By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
One of the best opening weekends in recent NCAA Tournament history drew to a close shortly before 8 p.m. ET Sunday, and if you're anything like me, you've already begun counting down every tenth of a second for Thursday's Sweet 16 round to get here.
What did the first two rounds show us? Besides the fact that I can't fill out a bracket with even the slightest bit of success, plenty:
+ No one is invincible. Kansas, not just a No. 1 seed, but the tournament's top overall seed and heavy favorite to win its second national championship in three years, learned that the hard way. The Jayhawks had a star or a budding star at every spot on the floor, but they might not have taken seriously enough the one thing Northern Iowa seemed to have more of: heart.
+ The Big Ten is back. Isn't that what we said in the first week of January, after the college football bowl season? It is, and the same is true on the hardwood. With No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Georgetown out of the way, Ohio State is the logical pick to rule the Midwest, though it might need to knock off league foe Michigan State -- gimpy guards and all -- in the Elite Eight. And not enough can be said about Purdue's gutsy overtime defeat of Texas A&M, making the Big Ten the only conference to send three teams into the next round. Gritty Chris Kramer doesn't want his career to end just yet. The Purdue senior is straight ballin'.
+ Cornell is legitimate. So is Xavier. Those are two fine basketball teams. That Cornell-Kentucky matchup will be one of the most interesting Sweet 16 games in recent memory. And the Muskies are no longer a precious little mid-major. The Muskies can beat anybody. I loved that rookie coach and hometown fave Chris Mack jabbed a Minneapolis writer after XU took it to the Golden Gophers Friday.
+ Despite the Big Ten props, I do agree with most analysts -- Len Elmore and Seth Davis, in particular -- who say the best-conference debate is a waste of time. Conferences aren't playing conferences. Individual teams are playing other teams in high-pressure, single-elimination games where personnel matchups are critical. That said, what up with the Big East?
+ Looking ahead, if Kentucky and West Virginia win their third-round games in the East, they'd meet in what would no doubt be the best regional final of the tournament. If those teams do make the Elite Eight, that could very well be a de facto national championship game.
+ On the TV front, CBS once again did an outstanding job showing 48 games over 80 hours, and switching to late-game situations. One complaint I did hear came from a colleague in the Bay Area who was disappointed to have to watch the last minute of Sunday's Duke-Cal yawner instead of being switched to the thrilling Xavier-Pittsburgh and Purdue-Texas A&M finishes that unfolded simultaneously at other locations. But overall, I thought CBS got it right again and I hope The Eye continues to broadcast America's greatest sporting event for as long as I'm alive.
+ The Miller Lite commercials are still awful, the Capital One viking ads have never once been funny, the new Dos Equis spots are just as strong as last year's successes, the girl in the Palm commercial is beautiful, Rhys Darby has already jumped the shark with those bad HP ads and Southwest Airlines appears poised to annoy us with their shirt-lifting baggage handlers for two more weeks. More on that from OGS contributor Steve Susi soon.