By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The NCAA Tournament begins for real today. Although technically, it’s the start of the second-round after the four supposed “first-round” games were played Tuesday and Wednesday. Those games used to be called “play-in” games, but in deference to not wanting to hurt the feelings of the teams involved, it’s now been labeled the “first-round.”
That doesn’t mean, of course, there is any rhyme or reason as to why those four games involving the eight teams got stuck with having to play in Dayton, Ohio (having been to Dayton many times, “stuck” is the right word).
While one can almost understand having teams seeded 16th (N.C. A&T vs. Liberty and LIU-Brooklyn vs. James Madison) playing in the early matches, it seems strange to match up two 11 seeds (Middle Tennessee State vs. St. Mary’s) and two 13 seeds (Boise State vs. LaSalle). Why would they be forced into an extra round of games when the 12th, 14th and 15th seeds aren’t?
As with many things NCAA-related, there is no logical explanation. So, instead let’s ponder other, only slightly more logical tournament matters, such as:
• One in 9.2 quintillion. (Is that even a number?) According to an article in USA Today, those are the odds of picking a perfect bracket. According to that same article, one would have a better chance of making four consecutive holes-in-one during a round of golf. It’s a number so astronomical that it may only be matched by our national debt by the end of the second Obama administration.
• Five vs. 12. The matchup between the fifth and 12th seeds has a long history of upsets. Since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 38 teams seeded 12th have pulled the upset with a 12-seed winning at least one game each year with the exceptions being the 1988, 2000 and 2007 tournaments.
Many so-called experts see at least one such 12 vs. 5 matchup as having strong upset potential, which should make Oklahoma State fans a bit nervous as the fifth-seeded Cowboys face 12th-seed Oregon today in San Jose, Calif., in what many consider a game that is the prime candidate to keep that streak going.
It gets even worse though as the Cowboys are not only up against playing the Ducks in what is practically Oregon’s own backyard, the Pokes also would be well-advised to wear special eye protection as rampant cases of retina damage have been reported by opponents after getting too close to Oregon’s uniforms.
• While upsets give the tournament a significant part of its appeal, keep this stat in mind: Seventeen of the past 28 champions have been No. 1 seeds, and only twice (2006 and 2011) since 1981 has the Final Four been completely bereft of a top-seed.
A couple of oddball trends also were recently uncovered, neither of which, unfortunately, portend well for OSU or OU:
• Since the Syracuse Orange won the NCAA championship in 2003, no team without some blue in its official team color has won the title.
• A team whose name starts with a vowel has only won the tournament four times since 1979 and twice that has been Indiana.
OK, something potentially positive: Since 2008 the winning coach has had three or four letters in his first name. Would that make the Sooners a legitimate “Lon” shot?
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.