Wiedmer: NCAA tourney begins as March Monotony

Wiedmer: NCAA tourney begins as March Monotony

March 16th, 2012 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Much as we so want it to be otherwise, that one shining moment doesn't always show itself on the opening day of March Madness. Especially for those seated inside the KFC Yum! Center right here in Derby City on Thursday afternoon.

After sleepwalking through the first half, Murray State out-talented and out-toughed Colorado State, 58-41. Then the big boy version of those rascally Racers -- the Marquette Golden Eagles -- soared past Brigham Young, 88-68.

Given that Murray was a No. 6 seed to CSU's 11 and Marquette was a No. 3 to BYU's 14, the Selection Committee certainly appeared to have done its homework with those two.

In fact, the most emotion displayed all Thursday afternoon may have come from the media huddled around press room televisions checking out UNC-Asheville's inspired attempt to become the first No. 16 seed in tourney history to knock off a No. 1 as the Bulldogs kept squeezing Syracuse's Orange.

Asheville led at halftime and was within three late in the final period but ultimately lost 72-65.

But at least it was a game worth watching for the full 40 minutes. Most of the day felt more like March Monotony or March Mundane, as the CBS ads joke.

Indeed, the most entertaining moment inside the Yum! Center in the afternoon session came when two Colorado State band members decided to slip on a couple of masks. One wore the oversized face of CBS analyst Bill Raftery. The other wore a cutout of an onion, which represents one of Raferty's favorite sayings, and we'll leave it at that.

Otherwise, Colorado State coach Tim Miles apparently released a tweet just before the start of the second half against the Racers.

Asked what he was tweeting, Miles replied, "I'm not going to answer that unless you're following me."

Told the reporter was following, Miles added, "We tweet at halftime. We've always done that. Danny Mattie, our SID, I just walk by him and say something. He edits it and posts it on my account."

Nor was Miles the only coach planning to tweet.

Asked about Kentucky's overwhelming fan base also cheering for Murray -- after all, Murray State is a Kentucky state university -- Racers coach Steve Prohm told the reporter, "I'm glad you brought that up. I was going to tweet it later. I really appreciate Coach [John] Calipari and his efforts to get Big Blue Nation supporting us today."

Before long, coaches will just start tweeting their strategy during games to a giant video screen above the floor. Players will read the tweets and maybe follow the coach's instructions. If we all work really hard at this, we'll completely erase the need for verbal interaction.

But we digress. After all, 16 teams's seasons ended painfully Thursday, including Harvard's. In the SAT game, the Crimson apparently were beaten by Vanderbilt on an essay question, the Commodores winning 79-70 to snap a three-game losing skid in NCAA tourney opening rounds.

With Syracuse having to play without center Fab Melo for the entire tournament, the notion of Vanderbilt reaching the Final Four through the East Regional seems more likely daily.

So what did we learn through early Thursday evening? We learned that the seeding has been pretty accurate in the early going. Aside from Wichita State's 62-59 loss to Virginia Commonwealth, the higher seeds all won. As for VCU, it might be time for the Selection Committee to admit the Rams' Colonial Athletic Association is a pretty good league.

Which is another way of saying Drexel -- which won the CAA regular season -- should be in the Big Dance.

We may also be learning that Kentucky's outrageously talented Kittens have hit the wall that freshmen so often do. Up 80-50 with less than six minutes to play on a Western Kentucky team forced to win a play-in game Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio, the top-ranked Wildcats were outscored 16-1 down the stretch of their 81-66 win.

UK seemed to hit a similar wall late in its SEC tourney games last weekend, especially the Vanderbilt loss in the SEC final, when the Commodores outscored Big Blue 16-2 in the final minutes.

One of those endings might be a blip, but two straight could be a disturbing trend for UK going forward.

Finally, you're reminded that these are still kids, and for many of them this is almost more than they can grasp.

Which brings us to Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan, who said of his team's poor shooting in one of the smaller arenas in this NCAA tournament: "We've all got to adjust to shooting in a bigger gym."

Maybe someone can tweet him how it's done between now and Saturday.