Leaving the schoolyard behind
"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network
You do not bring the schoolyard to the NCAA. It simply does not work, and has
early exit written all over it. Just ask teams like Georgetown, Marquette,
Villanova and Temple, the last one not even being that good a team, certainly
not a five seed. Nor do you let over-confidence seep in. Beating Lehigh was
not the basis for a highlight film, and the loss Kansas suffered at the hands
of Northern Iowa cost a loss of interest in the tournament at large for half
the nation. Swaggering and cocksure are just as bad as schoolyard ball
What the loss by the Jayhawks did was to awaken every number one seed, like
Syracuse, Duke and Kentucky to the realities of life and the NCAA. Each of
those schools and their coaches will be more focused than ever before. There
was, and will be, a "take no prisoners" attitude from now on, just in case it
seemed to be fading in the early going.
Of course, the next statement will be about the buzzer beaters and competitive
atmosphere of this past weekend...the thrills, spills, critical shots made,
fouls shots missed in the waning seconds, costly coaching errors and more. Not
brilliance on the part of the selection committee actually but, in reality,
pretty bad seedings with the exception of a scant few, notably the top dogs.
Cornell making it to the Sweet Sixteen was a major accomplishment for an Ivy
League school but a victory over Temple was predictable (yes, before the game)
and besting Wisconsin was calculable after watching their woeful performance
against Wofford. The Wildcats of Kentucky, on the other hand, are a
significantly different matter. A win here is not about to happen for the Big
Red. Heading for a collision with them, Duke will not lose to the Boilermakers
of Purdue. They do not reach for schoolyard antics. They come to play. They
are Stanford in basketball uniforms. Technicians with a plan. Mike
Krzyzewski is not John Thompson III, not by a long shot.
The Big Red of Cornell have become the darlings of this year's NCAA Tournament.
Topping the list of "it's better to be lucky than good", Michigan State now has
the opportunity to meet the kids that slew the giants...Northern Iowa. It
takes a great deal more guts than brains to loft a three-point attempt with
little time remaining, ahead by one and no one from your team under the basket.
The sound of the ball going through the net sealed an improbable victory for
the Panthers. They also left the schoolyard behind and earned one of the
biggest upsets in recent memory. Is the Elite Eight bracket on their minds
right now? You bet!! The Spartans of State have to watch the film of the
Kansas/Northern Iowa game over and over and over. They have to see how it was
done. Their own buzzer-beater catapulted them to the next level. This is
a tough one to call but if State puts a lid on the three-point baskets of the
other guys they move on.
Syracuse will beat Butler and Kansas State will move past Xavier. Really?
Yup, really. The Orangemen have a propensity to hotdog from time to time but
they also have a coach in Jim Boeheim who will turn that fire off pretty fast.
The Bulldogs might be tenacious, like their Mascot "Butler Blue II", but it will
not be enough. Since every second team in college is nicknamed the Wildcats,
here is yet another one, Kansas State - and their effort on the hardwoods will
not be wild although they were planning to play Kansas in the Final Four.
Syracuse will do nicely. Right now their task is Xavier and the Musketeers
could require the swordplay of their namesake because their problem is in
matching the physical play of their opponents. One can expect to see more
schoolyard ball from the Ohioans but it will be a negative factor, not a
positive one, in this contest.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim won the National Championship back in 2003.
The NBA scouts in attendance at all these games have had their fill of behind-
the-back passes, dunks from every angle imaginable, between the legs dribbling,
going where no man...no player...has gone before...and whatever else these
collegians think they are putting on display. If they, the scouts, wanted
schoolyard play they could find it in New York, Detroit, Chicago or L.A. They
do not need to travel to the NCAA and its March Madness.
The schoolyard belongs where it is, attached to the school or free standing
somewhere outside the arena. It does not belong here. It is detrimental. It
has already put its victims on exhibit. It is there to impress friends, girl
friends, wannabes and the older men that line the fenced walls to watch and
think of their own glory years long since past. Bring it here and you will
leave with it, early. That has already been shown to be accurate.
Understand that the seeding process is enormously flawed and you have to treat
every opponent as though you were playing the best there is, the number one
seeds, until you actually encounter them. Do that and winning has great
Yes, the Madness continues and it has been exciting, but send me a copy -
notarized, of course - of your original bracket selections that show Northern
Iowa beating Kansas and the trophy is yours. You know, the one with St. Mary?s
still in it as well.
Will the schoolyard mentality, if it shows, be the gateway to the Final Four
and the next one, the big game for all the marbles?
You gotta be kidding!