Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ringling Brothers Got Nothin’ On The Madness

Coach and one-time national champion coach Jim Herrick once said the greatest show on Earth wasn’t a circus or a Broadway play but the NCAA Tournament. Many of us would fully support that statement and either have our bags packed for Vegas or reserved the time off of work on Thursday and Friday of next week to watch a back-to-back 12-hour marathon games on consecutive days. If March Madness is the greatest show on Earth then those first two days are the greatest in sport period. Schools that we have never seen before leaving everything they have on the floor with the only reward being the opportunity to play again in a couple of days. In fact this year’s tournament is shaping up to be one of the best round-by-round ever. So good that it might draw all of the focus away from what has started out to be an amazing championship week, where the first tickets to the big dance are handed out. In case you’ve missed it in the course of making your travel plans, for most of the early conference tournaments every game is a Game 7 because only the winner will be getting an Evite for next week. Conferences where injustice amounts to drama and this year is no exception as a school like Davidson can almost run the table during the regular season at 15-1 but get knocked out the conference tourney and watch third place and 12-loss Wofford take snatch their tickets out of their hands. Or Robert Morris (14-2) out of the Northeast Conference, one that only has one ticket to share amongst its ten members, surrender their ticket to 5th place Mount St. Mary’s who will hold the dubious honor of the worst record of all dance attendees at 16-16. But that’s what makes it great the sorrow only surpassed by the elation of the fact that your season’s not over. With that preface in mind here the early RSVP’s for party of the year, strike up the band. Mercer Bears Conference: Atlantic Sun Record: 26-8 Ticket-clincher: Mercer 68, Florida Gulf Coast 60 Leading scorer: Langston Hall (14.7 PPG) Tournament appearance: 3rd (First since: 1985) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Conference: Big South Record: 21-12 Ticket-clincher: Coastal Carolina 76, Winthrop 61 Leading scorer: Elijah Wilson (16.1 PPG) Tournament appearance: 3rd (First since: 1993) Delaware Fightin Blue Hens Conference: Colonial Record: 25-9 Ticket-clincher: Delaware 75, William & Mary 74 Leading scorer: Devon Saddler (19.7 PPG) Tournament appearance: 5th (First since: 1999) Milwaukee Panthers Conference: Horizon Record: 21-13 Ticket-clincher: Milwaukee 69, Wright State 63 Leading scorer: Jordan Aaron (14.9 PPG) Tournament appearance: 4th (First since: 2006) Harvard Crimson Conference: Ivy Record: 26-4 Ticket-clincher: Won Ivy League regular season (no conference tournament) Leading scorer: Wesley Saunders (14.0 PPG) Tournament appearance: 4th (First since: 2013) Manhattan Jaspers Conference: Metro Atlantic Record: 25-7 Ticket-clincher: Manhattan 71, Iona 68 Leading scorer: George Beamon (19.2 PPG) Tournament appearance: 7th (First since: 2004) Wichita State Shockers Conference: Missouri Valley Record: 34-0 Ticket-clincher: Wichita State 83, Indiana State 69 Leading scorer: Cleanthony Early (15.8 PPG) Tournament appearance: 11th (First since: 2013) Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers Conference: Northeast Record: 16-16 Ticket-clincher: Mount St. Mary's 88, Robert Morris 71 Leading scorer: Rashad Whack (17.6 PPG) Tournament appearance: 4th (First since: 2008) Eastern Kentucky Colonels Conference: Ohio Valley Record: 24-9 Ticket-clincher: E. Kentucky 79, Belmont 73 Leading scorer: Glenn Cosey (18.8 PPG) Tournament appearance: 8th (First since: 2007) Wofford Terriers Conference: Southern Record: 20-12 Ticket-clincher: Wofford 56, Western Carolina 53 Leading scorer: Karl Cochran (15.7 PPG) Tournament appearance: 3rd (First since: 2011) North Dakota State Bison Conference: Summit Record: 25-6 Ticket-clincher: North Dakota State 60, IPFW 57 Leading scorer: Taylor Braun (18.3 PPG) Tournament appearance: 2nd (First since: 2009) Gonzaga Bulldogs Conference: West Coast Record: 28-6 Ticket-clincher: Gonzaga 75, BYU 64 Leading scorer: Sam Dower (14.8 PPG) Tournament appearance: 17th (First since: 2013)

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