Posted by: mdegeorge | March 23, 2011

Seeds of doubt for the Big Dance

What can you say about March Madness?

A week ago, I sat lamenting the boring triumph of chalk 25 out of 32 times in the Round of 64 (call it “second round” around me at your own peril). A Big Dance with no upsets is like Christmas with no presents: the spirit and pomp and circumstance are there, but you leave feeling sincerely disappointed.

That was all turned squarely on its head thanks to the exploits of Saturday and Sunday. And now, after facing the prospect of chalk monotony, the brackets have been busted like they rarely have in the past.

A top seed is already out, as are a 2 and a 3, while the other three 2s were lucky to survive. The Sweet 16 boasts five seeds of 8 or lower, the first time since 1999 and only the second time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 that more than four advanced to this stage.

In the everlasting quest to find meaning in the numbers, I’m stumped. In my early Thursday hysteria, I opined as to how the seeds didn’t matter anymore, how a new balance had descended on the game whereby any team could beat any other team on any given day. As something like 23 of the next 25 seeded favorites won, and many convincingly so, that position was somewhat shaken.

But the prevalence of so many underdogs, many of them hugely disadvantaged according to the odds makers, in the “third round” changed the dynamic again.

So what to make of it all? Parity certainly has carved out a nice slice of the NCAA tourney pie for itself, and we can only hope it’s here to stay. As you’ll see in my updated picks in just a bit, chalk still has its place in the framework of the Dance. It turn out that spoilers like last year’s Butler team are few and far between, and the George Masons and Butlers of the world may never seal the deal in the first weekend of April.

But they make for a hell of a few weeks in March.

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