NCAA’S ‘big dance’ about to begin
The waiting is over and the second season of college basketball is about to take place as the NCAA March Madness is ready to begin for both the men and women college players who were fortunate enough to be hooked up with a team that either earned a berth by winning their way into the “big dance” or were good enough to be selected to fill the limited spots remaining in the tournament bracket.
At this time next week the men’s 64-team bracket will be trimmed down to the “Sweet Sixteen” which means that 75 per cent of those teams that qualified for the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament will be back on their respective campuses watching the rest of the event on the dormitory or apartment TV.
To the winner’s of this week’s two games in the men’s bracket will come the spoils of continuing to pursue the national championship and the prestige of surviving the first two rounds of competition.
And to the conferences of the surviving schools comes additional funding for the athletic programs and the advantage of the winning schools to have a successful recruiting season.
There was plenty of excitement close to home as Lamar University hosted a watch party Monday evening at Buffalo Wild Wings on Dowlen in Beaumont with the TVs tuned to ESPN for the NCAA Women’s selection show as the Lady Cardinals and their supporters anxiously awaited the news of who Lamar’s first-round opponent will be and when and where that game will be played.
There will be 16 different sites for the first-round games that will be played either Saturday or Sunday. Lamar (26-7) will be playing in the Memphis Region as the No. 14 seed against No. 3-seeded West Virginia (28-5) Sunday at 8:30 p.m. in Austin. The winner of this game will play the winner between No. 6 Texas (22-10) and No. 11 San Diego State (21-10).
Tennessee (30-2) is the No. 1 seed in this Memphis Region which also includes No. 4 Baylor (23-9), No. 7 LSU (20-9) and No. 9 TCU (22-8).
The Lady Cardinals earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Women’s Tournament by winning the Southland Conference Tournament Championship Game with a resounding 86-59 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Friday night at the Murrell Center in Katy.
This was the first NCAA Tournament bid for the Lady Redbirds since the 1990-91 season when they won three tournament games before losing to Virginia 85-70.
Also getting an automatic bid into the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament were the Texas A&M Lady Aggies, who won the Big 12 women’s championship 74-67 over Oklahoma Sunday in Kansas City, Mo. Texas A&M (25-7) is the No. 2-seeded team in the Sacramento Region and will play No. 15 Portland State (18-14).
But the big talk nationally is the 2010 NCAA Men’s Tournament in which Kansas was chosen as the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. The Jayhawks are the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional along with the other No. 1 seeds Duke (South Regional), Kentucky (East Regional) and Syracuse (West Regional).
Some of the fast-talking “experts” felt like Syracuse got shafted by being sent out to the West Regional while others thought Syracuse should have been rated above Duke in the overall seeding. However, some of the cooler heads stated that the Orangemen were “punished” for getting bounced out of the Big East Tournament in the first round.
The Lone Star State had seven schools qualify for the NCAA Tournament with the Baylor Bears (25-7) receiving the best ranking with their No. 3 seed in the South Regional. Texas A&M also is in the South Regional as the No. 5 seed while Southland Conference champion Sam Houston State (25-7) is No. 14 and will play Baylor, a 12 1/2-point favorite Thursday in New Orleans.
Texas A&M (23-9) will take on No. 12 Utah State (27-7) in a battle of the Aggies Friday in Jacksonville. The Texas Longhorns (24-9) are the No. 8 seed in the East Regional and will battle No. 9 Wake Forest (19-10) Thursday in New Orleans.
Conference USA champion University of Houston (19-15) is the No. 13 seed in the Midwest Regional and will meet No. 4 Maryland (23-8) Friday in Spokane, Wash.
UTEP (26-6) was one of the “bubble” teams that escaped being overlooked and landed as the No. 12 seed in the West Regional and will take on No. 5 seeded Butler (28-4) Friday in Buffalo. North Texas (24-8), which won the Sun Belt Conference championship, is the No. 15 seed and will play Kansas State (26-7), the No. 2 seed in this regional, Thursday in Oklahoma City.
Several people “in the know” with college basketball were asked who they thought would win the NCAA Tournament in this week’s edition of The Sporting News Magazine and two of them—Arizona State guard Jamelle McMillan and former Florida forward Andrew DeClercq picked the Texas Longhorns.
However, several of those asked picked the Kansas Jayhawks, with Kentucky the consensus second choice with Duke and Syracuse getting votes also. Interestingly Gonzaga was picked by Long Beach State coach Dan Monson, Purdue was chosen by Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin and Oklahoma State was picked by East Carolina coach Mack McCarthy.
As far as this Korner is concerned, we’ve always been partial to fellow countryman Mike Krzyzewski as his Duke Blue Devils, so we’ll pick them as the 2010 national champion.
KWICKIES…The Lamar baseball team opened Southland Conference play last weekend and had to win Sunday’s final game of the three-game series 7-3 to avoid being swept on the road by the Nicholls State Colonels in Thibodaux, La. The Colonels won handily 9-2 Friday and 12-4 Saturday before being stopped by Cardinal ace right-hander Eric Harrington (3-0). The sophomore scattered nine hits and struck out eight in the complete-game victory. The Big Red now stands at 12-4 for the season and 1-2 in the SLC.
South African Ernie Els ended the longest drought of his 20-year golfing career, winning the World Golf Championship last weekend by firing a six-under 66 in the final round Sunday on Doral’s Blue Monster Course. Els had rounds of 68-66-70-66—270 to win by four strokes over 25-year-old Charl Schwartzel. Els last won two years ago at the Honda Classic and became the fifth player with multiple victories in the World Golf Championships, joining Tiger Woods, Darren Clarke, Geoff Ogilvy and Phil Mickelson.
Congrats to the West Orange-Stark Mustangs’ baseball team for winning the Kirbyville Tournament last weekend. The ‘Stangs downed District 21-3A rival Hamshire-Fannett 7-1 in the championship game behind the stellar mound work of Justin Sparrow, who gave up an unearned run, four hits and fanned five in his seven innings of work.
JUST BETWEEN US…With the Lamar men’s basketball team failing to qualify for the Southland Conference tournament for the second straight year and the women’s program so successful the Lady Cards won their SLC tourney and are headed to the NCAA Tournament this weekend, there is a whole bunch of rumbling from the Cardinal supporters that a coaching change needs to be made in the men’s program. Coach Steve Roccaforte is feeling the pressure. However, Athletic Director Billy Tubbs, a former very successful college basketball coach himself, apparently is standing by his man—at least for the time being. Coach Roc needs to stop the bleeding and get his program rolling in the right direction. Instead of recruiting mostly inexperienced freshmen, Coach Roc needs to get some junior college players and some transfers from major college programs. They’re around, but it takes a major effort. And that’s what’s needed to save Coach Roc’s job.