If you’re like me, and just about everyone else, your NCAA men’s basketball brackets are busted. The Madness of March once again prevailed as favored teams fell like bowling pins, causing euphoria among the fans of the winning lower seeds. If I don’t have a rooting interest in a game, I always pull for the underdogs as their unexpected successes are what makes the tournament one of sports’ greatest spectacles.
Of the “Sweet Sixteen” remaining after the carnage of the first two rounds, seven teams were seeded 6th or lower, with five holding 1 or 2 seeds. The fans’ favorite, the Loyola of Chicago Ramblers, with head cheerleader 101-year-old Sister Jean rooting them on, return again following a Final Four run in 2019. Oral Roberts becomes this year’s Cinderella team, coming off upsets of THE and Florida.
The Big Ten, the so-called toughest grouping in the country this season, has only Michigan left to carry the banner going forward as eight other league schools came up short, exposing the evidently over-hyped “Power Five” conference. The PAC-12, overlooked mainly because no one east of the Mississippi can stay awake late enough to watch them play, on the other hand has four of five teams continuing down the Road to the Final Four. I still have Gonzaga and Michigan in the national semi-finals and think they’ll be joined by Baylor and, once again, Loyola. How about you?
Congratulations to Botkins and Centerville for winning state boys’ basketball championships this past weekend at UD Arena. The Trojans from Shelby County took home the D-IV title while the Elks from the GWOC claimed the D-I trophy. Both have key players returning next year so expect deep tourney runs in ‘22. Also, how about those Lady Raiders from Wright State? The Horizon League champions became only the seventh team seeded 13th in NCAA women’s history to advance to the second round ousting 4th seed Arkansas. Prior to their win, 13th seeds were 6-100 in opening round matchups!
Sad news this weekend as all-time NBA great Elgin Baylor passed away at age 86. The 6’5” Baylor, along with Oscar Robertson, was a forerunner of today’s players, displaying athleticism and a flair for shotmaking creativity. He was an 11-time All Pro, averaged 27.4 points per game for his career (third best ever), and, along with Jerry West, led the Los Angeles Lakers to seven NBA championship finals, only to lose six times to the Bill Russell led Celtic dynasty and once to the Knicks.
By the way, how many remember that the Lakers, one of professional sports’ “glamour” teams, originally played in Minneapolis before relocating to LA in 1960? From 1947 through 1960 the George Miken era team won five NBA titles before dwindling attendance sent them west. There aren’t many lakes in Southern California, but how about Minnesota, “The Land of 10,000 Lakes,” hence the team name!
Once again, the call has gone out for fresh faces to officiate different sports. There is a continuing foreseen shortage as veteran officials start to retire. It’s a tough, challenging but rewarding hobby that keeps you involved with the sport and allows you to earn some extra cash and is vital to the continued success of youth and high school sports. Google the Ohio High School Athletic Association web site or contact any local officials such as Mike Stegall and Greg Place or any high school athletic directors on how to get started!
Finally, well-known local resident Ed Curry, an expert on Indiana high school basketball, gave me a set of writings and background history of the “Greatest High School Sporting Event in the Country,” the Indiana boys’ high school basketball tournament. Through the mid-’90s all schools, regardless of enrollment, played for one state championship, small rural schools versus large city teams. Remember the great sports movie “Hoosiers” which was based on the 1954 “Milan Miracle?”
Indiana switched to four classes, just like Ohio, and has seen a drastic decline in not only attendance but also enthusiasm statewide. There are pros and cons to class divisions and Ed’s nephew is a leading proponent of a hybrid tournament, with early rounds matching schools of a like size, with winning teams then playing in an open bracket the last three rounds, thus returning to one state championship game. An interesting concept, what do you think?
Until next time, stay healthy and active!
Dr. Alex Warner is a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate