Monday, March 26, 2007

A tournament full of losers

Florida, UCLA, Georgetown and Ohio State.

These are the survivors of this years madness that is the NCAA tournament. I say survivors because in all honesty that's what it comes down to. You don't have to win. You just have to not lose.

There is a difference.

Most of the teams that advanced to this week's Final Four did so by simply not losing their games. But just look at the teams that didn't make it, and you'll understand my point. Here's just two examples.

North Carolina -
The Tar Heels held an 11-point lead over the Hoyas in the second half, and decided that they had it won. They took the rest of the night off. Seriously. They made two field goal - two! - in the final seven minutes of regulation and overtime. With all due respect to Georgetown, UNC just flat out lost this game.

Kansas -
I love my Jayhawks. I picked them to win it all. But I've never seen a team lose it like KU did against UCLA. Missed lay ups. Fumbled passes. Blown dunks. Was I watching a JV game? It sure seemed like it. UCLA did play a solid game, but Kansas didn't come close to providing a challenge once the Bruins made a second-half surge. UCLA didn't win that game. Kansas lost it.

Similar things can be said for Texas, because even though USC played one of their best games of the season, the Longhorns not named Durant didn't show up. Losers. Hell, one round later, USC blew a 16 point lead to UNC. Foul trouble and sloppy basketball contributed to USC losing.

Xaiver had beaten Ohio State. They were up by three and Ohio State had only a prayer of a chance to force overtime. Foul a Buckeye, they shoot two free throws and Xaiver advances to play Tennessee in the Elite Eight. Instead Xaiver doesn't foul, Ohio State gets a buzzer-beating three pointer. Buckeyes advance, Xaiver lost it.

The one team that got to the Final Four without the help of another team just flat out losing is Florida. I know they've had close calls, and as a 1-seed they should be winning these games, but their opponents have all played them tight. Their opponents haven't purely folded like a cheap plastic chair you set out for a PTA meeting in the school cafeteria. There hasn't been amazing wins so much as there have been catastrophic loses. The loses are defining this tournament.

So congratulations to the final four participants of the tourney. Florida, UCLA, Georgetown and Ohio State. Perhaps this weekend it won't be a court full of losers.

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