Daily Archives: March 22, 2010

“March Madness Enigma”

So before I even touch on my thoughts on the wild first weekend of the NCAA tournament, let me first say, what a horrible weekend for Minnesota.  First their beloved Gophers get it handed to them by the Xavier Musketeers to make an early first round exit from the tournament.  Then their closer, and possibly most reliable player, Joe Nathan will be missing this season and undergoing Tommy John surgery.  Kiss one of the game’s best closers good-bye.  In today’s MLB, closers who are consistent year after year are very hard to come by.  Well the Twins just lost one of the few for the year before the season even started.

Next, many Twins fans breathed a sigh of relief in finding out that they had just resigned their best player Joe Mauer to an 8 year deal.  I mean who wouldn’t be relieved in re-signing one of the game’s elite players to an 8 year extension?  I forgot to mention that the deal cost the Twins 184 million dollars!  Mauer will be making 23 million a year plus god knows what incentives.  Talk about breaking the piggy bank on one guy.  The Twins do not have money like the Yankees or Red Sox.  The Twins better win this year, because keeping a team around this guy will be very tough to do with a lack of funds.  And enjoy trying to win this year without the heart of your bullpen, Joe Nathan.

So now on to basketball..A key statistic of the entire weekend.  Only 11 of the 16 teams remaining are from the power conferences.  And many did not consider the Pac 10 a power conference this year, which would mean only 10 of the 16 left are from the power conferences.  So much for Big East and Big 12 supremacy.  These conferences only produced a grand total of four of the final 16.  The conference that has the most teams left in the Sweet 16 is the Big Ten.  Many analysts at the beginning of the year said that the Big Ten was the best conference in America.  I along with many others laughed at this notion.  I mean we all knew the Big Ten had some solid teams, but the best conference in the land?  Give me a break.  Well I guess those analysts are laughing now in that this conference has the most teams left standing as we enter the 2nd weekend of tournament play.

Another key question.  Who is the real Cinderella this year?  I mean you got 5 teams left from the non power conferences.  You got your 10th seeded Gaels of St. Mary’s.  Also you got your boys out of Northern Iowa who shocked the world in taking down the mighty Jayhawks of Kansas.  Then lets not forget about the sharp shorting Cornell team out of the Ivy League.  The other two teams from non power conferences are Xavier and Butler.  Neither of these top-notch programs still being around should come as a huge surprise.

I will admit to being wrong in a previous blog post saying to ride the Big East with your picks this year.  This conference that appeared so strong all year has truly laid an egg in the tourney thus far.  It will be interesting to see how deep Syracuse and West Virginia can go and if they can save face for the conference.  In addition, the SEC, whom many thought was way down this year has just as many teams left as both the Big 12 and Big East.  Not to mention they have the best team left in the field.  From the first weekend, regardless if I like the team out of Lexington or not, they put on the best two game performance by far.  This Kentucky team looks to be hitting on all cylinders and will be very hard for anyone to beat much less come close to beating.

This weekend showed why the first weekend of the NCAA tournament is arguably the best weekend in sports.  Breathtaking game after breathtaking game.  Down to the wire battles that ended with buzzer beaters.  You name it, and this weekend had it.

Hope you enjoyed this weekend and are able to help me make some sense of the enigma that transpired.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.



“Destination School?”

Please everyone catch your breath.  I am not even going to touch on the enigma that is March Madness just yet.  I am going to let the events that have transpired over the past 4 days set in, and discuss them tomorrow.  Today I am going to talk about one team in particular that continues to wow me.  There is a small, private, jesuit school off of Victory Parkway in Cincinnati called Xavier.  This is a University that has about 4,000 undergraduate students, yet they have gone dancing 9 of the past 10 years!

Not many teams in the country come close to boasting the highly impressive resume that the Xavier Musketeers have put up in March over the past decade.  This is a team that is no stranger to big games and has really thrived under the tourney pressure.  Well today was no different as they knocked off a very strong Pitt team out of the mighty Big East (or at least mighty before this weekend).  Even when Pitt made a furious run in the middle of the 2nd half, the Musketeers kept their cool and made their free throws down the stretch to insure a birth into the Sweet 16 for a 3rd consecutive year.

Coaches such as Pete Gillen, Skip Prosser, Thad Matta, and Sean Miller have all come and gone.  They have made pit stops in Cincinnati and departed for so called “bigger and better” jobs.  At this point, there are not too many “bigger and better” jobs that you can get in College Basketball.

Xavier, as I mentioned before has been dancing 9 of the last 10 years. They have made the Sweet 16 or better in each of the past three years including 2 Elite Eight appearances.  Cintas Center is an outstanding, top of the line facility that sells out every night.  Not to mention Xavier has not had a Varsity Football team for years!  The basketball team is the biggest and only show in town at this school.  There is no competition with another big revenue sport.  Men’s basketball is the identity of the University.

Now guys like Pete, Skip, Thad, and Sean all did wonderful jobs while they were at Xavier.  I am not calling them bad people by any means.  They are actually all great coaches, and even better people.  Every basketball player that has played for the Musketeers since 1985 has graduated.  Their players take care of business both on and off the court.  In addition, Forbes rated Xavier a top 20 most valuable program in College Basketball.  Xavier is one of only 2 non BCS schools to make this distinguished list.

So today just really reiterated to me that Xavier should not be a launch pad school.  They have become a destination program.  The Muskies have developed into a powerhouse and look to be here to stay.  So if Chris Mack continues to have the success he is having over the next couple of years, will he depart for a Big 10, ACC, or Big East school that comes knocking?  This is something that we will have to wait and find out on.

So my question for you today.  Is Xavier a destination job for men’s hoops or will it continue to be just a stopping point for coaches as they continue to want to leave for the power conferences?

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.