ed. — Last year’s daily preview post is now a daily wrap-up post as we look back on what made each crazy day special during this most wonderful and unexplainable sports time of the year.
March Madness is wonderful because it provides a platform for a man like Ron Hunter to enter our sports consciousness. And the greater the platform, the greater the fall.
But this wasn’t just a fall to laugh at, it was a wonderous fall, a rare victorious fall, the kind of fall filled with life, a fall that at once told a story of its own and accented an even greater story with pitch perfect timing and all-in physical commitment. You would think that it was something Mel Brooks wrote for Harvey Korman or Keenan Ivory Wayans for Jim Carrey.
Nope, what wrote that perfect climax for the No. 14 seed Georgia State’s upset win over No. 3 Baylor was the NCAA Tournament’s ever-sophisticated self-preserved sense of entertainment, of high irony and front-of-stage dramatics.
Previously traits we all seemed to heave upon this recurring event, these things just seem to come effortlessly now, with no psychic urging on our collective part. Nowadays we can enter the first two days of the NCAA tournament as complete babes in the woods, almost rube-like, predicting all to be damned knowing that nothing we would foresee would play out in the way we imagine and we fall in love with the whole process even more. Give us more 14’s over 3s, there can’t be only four of those games, right?
That particular draw didn’t disappoint Thursday — another No. 3, Iowa St., flamed (excuse me, blazed) out quite a bit of brackets playing its part in another historical tournament opening day — and to be real about it none of the draws did.
Beyond by-the-numbers blowouts by No. 1s Villanova and Kentucky (sorry, Evan), Thursday gave us five 1-point games and another four games decided within four points. The state of Texas embarrassed itself with an 0-5 effort overall (though SMU got hosed) and made everyone who couldn’t take the week off to go to SXSW feel better about themselves.
(BTW, Texas’s five teams losing in one day only drives home harder the cruel reality of this tweet in regards to basketball in the state of Illinois)
But more than embarrassment and lame goal-tending calls, the first day of the NCAA tournament is a day full of affirmation, its a day when a man who’s rolling around on one leg can call out the President in his time of glory and actually stand temporarily on an equal plane respectfully with the commander-in-chief who like so many of the rest of us didn’t believe in him and his great-shooting son and the rest of their crew.
The decisions we make leading up to March Madness add weight to the tournament’s proceedings, but the tournament’s natural ability to make us let go and let live with those decisions is truly as magical as sports can get in 2015.
Who will make us fall off our stools today? Here’s a couple numbers to represent what we should look for on Day 2 of the Madness:
1 — The seed for the Wisconsin Badgers and the number of times Bucky has begun an NCAA tournament atop a region. Could they maybe have something to prove as new kids on the powerhouse block after Kentucky’s 23-point win and ‘Nova’s 41-pointer? Coastal Carolina awaits them (8:20 pm, TBS) in Omaha.
4 — Among the 50-plus Chicago-area products in the tournament (minus the several that were eliminated Thursday) is this number for Dayton, which as Jon Greenberg says here provides quite a few reasons to be adopted by the metropolis that provided it Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis.
The Flyers’ comeback performance (yes, on its home court) in their First Four game Wednesday may have been too much provided the team’s natural advantages over Boise State, but it was still another time where Dayton showed up and played just one year after making the Elite 8. They got a “hell if I know, do you?” draw with Providence today in nearby Columbus so we could see the Flyers revving up for another run that seems to be impossible for teams like Illinois, DePaul and Northwestern to provide us with.
5 — The number of Big Ten teams left in the tournament, making it the largest remaining target conference-wise. Thursday already saw the Big 12, who tied the B1G with a tournament-leading 7 bids, take a big fall — two of its teams were on the wrong side of the 14/3 upsets and Texas tried valiantly but fell to Butler.
The 12, the supposed toughest conference in the nation, took it on the chin mostly because of the two high-profile games. The B1G is fortunate enough to have three of its games in the near-negligible differences of 7/10 games but best believe if all three of those games are loss to the conference then its already picked-upon depth will be railed upon. Beyond that, it would do the conference fine if Wisconsin handles biz officially and No. 4 Maryland comes nowhere near the upset potential of Valparaiso.
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