Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: A Ticket to the Dance

I'm finally back from Vegas, fatter and poorer for my efforts.  The Pac-12 has the perfect setup at the MGM Grand, and I hope all parties involved do the right thing and keep the tournament in place for the foreseeable future.  It's a great venue for both the league and the teams, and it makes for an easily justifiable trip for the fans. If you haven't been either of the past two years, I highly suggest you start making plans for next March. You won't be sorry, I promise.


Today in the bag, I'm going to mostly talk NFL free agency... LOL, of course I'm not.  It's March, so I'm talking basketball and brackets, like a true, red-blooded American should.


Click below for the bag...

UCLA beats Arizona - 

For a second there, I was worried.  Games in Vegas across the first 10 games of the Pac-12 tournament had been decidedly one-sided, with with only two truly competitive matches played over the first three days.  It was not a very exciting display from the league that we all love, and I was on the verge of leaving town with a negative view of the proceedings.

Then... Arizona met UCLA for the title, and all was well.
What a game, what a win for UCLA.
For 40 minutes, the two titans of the West threw haymaker after haymaker at each other, putting on a show that was finally worthy of the City of Sin.  The effusive Bruins proved more than capable of taking on Arizona and their 'Giant Death Robot' defense, beating the 'Cats on their terms.  No other team in the Pac-12 could've done what UCLA did, as mid-range jumpers rained down on the best defense in the land. When it mattered most, the bucket getters got buckets, and a team that had failed to win the confidence of their fanbase emerged as champions.  UCLA 75 - Arizona 71.

I can't say enough of the quality of the basketball on display.  These were clearly the two best teams around, and the separation between them and the other 10 in town had been distinctly apparent from the opening tip on Wednesday.  You had players like Nick Johnson going toe-to-toe Kyle Anderson, and coaches Sean Miller and Steve Alford pulling out all the stops. It was awesome.

In the end, the stars shone bright.  Anderson dropped a ridiculous 21/15/5. Johnson, his own 22/5/2/3. But the best player down the stretch was an old favorite, who had set a winning tone for the Bruins last year in Vegas.  It was Jordan Adams, somewhat marginalized this season by the ascension of teammates Anderson, Zach LaVine and Normal Powell, who grabbed the stage.  He knocked down huge shots in the second half, including the game-sealing three with less than a minute to go. He would've single-handedly won the title for his team last season had a freak injury not occurred on the final shot against the 'Cats in 2013.  This year, it was redemption, and it was glorious.
Adams was clutch, as always.
I won't lie and say it wasn't a little satisfying to see Arizona humbled to the tune of 75 points in 69 possessions, but my joy in the Pac-12 final was seeing the league put on an appropriate pedestal.  With the country watching, the Conference of Champions put their best foot forward, and I couldn't have been happier to keep my ticket to watch it.

Buffs get Pittsburgh - 

This year, there was little suspense.  Not only did CU know they were all but assured of hearing their name called on Selection Sunday, but the name 'Colorado' came up on the screen so quickly that paranoia and anxiety never had a chance to take hold.  Mere seconds after the brackets had started to be announced, and shortly aver overall #1 Florida was placed in the South region, there popped up the familiar Ralphie logo. Boom!  CU/Pittsburgh, 11:40am MT on Thursday in Orlando.  The waiting game was over before it even began.

It's funny, after all the consternation over the injury factors, CU was seeded according to their complete resume.  In my eye, they had a classic 8/9 profile, and they were awarded the chalk-line 8, the loss of 'Peter' Dinwiddie be damned.  There's not more the team could've asked for.  
A short wait for a happy bunch.  From: the BDC
Of course, now the reality of the situation sets in.  CU not only was placed in the same pod as the overall # 1 Gators, but they were matched with a very tough Pittsburgh Panthers team in far away Orlando, FL.  It's going to be tough (Nate Silver and give CU a 28% chance to advance past the Panthers), but that's why this is March.

Regardless of the outcome Thursday, the simple fact is this has been a fantastic season for Colorado basketball.  2014 marks not only the third straight year in the Dance, but the third straight year of seeding progression, going from an 11 in 2012, to a 10 in 2013, and now an 8.  The perception and performance of the program is going nowhere but up, irrespective of bumps along the way.

The point is, the Buffs are playing with house money - they've already accomplished more than I was expecting.  After January, they weren't supposed to be here, certainly not wearing their home whites on a neutral floor emblazoned with the NCAA logo.  Whatever they make of this opportunity will be fine by me.

What does America understand?  Brackets - 

After four short months, we have arrived at the conclusion.  Unlike other sports, that like to linger and draw out their drama, college basketball hits hard, fast, and gets out of the way.  For many sports fans, this will be the only portion of the season they will even watch, leaving the greatest sport on Earth a mere blip on their radar.  But, even with the abbreviated stay on the national consciousness, you can't say that collegiate hoops doesn't make a dent in the sporting landscape.  Millions will be 'lost' to distracted employee performance, and forests of trees will lay down their lives for printed brackets destined only to be crumpled and tossed. This is the Madness, and it cuts to our soul.

There is something inherently perfect about the blank canvas of the bracket.  Far more inclusive than the abbreviated malaise of a professional playoff, and indescribably superior to whatever it is that college football will be doing this year, the beauty of a single-elimination tournament played over the course of three successive weekends is clear.  You win one, you play on the weekend.  You win again, we'll see you in a week.  Keep winning, in true capitalistic fashion, and you get all the spoils.  The event is comprehensively, brutally simple.

The only other tournament in the world that can hold a candle is the FA Cup in England, which throws myriad soccer teams - from your basic 'beer-league' outfits to the professional titans of Europe - into the same tiered tree.  There, however, the full competition takes a year, and is interspersed by both the regular season and competing cup ties.  With the Tournament, though only 68 are given a chance, the results are definitive and immediate, and the big guys aren't the beneficiaries of elitist byes.

It's not perfect.  SMU and Utah, ostensibly two of the top-38-or-so teams in the country, should be included.  That doesn't mean, however, that the end result is any less true.  Whichever team is spit out of the filter in three weeks will be a deserving champion, simply based on what they've accomplished.

Get ready, the Madness starts tonight.

Happy Tuesday!


Aaron Jordan said...

Why do they select 68 teams and not just a solid 64?

Are they really not confident the best team in the nation would be left out of the 64 selected?

RumblinBuff said...

Money. More games and four extra 'name' schools means more sponsorship dollars.

Aaron Jordan said...

That's lame.

Whats to stop them from expanding to 128 teams then?

RumblinBuff said...

Essentially nothing