Thursday, March 15, 2012

A March Madness Misfire

If it's mid-March, that means it's time for every Tom, Dick (Vitale) and Harry to wax poetic about the Big Dance, which begins in about four hours*. Vitale is ubiquitous this time of year, offering insights, analysis and predictions. Taking a break from his on-air yakfest duties at ESPN, Vitale previewed the upcoming* NCAA tournament in USA Today earlier this week. The former coach and longtime basketball broadcaster is knowledgeable about the game, but he doesn't know the "first" thing about my beloved Connecticut Huskies. His article included 11 "bullet points," and, shoot, one of those bullets is a blank.

Vitale claims that Connecticut, the defending NCAA tournament champion, lost in the first round of the tournament in 2000 and 2005, the seasons following its first two championship runs.

Sorry, Vitale, but you must bite the bullet and accept the notion that hoops hysteria is affecting your game. In neither season did the defending champions get bounced in the opening round. Both times, the Huskies fell in the second round.

In 2000 Connecticut, seeded fifth, defeated No. 12 Utah State 75-67 in the first round. With their star point guard limited to 13 minutes because of a sprained ankle, the Huskies lost 65-51 to Tennessee in the second round.

Five years later, second-seeded Connecticut beat No. 15 Central Florida 77-71 in its first game. No. 10 N.C. State upset the defending champions 65-62 in the next round.

It's a shame you didn't have "second" thoughts about your first draft, Vitale. To modify one of your catchphrases: That's awful, baby, with a capital A!

* Yes, I'm aware that the NCAA tournament technically began two days ago. But those "first-round" play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday don't count. Not to me, anyway. The Madness officially begins at 12:15 p.m. ET when Murray State and Colorado State tip off in Louisville. Can we go back to the days, not so long ago, when the tournament had 64 teams? Please?

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