oh sure. . . after we wore 'em out for ya. . .

      ;)

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    2. Thank you for your service!

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  5. Sorry - March Madness never has done much for me. I like basketball; the Boston Celtics are my favorite team in all of sports. The college stuff just doesn't heat my coals. Maybe it's because Boston College is never really great...

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    1. No need to apologize, Sully. If my pro team were the Celtics, I might think differently, too. Or, you know, not. Since I actually went to MSU, I kinda got it absorbed directly into my DNA. . .

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