March Got Mad
Hoops and hardball
You can’t win them all is one of the oldest axioms in sports and that saying rarely lands harder than during the month of March a.k.a during March Madness. Yes, dreams are made and memories are created but, more often than not, dreams are a shattered and tears are created during the NCAA tournament. It’s a just tough sport where every team ends their season with a loss, except for one lucky team.
It’s easy to blast off into fantasyland and think things like “LSU will win it all even without their head coach” but, unfortunately, reality kicks in pretty quickly when you get past the opening rounds of games. The Tigers had a good run in knocking off Yale and Maryland but, in the end, they ran into an upper echelon team, Michigan State that looked in them eye and did not blink.
Yes, LSU had a killer season and the club fought its way to the top of the SEC. No one can take this season away from the Tigers. Even with the cloud that now hangs over the program, due to the head coach Will Wade allegedly saying things coaches aren’t supposed to say on a wire tap, the pundits can’t say that the Tigers are not back in the hunt for SEC titles. On the other hand, it’s doubtful, without a major turn of events, that Wade will ever coach the Tigers again but the kids at LSU made a major splash this year in the NCAA ranks and that could pay dividends for years to come, even without the head coach that got them there.
Or, it could all go horribly awry.
The SEC melts…sort of
In a year that saw as many as five SEC teams ranked in the preseason polls yours truly thought “not a chance.” But, in the end there were four SEC teams sitting in the Sweet Sixteen, which was a nice reminder at how far this conference had rebounded.
LSU, Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn all represented the conference in the Sweet Sixteen in a nice showing but they would fall, except for the Auburn Tigers, before the past weekend was through.
LSU would get stomped by the Michigan State Spartans, a team that will be in this week’s Final Four. Auburn would knock off Kentucky in the Elite Eight and Tennessee would fall victim to a wild shoot out versus Purdue. None of this is a bad thing. These teams fought past the first two rounds of the national tournament and, even though they were eventually sent home, collected big wins and made memories for all the players and staff involved.
The Auburn Tigers beat the Kentucky Wildcats 77-71 in overtime to advance to the Final Four for the first time in the program’s history. Pretty awesome, right? They will play the Virginia Cavaliers, a school that hasn’t been in the Final Four since we were all walking around listening to tapes on our Walkman’s.
On the other side, Michigan State will take on Texas Tech, another team making their first trip to the Final Four. New blood makes the college world go round and in these days where you can almost pick who will play for the college championship in football it’s wonderful to see some new guys playing in the Final Four.
Getting a Little Mad
As March Madness kicks into the rear view mirror, locally the college scene turns to baseball. And, after solid starts to the season, the local clubs, in a way, might be seen as struggling.
The UNO Privateers (14-13) are a team that is just one hot streak from turning into a dangerous team. Unfortunately, the Privateers just can’t find that hot streak. After dropping rubber matches to Northwestern State and Sam Houston State in the previous two weekends, the ball club got swept by Incarnate Word. That’s absolutely the way a team does NOT want greet April . The Privateers are now in the thick of their Southland Conference schedule and sit in 11th place with a 3-9 record.
The Privateers will try to get back on track on Tuesday as they travel across town to take on the Tulane Green Wave as 6:30 p.m.
Speaking of which, it’s hard to say you should be mad when a team wins the series but the Tulane Green Wave (19-9) need absolutely every victory they can pick up so winning the series versus the Cincinnati Bearcats but losing the last game of the series is a bit bittersweet.
While a team is awarded a regular season championship it doesn’t mean anything unless you win the tournament and get the automatic qualifier. So, it’s really all about getting an invite to the NCAA regionals and, to do that, you’ve got to win, win, win.
This team is markedly improved over the past two seasons but will still have to navigate a tough American Athletic Conference and not give any wins away like this past Sunday. This team is primed to make the move.
After hosting UNO on Tuesday, the Green Wave will host the AAC’s Wichita State this weekend.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Urban South Brewery’s “Holy Roller” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”
Around the Way
I have to give a shout out to Auburn’s Chuma Okeke, a talented young man who saw his season come to a halt after snapping his ACL against North Carolina. As the Tigers were ending Kentucky’s season it was hard not to feel for Okeke, who sat behind the bench cheering on his team.
I always tell everyone “it’s just a game” and watching this kid watch his teammates was humbling. Here’s to a speedy recovery.