Yes! The first two days of the NCAA Tournament!
Along with baseball opening day, the Indianapolis 500, and a few other events, there’s nothing on the annual sports calendar I anticipate more.
Upsets! Cinderella stories! Teams you’ve never heard of rising to the occasion!
Massive bracket fail! Well, that’s part of my tradition.
So what goodies did we get this year?
Cleveland State over Wake Forest? Check. Siena’s double overtime win over Ohio State late Friday? Yeah, it kept me riveted into the wee hours of Saturday.
Uh, a pair of middling power conference teams (Oklahoma State, Wisconsin) with buzzer-beater wins over two other middling power conference teams (Tennessee, Florida State) on Friday?
And? Bring the Madness!
Umm, Bill Raftery said “onions!” a few times?
The first two days of the tournament were an unmitigated snooze-fest. Yeah there were some close games, but nothing happened that approached compelling March’s of recent years. Very little came close.
Usually, the first two days of the tournament are like the device from Men In Black … the games magically rid me of the contempt I reserve for the NCAA Tournament committee for whatever injustices I perceive that perpetrated, usually against mid-major schools. Not this year.
As recently as a week ago, I was not a fan of going beyond the current 65-team NCAA Tournament field. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, blah, blah, blah.
Well, it’s broke. It’s time to expand the field. Bring on 128 teams. Take the NCAA Tournament back to the level we all love because the NCAA has screwed up a good thing by cowtowing to the power conferences.
This season was the breaking point for me. I always had faith in the non-subjective data the committee has used — RPI, end-of-season success, success vs. tournament teams, etc. Until recently, the committee created a balanced field, even if I might have had a beef or two about an individual team that did or didn’t make it.
The 2006 Tournament, the mid-major high-water mark, when George Mason made the Final Four and when the Missouri Valley Conference got four bids, is the turning point. Since then, it seems the committee has moved the chess pieces around to suit the ends of the bigger schools.
RPI? Ask Barry Hinson or Tim Jankovich how much the NCAA cares.
Body of work? It depends on which body has more power conference bling.
Creighton beat at-large Dayton in December, won 11 of 12 to end the season and had a RPI in the low 40s. The NCAA committee let out a collective “meh.” Body of … whuh?
Arizona lost five of six to end the season, had a RPI in the 60s, yet, their win over at-large Kansas in December had the committee’s tongue wagging and they got their ticket punched. Body of work!
The committee doesn’t appear to care that power conferences can control their body of work through advantageous scheduling, while mid-majors can’t. It rises to the level of the golden rule … he who has the gold rules.
At least the committee didn’t do its recent trick of pairing mid-majors against each other, either via first or second-round matchups. Easy not to do when there aren’t enough mid-majors to pull it off.
When the non-power conference at-large bids go from 12 in 2004 to four in 2009, that’s not some cyclical “thing” that’s going to correct itself, it’s a trend. When TV money is allocated based on how many bids each conference receives (see, “He who has the gold …”), it’s a trend that makes the rich richer and makes suspicious souls like me angrier.
Putting aside the notion that the tournament it its current form has the best 65 teams in the NCAA — it’s not, it never has been, and likely never will be — I still find it hard to fathom that after 24 years, the NCAA hasn’t figured out that the romance of the 65-team tournament is not so much attached to its best teams, but to its best stories.
A significant percentage of what’s made the tournament a phenomenon is from contributions of smaller schools or what small-school athletes have done. It started with Indiana State in 1979 and several other mid-majors have been blessed since to be that team that captured everyone’s imagination.
With 128 teams, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get those stories. Everyone’s happy … the power conferences can’t get much more of a share than what they already have, but they’ll be joined by much of their mid-major brethren. It would be a true NCAA Tournament, one that has better representation of all 30 of its leagues, not just the few at the top.
The NCAA could pretty easily legislate it to make it compelling and not water it down too much. No under-.500 teams unless they win their conference tournaments. All regular-season champions that didn’t win their conference tournaments would get automatic bids, which would add weight to the regular season. Teams could be seeded regionally in the opening rounds and re-seeded later … anything’s possible.
Anything’s better than the power conference snooze-fest fed to us on Thursday and Friday.
• Spare a thought for David Hughes — Tribune-Star sportswriter David Hughes is currently in the hospital and is dealing with an illness that has had him hospitalized for over a week. Any thoughts and prayers for him would be appreciated.
Hughes, a lifetime Hautean, justifiably has many friends in Terre Haute and beyond. Some he knew before he joined the paper, some he’s made since. His friends here at the Tribune-Star wish him the best of luck along with a speedy, pain-free recovery.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please check out Golden’s blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.
Yes! The first two days of the NCAA Tournament!
- From the Press Box
Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best
It’s hard to run with Secretariat. Secretariat, for the uninitiated, won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1973 and famously stormed to victory in the Belmont Stakes by an unfathomable 31 lengths. Secretariat is widely considered to be the greatest thoroughbred of all time, and his Belmont performance is one of sports’ all-time greatest moments. In Missouri Valley Conference terms, Wichita State is Secretariat.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Odum rises to WSU challenge
When you’re getting ready to play the No. 2 team in the country — the undefeated No. 2 team in the country and the best Missouri Valley Conference team in a generation — the unwritten rule says you’re not supposed to rile them. That you’re not supposed to poke the hornet’s nest.
From The Press Box: The nuts and bolts of compiling a Mock Selection for the NCAA Tournament
Before March Madness comes the March mystery of the run-up to Selection Sunday.
From the Press Box: Loss couldn’t ruin great day for ISU, Terre Haute
When I write, and when I can, I like to give myself a bit of time to soak in what I’m going to write about. After Indiana State’s 65-58 loss to No. 4 Wichita State on Wednesday, I went home, had a bite to eat and pondered what I thought the night was all about.
I knew ISU’s disappointment cut deep. Really deep. A cruel reality of sports is that losses linger on in the memory with greater resonance than wins often do. Given the shots that rattled out, fell short and missed the mark in the final five minutes, this is a defeat that will, sadly, dog the Sycamores tonight, tomorrow and 20 years from now.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Little to lose, a lot to gain for Indiana State
It’s hard not to get excited about today’s Missouri Valley Conference summit meeting between co-leaders Indiana State and Wichita State. Who wouldn’t be?
From the Press Box: I’ve seen the enemy … and it’s the double bonus
I’ve seen the enemy.
I’ve seen it turn the game of basketball from one of exciting flow into a nonstop parade of tedium. I’ve seen it morph hundreds of what would-be thrilling, last-minute, end-to-end conclusions into foul shooting exhibitions that suck the life out of a gym or arena near you.
It’s the double bonus. It’s a scourge, one that is often overlooked when ideas on how to make the game more entertaining or to speed the game up are put forth.
From The Press Box: If ISU figures out defense, look out
The Great Alaska Shootout is not going to provide the Great RPI Bump that Indiana State’s participation in last year’s Diamond Head Classic provided.
From the Press Box: Damage is done for ISU football
As a parent and a professional, there’s a bit of advice I’ve tried to pass along that I’ve found to be true.
No matter what you happen to be doing — whether it be job performance or just your own personal behavior — you can do the right thing for a period of time, even the vast majority of the time, but all it takes is one slip and the goodwill you’ve built up can be gone in one fell swoop.
TODD GOLDEN: Munn, Odum want to make paper accomplishment a real one
When it comes to Missouri Valley Conference Media Day, it has historically been a kick in the gut for Indiana State's basketball teams.
But not this year. For the first time since formal MVC preseason polls began in the mid-1980s, the Sycamores rule the MVC roost.
TODD GOLDEN: Colts fans paid Manning ultimate tribute
Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis was many things — the return of a beloved prodigal son, a battle of Colts’ No. 1-draft-pick quarterbacks and last, but not least, the visit from one of the AFC’s last reminaing undefeated teams — but most of all, it could have been a battle for the Colts’ fans soul.
From The Press Box: ISU in top 2 of top-heavy MVC
Change doesn’t often come to Missouri Valley Conference basketball. Until this season, it had endured with the same 10 members since the mid-1990s. But the reality of conference realignment finally hit the MVC where it lived last spring as Creighton departed for the new Big East Conference. The MVC responded by adding Loyola University.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Sycamores shocked by 1-5 start to season
It was a play that not only symbolized Indiana State’s 17-14 loss at South Dakota on Saturday, but perhaps the Sycamores’ entire season.
Down three with 6:39 left in the fourth quarter, ISU faced third-and-9 from its own 39. ISU ran Shakir Bell to the left and the senior standout had daylight.
From The Press Box: An avoidable loss
It couldn’t last forever.
From The Press Box: Colts dodge bullets ... it's what they do
Just a few minutes into the second quarter, it seemed Colts fans could kick back and enjoy a Sunday on Easy Street.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Indiana State proves plenty in 20-14 loss at Purdue
No moral victories?
Bull. Its always been bull and it will always be bull. The Sycamores proved again that moral victories are very real, and can be very rewarding.
All they needed to do to prove it was to look at the stunned faces of the Purdue faithful at Ross-Ade Stadium in the Sycamores’ near-miss 20-14 loss to Purdue.
From the Press Box: Stipends? No. Off-field income? Oh yeah, bring it on
The war flags have been raised. The trumpets have sounded.
With the Johnny Manziel autograph hullabaloo and the ongoing Ed O’Bannon suit against the NCAA for using his likeness as background, many have rallied to the battle standard of stipends as a means of compensating NCAA athletes who are allegedly being exploited for income by their universities.
This rally cry has a particular resonance among those in my profession, many of whom dislike the current system, and who detest the NCAA with a virulent passion.
TODD GOLDEN: Golf ... the beast within?
Like many sports fans, my interest in professional golf is confined to the four major tournaments. Many prefer the Masters, some like the back-to-roots British Open, but I’ve always liked the U.S. Open the best.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Close, but no cigar, theme for ISU sports in 2012-13
When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
Maybe the prospect of ISU’s season had me so pumped that I decided to get it started close to three hours early? (Or more truthfully, maybe I was over-vigilent about predicted traffic horrors on the Indiana 46 bypass that never came to pass.)
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Content McKenna has enjoyed seeing ISU's progress
It all happened so fast in June 2010.
One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
MVC can't wait on Crieghton to move forward
Will they go or not? That’s been the question that the Missouri Valley Conference and Creighton have been faced with since rumors of the Bluejays’ potential exit went public in December.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Can Sycamores reverse fortunes heading into MVC Tournament?
Mastery of a basketball season comes in many forms. Mostly, it comes in forms that involve avoidance of turnovers, anemic scoring and poor defense.
The mechanics of X-and-O success in basketball are obvious, but what’s often overlooked in building a successful campaign is managing the rhythm of the season, which is the hardest thing of all.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Accountability isn't Lansing's alone in ISU's recent struggles
Taking ownership has always been one of Indiana State men’s basketball coach Greg Lansing’s strengths.
When ISU has lost games in his three seasons at the helm that it was expected to win, Lansing has always been willing to fall on the sword and take blame for it.
TODD GOLDEN: Indiana State has far more occasions to rise to
Rejoice, Indiana State basketball fans. The Sycamores’ 68-55 victory at No. 15 Wichita State on Tuesday is worthy of celebration.
TODD GOLDEN: Big plays in last 10 minutes story of the season for Indiana State
You’d think I’d have learned by now.
It’s 20 games into Indiana State’s men’s basketball season and I still expect the Sycamores’ offense operate like a well-oiled machine from the opening tip.
Sycamores blossom on Hawaii trip
Quick quiz … what’s the state flower of Hawaii?
Don’t worry. I can’t just rattle state flowers off the top of my head. I had to look it up too, even though I’ve seen them all over the place in Honolulu.
I didn’t even know that Indiana’s state flower is the peony, which replaced the apparently unloved zinnia in the 1950s.
Hawaii’s flower, and they’re ubiquitous in Waikiki tourist shops and in actual flora on Oahu, is the yellow hibiscus.
The yellow hibiscus is big, bold and bright. I’ve never seen one blossom, but I imagine it has to be a beautiful sight.
What I have seen blossom — and it’s the only reason flowers would be brought up in my column — is the Indiana State basketball team at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU needs to have its realignment head on a swivel
Have you ever driven past a cow pasture during a severe thunderstorm? If it’s really bad, the cows will congregate in a herd to protect themselves from the tumult.
TODD GOLDEN: ISU AD Prettyman keeps it close to the vest
Do you want to know who’s on the short list to become Indiana State's next football coach?
TODD GOLDEN: Trent Miles leaves Sycamores with giant legacy
To glean perspective on Trent Miles’ time as Indiana State’s football coach, I went back into the Tribune-Star’s archives to remind myself of what the football program was like when Miles arrived to rebuild it.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Scoreboard watching and the threat matrix for ISU
Indiana State football coach Trent Miles reaffirmed his belief Tuesday that a victory over Youngstown State on Saturday will propel the Sycamores into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the first time since 1984.
- More From the Press Box Headlines
- Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best