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Posted by Charles P. Pierce  March 21, 2010 11:04 AM

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Because my birthday is shortly after Christmas, and because my late in-laws both worked at Cornell, I spent about 20 birthday afternoons in a row at a place called The Royal Palm in the Collegetown section of Ithaca. It had a great jukebox, a ceiling made of panels illustrated by past graduates, and its wooden tables were remarkable for the amount of graffiti that was literally carved into them.

I presume the Palm was not a quiet place yesterday.

I don't know what was the best part -- the fact that CBS felt compelled to cut away from Cornell-Wisconsin to a game that was more competitive, or the fact that Cornell got to clear the bench at the end because it was so far ahead. There is going to be an awful temptation to turn Cornell-Kentucky into good-v-evil and/or David-v.-Goliath. Let's just point out that, if Kentucky doesn't guard every inch of the halfcourt, it's going to be looking nervously up at the scoreboard at the four-minute mark.

I love this tournament more than anything else about which I clearly know not a damn thing. Cornell was nifty enough, but that preposterous flurry at the end of Michigan State-Maryland was about as good a sequence as you'll ever see. Grevis Vasquez can play for my team any time, and both Gary Williams and Tom Izzo deserve a ton of credit for getting their teams sufficiently prepared so that neither team needed to call a timeout down the stretch.

Meanwhile, of course, somewhere, Billy Packer wept.

Remember a couple of years ago, when the former CBS analyst and quintessential no-fun-guy had an absolute hissy-fit on the air because George Mason made the field, thereby denying a spot to one of Billy's pals who coached at some ginormous athletic rathole or another? (GMU, of course, helped Billy look foolish by making the Final Four.) Well, the last few days almost makes me wish that ol' Buzzkill was still working the tournament. (I said almost.) Looking at a second weekend in which St. Mary's and Northern Iowa are still playing, and almost the entire Big East Conference is not, might have had him glued to the fainting couch for the next month.

(And, not for nothing, but ignore the upcoming arguments that the success of the Compass Point Schools and the Obscure Papist Institutions proves that expanding the tournament is a good idea. The tournament will not be expanded to include another team from the WCAC. It will be expanded to include more teams from the BCS conferences for the teams from the WCAC to beat like tin drums.)

(Also, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the two players most responsible for Saturday's biggest upsets were named Ali Faroukhmanesh and Omar Samhan. I expect that heads are exploding among the usual suspects as we speak.)

The March Of The Mid-Majors has been something to behold. I'm not entirely sure that Dick Vitale is wrong when he says that teams like Northern Iowa have a bit of an advantage in tournament play because their rosters aren't annually shredded by the NBA draft. Of course, the converse of that is that, any roster likely to be shredded by the NBA draft ought to be good enough to beat a team like Northern Iowa. Instead, Kansas breaks down entirely in the last two possessions, leaving Farokhmanesh with about 45 minutes to tee up a three-ball, and then ending the game with an obvious offensive foul. And I don't count Gonzaga against the mid-majors because I don't consider them a mid-major any more, no matter what league they play in. They're a national-profile program. Besides, every couple of years, Mark Few insists we treat them like a major national program. Of course, Syracuse treated them like a chew-toy. To me, though, the ease with which Washington handled New Mexico was almost as surprising. That's a fine team, despite its rotten taste in first-round victims.

(And, not for nothing, and even more to Cornell's credit, but are the Ivies really a mid-major? Top to bottom, there's no way you'd rank them with the Missouri Valley or the MAC. Aren't they sort of the top of the sub-majors, like the Southland or the Sun Belt?)

In any case, I don't think Bill Self's gonna get over this one too quickly.


Close out on the shooter, dammit!


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