There's a ton of pressure in those brackets. This pressure can make an old man dance around like a little boy and can make another weep like a baby. We saw a bit of that last night as Kalin Lucas' college career ended. This is a guy who deserved much better than what he got this year- He didn't deserve to have malcontent teammates who were forced to exit, he didn't deserve to watch his teammates crumble in injury time and time again, he didn't deserve to watch his well-respected coach nearly have a mental breakdown in the closing minutes of most games, and he didn't deserve to have his achilles tendon rupture last season. He's a truly great player, but this is a team game and his team's season is now over.
As Purdue fans we can relate too well...as people we can probably relate even more.
And this is far from the only case of heartbreak- Louisville's Knowles rolls his ankle, and at the same time, Morehead State plays a great game...and just like that, a member of EsPN's favorite conference goes down in a heap. A team we all know well, Richmond, out-grits a Vandy squad that was in the top-25 for most of the season as their dynamic duo, Harper and Anderson outclass the 'Dores like they did Purdue back in November. Injuries, unconscious shooting, foul trouble, poor coaching decisions...they all come out in the wash as each team earns its right to play in their next game.
It's funny- when a team wins a big game, you often hear a player say, "It hasn't sunken yet." But, when a player loses, he knows right away what's happened. I think that's an example of what Painter's been talking about for a few weeks- winning makes you soft in some ways. It's like an opiate that numbs your senses and makes you ignore the faults and imperfections of your reality. If that's the case, losing is shoving smelling salts up your nose and having your face forced into frigid water. Immediately, you're aware of the scope of all that's happened around you. A player might even see his entire career, mistakes and failures alike, all right in front of him as he questions what he might have been able to do to change the trajectory of his team's fate. And win or lose, the tournament format simply doesn't lie. The team that's playing the best at that point of the season wins the whole ball of wax.
We've said it one hundred times and we'll say it again- thank God the NCAA lets the teams decide who will play for the national championship...in basketball. Yesterday, I gave credit to CBS for its joint venture with TBS that we've all been enjoying- I was told my praise was misdirected. Fair enough. Congrats to the NCAA for getting this tournament right. The coverage has been excellent and has given the consumer/fan the ability to choose exactly what he wants to watch regardless of when dinner time is, if the local news is on or if a regional favorite is playing.
Now go fix football.
And speaking of fixing things, NCAA, you're a pitiful joke when it comes to punishment. Nice job in botching an open-shut case of blatant disregard for your structure and respect of authority.
Some might think that five games is a suitable suspension for players getting tattoos in exchange for swag (I don't, by the way). But I don't believe anyone outside of the corrupt cabal known as an Ohio State University thinks this punishment is fitting for this case of cover-up in the name of winning, or attempting to win, a national title. Please note, I didn't just say Ohio State's athletic department...that's intentional. The moment Gordon Gee muttered his hilarious quip, "I just hope Tressel doesn't fire me..." It became a university-wide conspiracy to skirt the rules and get away with whatever's possible.
If karma truly existed in sports, the Buckeyes would lose today to UTSA...but it doesn't. In lieu of karma, I'll be rooting hard against the Buckeyes and hoping for their early departure. Being part of the same conference doesn't mean we should look the other way as one of our own cheats its way to success...afterall, Purdue isn't a part of the SEC- but aOSU clearly wishes it was. Sorry fellas, you're too far north.
I've always had a suspicion that Thad Matta skirted the rules to get players to come play for him. And I'll admit, there is still no concrete proof of my opinion. But, there is absolute proof that aOSU, as an institution, will do anything in its power to win. And since that university's administration, its athletic department and its coaches are working along side the NCAA to not stop cheating, I'll keep believing exactly as I do.
So, as always, Go Boilers- today could be the first step in Purdue's quest to earn its first national title in the modern era of the tourney. And after my alma mater, I'll be rooting for whomever is in the path of the Buckeyes, UK Wildcats, Volunteers and UConn Huskies and others to win. While the NCAA doesn't seem overly-willing to completely stop cheating coaches and athletic departments from doing what they do, another team might be able to send them a message...even if it's temporary. While the playing field might not be completely level during the off-season or in the classroom, during the season and subsequent tournament, a good coach can bring a team together to level things up. Here's to one of those programs, coaches and teams, that does it the right way raising that wooden trophy in April.
Go Boilers. Like Matty's squad, I couldn't be more ready for Purdue to play.