Saturday, March 18, 2006

Oops.. Bucknell Did It Again

You have to give Bucknell and head coach Pat Flannery a lot of credit - and a hearty "thank you" - for yet another amazing first-round win in the NCAA Men's Basketball tournament.

Make no mistake, as amazing as last year's shocking win over Kansas was, this was even more amazing. Sure, Bucknell last year was a 14th seed, flying completely under the radar of a struggling Kansas team which was predicted to miraculously overcome their struggles to dispatch of a lightly-regarded Patriot League school that not only who weren't favored to win their league - they were representing a conference that many NCAA basketball fans would have argued to give up their autobid for another middling C-USA team.

The Bison had shaken the mantle of obscurity this time. Anyone can get lucky in the NCAA Tournament once. Princeton won once. Vermont won once. Coppin St. won once. But to turn that into another win, with the weight of expectations on you, with every coach in America having seen your game films - that's different. A red-hot Arkansas team, athletic and well-coached, knew what they were in for on Thursday.

Incredibly, Arkansas was forced to play Bucknell's game, and the Bison executed almost perfectly. Sure, there were some inopportune turnovers - Bucknell's ever-present weakness - but it was the little things that mattered. Donald Brown had 1 point to his credit, but his half-court pass to phenom Charles Lee could have been the play that iced the game for the Bison. Abe Badmus, an under 70% free-throw shooter, cooly iced two free throws and iced the game.

To take nothing away from Charles Lee and Kevin Bettencourt - whose scoring from outside the arc kept things going - but this was an entire team effort against a more athletic team that knew that they were coming, and could do nothing to stop it.

Think about that. Penn routinely makes the tournament, are considered a "tough team" and routinely drop games to bigger-conference foes. Bucknell goes 2-for-2 in consecutive years. That's amazing, and it doesn't happen every day.

Although the press might say that Bucknell's more subdued, and it's not realy an upset, this is one that really deserves a heap more credit that is being given around the nation. Aside from what it means for all the basketball members of the Patriot League - not only more respect, but it actually translates into more money from the NCAA - it establishes Bucknell as not merely a one-hit wonder.

Why can't Bucknell do the same thing against Memphis? The recepie is there - all you need to do is look at the quotes from one of my all-time most hated college basketball coaches of all time, the arrogant, self-important, recruiting-violation-waiting-to-happen coach John Calipari:

"This is a hard game to prepare for. They run too much stuff, they hold the ball," Calipari said. "Our guys, they have no idea that they're not going to run with us. ... This is a terrific team we're playing."

Calipari hadn't even shown his players any film of the Bison before they practiced at the American Airlines Center on Saturday afternoon... "I don't want to scare them," Calipari said. "I don't want their heads spinning."

It's even hard to cut-and-paste the arrogance. I've never liked this empty suit, and my anger just went up a few more notches after seeing these quotes. It's clear the man has no respect. Not showing them any film of Bucknell? Don't want their heads spinning? He can't be saying those things seriously.

If you are a college basketball fan wandering over to my blog, if you're a fan of anything that is decent and pure, you have to root for our Patriot League brethren Bucknell. It will wreck my office pool - it will also probably wreck yours. But I know who I'm rooting for.
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