Tournament Observations, Day 1

I really don’t care what the NCAA says, yesterday was the start of the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The “First Four” qualifying as the opening round is silly. But anyway, yesterday was the beginning of the two-day holiday known as Tournamas, where productivity dies around a television, a bracket, and bragging rights.

Following a late night watching basketball, here are five observations I made as the 2013 Tournament starts. 

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  1. It really is the most exciting day in sports. Buzzer beater win by Marquette, huge upsets by Harvard, Cal, and Oregon, and Memphis survives after nearly gagging it away. For 12 straight hours college basketball is on 4 channels, and the level of competition is exciting. Each team, no matter how bad, has a conceivable shot of winning the national championship. It really is David vs. Goliath in terms of match-ups, and you never know when the big upset might happen.
  2. #1 seeds have three goals in the opening round: Make a statement win, work off the rust, and keep everyone healthy. Yesterday two #1 seeds played: Gonzaga played a tight game to the wire against a mediocre team, and Louisville blew out an inferior opponent and had the highest winning margin of the day. Overall grades, Gonzaga D+, only thing keeping it from being an F was that they displayed a lock-down defense at the end of the game to avoid an upset. Louisville a B+, the only thing keeping it from being an A was the lack of focus on the defensive side of the ball for the full 40 minutes. But overall, Louisville showed the way to handle business in the opening round as a #1.
  3. Upsets are incredible to watch. I must admit, I passed on sleep to stay up and see if Harvard could pull it off. Upsets are a blast to try to predict but always end up frustrating, because they always mess up the bracket. What made the Harvard win more spectacular was a statement made by the commentators after the game: “when these guys are doctors or businessmen, they’ll always remember being the first Harvard team to win an NCAA tournament game.” Definitely keeps things in perspective when non-power colleges (read into this: colleges that emphasize academics over athletics) win big games.
  4. Seeding means nothing. I say that but so far the 1/2 line has been pretty safe. Beyond that, it really doesn’t matter what the seeding is. With 3 double-digit seeds winning yesterday and more winning today while I write this, it’s apparent that the gap between 4 and 13 is much narrower than it was in years past. That’s what makes it such an exciting tournament – it’s easy to go chalk and predict higher seeds, but a 12 with a hot shooting guard can beat a 5 any day.
  5. The way VCU played, don’t be surprised if they’re playing in the Elite 8. Louisville might have had the biggest margin, but the most dominant performance yesterday in my opinion was VCU against Akron. They’re well-coached, can shoot, and play excellent defense. Kansas is the #1 in their region, and VCU is not a team I would want to play right now. A close second to that is Syracuse, they looked like they were playing angry last night. 

Who is your pick to win the whole tournament? I’m still going with Louisville over Indiana in the championship game!

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