Kevin Price commentary on NCAA basketball tournament: March Madness identifies the hottest team, not the best

kprice@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 18, 2012 

Now Friday was what March Madness is all about.

The NCAA basketball tournament is not really about finding the best team in the country. When you can have a team, such as Connecticut last year, finish ninth in its conference and still win the national championship, you can’t make the argument that the tournament identifies the best team.

That is why the coming college football playoff needs to be kept to a small field. The last thing we need is the fourth-best team in some conference getting hot at the end of the season, winning three games and being declared national champion.

But I digress, back to basketball.

After a dull day on Thursday when only two lower seeds won -- and a 12 seed beating a 5 (VCU over Wichita State) and an 11 beating a 6 (Colorado over UNLV) is hardly shocking anymore -- there was major chaos on Friday.

It started in the late afternoon with No. 2 seed Missouri losing to No. 15 Norfolk State. A No. 2 losing to a 15 had only happened four times before and not since 2001.

But then it got even crazier later in the evening when No. 2 Duke lost to No. 15 Lehigh.

So something that had happened only four times before happened twice in the span of just a few hours. Also when you throw in No. 13 Ohio’s upset of No. 4 Michigan, you had the first day when three seeds of 13 or higher all won on the same day.

Missouri’s loss was only mildly shocking, although it was the biggest upset in NCAA history if you go by the Las Vegas point spreads as the Tigers were 21-point favorites. The Tigers have a history of underachieving.

But the Duke loss was astounding.

The Blue Devils are college basketball royalty. They have won four national championships, been to the championship game 10 times, been to the Final Four 15 times.

And even though this was not a year when it was expected that it would win a national championship, it is still Duke.

The Dukes of the world just don’t lose in the first round, and they certainly don’t lose to Lehigh.

In between those two shockers was Ohio knocking off Michigan. Michigan is another of those teams, like Duke, that you don’t expect to lose in the first round.

There were a handful of other lower seeds that won Friday as well, but the losses suffered by Duke, Michigan and Missouri are the ones that standout.

Most of the time the higher seeds that pull these stunners turn out to be one-hit wonders, i.e., they lose in the next round.

But there are two games today where both teams are double-digit seeds: Lehigh plays No. 10 Xavier and Ohio plays No. 12 South Florida.

That means that there will be at least two double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16.

And that is what March Madness is all about.

Kevin Price, 706-320-4493, kprice@ledger-enquirer.com

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