In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like players who had the courage to take the big shot—no matter how ill-advised—and became heroes to small children everywhere. Don't you hate guys like that?
It's been a long time since we've seen a first weekend in the NCAA Tournament quite as competitive as this one. Seeding has been irrelevant, most of the matchups have been tight, and we've had more than our share of last-minute heroics. It seemed like every game ended with a clutch shot finding its mark, making the only bad shot the one you didn't take. Just ask Murray State, who killed four-seed Vanderbilt with a desperation heave, then got sent home when they didn't even get a shot off in the final seconds against Butler. Sometimes it pays to be a chucker.
Despite that knowledge, there were quite a few "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" moments ... followed by a humble "okgoodjob" when that running floater over three defenders banged in off the glass. Northern Iowa was leading by one with 30 seconds left on the shot clock when Ali Farokhmanesh decided—with no one, including rebounders, between him and the basket—to launch a three pointer his team didn't need. Bang. Down goes Kansas. With the game tied in overtime, Purdue's Chris Kramer overruled his coach in the huddle and demanded the ball, then figured, "I'll just drive through this whole defense and lay it up, no problem." Another Sweet 16 for them. Tied with a No. 2 seed with a minute and half to go, St. Mary's Mickey McConnell chucked a ridiculous three-pointer from about 24 feet, without calling glass. Upset city.
(And of all the ridiculous "gritty white guy" platitudes Bill Raftery used to describe McConnell, the one he kept coming back to was "intelligent." If there is one thing that ridiculous bank shot was not, it's "intelligent." Bill may have coined the headline of this post, but he's no better than Vitale.)
Still, the motto of this tournament should be no guts, no glory. The teams that worry too much are the teams that choke. Look at Cornell. Those goofballs weren't smart enough to get into a Ivy League school, but they applied anyway and now they're even making Jay Bilas look good. (Another lesson there. There's no honor in meek brackets.) Courage, America.