Some random thoughts after three days of the NCAA tournament, due to my inability to turn off the laptop before sunrise:
*-DON’T SAY IT: Coaches like Gonzaga’s Kelly Graves and several others at, um, non-BCS schools talk about really not liking the term “mid-major” and how it does not apply to them. Of course, former Southwest Missouri State coach Cheryl Burnett always said that, too, back when her Bears were in their peak years.
Burnett had a great point, of course, in that her program was called a “mid-major” when it was selling out its gym and contending nationally while a supposed “major” program in her state, Missouri in the Big Eight/Big 12, wasn’t doing any of that.
And Graves could say the same thing about Gonzaga compared to Washington and Washington State.
However, I’ve never been sure, then, exactly what the “right” way is to talk/write about this. Should we avoid whenever possible distinguishing between the “Big Six” leagues who make up the Bowl Championship Series (since that’s about football anyway) and everybody else?
Should we not acknowledge that schools in the “Big Six” leagues generally have more resources in their athletic departments, and act instead as if every Division I school is, essentially, on a level playing field?
Should we not give the schools from all the “other” leagues any special shout-out of recognition when they stick it to one of the “Big Six” league schools in the NCAA tournament?
If Gonzaga makes it to the Final Four, should we avoid saying that the Bulldogs would be the first team from outside the “Big Six” to make it that far since Burnett’s SMS squad did it in 2001? (Which would have the neat connecting thread of the Bears having won the regional that year in Spokane, home of the Zags.)
I’m really not trying to be a smart-aleck. I just don’t know how we can both praise these schools for doing well when their conferences really don’t usually have the same resources as the “Big Six” … but not refer to them as “mid-majors” or “small conference” schools.
I guess it usually come down to the fact that they may agree their conference is not a supposed “major” but their program is major.
However, don’t they get at least some of their juice when going against the “Big Six” schools from the idea that they are perceived as underdogs?
Oh, and if the Commodores beat that, um, “non-Big Six” school Xavier tonight, can we nickname the Sweet 16 matchup Vanderbilt vs. Vandersloot?
*-HAVING A ROOTING INTEREST IS GREAT … OR IT’S AWFUL: I think this every year, so there’s nothing special about this tournament that makes me say it. But while the high is incredible when your team wins, it’s miserable when you lose .
Watching the agony many of the players and some of their fans go through after losses always makes me wish there was some way for the NCAA tournament to mean this much … but not mean this much, you know?
It was great to see Gonzaga win, especially after letting a potential second-round victory over Pittsburgh slip away last year. But it was hard to see Texas A&M, with such high hopes, go down.
Great to see Florida State satisfy its fans at home by pulling out an overtime win. But it was hard to see St. John’s lose when the Red Storm could almost taste the program’s first trip to the Sweet 16. Especially since St. John’s had to play on the Seminoles’ court.
It was great to see Wisconsin-Green Bay prove it really did deserve that at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. But it was hard to see a star like Virginia’s Monica Wright have her college career end with a first-round loss.
I feel like I’m very lucky – for journalists, it really doesn’t matter who wins or who loses because we write about the games no matter what. But by the same token, it means that every game, we see the happiness … and the sadness.
But I guess you could also put that like this: Every game we see the sadness … and the happiness.
*-DID IT SHRINK? This will sound like the dumbest thing ever, or just the dumbest thing in this particular blog, but …
You know how if you go to someplace from your childhood that you haven’t visited in a long time – your school or a house you used to live in or something – you’re usually hit with this sensation: “Wow, I remember it being bigger than that?”
Well, I wasn’t a child when I first visited Williams Arena in 2004 when Kansas State played a subregional here along with Valparaiso, UCLA and host Minnesota. But it just seemed to me then that the place was huge. But now when I’ve come back, somehow being inside Williams, it seems smaller. Of course it isn’t … it’s the exact same building, so I don’t know why it feels to me like it shrank just a little bit.
Is it because the building was packed to the gills when the Gophers were playing here, and somehow the enormous noise in the building made the whole place “feel” bigger?