Of the 15 college basketball experts on the front page of ESPN.com (Jay Bilas, Doug Gottlieb, Dick Vitale, et al.), nine have Mizzou advancing to the Final Four, five have KU going, and K-State… yeah, so anyway… It’s pretty clear that lofty expectations are being placed upon the Big XII Champeen, the evil dissenter, the little team that could, the Missouri Tigers. Obama’s got them in HIS Final Four as well and you KNOW that’s a big deal because, well, the president is never wrong, right? If I’m not mistaken—and I don’t believe that I am—he has the presidential authority to veto whatever ACTUALLY happens in order to make his bracket accurate.
Congrats in advance, Mizzou!
But if I’m not mistaken, I think they have a few games to play before they can begin cutting any nets and/or punching people at nightclubs (I’m not passing judgment on any particular team with that last statement, simply stating what happens to be a growing national trend with most college athletics participants).
The excitement gets under way on Thursday at 11:40 CT when Manhattan’s finest take on ninth seeded Southern Mississippi in Pittsburgh (PA, not KS).
The eighth seeded Kansas State Wildcats (21-10) benefitted wildly from two decisive victories against Mizzou and winning an extremely tight contest at then-tenth-ranked Baylor. Other than that, KSU has been a mostly mediocre team led by the decent guard-play of junior Rodney McGruder and the adequacy of senior forward Jamar Samuels. Gone are the days of Bill Walker, Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen or even Denis Clemente (currently throwing the rock with BK Bemaco SPU Nitra of the Slovak Basketball Association, yo).
With that said, it’s worth noting that the Golden Eagles of Southern Miss.—making their triumphant 3rd tournament appearance in school history (to be fair, they’ve only been around since 1910)—didn’t play a ranked team all season. Oops! I think K-State’s bacon gets saved by default in this one… nothing personal, Golden Eagles. You’re a fine Chinese restaurant, but a less-than-frightening tournament threat.
Next on the docket, we’ve got the Missouri Tigers taking on the Spartans of Norfolk State, 3:40 PM on Friday in Omaha (you know, because nothing says “tournament basketball” like that zoo everyone seems to love and brooding indie-rocker Conor Oberst). But I digress…
The Tigers probably should have been a one-seed. There, I said it.
They lost four games all year (including the two anomalies to K-State) and rolled through the Big XII Tournament like Paula Deen mowing down shoppers at a two-for-one ham sale.
TAKE NO PRISONERS! MY DIABETES NEED BUTTER, YA’LL!
They had a super-spectacular season that virtually nobody saw coming, and for that, they should be commended. But—BUT—now the bar has been set. They’re no longer the bitch-kids getting laughed at, moping around the playground, waiting for the big kids to show up and kick them off the court. They ARE the big kids.
DID YOU SEE THE PART WHERE THE PRESIDENT HAS THEM IN HIS FINAL FOUR?! OMG.
But that’s precisely the attitude that gets good teams bounced early; they let their guard down, put it in cruise control and do all kinds of other clichéd things that sportswriters vomit words about. I’m fairly confident that this won’t happen to the Tigers, though. Frank Haith has built a remarkably strong bond with these kids in a short period of time; they play hard for him and remain cool/calm/collected under the most virulent circumstance. And though Norfolk State won’t be a cakewalk—they won the MEAC, after all!!!—I wouldn’t expect any big surprises here. The Spartans played a ranked opponent twice all year (Marquette—more Golden Eagles??? Are we officially out of team names now?) and lost both contests.
Be prepared for lots of MIZ! Facebook status updates, everyone.
On Friday, at 8:57 in the evening, second-seeded Kansas takes on the Titans of Detroit.
See, this is the part where I’m supposed to predict a terrific upset of the great Kansas University. All of the cool kids are doing it. Though I have no numbers to back it up, I’d be willing to bet this is one of the more oft-predicted early bracket busters in this year’s tournament. And though there’s certainly a precedent for this sort of thing in the first two rounds (Bradley! Bucknell! Northern Iowa!), this feels different. Why is that? Because the Detroit Titans are better than all three of those unheralded terrors.
I know, I know, this pisses in the face of reason, so allow me to explain (it’s actually pretty simple, really, and you probably already know what I’m going to say): KU took Bradleybucknellnortherniowa lightly. And why shouldn’t they have? They were top-of-the-charts, king-hell-bastards-of-basketball in the years that saw their early dismissal. This year, they’ve got a bit of a chip due to seeding issues (warranted, or not), and they KNOW that Detroit is a formidable opponent. They WON’T go in, expecting to steamroll. They’ll go in anticipating a well-played, hard-fought battle, and they’ll get it. And from this humility and respect (bite your tongues, Tigers’ fans) they shall OVERCOME, brothers and sisters. Hallelujah, Amen, free at last free at last, yadda yadda yadda, free at last.
Probably. Or they could TOTALLY lose to Detroit in spectacular fashion… I can see that as well.
All games will air on CBS and the Turner family of networks– TBS, TNT and truTV. Check your cable guide for more specific listings, or, be like everyone else and watch streaming video from Israeli internet feeds while you sit in your cubicle, pretending to work.