Thoughts on Two College Tournaments

One college tourney is on everyone’s mind; most TV sets are focused on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Final Four are about to become a reality. This year’s Elite Eight had few surprises as it was composed of one through three seeds.

Thus far, the Final Four includes Villanova and a TBA team and Connecticut and another TBA team. This could be a three of four Final Four for the Big East. The Huskies and Wildcats are already in it. If the University of Louisville Cardinals beat the Michigan State Spartans, that will give the Big East three-quarters of the spots in the Final Four. The final team will come from the match-up between the Big 12’s Oklahoma Sooners and the ACC’s UNC Tar Heels.

I’ve been wild about the Big East all season, thinking that the potential was certainly there for the league to dominate the Big Dance. Great competition begets great competition and Big East clubs have an edge over most other teams from other divisions. That’s due to the fact that there is so much talent and so many great teams and coaches in the league. It’s tough for a team like Gonzaga, Xavier and LSU to make it through the tournament maze. Think about it—about one-sixth of the tournament teams are from the Big East and those clubs have played top performing teams all season. They come to the Big Dance having already faced and beaten some of the best in the nation. Unless you’re a powerhouse like UNC, there’s little chance that you’re going to make it past all of those Big East clubs.

For UCLA, Kansas and Michigan State, along with teams in lesser divisions, the cards are stacked against them because the Big East currently holds aces and kings. Even UNC and Duke are at a disadvantage. The solution is in making the Pac-10, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and SEC as strong as the Big East. It’s a league and not just an individual team thing. Sure a team like Gonzaga always has the potential to make it to the Final Four but teams like the Zags will continue to be limited until there’s more parity amongst the other top five NCAA Men’s Basketball conferences.

At this point, Louisville is looking pretty good but not a shoe-in. Of course, they have to make it past Michigan State and that won’t be easy. Both clubs have fine defenses and neither fouls very much. But if the Cards do foul, they will be at a distinct disadvantage. State is a fine free throw shooting team. If the Spartans foul, it should not matter much as the Cardinals continue to struggle from the line. In the other game, UNC looks very good. They have been running on all cylinders. Oklahoma pulled a fairly easy tournament bracket and the Sooners are about to meet their match today.

The Final Four will be Connecticut Vs. Michigan State and Villanova Vs. UNC. The Big East will have two and not three teams in the next-to-last round. I simply think that the Spartans can exploit Louisville’s weakness at the line.

There’s another college tournament going on and it’s played on ice. Yesterday, I watched the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team take on North Dakota in the first round of the nationals that will lead eventually to the Frozen Four. Yes, I know that ice hockey ain’t a big college sport, unless you live in New England, parts of the Mid-West and the Rockies. But it is supreme where I live.

Although the UNH Wildcats were the underdog to a superior Sioux team, they managed to win in OT 6-5. It was a wild game with the Wildcats managing to tie it up with 00:1 seconds remaining in the third. (Yes, you read that right. Remember that in hockey unlike basketball or football, the projectile must be across the goal line before time runs out and not just on the way.) The goal was scored by Thomas Fortney. In OT, it was Josh LaBlanc’s goal at 45 seconds that sent UNH to the next round and the Sioux headed home to their flood ravaged state. The Wildcats will play the top-rated Boston University Terriers on today to see which team goes to the Frozen Four.

BU should beat New Hampshire easily. Great goaltending on both ends of the ice will highlight this game and send one of these teams into the next round. By the way, I said BU should beat UNH easily. But the game is hockey is a slippery slope and anything can happen at this level. Is there an upset here? There’s certainly the potential for one.



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