Monday, March 15, 2010

HSL Big Dance Breakdown, Part One: The Little Guys

16: A team with this seed has NEVER won a game in the tourney...and probably never will.

Lehigh (vs. Kansas)

The Mountain Hawks lost a game this year to a horrendous Columbia squad from the Ivy League, and also dropped one to Navy, who I'd always thought shut down their basketball program when David Robinson graduated. I'm pretty sure Kansas could send out a starting five consisting of all walk-ons with a few male cheerleaders providing support off the bench, and they'd still roll over the boys from Lehigh by half a hundo.

Vermont (vs. Syracuse)

Pulled a major upset over Syracuse a few years ago on the back of sharpshooter T.J. Sorrentine, but the odds of a repeat result in this one are somewhere between slim and none. And slim just walked out the door. And got run over by a double-decker bus. And got dragged for a few miles after that. In other words, it ain't happenin' for the Catamounts. And no, I do not know what a Catamount is. And I kinda hope I never find out.

East Tennessee State (vs. Kentucky)

They qualified for The Dance by winning the Atlantic Sun, a conference occupied by a bunch of schools with fictional names that make you genuinely wonder if any of these "teams" actually exist. Seriously, have you ever heard of "Campbell?" How about "Kennesaw State?" And most ridiculous of all, there is "Florida Gulf Coast" and something called "USC Upstate," two places that sound much more like maximum-security prisons than respected academic institutions. Bizarre conference.

Play-In Game: Arkansas Pine Bluff or Winthrop (vs. Duke)

Ahh yes, the annual Tuesday night tournament play-in game. This easily qualifies on the HSL's list of "Most Depressing Games to Watch During the Year in Any Sport." Also on that list, in no particular order: the Pro Bowl, Sunday afternoon regular season Raptors telecasts on CBC, any college hockey game, more than one half inning of Spring Training baseball, and finally, the World Strongman Championships (when you realize after a couple events that this particular show is one that you have already seen before...and not just once).

15: One of these teams will generally get a little frisky every six or seven years.

UC Santa Barbara (vs. Ohio State)

If the Gauchos are to have any chance of taking out heavily favored Ohio State, they will need a superhuman effort from their star two-guard Orlando Johnson, Player of the Year in the Big West Conference. But weird as it sounds, I don't think he is capable. Somehow, Johnson was able to average 18 points a game this season without ever scoring more than 28 in any one contest (and never scoring below 10). Normally, if you average close to 20 a game, there are some dynamic performances (35-40 pts) mixed in with some clunkers (single digit games) and that's that. But Santa Barbara's Johnson hums to a different tune. That might be all well and good playing against mooks at Long Beach State and Cal Poly, but if the O-Dog has visions of dancing into the second round, he better hit that 30-point mark on Friday night.

North Texas (vs. Kansas State)

The team with the coolest nickname in the tournament. The North Texas Mean Green. Coooool, right??? And don't sleep on these fellas, either. They haven't lost since January and they are playing 2nd-seeded Kansas State, a school that has always been more at home on the gridiron than the hardwood.

Morgan State (vs. West Virginia)

Two years ago, the Bears drew Virginia Tech in the opening round of the NIT and got housed by 32. Last year, they made it to the big tournament, met Oklahoma, but this time only got smoked by 28. At this rate, in about seven years, Morgan State will officially emerge as a force to be reckoned with. Until then, it still might be a little hard to watch.

Robert Morris (vs. Villanova)

Seeing this school in the tournament just makes me miss my former "Favorite school named after a random guy nobody has ever heard of," Morris Brown College. The 'Mo Brown' academy was always a crowd-pleaser until they encountered some financial troubles in the early part of the decade, causing the once-storied athletic department to go belly-up. I always got a kick out of seeing the school on TV because I just assumed it was named for the Morris Brown that lived in my neighborhood. "Wow!" I thought, "Mo Brown is such a legend that he got his own school named after him!!" But I come to find out years later that the college in question was in fact a historically black school. The Morris Brown we knew was straight vanilla. It was a disappointing revelation, but all good things have to come to an end at some point. Just like this article.

See ya tomorrow for Part II.

Drop a thought on the 15-16 seeds here, or float me an E-mail at

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