Monday, March 18, 2002
Hey, is that a pumpkin?
I could have sworn that I saw this year’s latest Cinderella story, the Wyoming Cowboys, parading through downtown Albuquerque in an overgrown squash mobile, sizing up their glass slippers.
It’s tourney time, and much to the surprise of NCAA fanatics around the country, the Northwest’s favorite Cinderella, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, had their bubble burst in Thursday’s first round by a whirling dervish from Wyoming named Josh Davis.
The Cowboys join a long list of “nobody” teams that have shocked Final Four contenders in the first round of the Big Dance. Thursday alone, four other double-digit seeds made off with upset wins. But Kent State, Tulsa, UNC-Wilmington and Missouri are only the beginning of the madness that is March.
Some way, somehow, every top program has to cope with the same disappointment the Zags are feeling right now. Even Duke, Kansas, Stanford and UCLA have felt Cinderella’s sting somewhere along the way.
Rarely — if ever — do the results work the way you envisioned when filling out the bracket for your office pool. Upsets are just part of the madness; part of the allure.
Underdog bandwagon-jumpers like me can’t get enough of the excitement that is the NCAA tournament.
For every shoo-in, there is an odds-killer like Hampton, Siena, Holy Cross and Florida-Atlantic trying to become the next Chatanooga, Valparaiso, Butler or Gonzaga — lower-seeded teams who have reached the Sweet 16 in recent years.
Though they can’t be considered an underdog, it’s a good thing the Oregon Ducks didn’t overthink their first-round matchup versus Montana. Behind Freddie Jones and Lukes Ridnour and Jackson, the No. 2-seeded Ducks systematically and hydromatically broke down the Grizzlies to put an end to their 42-year tournament hex.
Saturday’s second-round contest against nationally ranked Wake Forest won’t be a Duck walk, but if the Big Three launch their patented air attack — or, as I like to call it, the “Quack Attack” — Oregon should fly into the Sweet 16.
Of course the Ducks would like to put together five more wins and become the only team in the nation (besides the NIT champ) to finish on a winning note. Getting by fellow Midwest regional powerhouses like Kansas and Florida won’t be easy, but that’s why they play the games.
And that’s what makes this tournament so special. Whether each team really has a shot or not, everyone involved has the same license to dream. Think Wyoming believed they could beat the highly touted Zags?
You better believe it.
Rabid college hoops fans from Oregon to Ohio, Maryland to Mississippi, and Kansas to Kent State are beginning to foam at the mouth this week. Face and body paint are selling out fast. Dick Vitale is taking his blood-pressure meds.
It’s a common affliction known as March Madness.
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