The first three (nope, still doesn’t sound right) rounds of the NCAA tournament are in the books. Everyone’s bracket has gone to hell. Seriously, not one person in this country has a good bracket. OK, only one person has 15 of the Sweet 16 teams correct in ESPN’s bracket competition. No one has all 16, and only 107—out of 5.9 million–have 14 teams.
As for us, well, we’d rather not talk about it, but we’re 24 for 48 on our picks. Which means we could’ve had a blind poodle pick the games for us, and we would have done just as well. We got five of the Sweet 16 teams correct. Only two of our Final Four picks—UNC and San Diego State—remain. But our champ is still there, and that’s all that matters. Even if they needed two overtimes to beat a coach who hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game in 11 years.
So, before Thursday’s games kick off, we wanted to give out some awards for the past four days of March Madness:
Best Samuel L. Jackson-Inspired Achievement
The movie Coach Carter was released in 2005. It was a decent film—an inspiring story about a high school team in Richmond, California. But for a handful of talented 12-to-15-year-old basketball players in 2005, it clearly was a reason to go play college basketball in Richmond—except they confused it with Richmond, Virginia. This is the only explanation as to how Richmond is the lone city with two teams in the Sweet 16. Those kids who watched Coach Carter are now playing for VCU and Richmond. Samuel L. Jackson, you caused this.
Frank Martin, are those crocodile skin cowboy boots with a Kansas State logo? I think so.
Best Mind-Blowing Ending That Can’t Be Replayed Enough:
Butler was going to beat Pitt. Then Pitt was going to beat Butler. Then Butler and Pitt were going to tie. And then Butler won.
Least Important Statewide Achievement
Wisconsin and Marquette made the Sweet 16. That’s two teams from Wisconsin, which has bigger things to worry about right now.
Most Under-the-Radar Performance by an Over-the-Radar Superstar
National obsession Jimmer Fredette has scored 66 points through the first two games of the tournament. BYU won both of their games by a combined 30 points. You knew neither of these things until you read the previous two sentences.
Worst Counting to Five by an Adult, Ever
In basketball you have five seconds to inbound the ball or call a timeout, otherwise you lose the ball. Watch what happens here. The ref counts to four. Cory Joseph—with his team up two—calls a timeout before the ref counts to five. Then the ref gives Arizona the ball because Joseph didn’t call his timeout before five, even though he did.
Eventually, Derrick Williams hit a diving lay-up and was fouled. He then converted his free throw to give Arizona the one-point win.
Yes, as Joe Posnanski pointed out, Jordan Hamilton of Texas actually called a terrible timeout that lead to the inbounding violation that never should’ve happened. But Hamilton and the referee’s mistakes raise another interesting question.
As we saw this weekend, college sports are so great and so different from professional sports because the players are more human. They make simple, amateur mistakes that you never see in the pros. From the Chris Webber timeout to the Nasir Robinson foul, college players are kids, and kids make mistakes. While the level play is often high (see: Ohio State), there’s still always a sense that anything could happen, no matter who’s playing.
If that unpredictability makes college games so exciting, shouldn’t we expect college referees to be somewhat unpredictable, too? Sure, they are pros, but they’re not at the highest level. Can we really skewer collegiate refs for not being perfect, while we’re celebrating the same imperfection in our collegiate athletes?
—Photo AP/Charlie Riedel