By Kristy Barry
Photo courtesy of barberbonanza.
As I watched my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes barely defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Madison Square Garden in December, I felt a dual surge of elation and impending doom swirling around my sports conscience. It’s like I could see through this crystal ball to March–to me pissed off and paying up bets. Streaking naked down Broadway, paying a friend’s rent or acting like someone’s horse for the day–among other stupid bets I’d foolishly stake on my favorite college basketball team.
My Buckeyes were down eight points with a minute and a half remaining, and blazed through on a 14-3 point run to win by three points, though the game would’ve been their first loss in 17 games. But if Ohio State couldn’t crush a team like Notre Dame, how could they top perennial powerhouses like Florida, Duke, and Syracuse? Would I have to witness again, my Buckeyes falling into the Gator-infested ass-kicking swamp reminiscent of 2007?
Though I could see a dark cloud cast a shadow over point-guard Aaron Craft’s rosy-cheeks, the season has progressed with similar frustrations for top-ranked teams. The NCAA Top 25 basketball rankings this year have played out like this game I used to play as a kid, called ‘King of the Dock,’ where kids take turns throwing each other off the dock and into the lake. Hard to rule the territory when so many chumps are gunning for you. No one stays up for long.
On Jan 4, Ohio State stomped on Nebraska to win by 31 points. And only 16 days later, ranked 3rd in college basketball, played the Cornhuskers again and lost by six points. In that two week span, Ohio State lost to Michigan State (in overtime), as well as Iowa and Minnesota. The icy skid ended January 23 when Ohio State beat Illinois, but slipped on the black ice of Penn State and the team has not regained confidence since.
This hard-fought Michigan State bout surely served an ego boost to this Spartan squad who fell to UNC–which seemed so unlikely as UNC started the season with losses to Belmont and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
This season is like wildly entertaining TV–with surprise twists, fights, and lead characters who unexpectedly disappear. Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart tussled with a fan, while several players at Michigan State became injured despite an otherwise hot season and shockingly–UNC fended off Davidson in overtime, lost to Wake Forest, defeated Michigan State but not before being handed a loss by Syracuse, and more recently, upset fifth-ranked Duke.
It’s House of Cards, Game of Thrones, and Saturday Night Live, all wrapped into one.
Boston College is another screwy team–who somehow sniped Syracuse off its mighty high perch. How does a 19-game loss Boston College upset an undefeated Syracuse cruising on a 25 game win streak?
Similarly, Virginia hammered Syracuse by nearly 20 points, at the end of the regular season to land the 5th place ranking–but Virginia has no right to be their namesake cavalier with losses to both Duke and University of Wisconsin in Green Bay, a school with 6,700 students compared to Virginia’s 14, 641.
This season is proof you can’t compare apples to oranges, Fighting Irish to Buckeyes, but why not try?
A few months after sneaking past Notre Dame, my Buckeyes keep sinking further and further, up to their knees in sand, even bruised up from two unexpected beat-downs by Penn State. Ohio State is 22-8 and Notre Dame is 15-16 overall, though the center of this Venn diagram is that both teams lost to Iowa.
Though Ohio State is wiped out of the Top 25, they have 17 points in the voting system–only four points above Green Bay… Green Bay. And I thought a loss to Notre Dame would be embarrassing.
Now, Florida stands tall as the top seed with two losses, trailed by the undefeated Wichita State. I hear chatter that Wichita State will crumble in the tournament. Though their schedule is as soft as cotton candy, the Shockers have seven players from last year’s team, who stung my beloved Buckeyes and advanced to the Final Four in 2013. I’ll keep that fact a secret when I’m hedging bets to shame my friends.
But even against teams like William and Mary, Wichita State didn’t hit the brakes and won by nearly 20 points. And unlike UNC, Wichita State beat Davidson.
The first week of March will decide conference championships and soon after, the tournament commences. March Madness will surely live up to its name.
How do you fill out a tournament bracket with this kind of intel? This may be the year you pick teams for your bracket via eenie-meenie-miney-mo, Magic 8 Ball, throwing darts or plucking flower petals.
This may also be the year when you look past your die-hard allegiance to your own team and reach out to friends’ teams to hedge bets on their losses (if you’re as mean-spirited as I am in March) or simply meet up and clink drinks with a friend whose team happens to miraculously keep winning. Why else do you watch the tournament or sports at all, if you can’t share laughs, get your friends naked, and treat them like animals?
For more, check out Kristy in conversation on BTR Sports, every Sunday on BreakThru Radio.