March Madness: We're All In — Or Not

Courtesy NCAA.

March Madness is upon us. Are you mad yet?

We used to be.

Remember that Georgetown University Team — led by Patrick Ewing and coached by John Thompson — that won the NCAA title with a big win over Houston in 1984?

Better yet, remember the other two title games the Hoyas lost in a heartbreak — against Michael Jordan-led North Carolina and against Villanova, when they were heavily favored? Those Hoyas had three NCAA final visits in four seasons.

Sadly, under Thompson’s son, the Hoyas had their second losing season in a row, an unprecedented exercise in futility that has whispers starting up about his job stability.

But these are different days in college basketball. The Hoyas, you might remember, won seven Big East Conference titles, often in big battles with traditional rivals like St. John’s and Syracuse, some of them in Madison Square Garden.

Remember when Gary Williams coached the Maryland Terrapins to two Final Fours, including a championship win over Indiana in 2002 as a member of the fabled ACC Conference, which included perennial powerhouses like North Carolina and Duke?

College basketball is a different sort of game now, and so is the tournament. Conferences have changed, merging or splitting up. Conferences like the Big Ten, the Big East and the ACC are barely recognizable.

Maryland plays in the Big Ten, and the men’s team is going to the tournament, as is the much more successful women’s team, which has one NCAA title under Brenda Frese. With a 30-2 record this year, the women’s team is seeded third in the same regional as the unbelievable Connecticut women’s team, which has won 107 straight games. It’s hard to remember when Connecticut lost last (it was in 2014, against Stanford in overtime, 88-86). That makes it tough for the Lady Terrapins.

Upsets are always features of the tournament landscape, of course. Remember George Mason’s spectacular and wholly improbable tournament run into the finals in 2006 before losing to Florida? But last year’s final involved North Carolina and Villanova, perennial basketball powers, with Villanova winning by a hair, 77-74. Both teams are back in the tournament, with number-one seeds to boot, along with Gonzaga and Kansas.

Gonzaga used to be a mid-major outsider; now it’s a top-ranked insider.

In any case, by this time you should have filled out your bracket. And for those of you who had Princeton over Notre Dame, well…

Close still doesn’t count, but it’s sure exciting. Notre Dame 60, Princeton 58.

One prediction: Maryland 66, Xavier 64, with a shot from Melo Tremble.

And go, you Cavaliers.

All in with Gonzaga. Or not.

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Mon, 24 Apr 2017 11:09:49 -0400

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