Everybody appreciates an underDawg, including Stanley Burrell and his Xavier teammates.
So Burrell and the rest of the Musketeers, members of the not-enough-respect Atlantic 10 Conference, gathered at coach Sean Miller's home last weekend to watch the SEC tournament final, rooting for Georgia to complete its out-of-nowhere surge to that title.
"We were going on, like, 'Come on! Come on! Y'all can do it!"' Burrell said yesterday. "They're America's team right now. Everybody loves them for everything they've gone through."
After Georgia managed to beat Arkansas to claim an improbable conference title and NCAA Tournament berth, Xavier stayed tuned to Miller's TV to see the bracket announcement. And, lo and behold, how did that turn out?
"It's crazy. We're sitting there, 'Come on Georgia, hang in there,' and all of a sudden it's, 'Xavier matches up against Georgia,' " Burrell said. "Oh, man. You serious?"
That's when Xavier's love for Georgia ended, of course. The No. 3-seeded Musketeers (27-6) face the No. 14 Bulldogs (17-16) today in the West Regional.
There was little sign that Georgia was capable of doing what it did to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002. After all, the team won a total of four SEC games throughout the entire regular season, and entered the conference tournament three games under .500 overall. There was talk that coach Dennis Felton was on the way out, talk of which he and his players were all too aware.
"All coaches know - and I'm no different - that your employers have the right to fire you whenever they want. So we live with that all that time," Felton said. "It was the first time in my career I've ever dealt with actual speculation like that."
Sutton changes roleEddie Sutton is back at the NCAA Tournament - not as a coach this time, but as a very interested fan.
Sutton is in Denver to watch his son, Scott, lead Oral Roberts in its first-round game against Pittsburgh this afternoon.
The 71-year-old Eddie Sutton took the coaching job at the University of San Francisco in the middle of this season and surpassed the 800-win mark for his career. He is not expected to return to the Dons next season.
"It was an interesting experience in that we got there in the middle of the year and it took us a while to get everything going in the right direction," the elder Sutton said. "We had one player that probably could play in the Big 12."
The patriarch of a coaching family that also includes Sean, who took over at Oklahoma State after Eddie retired in 2006, said he's here only as a spectator, trying to stay out of the way.