Today is "Selection Sunday," when the field for the NCAA basketball championships will be announced, and everybody will start filling out their office-pool bracket sheets. I'm going to be in the weird position of watching the tournament without a rooting interest, as both my teams stink, and won't be in the field.
But I can rant negatively about that later-- the important thing now is that this weekend is when the conference championships for a number of leagues are decided, so positive stories about basketball abound. So let's talk about them for a few minutes.
Really, there's no better story this weekend than the University of Georgia in the SEC tournament. Friday night, during a game between Alabama and Mississippi State, a tornado swept through Atlanta and damaged the roof of the Georgia Dome. Safety concerns led to the cancellation of the game between Georgia and Kentucky that was scheduled for later that night.
Needing to crown a champion (which comes with an automatic bid to the NCAA) by this afternoon, the geniuses at the SEC decreed that the Georgia and Kentucky game would be played at noon, with the winner to play Mississippi State later that night. This was a raw deal for either team, but especially for Georgia, whose only hope of making the NCAA's is to win the SEC tournament-- now, they would need to win three games in two days.
Well, they're 67% of the way there, after winning both of their games yesterday. They'll play Arkansas for the league title this afternoon (the Razorbacks upset Tennessee earlier in the day), and I hope they win.
Elsewhere in college basketball, Pittsburgh beat Georgetown for the Big East Title, in a game that the New York Times valiantly strains to find a New York connection for. Memo to the Times: You're not the Daily News. It's ok for you to write about things that don't directly involve the New York metropolitan area.
As for the game itself, Pitt beat Georgetown in a display of old-school Big East thug-ball. I only watched a few minutes of it-- Kate and I went out for a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, to celebrate the positive news about FutureBaby, and there was no reason to ruin a lovely evening with ugly basketball. I do like it when the Hoyas lose, though.
Speaking of teams I like to see lose, Duke lost to Clemson in the ACC semifinals, a result that was sweet for so very many reasons: 1) Duke lost, 2) it breaks up the Duke-UNC rematch that ESPN has been hyping all week, 3) It probably ends talk of a #1 seed for Duke, which was ridiculous because they're not that good, 4) Clemson gets to the title game for the first time since 1962, 5) Duke lost.
Clemson will play North Carolina for the third time this season (two heartbreaking overtime losses in the regular season), the Tar Heels having won their game over Virginia Tech on a classic Tyler Hansbrough play. With twenty-odd seconds remaining and the game tied, the idiot announcers were calling for UNC to post Hansbrough up for a last-second shot, which was a stupid idea. Instead, Carolina point guard Ty Lawson drove the lane, with Hansbrough hanging out by the foul line as a sort of decoy... and then running around everybody to get the rebound and hit the game-winner. Here's the play on YouTube:
Hansbrough's "hustle" and "intensity" may be the most overhyped qualities of any player in this tournament, but if you're a basketball fan, you have to like that play. His post-shot celebration may be the dorkiest celebration ever, but it's a great play.
And that's what's good in college hoops this morning. The bad and the ugly, I'll talk about later.
How can you talk about basketball and not mention 10th seed (in the Big-10 tournie) Illinois playing in the final? Of course, though, Wisconsin will clobber 'em.
How can you talk about basketball and not mention 10th seed (in the Big-10 tournie) Illinois playing in the final?
Because it's the Big Ten.
I tried to watch, really I did, but I kept getting distracted by the grass growing on my front lawn.
Selection is going to be interesting if some of those low seeds happen to play their way in.
The bad and the ugly would be Hansbrough shuffling his feet a few times on a rebound and not being called for traveling (the star factor in officiating)? The disappearance of "up and down" traveling calls when someone gets stuffed and does not lose the ball? Charging being called when both players are in the air, but never called when the defender has both feet set and the big man's butt moves him two feet. Several times? Ignoring "the hand is part of the ball"? Or my pet peeve, coaches actually on the court (and not just one foot on the line, which counts, but both feet entirely inside the area of play) while the game is being played? Put on a uniform or sit down.