Tag: NCAA Tournament
By and large, I consider myself to be a fortunate sports fan. My teams generally do well. Two Superbowl titles, 2 Stanley Cups, 7 Sweet Sixteens, 1 Elite Eight, 1 Champions League, 1 FA Cup, Curtis Martin, Larry Fitzgerald, many others. And someday the Pirates will get to .500 and all of Pittsburgh will go nuts.
I think a reasonable standard of expectation for a fan is for one’s teams to be in the hunt, in any given year. Nothing more, nothing less. All the crazies who expect a title every single season can stay in Lexington or Tuscaloosa or the Bronx.
In any given year, I expect that the Steelers will win 10+ games and have a shot at the Superbowl. I expect the Penguins to make the NHL playoffs and have a shot at the Stanley Cup. I expect that Pitt basketball will make the Field of 65 and have a shot to make a run to the Final Four. I expect Liverpool FC to contend for the Premiership, Champions League, and/or FA Cup titles. Eventually, I would like to expect that Pitt football will win 8-9 games in most years and once every few years when the pieces fall into place, they should contend for a national title.
But even with what I believe are reasonable expectations, you inevitably get heart-breaking losses. I don’t have to tell you which loss I’m “mourning” today. I would have to say that Pitt’s loss to Villanova ranks second only to Francisco Cabrera’s single for Atlanta vs the Pirates in the 1992 NLCS. Even the Penguins recovered from David Volek. The Pirates have never recovered from that loss.
Pitt basketball is a strong program and they’ll rebound, rebuild and contend again. I know we had a successful season. I’m proud of how they battled and banged with the big boys. We’ll be back. I expect it.
In a game that was as tough as any knowledgeable college basketball fan expected, the Alma Mater advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in during the 64-team era with a 60-55 win over Xavier.
What has to be scary for any Pitt opponent is that the Panthers have to play a good game in the tournament. It’s going to take their first truly spectacular effort in the Round of Eight against fellow Big East foe Villanova.
More broadly, this has to be so gratifying for anyone associated with the program – athletes, coaches and the fans. For years, I’ve had to hear “but they can’t get past the Sweet Sixteen” from the naysayers. I’m not a huge fan of assessing a program’s place in the hierarchy simply based on success in a one-and-done tournament but that’s an issue for a different day.
It seems clear this team has been been tight in the first three rounds but now, I think they can finally start playing free and loose. And I just love that when asked about the impact of this win, Levance Fields responded, “It kind of gets the monkey off our back. But we came here to win two games.”
Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images
As we enter the second week of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the Arizona Wildcats are generating a lot of discussion due to the controversial nature of their inclusion in the field of 65 at the expense of some other teams, notably St. Mary’s. The #12 seeded Wildcats have pulled off two successive wins to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
Now the same pundits who decried Arizona as undeserving are forcing themselves to eat crow because of these wins. No one who follows college basketball should necessarily be surprised that Arizona finally put it together and is taking advantage of the talent they possess. But I am of the opinion that wins in the tournament does not necessary justify their inclusion after the fact. While a team’s latest run of games is a factor, projecting a team into the field is done largely on the basis of its total season’s performance. Assessing in hindsight a team’s worthiness is not an intellectually rigorous process.
This is the problem with single elimination tournaments. Though you have to work your tail off to get into the post-season, the tournament ultimately makes us all forget about the regular season. One bad night erases a good regular season. Two good nights erases 30 games of mediocrity.
I actually believe that Arizona deserved inclusion over the likes of St. Mary’s. But that doesn’t mean they are more or less deserving today than they were on Selection Sunday.
Photo Credit: ArizonaAthletics.com