Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Shinning Moment For Mid Majors and Higher Seeds

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The Sweet Sixteen is primarily the home of the Power Conferences in previous years.  In most seasons the Sweet Sixteen offers an average of one and a half Mid Major schools in the field of 16.  But this year the parity that many analyst have been touting and debating is beginning to surface as five Mid Majors, #5 Butler, #12 Cornell, #9 Northern Iowa, #10 St Mary's and #6 Xavier enter week two participating in the Sweet Sixteen.  In all the group of 16 represents a total of 11 conferences, seedings of one each 9-12, two 5 and 6 seeds, one 3 and 4 to go with the three 1's and 2's.

The tournament is set up for a potential Cinderella finish for someone.  While #1 Duke has the appearance of a favorable portion of the bracket, #4 Purdue, #3 Baylor and #10 St. Mary's each bring elements to eventual and potential meetings that could challenge Duke Final Four march.  The real intrigue matchup is  in the East Region where #1 Kentucky will compete against the best three-point shooting team in the country, #12 Cornell, who has literally destroyed each of it's higher ranked opponents, #5 Temple and #4 Wisconsin.  If Kentucky somehow is relegated to a half court game, this could be the next huge upset of the NCAA Tournament.  #2 West Virginia should stop the surprising run of #11 Washington, but the PAC 10 was down and nobody expected any noise from the teams in this conference, but that's why you play the games.  The favorable predictions would land #1 vs #2, UK against WVA, but an unprecedented #11 versus #12 is not out of the realm of possibilities, if Washington and Cornell believe in miracles or dreams.  

Most would believe that #1 Syracuse has too many weapons for #5 Butler, however Butler is battle tested and has become comfortable in postseason so the Orangemen will need to bring their "A" game to assure a show down with #2 Kansas State, which has to get by Mid-Major powerhouse, Xavier, another battle tested program that seems to punch their ticket every year as a team ready to audition for the "One Shinning Moment".  #5 Michigan State is the only team returning from last year's final four, but as if the injury to Kalin Lucas was not enough, the Spartans will have to enter this game without its' floor leader and against the team, #9 Northern Iowa, that derailed the championship plans of the top number one program, Kansas, on Sunday afternoon.  If N. Iowa can refocus its energy and emotions they may be in the best position to advance to the Elite Eight with a chance to meet the winner of the #2 Ohio State versus #6 Tennessee.  This game could be the most physical of the eight games played in the "Sweet Sixteen".

The debate has begun, is parity good for the sport or is it a problem to have early post season upsets remove higher seeds from the tournament.  The question is how good is it for the sport to have "David and Goliath" reenacted on the basketball court, Cinderella stepping deeper into the dance, the Nerd standing up against the Bully and improbable Dreams coming True.  This year's NCAA Basketball Tournament is a tribute to all hard working Americans, having the chance to make the impossible, possible and the unthinkable a reality.  Better known as "The American Dream", it is what movies such as "Hoosiers" is all about, making heros of the unknowns and champions of the underdog.  For "One Shinning Moment" you just have to be the best team for a game not the entire season.

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