The Reuters global sports blog
Despite concerns that the NCAA championship game will not feature an attention grabbing headline (Butler – West Virginia is not a ratings dream for CBS), this Final Four will be memorable, both on and off the court.
For starters, this might be the last year of the current format for March Madness. What started as speculation of expansion of the beloved NCAA Tournament from 65 (including the initial play-in game) to 96 teams is gaining further momentum. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany recently told USA Today that the likelihood of expansion of the tournament for 2011 is “probable”.
The motivation behind this decision is financial as the television revenue of a larger tournament could yield even more than the existing 11-year, $6 billion dollar agreement the NCAA has with CBS. Delany helped in the negotiations of the current CBS agreement. On the court, Saturday’s games appear to be a great reflection of the close games mixed with underdog flair we’ve seen all tournament. #1 Duke will face #2 West Virginia with the winner expected to cruise to a national championship.
The Duke seniors have seen this team move deeper in the tournament each of the last four years and would love to graduate with a national championship. This is West Virginia’s first Final Four since 1959. Winning the Big East conference tournament was an unexpected surprise for West Virginia based on the perceived strength of the conference this season. With their success in the tournament, the Mountaineers appear to be the only Big East team worthy of their high seeding.
It might sound cliché, but who doesn’t enjoy rooting for the underdog? Unless you have a connection to one of the schools still involved or your bracket still has a chance at winning, who doesn’t want to see Northern Iowa, Cornell, or St. Mary’s College push deeper into the tournament?
As the Sweet 16 begins on Thursday there are still 11 conferences being represented (only 7 conferences represented in the Sweet 16 last year). Duke vs. Purdue is the only matchup pitting the two highest possible seeds against one another. My guess is that at least one surprise team will earn themselves a ticket to the Elite 8.
We approach the Sweet 16 having witnessed magical runs by teams like Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s so let’s take a quick look back at two defining players that helped them get here. Tomorrow we’ll review the teams that are left and the possibility of an all mid-tier Final Four.
This year’s NCAA tournament opening weekend pulled out all the stops and set the stage for what could go down as one of the best tournaments ever. In particular there were the thrilling last second heroics of #9 Northern Iowa to defeat #8 UNLV and a dominating win by #10 St. Mary’s over #7 Richmond. Both teams followed up those wins with spectacular surprises against Kansas and Villanova to leap onto the national scene. It has been a good March for students, alumni and fans of both schools.
We didn’t have to wait long for the thrills and excitement of March Madness to capture the attention of college basketball fans everywhere.
In the first three games of the 2010 NCAA tournament we witnessed an upset, overtime and a double-overtime. Not a bad start.
John Calipari’s hiring as the new basketball coach at Kentucky signals an immediate renaissance at one of the nation’s most storied programs.
Lexington is the perfect home for the master salesman. If Calipari can lead relative lightweights Massachusetts and Memphis to the Final Four, it’s scary to imagine what he could do at a powerhouse.
Here on Tobacco Road, Madness is about to break out.
Doctors, dentists and ordinary folks will reschedule appointments, telephone calls will go unanswered and party hosts will frantically consult newspapers and television stations to ensure Aunt Suzy’s birthday gathering does not come at the wrong moment.
Even productivity will slink downward as employees nationwide, and perhaps the boss, peak at televisions and the Internet for an update.