Grading time: midterm assesments for the tourney

Phil Consuegra

This past weekend, the nation was witness to an annual holiday, a time in which we all come together to watch the best basketball in the country (and yes, it is the best in the country; the NBA is far less climactic). March Madness is so big, that people skip work, school and their everyday lives to sit and watch college basketball for twelve hours, with an hour in between sessions to order pizza and wait for it, as it arrives just in time for the next game. Thank God for the CBS Evening News. Without that, I wouldn’t have remembered to eat this past weekend.

With that said, it’s time, after a good 36 hours of tournament coverage, to unveil the “mid-tournament” grades for this year’s March Madness festivities. Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the report card.

Mid Major Teams: A+.

Talk about party crashers. It is a reality that a seven seed or an 11 will be in the Elite Eight. The funniest thing is, neither is from a major conference. George Mason, a team which many thought shouldn’t even be considered to dance, crashed the party for the defending champ UNC, and now looks to earn the opportunity to knock off – can you believe it? – UConn to go on to the Final Four. Wow. Along the same lines, Northwestern State apparently came to play, knocking off Big Ten champ Iowa. And if you think Bradley doesn’t have upset on its mind this weekend, think again. The way they played against Pitt, I’d be awfully worried if I were Memphis.

Number 1 seeds: C-

Right now, the number one seed who looks the strongest? Memphis. That’s bad. After our beloved family, the Villanova Wildcats, fell asleep against lowly Monmouth, UConn had to summon all its strength not to get beat by the titan Albany, to whom they were down 12 with six minutes left. Even Duke struggled early against Southern. Leave it to Memphis to be the only top seed to legitimately blow a team out in the first round. The top seeds better get it together, or the Final Four will be even more interesting.

Officiating: C

I don’t think I have to explain this. Just take a look at the game tape from the Villanova-Arizona game. Lackluster.

Media Coverage: D

It seemed as though no one could get enough of the “let’s all bash Villanova” show that was on Friday night. Instead of picking on the only top seed to actually be losing at critical points in the game (yes, I’m talking about mighty UConn), the “experts” picked on a team that was in control the whole game. For UConn, it was a “character building game.” For Villanova, it was a debacle. Many columnists actually brought out the question, “What if Kenney had made two or three more shots?” Are you kidding me? What if Randy Foye had made one more three against Texas? Villanova would have been the No. 1 team in the nation. Funny how that question wasn’t asked then.

CBS Coverage: F

Instead of cutting to the exciting, buzzer-beating finish between Northwestern State and Iowa, CBS decided it would be a better idea to continue watching West Virginia Mountaineers pound the Salukis of Southern Illinois by 18. In addition, I think Billy Packer needs to stop whatever he’s doing. The man clearly has no idea what he’s talking about, asking the question, “I wonder if Jay Wright will continue to let Kyle Lowry bring up the ball?” with four minutes left in the second half. Well Billy, why wouldn’t he? They were winning with that strategy.

It’s shameful that CBS decides to allow this commentator to call the Final Four every year. And as much as I love Jim Nantz, he needs to stick to golf. When you say, “The Wildcats have only one timeout left” at a game between Villanova and Arizona, I think you should stop calling college basketball games. Seriously, I could do a better job than these clowns. Where was Len Elmore?

Villanova Wildcats: B-

A lot of people probably think the ‘Cats deserve a lower grade. Allow the professor to explain. True, they didn’t look like a No. 1 seed in the first round against Monmouth, but guess what? They didn’t have to. Yes, Arizona gave them a great game, but Arizona was playing the best basketball of its season. That’s a team with Final Four talent on it, and to beat them when they were playing so well was pivotal. The team proved it could win with Mike Nardi playing limited minutes and foul trouble haunting them through the first half. The freshmen earned their colors, with Cunningham and Clark filling in beautifully when needed. And what can you say about Bump? A career game, and with him playing so well, the family is tough to bet against.

To those of you who are C or below, let this weekend be the time you can bring that grade up. If you are above a B, congratulations. Keep doing what you’re doing. For that one B-, I think you know what you have to do.