The 2018 college basketball season has offered more parity and equality than any other season. Just look at the huge upset last week of top-ranked and number one seed Virginia by the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. It wasn't just a last second buzzer-beater, it was a twenty point thumping. The win by UMBC was historical. It was the first win by a number 16 seed over a top seeded team in NCAA Tournament history. One pundit on Facebook posted, "Virginia was beaten by an online school." UMBC is certainly not an online school, but the win by the Retrievers was monumental to say the least.
In addition to that big upset by UMBC, there were other notable wins by lower seeds last week. Only two of the top seeds advanced to this week's "Sweet 16" and a few of the other higher seeds were also upset. And all this comes while the FBI is in the middle of a nationwide investigation into college basketball's relationships with shoe companies and paying players big bucks to sign with certain schools. That scandal has already cost a hall of fame coach his job as Louisville cut ties with Rick Pitino. There have been other assistant coaches tabbed in the investigation including Auburn legend Chuck Person. Before we reach summertime, other heads will likely roll, and notice I said this was an FBI search and not the NCAA. They can't be trusted to come down on shoe companies, because the NCAA is as crooked as anyone.
There is presently not much news at all regarding the FBI investigation, but a few coaches are chiming in about the parity issue. Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said following his team's win over top-seed Xavier in round two, " I think what you're seeing in college basketball, it's almost like a revolution." Hamilton went on to warn reporters to stop calling all those big wins, "upsets."
When #4 Arizona was beaten 84-69 by 13th seed Buffalo, people started pointing fingers at Arizona Coach Sean Miller. Miller was caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to talented freshman Deandre Ayton, a potential top NBA draft pick in June. One of Miller's assistant coaches is facing time in federal prison for his involvement in the shoe company scandal and now it appears that Sean Miller may be trying to get the job at Pittsburgh; if Pitt will have him and under the circumstances that's not very likely.
Another coach who has already lost an assistant in the FBI probe is Auburn's Bruce Pearl. Pearl led the Tigers to a co-SEC Championship with Tennessee, in a memorable coaching job. There is no doubt that Pearl can coach. The doubt comes in his integrity and the FBI investigation casts a huge shadow over the Auburn program. Coach Pearl has already been fired at Tennessee for lying to NCAA investigators over minor infractions in Knoxville. If he loses his job at Auburn, his coaching career is likely over.
As we enter the "Sweet 16" weekend, we will probably see a few more of these so-called upsets. I picked Villanova to win the NCAA Title several weeks ago, and that could very well happen. As parity continues to make a mockery of everyone's bracket, nothing would surprise me at all if one of those "online" schools wins it all.
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Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com