Last night I attended the NCAA games at the United Center with my daughter. There were over 18,000 fans, and about 300 of them went home happy, as the two highly rated Indiana entries, Purdue and Notre Dame, were both crushed, by Virginia Commonwealth and Florida State, respectively. For Indiana, it was the most embarrassing night since Barack Obama carried the state in 2008. Our seats at the UC were directly behind the FSU band in the second game. The FSU fan contingent, maybe 200 strong, made a lot of noise with one chant directed at the Notre Dame side: "overrated", and of course, the constant drum beat with the accompanying FSU war chant.
Here is a very spirited version of the war chant from a 2006 Saturday night game with 85,000 loud choppers. For fans of the politically incorrect, FSU has to be a big favorite. In the lore and tradition of college sports, Chief Osceola aboard Renegade, planting the spear in the turf before the start of FSU football home games , is one of the great ones. So too is the tradition of shoveling some turf from the sites of important road wins, carrying it back to Tallahassee and burying it in the Sod Cemetery. Last night, many of the disheartened Purdue fans who hung around for the second game, seemed to have developed a case of "chop envy", and started chopping with the FSU contingent. Entire families learned the proper technique of chopping in unison, and only with the right arm.
The University of Illinois is one of the many colleges and universities that abandoned its Indian traditions due to a storm of protest from politically correct faculty and administrators. However, the Illini continued their recent tradition of early exits from March Madness last night, losing to a physically tougher Kansas team. .
As for the tournament itself, it is not just Notre Dame, but the entire Big East that is overrated. A record 11 teams from the conference were invited to the tournament, and the only two that survived to the Sweet 16, beat other Big East teams to get there. Five top 4 seed were beaten in the first first two rounds, 4 of them from the Big East. I do not expect 14 loss Marquette to handle UNC , so the conference's best hope for restoring a bit of its pride is for U Conn to get by San Diego State ( a 50-50 proposition) , to reach a likely Regional final with Duke, where they would be underdogs.
The ACC is the best basketball conference. They received only 4 bids, but 3 teams made it to the Sweet 16, 10th seed FSU, most convincingly. ACC teams have won 10 of the last 29 championships, including the last two. UNC and Duke regularly lure some of the top high school players to their teams and have marquee coaches. The SEC is even more dominant in football, with 5 straight national titles. Michigan gave Duke a real battle yesterday, as Washington did to UNC. The Wolverines are on the rebound after a few down years. As oro the rest of the Big Ten, Wisconsin and OSU both look like solid teams with a shot at the Final Four.
Finally, the NCAA Selection Committee is looking pretty good for including VCU with one of its final two at large picks.