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Musings on the early ‘Madness’

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Yesterday in this column Mary Green wrote that it was easy to get caught up in March Madness, yet proceeded instead to write about baseball in Australia.

I’d like to apologize, because I do not possess the “intestinal fortitude” ¾ the most overused phrase of sideline reporters this weekend ¾ of Mary Green. I am bedridden with March Madness fever, so without further ado, here’s what I’ll take from the first weekend of Madness.

College basketball has more parity than ever, but upsets still don’t make any sense.

Considering my bracket looks like a treasure map with the amount of “X’s” I have through it right now, I’m joining in the rest of America in wondering how in the (insert whatever word you used this weekend here) Duke lost to Mercer, VCU lost to Stephen F. Austin on a four-point play, Mercer beat Duke, Mercer beat Duke and ¾ oh, that’s right ¾ Mercer beat the Duke Blue Devils, led by Mike Krzyzewski, a $15.1 million basketball budget and two surefire lottery picks in Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker.

I have no idea why this happens, although Charles Barkley tells me it’s because of terrible team basketball.

It wasn’t as if Mercer was the only team that challenged the college basketball Goliaths, either. Albany, of the hideous purple and yellow uniforms ¾ look them up, but hopefully at a time when you wouldn’t mind going blind ¾ played Florida to a 12-point game. Eastern Kentucky, a team that lost to Youngstown State, led Kansas until the seven-minute mark of the second half. That Kansas team, highlighted by consensus top-three pick Andrew Wiggins, turned around 40 hours later and got railroaded by an average Stanford team. Granted, the Jayhawks had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but the Cardinal clearly outplayed them for the entire game.

The McDermott embrace was my favorite moment of the weekend.

Odds are you turned this game off once Baylor center Isaiah Austin showed up to the gym as the second coming of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but if you didn’t, you saw a great moment. With about 3 minutes left and Creighton down around a trillion, Creighton coach Greg McDermott subbed out his son Doug, the fifth all-time leading scorer in Division I history, for the final time. Both, especially Doug, were emotional, and I don’t blame them. Everyone dreams of having his dad coach him, and not the dad who’s screaming at the referee and yelling at his kid, but the one who chest bumps him after a complete-game shutout. As someone whose dad coached him in Little League and in the last two years of high school, I know exactly how that feels. It’s one of the most bittersweet feelings ever, with flashbacks to playing in the backyard, to t-ball, to your first homerun, or, in the McDermotts’ case, Doug scoring a gazillion points every time he stepped on the floor.

Kyle Anderson is the most fun player to watch in college basketball.

Kyle Anderson is my type of player. His nickname is Slo-Mo, and for good reason, but he captures your attention the entire game, and not just because he’s 6’9” playing point guard. No, it’s because, despite his molasses-quick first step, the guy does whatever he wants on the court. He’ll post up; he’ll take his man into the lane at will; he can get into passing lanes; he passes like Magic Johnson, and he somehow plays serviceable defense. He does everything. And then he defies the laws of athleticism by waltzing into the paint and dunking over someone.

Marquee players can’t lead a team to a championship anymore.

This is probably the answer to my first observation, but I’m too scared to put the two together. One of the reasons March Madness used to be great was there was always one team with an absurdly talented player who you thought might be able to lead their team on a deep run into the tournament. Just in the first weekend, though, Jabari Parker, Doug McDermott, Marcus Smart, Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Ennis and Aaron Craft have all been eliminated. All except Smart were eliminated by lower-seeded teams. I hope the Kemba Walker-led UConn team of 2011 isn’t the exception these days, but it seems to be. The likely formula for a championship now is probably in the mold of this year’s Florida or Arizona team. Or it could be Kentucky, which has five of those absurdly talented players.

Chris Webber needs to be removed from TV screens everywhere.

I don’t even want to write about this abomination of a commercial. Go call a nonexistent timeout somewhere, Chris. As Lou Holtz once said, “If you’ve seen it, no explanation is necessary. If you haven’t, none is adequate.”

Or something like that.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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