Start the Madness
by Tracy Granzyk
Start the Madness
Tournament time always triggers two things in my mind. The first is that spring is around the corner, with summer soon to follow. You would think that living in the mountains of Colorado, I would be holding out for one more good dump of the fluffy white stuff. However, having grown up in the Chicagoland area, I am wired to pray for the return of the sun, and its warmth, as soon as it goes under-cloud sometime in October. Having spent my formative years in the Midwest, there is still always the doubt the sun will ever return.
The second, and maybe more important fact, is that the start of tournament time means we have an entire month of basketball ahead. And not just any old basketball – great basketball. Loose-ball-diving, score-table-crashing, three-point-shooting, hard-rebounding fights-to-the-finish, played with every ounce of post-season passion. It’s a time where champions are called to the carpet, and either back up their season long rankings, or fall to a team that musters more heart on some given night. With my love for the underdog, I take pleasure in a good upset and March Madness affords almost any solid team a shot for glory. This is true democracy in my mind. Work hard, and succeed. No politics, just performance. Wins speak louder than hype.
So here we go, returning to the familiar, early spring ritual of March Madness. Where the tournament remains the same, but the day-to-day games are sure to supply more than one surprise.
Conference Tournament Roundup
While No. 3 Oklahoma has had the Big 12 No. 1 seed sewn up for awhile, the Nos. 2-7 seeds for the conference tournament were up for grabs down to the wire, as those seven teams also remain in the Top 25 AP rankings. No. 9 Baylor’s 95-91, come from behind victory versus No. 11 Iowa State last week put them in sole position of the No. 2 seed. No. 11 Colorado moved closer to their ultimate No. 3 seed when they triumphed over No. 12 Kansas State 79-58 in Boulder last weekend. KState earned a bye as the No. 4 seed, and will play the winner of the Kansas/Texas game on March 5th. No. 11 Iowa State ended up as the No. 6 seed, which just hammers home once again how competitive a conference the Big 12 remains. The Cyclones face Nebraska on March 5th as well, and barring natural disaster or multiple injuries, will most likely square off against Colorado for the third time this season in the quarterfinals. The series has both teams with a win versus one another, and their third meeting should make for an exciting tie break. My pick: No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Colorado.
The SEC conference tournament is well underway, and No. 4 Tennessee is still the team to beat. With the season series versus No. 6 Vanderbilt split, and a determined No. 7 LSU team still in their future, the Lady Vols will not roll through without being challenged.
In one of the early upset of 2002 post season play, No. 10 South Carolina was handled by unranked Arkansas, the No. 7 conference seed, 79-61. The Razorbacks will have to take the same ardor into their semifinal match versus a tough No. 6 Vanderbilt team, intent on going all the way. My pick: No. 1 Tennessee, No. 2 Vanderbilt.
No. 1 UConn, still undefeated on the season, will have to keep their focus sharp and refuse to fall back on their record, as they go into the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed. No. 21 Boston College, No. 22 Notre Dame or No. 24 Virginia Tech have upset abilities and will provide some competition for the Huskies before it’s all over. My pick: No. 1 UConn, No. 2 Notre Dame.
Currently unranked Wisconsin, who has gone up and down in the Top 25 this season, defeated a strong No. 14 Minnesota team, 74-64 in the conference quarterfinal contest. They will face Penn State, the No. 2 seed in the semifinals.
No. 8 Purdue, came close to becoming a second Big 10 upset victim, as they escaped in overtime, 74-67 versus No. 9 seed Michigan. With Wisconsin showing they can put it together at crunch time, my pick pits the Badgers vs. the Boilermakers in the March 4th Championship in Indianapolis. Victor: Boilermakers.