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.

The Big Red of Cornell have become the darlings of this year's NCAA Tournament.
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.

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 coach Jim Boeheim won the National Championship back in 2003.
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.

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 promise.

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!

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