The tournament season for basketball is far from over – including high school basketball tournaments I’m working in the next few weeks. The ESPN RISE High School Basketball Invitational is back at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md., this year and I’m excited to be working it for the third year in a row. (www.nhsihoops.com) Also coming up this weekend is the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago, Ill., and coming up in a few weeks is the 38th Annual Capital Classic – which I am helping to run, probably my biggest task to date! (www.thecapitalclassic.com)
I am looking forward to what lies ahead in the coming weeks. These high school basketball tournaments give players the chance to shine on a bigger level than inside their own gymnasiums. Most head off to Division-I schools in major conferences. It’s their time to prove they deserve to be among the best. But what about the best, now?
This weekend also notes the 67th NCAA Tournament since its beginning in 1939. The four remaining schools, all from different conferences, are set to tip off in Houston, Tex. Reliant Stadium is the host for what might be one of the most storied Final Fours in history. In making this year potentially historic, I thought I would compile some fun facts about this season’s Final Four:
By the way, despite having Kansas winning it all, I’m still ranked 115, 795 in the 98th percentile in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge…How about you?
We can start with saying that the combined salaries of Butler and VCU’s coaching staff’s are lower than that of UConn’s players…(Just kidding!!) I heard this the other day, and as a Georgetown fan, couldn’t do anything but laugh, and share it. Now for some actual facts:
- Performances of the No. 1 seeds: 1 out in second round, 2 out in Sweet 16, 1 out in Elite Eight
- The tournament has been renamed “mid-major March Madness”: VCU vs. Butler = Must See TV
- 192 ESPN Tournament Challenge brackets of 5.9 million have both VCU and Butler in the Final Four. Only 20 have those two and UConn. (via @ESPNResearch)
- Butler is the first final four team to go back to back that hasn’t been a 1 or 2 seed either time
- VCU’s defense ranked 106th in the nation. But, it ranked 2nd to KU in the NCAA. Averaged 8.2 3pt FGM season, but averaged over 10 in NCAA
- This year marks the thrd #11 seed in Final Four history with VCU in the Final Four (the others were 2006 George Mason & 1986 LSU)
- VCU’s Shaka Smart (33) and Butler’s Brad Stevens (34) combined are still younger than UConn’s Jim Calhoun (68)
- Connecticut is currently 12-0 outside of regular season action this year (Maui Invitational, 3-0; Big East Tournament, 5-0; NCAA, 4-0)
- UConn finished 9th in Big East at 9-9; VCU finished 4th in Colonial at 12-6, Butler finished tied for first at 13-5 in Horizon League, and Kentucky finished 2nd in SEC East at 10-6. VCU is the only Final Four team that did not win their respective conference tournament.
- Kentucky is headed back to the Final Four for an amazing 14th time. They currently hold the No. 1 spot for trips to the NCAA tournament with 51 appearances.
- What do you mean you have never heard of VCU!? Enrollment in the university is approximately 32,300, followed by Kentucky who has a roughly 27,200, then UConn with about 20,800 and Butler with 4,200 students
- VCU is the only Final Four team to have played five games (including a play-in game) to get to the Final Four since the NCAA had changed the field to 68 teams
There are endless comparisons to be made about these very different, very talented clubs. I’m sure someone will throw in a quote from Hoosiers (filmed at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse), or “Houston, we have a problem” will no doubt come up at some point over the course of the weekend. All we can do is sit back and enjoy what has already been a bracket busting amazing post-season ride.
It happens with sports. There’s a winner, and a loser – and sometimes, there are ties (re: soccer). The emotional side of sports makes whatever team you are cheering for, against or working for, exciting. The competitiveness outside of the game itself can involve anything from friendly bets, like wearing a rival t-shirt as a penalty, to betting on a game for high stakes and monetary value.
via rogersmith’s Flickr
But what do these games really do to us? Does winning and losing affect us more than we think? Is it more than just a game?
Let’s look at the evidence of these past few weeks. Its the time when you get to see grown men outright cry in happiness, sadness and any other emotion you can think of.
Starting with post season play, there is a lot that factors in. For example, after the Big East tournament, we see great players like St. John’s DJ Kennedy who tore his ACL, Chris Wright from Georgetown with a broken hand, and Kyrie Irving from Duke, still unable to play to support their respective teams. It can take a toll on not only the players involved, but their fan base who support them. No one wants to see anyone get hurt on the court, and for players like Kelsey Barlow from Purdue who makes mistakes off the court, well, that affects us, too.
96 hours of watching basketball non-stop…I have some thoughts:
Having worked the regional bracket in Washington, DC this past week, emotions were high then, too. The media relations and operations volunteer staff, led by Mex Carey, Georgetown Basketball’s SID, had one job to do. Make sure everything goes according to plan and keep everyone happy. Not an easy feat, but was accomplished, employing a staff that is hard working, and when given a task, can be trusted that it will be completed to the best of the staffers ability. Not only was there stress from a working stand point, the NCAA president was there, making sure everything was going according to plan. That, of course, put pressure on us to make sure things were going by the book. The National Collegiate Athletic Association is in charge, and in control, for a reason.
But from a fans perspective, emotions can take over. Think of it as if you were a Pittsburgh fan, with high expectations, who came up short to a last second call to a team like Butler. A Horizon league contender, who was not always in the spotlight during the year, despite being runners up last year to the National Champions, Duke in 2010.
Crushed, disappointed, anger, hatred, all words that come to mind after a loss like that. But what about if you’re a Butler fan? They had something to prove, as do many smaller leagues in college basketball. Traveling to DC, 492 miles away from their campus in Indianapolis, Indiana, knowing you might match up with a strong possible final four contender, and come out on top.
How would you feel? What about Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams, a play-in team, new to the tournament in the last couple of years. They are proving all experts wrong and making a bigger name for what it means to be a solid Cinderella team. There isn’t anything people can say that will bring the emotion of the game out of the emotion of everyone involved with a team.
Out of parents, coaches, friends, family, and outright fans, fair weather or not, and who do I feel the most for? The seniors. They bring leadership to the team we love so much to work for, watch, and continue to follow. We also feel for the athletes themselves who want to continue to succeed with their own goals on the court; beating an average, breaking your own record, maintaining a starting position.
With the latest sanctions and firing of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, however, we have to be able to look towards the future, and try and prevent what has happened in the past, fixing the problems along the way. Emotions are involved here too, branching out to the families of the coaches affected, not to mention, the athletes future, and the student-fan base of the university involved. The NCAA has proved it doesn’t mess around if you break the rules. No one gets off scott-free. Looking closely, someone has to accept the blame, and unfortunately, a human price has to be paid.
But what would it have taken for him to keep his job, if anything? What if Tennessee had come out and played like they did against Pitt in December and made a Final Four run, would he still have been fired? It sparks an interesting debate.
No doubt will my friend Bruce be coaching somewhere in the next couple of years and trump us all in the NCAA tournaments to come. I will be the first to say I will closely follow whatever team has the pleasure of having him as a coach. Same thing with his assistants.
We sometimes forget that setting the groundwork for winning with any university or professional organization makes people want to be around you, anyway you slice it.
It not only means revenue for games, but helps with the university and organization as well. With college, freshman applications increase a large percentage after a national championship title, look it up, the statistics don’t lie.
People will find themselves flocking to be around someone, or anything, that has a winning record. Whether it is a program that succeeds academically, or athletically, it keeps the competitive edge going.
We want everyone to succeed, on and off the court, field or ice. Fortunately, and unfortunately for fans there were a lot of close game this year so far in the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments, bracket busting fans all around the world. And we’re only half way through. Sometimes it’s more than just about the winning or losing of the game itself, but what happens beyond that and who is involved. When the basketball season is over, you can look to football season but also anxiously awaiting another 6 months til the madness resumes again. No doubt to fans think of questionable calls at the end of games, what if that basket had gone in? What if that kick went an inch or two more to the left? What if I had decided to follow a different team back in 1994? Do we remember a losing team? Sure we do. We don’t forget the agony of defeat..
Look at the Fab 5 and what they did for Michigan and the game of college basketball. Just because they didn’t win a championship, doesn’t make them “losers” necessarily.
The only thing we can do as fans, employees, and as people emotionally invested in the game itself, no matter what the sport, is hope for the best, and maintain our support in any way possible. And hey, throw in a little face paint every once in a while. Its good for the soul.
For even more reading, check out Ed The Sports Fan’s (@edthesportsfan) blog on reflections of watching 96 Hours of Basketball.
Some say that today is the day to watch your back…and beware of the Ides of March, well I’m not Julius Caesar, and this isn’t 44 BC, but I will share an awesome video with you. A band from the 1970′s called Ides of March had an awesome song called “Vehicle”. Unfamiliar? Maybe with the name, but the song is a popular one amongst college pep and marching bands. As a precursor to the NCAA tournament, here’s a great adaptation of the song performed by 7th and 8th graders from Millburn Middle School out of New Jersey.
FINALLY. It’s March. Finally, it’s tournament time. Finally, a chance for teams to shine in the postseason, or will they? I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of and work in a conference that, by definition alone, is arguably one of the best conferences in college basketball. The Big East Tournament in New York is something that makes me shake my head in disbelief that anyone can question how amazing the overall strength of the conference. For those that have never been, the World’s Most Famous arena isn’t THAT different from arenas you might be used to. It’s the history and tradition of the building including, who has performed and played there, that defines what it is. There is just something about that place that makes the hallowed hallways give you goosebumps.
This past week was amazing, and for the others that had the pleasure of attending, whether as a fan or media, or even watching on television, will unanimously agree. Upon arriving in NYC and getting credentials for the tournament, my brothers, Dad and myself immediately run into John Paquette, Big East Associate Commissioner of Communications who is walking with Art Hyland, Supervisor of Officials. Exchanging hellos, we then run into Lisa Zenecchia, the executive assistant to Paquette who has been working the tournament since it had been moved from Providence, RI, then Syracuse, then Hartford, Conn. to finally NY at Madison Square Garden. where it has been since ’83. Wow. It’s amazing to think how many incredible games have been played over the years.
I’m not going to bore you with the recaps of all the games, because there are statistics for that, We all know what happened. But, if you want to learn more about the Men’s Basketball Big East conference results go here. Unfortunately, Georgetown was cut early in the tournament on the second day - but I was able to experience the rest of the tournament from an in-the-trenches point-of-view. With so many amazing teams, it felt like a mini-NCAA tournament, but played in five days. Thrilling for anyone, especially with those buzzer beater games. As my friend Simon, a Georgetown alum (@si_nurse) says, “it’s just one quadrant of the NCAA, it’s simply amazing.” Not only is it difficult to play two games in a row, but five? UConn beats out the likes of Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville, West Virginia? Incredible. Oh yeah, and only two words come to mind to sum up the tournament: Kemba Walker.
The guy is amazing, a ball of energy, going 100 percent for 40 minutes a game. I really hope he sleeps til the tournament, though. They’ll need it. A downside of playing in an “NCAA”-like tournament is having to do it again, with only a few days in between to rest. Then gearing up and trying to win another 11 games to win a national championship. Sounds easy right? Nope. Not even close, regardless how “easy” the bracket road might seem (I hear you, Duke fans).
Things have changed from last year’s tournament, however. Although it was a nicer area for the credentialed staff to work and eat, the new construction of the building sent the media down a floor, and much further away from the court. It was not as convenient as having everything right behind media row, like last year. The postgame press conferences were the only things held directly opposite of team benches. I also noticed the changes in marketing and sponsorship. Sunkist and Reese’s were major sponsors again, having half time ball shootouts with fans hoping to win free Reese’s peanut butter cups for a year (um, yes please). But last year New York Life insurance was a major sponsor, while this past year was American Eagle Outfitters. Why? My assumption is that with such a strong field, targeting a younger generation, especially willing young alumni, was more beneficial than the older demographic, (or “suits” as I like to call it) that we would often see at the Garden in the past. It will be interesting to see what happens next year, but I thought the tournament changeover went rather smoothly. ESPN3D also broadcasted all the games which was really fun to watch. The cameras were intricate, complete with two men controlling it, one camera operator, and the other looking pretty much like a Ghostbuster with all the wires and cords connected to the backpack he wore.
We saw other changes this year as well: the officiating. There has been a lot of talk about it, which resulted in three of the tournament referees voluntarily withdrawing after officiating the St. John’s/Rutgers game. We as the viewing audience, NCAA organization, players and coaches and media have to put a lot of trust into the officiating of a game, and hope that it is done correctly. Mistakes happen from time to time, but veterans? Google them. Their track records have kept them around for a long time. Nonetheless, they missed two critical calls that, when looking at the replay, should have seemed like an easy decision to make. A travel and stepping out of bounds with 1.7 seconds to go.
I wonder if this would be a huge issue if it wasn’t a game-changing call. But isn’t that what makes it so fun? There is still plenty to look into with this and how to prevent it from happening in the future. I’m sure officiating for the tournament will be checked, checked and rechecked again.
It was wonderful running into old friends and meeting new ones. The new blood of sports writers and media really make me thank my lucky stars to be able to be a part of this exciting sports and entertainment field, not to mention really excited for what the future brings. Also I want to thank Brian Prioleau (and his wife Tina) for their AMAZING hospitality this past week. Brian, you made the tournament experience what it was, and I thank you.
By the way, whose idea was it to have Nick Lachey sing a song at the end of the tournament? Called “Last One Standing”, I actually like the beat … but the voice botched the glory and strength of the tournament. Just like my view on Jennifer Hudson’s version of One Shining Moment; if you’re going to do it, do it right. Bring back Teddy or Luther. (You can listen to Nick’s song here. and Jennifer’s version here.)
Championship season so far has been nothing short of amazing. I only hope that the NCAA tournament can be equally as fun to watch. There are so many factors that go into postseason play games, and rooting for the underdog seems to be the popular choice over the past several years. 104-0 is the record that a No. 1 seed has never lost in the history of the NCAA tournament in the first round. That’s quite the statistic, and makes an interesting point. It could be that the first rounds are incredibly boring, or it could be that the games kill all of our brackets in one fall swoop. Stressful for anyone involved on the operational side of the games. Photographers, beat writers, analysts, arena staff and crew have deadlines that must be met. It’s the most stressful and exciting time of year.
We’re just days away from the Big Dance, gambling and pools and some amazing highlights and records beaten. I will be working the NCAA tournament rounds here in Washington, D.C. and hope to be able to share an insider look from there as well. I cannot wait to see the drama unfold. Four networks this year: CBS, TNT, TruTV and TBS. Like I had said to friends earlier in the week, March (and my life right now) is defined by a specific dimension of 94 by 50 feet. Embrace the madness.
Photo credits: Pam Chvotkin
What would you do if you couldn’t do what you loved to do, every day? Imagine how you’d feel if you were an accountant and couldn’t crunch numbers? What about a pilot who couldn’t fly anymore? What now? With athletes, this goes through their minds all the time. As a 17 -and 18-year-old recruit, athletes are excited and hopeful to work hard and focus on turning themselves into the best players in their craft. They go through the arduous process of picking a college – or in some cases, lengthy drawn out programs to be traded to a different team and make a spectacle of it in front of the entire world.
Sports can be completely unpredictable and, in most cases, extremely dangerous. It’s why we love to watch; defined as “a physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in, competitively. But when you’re an athlete in college, and soaring past your potential, what happens if you get hurt? What do you have to fall back on? Seth Mitchell had to make this decision. As an All-America team linebacker at Michigan State, Seth had his career cut short due to a devastating knee injury. As a die-hard Spartan, and his extreme love for football, he struggled with the next chapter of his life. Finishing his education was first on his list. He felt that if nothing else, having that degree would help him make any future decisions he had for himself and his family. Watching TV one Saturday night changed his life, for the better.
“I was watching a show called The Contender. While I was watching the show, I saw Tom Zbikowski (currently a restricted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens), who was a safety for Notre Dame [in college]). I played against him and he fought on the under card of the Miguel Cotto vs. Paulie Malignaggi fight. He won that fight. He then inspired me to start boxing and the rest was history. I immediately went to Maryland and started training in 2007,” he says.
Comparatively, there are a lot of differences between football and boxing, but not the determination. Both include extreme focus and dedication in all forms of your life, including eating, sleeping and workouts. But a major difference is in the ring: it’s just you. No teammates to fall back on, talk about pressure. Even as an amateur, Seth had something special. After only his second fight, he was signed to Golden Boy Promotions. GBP has worked with an impressive list of fighters including its founder, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and “Sugar” Shane Mosley. Nicknamed Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell, he has done just that. Currently undefeated as an American Heavyweight contender, Seth is 21-0-1 15* KOs and shows no signs of slowing down. With a good head on his shoulders, the next heavyweight champion could be right under our noses.
Great video content by Dave Ross of Fox5 (@Fox5Ross)
So what’s next for him? Seth returns to the ring on March 5, facing Charles Davis (19-22-3, 4 KOs*) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Mitchell will be fighting on the undercard of HBO’s Boxing After Dark, featuring the main event between rising superstar, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Matthew Hatton (brother of boxer, Ricky Hatton).
For more information about Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell’s story check these out:
8CN Exclusive: Seth Mitchell by Kaliesha West (@KWildWildWest)
…and remember, don’t ever take what you love to do for granted. You never know what the future might bring.
**UPDATE**: Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell knocked out Charles Davis in the 1st min of 2nd rd. Bringing his record to 21-0-1, 15 KO. Go Seth!