King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament provides no shocking upsets, which may be an endangered species anyway.

Topics:

Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament was a day without buzzer-beaters, without stunning upsets. It was a day that had its moments, and plenty of great basketball, but none of those fantastic finishes that become part of the game’s lore.

The biggest upset of the day was 12-seed Manhattan beating No. 5 Florida in the East Rutherford region. I’ll give you an idea how much of a surprise that wasn’t. I’ve so far collected the brackets of eight typists and chatterers from Sports Illustrated, the Sporting News, Fox Sports and CBS.SportsLine.com, which along with my own make up the Salon Pool o’ Experts. Out of nine brackets, eight of us picked Manhattan to win that game. That was no upset.

I actually heard the word “parity” uttered on TV Thursday. It’s come to that. I’ve long believed that teams seeded from about fifth to 12th are pretty much interchangeable, and they’re only seeded the way they are because of the particular prejudices of the NCAA Selection Committee. Your own prejudices would mean a different seeding.

But now there seems to be consensus that there isn’t a big gap between major-conference powers and schools from less glamorous leagues. It’s been well-documented that the siphoning off of the most talented underclassmen by the NBA has hurt the big conferences, but not the smaller ones, which don’t attract those high school-to-the-pros types anyway.

What this means — other than the startling fact that there are people out there agreeing with me — is that Manhattan beating Florida in the Tournament is no longer the shocking thing it once would have been. Even a Florida whose go-to guy left during the season to play pro ball in Europe.

In a way that’s a shame, because the shocking upset, the miracle win, is what makes the first round of the Tournament so special. If any old directional school or tiny conference champ can walk around thinking, “Sure, we ought to be able to beat Kansas or Duke maybe two out of every five games,” then maybe something’s being lost here. I’m not sure, though, because I don’t want to be the guy telling the Louisiana-Lafayettes of the world that they shouldn’t be as good as Kentucky.



And after all, we still have those 15 and 16 seeds, who almost never beat the 1s and 2s. Top seeds Duke, Stanford and St. Joseph’s all smoked their No. 16 opponents Thursday, and second-seeds Connecticut and Gonzaga pounded 15s Vermont and Valparaiso. Florida A&M is the last 16th seed that can make good on my prediction last year that a 16 seed would be the first to beat a 1 seed by this year. The Rattlers play Kentucky Friday, and if they win, well, that would be a big, honkin’ upset.

Other than 8 vs. 9 games, which can’t be considered upsets when the lower seed wins, the only other surprise Thursday was No. 10 Nevada coming from behind to beat No. 7 Michigan State in the St. Louis region. Four of us in the Pool o’ Experts had the Wolfpack winning that one, so it wasn’t exactly a shocker either, but it was a nice comeback by Nevada, which trailed the whole game and was down by as many as 16. The Wolfpack were down 63-56 with about six and a half minutes to go when they went on a 14-0 run that ended with 18 seconds left. It was their first Tournament win ever.

The closest thing to one of those amazing game-winning shots came in the Alabama-Southern Illinois game in the Phoenix region. The 8-seed Crimson Tide led by a few most of the way, but the No. 9 Salukis closed in the last five minutes. In the last half minute each team got a picturesque runner in the lane, first by Darren Brooks of Southern Illinois, then by Antoine Pettway of Alabama, whose shot put the Tide up by one with five seconds to play.

The Tide then did something that teams hardly ever do: They managed the clock well. Alabama actually had a foul to give, speaking of hardly ever, and they gave it with 2.8 seconds left, interrupting SIU’s final play. The Salukis then got the ball inbounded to Brooks, their best player, who got a good look and launched a 16-footer from just off the left corner of the key, but it clanked off. Would have been a doozy if it’d gone in.

I complain a lot about those 8-9 games being too evenly matched and too often involving dull, middling teams, but this hard-fought game was better than I’ve come to expect an 8-9 game to be. The Texas Tech win over North Carolina-Charlotte, another 8 over a 9, this one in the East Rutherford region, was pretty good too.

That game gives me a chance to do something I hardly ever do: Say something nice about Bob Knight. You know what I like about him these days? He keeps his butt on the bench. I’m so sick of coaches stomping up and down the sideline, flapping their arms, stepping out onto the court during action, constantly directing traffic and yelling. Boys: Sit down. Knight’s one of the few who ever does.

There were almost some decent upsets. Virginia Commonwealth gave Wake Forest a scare but lost 79-78 — it wasn’t quite that close, there was a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was close. BYU led Syracuse for much of the game before falling by five. Air Force, playing in front of a huge near-home crowd in Denver, discombobulated North Carolina, as predicted, with its strict, grinding Princeton attack, but the Falcons ran out of gas in the last 10 minutes and lost by 11. UTEP came from way down to take the lead late against Maryland, and the Miners had a chance to tie at the end but couldn’t get a shot off.

The evening games tended toward the aforementioned high-seed blowouts, plus No. 3 Texas clocking Princeton in the Atlanta region, but Seton Hall came from way down to beat Arizona and DePaul went to double overtime to beat Dayton in entertaining games.

Friday almost everybody is predicting 11 seed Western Michigan to beat No. 6 Vanderbilt in the Phoenix region. I thought I was a real cowboy for taking No. 13 East Tennessee State over 4 seed Cincinnati — playing in Columbus, Ohio — in the Atlanta region. Six others in the Pool o’ Experts took the Bucs too.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark http://www.salon.com/sports to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Send an e-mail to King Kaufman.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to kingnewsletter@salon.com.

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 11
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
      Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
      Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Here by Richard McGuire
      A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
      The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
      This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
      For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Over Easy by Mimi Pond
      When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
      You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Shoplifter by Michael Cho
      Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

      Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

      Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
      This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

    • Recent Slide Shows

    Comments

    0 Comments

    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>