Saturday, April 8, 2017

Delayed Thoughts - NCAA Basketball Championships

Things have been a bit hectic here in The Grandstand of late, so I am a bit late in my thoughts on the recently concluded NCAA Basketball Championships, both Men's and Women's divisions, so before too much time passes, here we go.....
  • The men's tournament this year proved, for the most part, to be somewhat dramatic opening round David-over-Goliath upsets, no dramatic buzzer beaters.  In the end, though, it seemed that the two best teams over the course of the tournament met in the final game, North Carolina and Gonzaga.
  • Unfortunately, the final game was, shall we say, less than aesthetically pleasing.  Poor shooting by by both teams and overly officious officiating by the, er, officials combined to produce a pretty poorly played and sometimes painful game to watch.  
  • Well, as I always say, there are no guarantees as to what you might see when you watch a sporting event.  That is what makes sports so much fun to follow.
  • Marilyn Sproule, aka Mrs. Grandstander, was able to finish in a T-3 in a bracket pool that included 57 entries, MUCH better than both her husband and brother did in that same pool.  She also won the little sporting Proposition Pool that I ran for the Final Four.  After winning my Super Bowl Prop Pool, she is on a roll.
  • We are also happy for our niece Bonny  and her husband Michael, both UNC grads for being able to celebrate another championship.  We are also happy for their daughter, Sophie, who scored this bit of swag for her 15th  birthday on Thursday...
Happy birthday, Sophie!!

  • Perhaps the biggest college basketball story of all this tourney season was the defeat of the Connecticut women's team by Mississippi State in the semi-final game in overtime.  This ended a chance for UCONN to win a fifth consecutive championship, and it also ended an unbelievable streak of 111 consecutive wins for the Lady Huskies.

  • I was impressed by how well that UCONN handled the defeat, both the players and Coach Geno Auriemma. Geno was most gracious in defeat, and it almost seemed like a part of him was relieved that the streak was over.
  • I am sure that Geno is already working on starting another streak.  He may never win 111 straight again, or even come close to it, but would you bet against  UCONN being in the Final Four once again next year and winning it all?
  • In the end, Mississippi State couldn't sustain the effort they had against UCONN in the semis, and they fell to South Carolina in the Championship game.  While SC and their head coach Dawn Staley, who is certainly poised to become the next dominant coach in the women's game, are deserving champions, I am figuring that this tournament may be remembered more as not the one that South Carolina won, but the one where Connecticut lost and the record win streak ended.  That may not be fair to South Carolina, but there you are.
Dawn Staley and Her Champions
  • On a podcast I listen to a commentator mentioned that in perhaps the greatest sports upset ever, the 1980 USA victory over the USSR  in the Olympics, the team still had to beat Finland for the Gold medal.  Not many people remember that.  I suspect, though, that the young women on that Mississippi State team, who "couldn't beat Finland", will for the rest of their lives savor that UCONN victory more than they ever would have a championship victory over South Carolina.
  • So, here's a hypothetical question for you....Would that 1980 USA Olympic hockey team and its win over the mighty Soviets be remembered with such devotion today had they lost that Gold Medal game to Finland?

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