Don’t even ask me how my bracket is doing. Even though I changed the way I approached my annual “March Madness” predictions, the results are the same; they’re awful. And, they’re equally bad for both mens and womens brackets. The only good thing about my prediction on the mens side is my national championship pick, Louisville, is still playing and will be in the Final Four this weekend.
Here are some other random thoughts about what we’ve seen so far:
The injury to Louisville’s Kevin Ware was the worst I’ve ever seen on any level. The Cardinal guard suffered a compound fracture of his leg after attempting to block a shot during the first half of Louisville’s Elite Eight win over Duke. After getting over the initial trauma of the gruesome injury, the Louisville players put their game in high gear and destroyed the Blue Devils 85-63. The Cardinals will face Wichita State in the Final Four in Atlanta. Ware is a former prep stand-out from the Peach state.
There is no doubt that Florida Gulf Coast was the true “Cinderella” story in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Eagles became the first 15th seed to advance to the Sweet 16 before they lost to in-state rival Florida on Friday. Since the Eagles upset of second seeded Georgetown in the opening round, enrollment figures at the school have gone up 400%.
There is one other great “Cinderella” story in this year’s tournament. 9th seeded Wichita State pulled off one upset after another on the way to this year’s Final Four. The Shockers upset 2nd seed Ohio State to advance to their national semi-final meeting with Louisville. This is the same Wichita State team that was defeated 69-60 back in December by Tennessee. Head Coach Greg Marshall refuses to list his team as a “Cinderella” squad however. “I don’t think we’re Cinderella at all” he said. “I think Cinderella just found one slipper. I don’t think she found four.”
National top-seed Louisville is the only regional top seed to advance to the Final Four. The favored Cardinals will join West number 9 seed Wichita State, South number 3 seed Michigan, and East number four seed Syracuse in Atlanta.
Two of the four head coaches in the Final Four have won a national championship before. Louisville’s Rick Pitino, (1996 with Kentucky) and Jim Boheim of Syracuse, (2003).
The biggest “choke” job so far has been in the South semi-final match up as top-seed Kansas blew a 14 point lead late in the second half to lose to surprising Michigan in overtime.
The best coach not playing in the Final Four could be Marquette’s Buzz Williams. Look for him to get a higher profile job offer soon.
On the women’s side, the best coaching job from start to finish is the one turned in by Tennessee’s Holly Warlick. Since the Lady Vols lost to UTC in their season opener, they regrouped to post a 27-7 record. That includes an SEC regular season title, and an appearance in the Elite Eight against Louisville Tuesday night.
With top-ranked and defending national champ Baylor’s upset at the hands of Louisville, we can now list Notre Dame (34-1) as the team to beat for the women’s title. The Lady Irish whipped Kansas 93-63 in the Norfolk Region semi-finals on Sunday. Notre Dame has been to two straight Final Fours and is just one win away from a third straight trip.
With my predictions so far being so awful, I’m not making any more until next March. By the way, Major League Baseball begins today. Go Yankees!
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).