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Not the Least Bit Upset.... - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Not the Least Bit Upset....
I'm back to normal after a brief two-hour bout of temporary insanity. Once again, as usual, the instrument does not exist that can measure my indifference to March Madness.

That, for the uninitiated, is the (very copyrighted) term for the annual men's college basketball tournament in this country, which selects the top 68 of the 300-odd major uni's in this country, and pits them in a single-elimination festival of athletics and gambing that will ride us into early April.  Unlike their Football Factory counterparts, which by design limit championship consideration to only the four best (and usually among the biggest and richest) colleges, every one of those 300-plus schools have a technical shot at what's known as the Big Dance.  No matter how bad or obscure your program is, if you win your conference's own tournament at the end of the regular season, you get an automatic bid.  (Only the eight snooty Ivy League schools refuse to have a tournament of their own, and even their best-record team from the season gets a bid.)

For years, the tournament field was fixed at 64 teams: the 30-ish conference tournament winners. plus "at large" teams that tend to be from the Big Kid conferences, with familiar names like This State and That A&M and The Other Tech getting routine consideration over schools like we have upstate not named Syracuse. (Even they are out of the mix this year, on a self-imposed absence from post-season play due to past rule violations.) More recently, an extra team, and now four, start the Madness in a "play-in" round on the two days before things begin in earnest.  These are typically reserved for lambs to the slaughter from small conferences, but occasionally one gets hot at the right time and beats a first round opponent.

All this was relevant to me only because one of my two almas mater made it to the tournament this year for the first time ever: our very own University of Buffalo* Bulls.  (Cornell has made it four times in my lifetime, dying in the first round every time except 2010, when they lasted until a third-round loss against perennial NBA-prep team Kentucky.)

UB was in Division 3 when I first moved here, eventually rising to the top level and becoming the SUNY system's supposed flagship school for collegiate sports and now facing off in conference play against the Akron Zips and the Kent State Sharpshooters (I am only making one of those names up) in the Mid-American Conference. Now coached by a one-time tournament winner named Bobby Hurley,**, they beat out the other teams in this year's MAC tournament, and earned a 12th seeding against a Big Kid team from West By God Virginia.

What makes the basketball tournament appealing, besides the gambling, is that all 68 teams theoretically have a shot at the championship. The field is split into four 16-team "regions" once the play-in teams are slotted in, so the #1 in each plays #16, 2 plays 15, and so on and so on and so on. No 16-seed has ever beaten a 1-seed, including in either of the two matchups which have already ended in this year's Dance; but 2's have lost to 15's occasionally, and this year's games have already shown two Davids in the 14-slot beating mighty 3-seeds.  More about one of those later.

So UB as a 12 beating a bigger, stronger, faster 5-seed Mountaineer squad? Entirely possible.  Just didn't happen:(

The guys gave it a good effort, though. They were down, at times, by football-sounding scores like 14-7 and 28-14, but Hurley kept them in it, and with luck and some 3-point shooting, they had the game tied at 62-62 with barely two minutes to go. Then the Big Kids from WV got a lucky foul call, an even luckier 3-point buzzer-beater, and UB went home with Teh Sads in the end.  But they got a ton of national attention and will only lose two players to graduation, so unless some Big Time Factory steals their coach away, UB has high hopes for an even better run in 2016.

But no way will they produce the best fall. No, that belongs to the coach of another David on the Goliathscope of this year's tournament, Georgia State.  The school is another that wasn't expected to make the field from the non-power Sun Belt Conference, but did so in a tight conference championship game that got his team in but cost him his Achilles tendon:

"Be honest, I saw (Ferguson) shoot the ball and I saw the red lights go off,'' Hunter said explaining the sequence of events that led to his injury. "And when I saw the red lights go off I jumped up. I tore my Achilles years ago on the right side playing basketball when I was 26. It was the exact same feeling. I hadn't jumped that high in 26 years. I knew when I came down. Instead of stopping right there, I wanted to go celebrate with my team. But more importantly I wanted to go celebrate with my son.''

Yes, his son- he plays on the team. Which will be important later- about four days later, when Father and Son faced a Big Kid team Baylor, seeded 3rd to their 14th- and beat them- on a last-second shot by, yes, his son.  Unable to stand on his wounded heel, he rolled into the arena on a modified office chair- and fell off it in glee when the kid's basket went in:

Everybody's doin a brand new dance now- cmon baby, do the buzzer beater!


*There's some controversy about the appellation of the team; I wrote about it here and am sticking with it.

**A downstate SUNYer by his accent, but featured in a recent ESPN documentary about his Buffalo-native teammate at Duke titled "I Hate Christian Laettner."
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