Yes, you read that headline correctly -- yesterday was "Day One" of the NCAA Tournament. Not Tuesday!
Despite what the NCAA propaganda machine will tell you, the greatest single two-week period of sports during the calendar year is not and will not be tipped off in Dayton, Ohio, between North Carolina-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock. The four games in Dayton (the "First Four," according to the machine; what they call "First Four" I call "appetizers") are play-in games, the final remnants of which will be swept away today when UT-SA and Virginia Commonwealth are sent home for the summer.
The first real day of the NCAA Tournament was yesterday, Thursday, and it will always be Thursday. How do I know? Well, just ask yourself, "If I had to schedule a moderately invasive procedure that would leave me bedridden for exactly four days in front of the television, when would I have that procedure done?"
The answer is most definitely not "Tuesday! Got to be home in time for Asheville vs Little Rock!" The answer is unequivocally "Thursday! What time do Duke and Barbizon School of Modeling tip off?"
Yes, you would most definitely make sure to have doctor-prescribed down time during the Thursday-through-Sunday period. You would. It's undeniable. And if you think that I am speaking from experience -- cough, vasectomy, cough -- well then you know me all too well. Any debate on this is clarified by the answer to this question. Yes, vasectomies clarify. In more ways than one.
(And honestly, I would go get one every year if it meant uninterrupted couch time to watch the NCAA Tournament, even if it meant having so little of my man parts left by the year 2020 that I would make Clay Aiken look like Chuck Norris. I love the tournament that much.)
Okay, like any Day One (yes, say it with me, it was DAY ONE yesterday) there were winners, there were losers and they are as follows:
WINNER: Broken English. In Kentucky versus Princeton, what most saw as a contrast in playing styles -- John Calipari's "let our athletes be athletes" style versus Princeton's "backdoor cut bludgeon fest" -- I saw as a contrast in literacy. The state of Kentucky's "predicates and syntax are optional" style versus Princeton's "we read Chaucer in the huddle" style. Chaucer wound up buried under a pile of dangling participles.
LOSER: Clemson's body clock. When the brackets came out on Sunday, we immediately saw that the Gene Smith-led crew made numerous inexplicable decisions. We saw the execution of the first of those on Tuesday night when Clemson whacked UAB, whose only access to the NCAA Tournament should have been by buying a ticket. On Thursday morning, we saw the buffoonery storyline arc on the 12 seed play-in game play out as Clemson had to go from playing Tuesday night in Dayton to literally playing the first game of the tournament Thursday morning in Tampa. It wasn't an NBA-style back-to-back, but it was as close as you could come. Thanks for playing, Clemson.
WINNER: Conference tournaments. One of the underrated suppositions that college basketball fans have had for many years is whether or not a deep run in the conference tournament makes sense for teams who have Final Four aspirations -- the point being, why expend all of that energy trying to win a four- or five-day conference tournament when really all that matters is going to the Final Four? Well, it was only one game, but Connecticut, who literally came off the most strenuous conference tournament run in basketball history -- five Big East games in five days -- dispatched Bucknell easily in round one of the Big Dance. Call it a stay of execution for now, but it appears, if anything, that the Big East gauntlet galvanized the Huskies.
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LOSER: Pennsylvania. So to watch a small battle for the welterweight title of the state of Pennsylvania between Temple and Penn State (Villanova and Pitt are the heavyweight title contenders), fans of those schools had to travel to Tucson, Arizona? You couldn't have plunked that one down in D.C. as a 6 vs 11 or an 8 vs 9 game? Pack the place? Atmosphere? All right, whatever.
WINNER: Me! Usually, I go into the first day of the tournament full of hope, and then by Thursday night my bracket has so many craters in it that it looks like Edward James Olmos's face (I love that joke), but this year I still have some mojo going into Day Two. 13-3 on my picks, including Richmond and Gonzaga (who I have in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, respectively). My three losses (Louisville, Penn State and my 13 seed upset pick Belmont, who I picked mostly because people who seemed like they knew what they were talking about said to take them. So overall, a good day.)
LOSER: Bowl apologists. Stay with me on this one. One thing that you hear college football fans say about the bowl system is that at least in their system, "35 teams go home happy at the end of the season because they finish with a win." Call me crazy, but I think the kids and alum from Morehead State (assuming people regularly graduate from there) will remember Demonte Harper's three pointer to beat Louisville, even after their season ends with a loss, far more than the sixth place team from C-USA will remember that win in the Fight Hunger Douche Bowl. There's a reason why Bryce Drew's three pointer in 1998 is still shown regularly (even though it was just a first round game that ultimately led to a loss in the Sweet Sixteen) -- because it's memorable and it meant something. Sorry, bowls. March Madness owns you.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3PM weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.