SCHMIDT: Madness? No it’s just March

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Everyone probably longs for 2008 when the NCAA Tournament was so nice and tidy. All four No. 1 seeds advanced to the Final Four that year. Those were simpler times when the best teams won and we moved on. No funny business.

This year? It takes a bottle of aspirin and a heartfelt prayer to even backwards glance at that busted, crumpled piece of trash called a bracket. Most people’s have been relegated to a coaster by now.

You see, things didn’t exactly go as planned this month. Ohio State, Kansas, Duke and Pittsburgh — the nation’s four No. 1 seeds — are all long gone, left to ponder how a bunch of ragtag nobodies shell-shocked them into early vacation. Third-seeded Syracuse got hoodwinked, fourth-seeded Louisville got bamboozled,  and third-seeded Purdue got flabbergasted. By the end of week one, people were inventing words to describe the madness.

All of the big, bad programs got kicked in the teeth by the little guy. This must be how Goliath felt.

And now we’re nearing the end of this twisted, turning wild ride, the culmination of 68 teams beating the ever-living crap out of each other for the better part of March. Buzzer-beaters have come and gone. Coaches have been canned. Gus Johnson has undergone vocal cord surgery half a dozen times.

The field has been whittled down to four chosen teams. Whether they made it this far by luck or talent or something in between is irrelevant. The point is that they’re here. And you’re never going to believe who crashed the party.

Connecticut and Kentucky, the first-half of the Final Four, are the usual subjects. Both held national rankings all year, and Connecticut, led by the likely Player of the Year Kemba Walker, reeled off five straight wins at Madison Square Garden to win the Big East Championship tournament. They both have big-school pedigrees, deep traditions and hotshot coaches.

The other two teams? If this were a multiple choice question, you’d answer none of the above.

VCU and Butler will square off for a spot in the national championship. Read that again if you need. Heck, read it twice more.

As impossible as it may sound, the No. 11 seed Rams – a team that had to play USC just to get in the tournament, mind you – blew through Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and then top-ranked Kansas about as easy as Charles Barkley goes through a Happy Meal. This is a VCU team that thought their chances of making the Big Dance were so grim they didn’t even bother to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show.

They haven’t needed luck, as the forever-underdog Butler Bulldogs have. VCU has simply been the best team in the tournament, winning by less than double digits only once. You can’t make this stuff up. As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction.

All of this, of course, is going to set up a wacky finale where a powerhouse will square off against either VCU, who got ripped a new one by Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps for being less-than tournament worthy, and Butler, who lost to Wisconsin-Milwaukee twice this year.

This is usually where I’d tell you what I think is going to happen, but I’m not going to embarrass myself. Making a prediction would be completely missing the point. This is something you can’t predict, something you can’t fathom. Anything can happen and anybody can win, which is why basketball’s big tournament has a catchy nickname and footall’s BCS bowl games don’t. It’s parity at its best.

Expect the unexpected. It’s basically all you can expect. Unless of course, you don’t expect it.

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