Final Four ofor Pitino, but Fisher and Fabulous Five Finish FirstColumn by Bo Light
Hello, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this week's column. Our regular writers, Mike Duffy and Andrew Heitner, couldn't make it this week (something about having to leave the country), so I've been asked to fill in. Obviously I won't be nearly as entertaining as our usual humble scribes, but I'll certainly try. This week is our NCAA Basketball Spectacular.
Upset Fever -- NOT!
Well, Selection Sunday has come and gone, the pairings are set, the pools are circulating, fans and "experts" are analyzing the matchups, and everyone is picking the winner of this year's NCAA Basketball Tournament. Yes, March Madness is finally upon us, and for once we might get to hear Shaughnessy, Madden, and Ryan talk about something other than the Sox or high school hockey tournaments.
The college talent pool was endless this year; there were easily a dozen teams which could have made the tournament but now have to console themselves with the NIT. And, unlike the recent years of Duke/UNLV infamy, there is no clear favorite to win the title this year. This is why the Tournament Selection Committee has laid a particularly large egg in posting the seedings for the 1993 playoffs. The suits at the top have spoiled what could have been the most exciting tourney in recent memory by leaving several deserving teams behind in favor of lesser lights (and I'm not talking about the automatic bids here), and making the proceedings all but predictable within the divisions through poor seeding choices.
Perhaps the most glaring failure of the committee this season was the failure to recognize the power conferences. True, it's hard to argue with any of the six ACC selections (well, maybe Virginia), but it seems odd that the Big Eight, which is suffering through a weak year, sent six teams, while the Big Ten, arguably the best conference in the nation this year, sent only five, and the SEC sent only four.
The Big Eight's selections seem all the worse when one considers that the finalists for the conference tournament were Kansas State and Missouri, neither one of which was any better than a bubble team before the tournament (Missouri finished the regular season in seventh place, and would have been lucky to make any tournament this year). Shouldn't this have hurt the conference? Meanwhile, teams like Ohio State, which had beaten two ranked teams in three weeks, and UNLV, a top-25 team itself, were left behind in favor of --.George Washington?
The divisional seedings also seem to be way off-base this year. While it is customary for the number one seed to be given a few cream puffs in their half of the draw, the road to the Final Four seems to be unusually smooth for them. Also, there is a definite lack of good "sleeper" teams this year, unlike years past, where Richmond, Cleveland State, and Seton Hall (before the Big East went South) struck fear into the hearts of the favored teams. The lower seeds just don't match up this year, probably due to several upsets in conference tournament play and the passing over of good teams for second-rate ones with padded records. Although the Southeast looks to be the toughest top-to-bottom, the Midwest is really the only division where a lot of great upsets are likely. And now, my predictions:
EAST: North Carolina and Cincinnati have basically been given tickets to the Regional Finals. I look for the only early upset to be the 8-9 game, where Purdue will beat Rhode Island. However, Dean Smith's Tar Heels will slide in the finals, and Cincy will pull the upset to go back to the Final Four. TEAMS TO WATC*: UMass and Purdue could make things interesting for the top seeds.
WEST: Someone on the Committee likes Jalen Rose and company. Could Michigan have been given an easier road to New Orleans? Again, only first-round upset is in the 8-9 game (UCLA over Iowa State), but look for Temple to beat Lute Olson and the Mildcats in the second round. A tight final between Michigan and Vanderbilt, but the Wolverines return to the Final Four too. TEAMS TO WATC*: Georgia Tech is a giant killer (see Mich. State 1990 and USC last year), and Long Beach State is one of the few teams better than their ranking (eleventh).
SOUTHEAST: A tougher draw here, but still not much in the way of upsets. Tulane (11) will beat Kansas State in the first round, and 10th seed Memphis State will take down Western Kentucky, Seton Hall, and Florida State to reach Charlotte, but Christian Laettner isn't around to beat Kentucky this year as the Wildcats go to the Superdome. TEAMS TO WATC*: Iowa will most likely dedicate this tournament to Chris Street, and could ride a wave of emotion into the finals. Also watch out for Memphis State and Anfernee Hardaway. If they're on, they could be trouble.
MIDWEST: At last, a division with some games in it. Another 8-9 switch as Xavier beats New Orleans, but they won't last playing Indiana in the state capitol; they might as well be in the Hoosierdome. Big upsets, however, are coming up: 12th-seeded Marquette beats Oklahoma State before falling to Louisville, Cal will send Coach Bobby "I think I'm gonna" Hurley and the rest of the Duke squad packing in the second, and (you heard it here first) Ball State becomes only the second 15th seed ever to win a game, as they knock off Kansas, BYU, AND the Golden Bears to reach the finals, where the Cinderella story comes to an end as Bob Knight teaches them who the best team in Indiana is. TEAMS TO WATC*: Everyone in this division except Wright State and maybe Delaware could win this shootout.
So, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan. Except for one last-second, extremely lucky shot, this is last year's Final Four all over again. This year, though, either Indiana or Cincinnati will get to move on, since they play each other. Look for the Bearcats to be bridesmaids again, though, as Alan Henderson returns to pace the Hoosiers into the Championship game. In the other bracket, Ray Jackson will shut down Jamal Mashburn and Webber and Rose will combine for fifty points, fifteen assists, twenty-two rebounds, six dunks, seven fouls, and way too much talk as Steve Fisher reaches the Finals three times in four tries. This leaves us with an all-Big Ten final, thus avenging their poor showing in selections. (Meanwhile, Ohio State beats Minnesota to win the NIT...) Indiana swept the Wolverines during the regular season, winning by a point each time. This time, however, Henderson re-injures his knee in the first half, and no one blocks Chris Webber's shot at the buzzer, as Michigan walks away with an 85-84 victory. I predicted at the beginning of the season that Indiana would win the Big Ten and Michigan would win the national title. I'm half right so far; I've got two weeks to see how good a psychic I really am. Also: You probably didn't hear this here first, but in the event of a U of M championship, Chris Webber and Jalen Rose will both declare themselves eligible for the NBA draft.
This Week in MIT Sports
Most of the winter sports are winding down, and already one can see the track, lacrosse, baseball, and softball teams warming up for spring competition. Congratulations to the men's swimming and diving teams and to all the swimmers who set MIT and N.E. Div. III records. Kudos also to Matt Robinson '94 and Mike Piepergerdes '93, who were All-Americans at the NCAA Div. III indoor track and field championships. Piepergerdes placed third in the 1500 meters in just over 3:55, and Robinson finished second in the pole vault with a personal best and MIT record of 16 feet 3 1/4 inches.
The 1993 NCAA Tournament has 64 teams representing 31 states and the District of Columbia. Which state has the most teams? (Hint: They have five.) Send answers, comments, and applications for the Tournament Selection Committee to sports@the-tech. Duffy and Heitner wouldn't tell me the answer to last week's trivia question, which asked, "Which is the only team with a losing record to win a game in the NCAA Tournament?" I thought I could get it by reading their mail, but apparently no one else knows for sure, as everyone seemed to have a different answer. Go ahead and keep sending in answers to that one as well, the answer will come after spring break.
Sportswriter of the Week
If you thought the Globe's Big Three were bad, you haven't been to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Kalamazoo Gazette Sports Editor Jack "A Rolling Stone Gathers No" Moss used approximately a page worth of newsprint to wish all of his "pals of Irish descent" a happy St. Paddy's day, and then (as he does every year) listed seemingly every person in Kalamazoo with at least 1/64th Irish blood in them, complete with a cute one-liner about each person which was about as funny as tapeworm. Jack also does this for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And you thought Donut Dan didn't have anything to say...
This is something that has struck me as odd since I arrived in Boston. Can anyone tell me why candlepin bowling is the highest rated sporting event locally every week? It just doesn't seem to be an exciting, edge-of-your-seat type of game, but then again, I've never seen professionals play. "Let's Argue" T-shirts will soon be available for loyal fans of the almost-weekly column you were expecting to find in this space. Watch for these quality garments wherever you think they are likely to be sold.
I played some UNIHOC a few nights ago. It sounded like a dippy game, but it was actually a lot of fun. Everyone should try it except for tall people with bad backs; 20 minutes spent stooping has already forced me into early retirement.
Did You Know?
The last time Indiana was a number one seed was 1987, when they won the national championship in New Orleans. David Spielvogel '95, a backup on the varsity hockey team, hails from Honolulu, Hawaii, and learned to skate last year.
The regular Let's Argue column will return after spring break, and I will be covering the track team. Enjoy your week off.