Mad March-ness

It's all relative in the crazy world of the NCAA tournament.

 

Kind of like the one that Bucknell exists in. A school from the Patriot league who upset Holy Cross in the league's tourney title game. Did you realize that Kyle Cruze, a former Bearden star, was a true freshman on that Holy Cross club? Bucknell, from a conference that didn't offer scholarships in the 1990s, faced Kansas, whose last man on the bench was twice as highly recruited as anyone on the Bison's roster. How do you possibly explain Bucknell's victory? Madness. Bucknell was eliminated in the round of 32, but they were just happy to get to there. Relativism.

Sort of like UT's flirtation with General Bobby Knight. When someone connected with Adidas first told me that UT and Knight had a mutual curiosity in perhaps linking up, it sounded paranormal. Bobby Knight in East Tennessee. What's next, George Carlin as school president? Then it got a little more serious, even to the point where Knight had a list of demands. The General wanted to invade East Tennessee with his own army. Knight wanted to bring his entire support staff, trainers, sports information people, secretaries, et al. We're talking 10 people. Plus, he wanted some kind of guarantee from UT that his son Pat Knight would succeed him as head coach. UT said no thanks. East Tennessee and salty Bobby Knight who uses the F-word as a pronoun: now that's madness.

There is a sweet relativism to March Madness. To whom much is given, much is expected. See Duke, Kansas and Geno's UConn Huskies for more. Then there is Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Bucknell. Never were they so glad to get wasted in the second and third round, respectively.

Besides, what other sport besides college basketball can have a star by the name of Pittsnogle? The forward from West Virginia is easily one of the ugliest guys ever to play the game. He's ugly, and he wants it that way, which is March Madness encapsulated.

Pittsnogle's lack of beauty and that of the Mountaineers was offset by the fact that they play beautiful basketball. Cinderella West Virginia advanced farther than any team in that school's history, the Final Eight. The dream ended versus Louisville as the Cards came from 20 points back to send the Mounties back to Morgantown, where over 10,000 people stormed the airport to greet them. Now that's sweet relativism.

March Madness also provides us with sweet storylines. Pat Summitt coaching against one of her all-time favorite players in Kellie Harper, who led upstart Western Carolina into the tourney by way of an upset in her conference tournament.

But Summitt didn't take it easy on her former pupil. Surely Harper wouldn't want it any other way. For the Lady Catamounts there was joy in just being there: sweet relativism. 

The Lady Vols meet Michigan State in the Final Four. Sounds innocent enough. Wait a minute: That guy over there on the sidelines looks like Al Brown. Brown was a catalyst on a Lady Vol coaching staff in the mid-1990s that claimed three straight NCAA Tourney Titles. Remember those days? "The Three Meeks." A slogan brainchild of former UT marketing ace Ron Gotch. Not even Ron could conjure this irony, as joining Brown on Michigan State's bench was none other than former Lady Vol great Semeka Randall. The fact that they are two key cogs in Michigan State's first-ever trip to the Final Four should not go unmentioned.

The irony of March: Did you realize that Bruce Pearl, who led Wisconsin-Milwaukee to this year's Sweet 16, once won an NCAA Tourney title in Division II while at Southern Indiana with a team that included a former UT star? Remember Cortez Barnes? He had a major hand in Pearl's success that season. Small world.

Kind of like the one that Bucknell exists in. A school from the Patriot league who upset Holy Cross in the league's tourney title game. Did you realize that Kyle Cruze, a former Bearden star, was a true freshman on that Holy Cross club? Bucknell, from a conference that didn't offer scholarships in the 1990s, faced Kansas, whose last man on the bench was twice as highly recruited as anyone on the Bison's roster. How do you possibly explain Bucknell's victory? Madness. Bucknell was eliminated in the round of 32, but they were just happy to get to there. Relativism.

Sort of like UT's flirtation with General Bobby Knight. When someone connected with Adidas first told me that UT and Knight had a mutual curiosity in perhaps linking up, it sounded paranormal. Bobby Knight in East Tennessee. What's next, George Carlin as school president? Then it got a little more serious, even to the point where Knight had a list of demands. The General wanted to invade East Tennessee with his own army. Knight wanted to bring his entire support staff, trainers, sports information people, secretaries, et al. We're talking 10 people. Plus, he wanted some kind of guarantee from UT that his son Pat Knight would succeed him as head coach. UT said no thanks. East Tennessee and salty Bobby Knight who uses the F-word as a pronoun: now that's madness.

It was maddening seeing Coach K's silly commercials ad nauseum. Please. What a recruiting advantage his silly American Express commercial is. "My life isn't about playing games. That's why my card is American Express." Well coach, judging by your performance in the Final Eight with what many thought was the best team in the tourney, you might ought to start worrying about playing games again. Duke gets to the Final Eight and their season is viewed as a failure. Sweet relativism!

Now that it's over, it's back to scandal, innuendo, drugs, steroids, contract squabbles, back-biting, neck stabbing, labor strife, strikes. Just as April showers bring May flowers, March Madness leads to April sadness. At least football season is right around the corner.

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