USAC brackets allow no safety this year
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
There’s no such thing as safe this year.
Run down the USA South brackets that were released Sunday night and it’s easy to understand that there isn’t a conference coach with a team listed on one of those lines with a pairing they feel good about. In fact, if the campus stores scattered across North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia were running dangerously low on Tums and Rolaids this morning, the cause wouldn’t be too hard to identify.
Many of the teams on the men’s bracket are mostly young and have the up-and-down tendencies that lead to the logjam of middle of the pack teams and top seeds that have looked incredibly vulnerable in recent weeks. Randy Lambert’s Scots finished 5-9 and lost a tie-breaker with LaGrange to take the seventh seed opposite No. 2 Ferrum in Thursday’s first round. And despite MC’s 17-point road loss Saturday to the Panthers in the conference’s final weekend, its the same Scots that both played Ferrum close and fell by 5 at home and bounced back from Saturday’s loss by dropping in 17 3-pointers Sunday in a road win at Averett.
Up and down the men’s bracket there is little relative safety. The bracket genie could just as easily erase the seeding numbers and it might actually help clear things up by removing the distraction. The addition of Maryville, LaGrange and Piedmont with the departure of Shenandoah leave little fallback on routine postseason patterns and throw the expectations right out the bus window when the teams depart for Fayetteville, N.C. later this week. Piedmont’s season was cut short and cancelled leaving holes in the schedules, unplanned and rhythm challenging breaks between games. And the anyone can beat anyone bug that reared its head in football has continued to epidemic proportions on the hardwood.
The No. 4 through No. 7 seeds are basically all even record wise and the ability to hold home court has been the saving grace for the top seeds in the upset ridden environment. The LaGrange squad the used a buzzer-beater to win at Maryville, followed that with losses to No. 8 Averett and Ferrum, but then turned around and knocked off top-seeded Christopher Newport.
It’s been that kind of season with close calls, upsets and then blowouts between teams that were evenly matched on paper and in the standings.
That’s the inexplicable nature of youth.
No one knows the true secret to bring out the best in a large group of teenagers, not even Kentucky John Calipari, who has made a career out of it but has been perplexed by this year’s group of baby boomers long before the injury to Nerlen Noels.
There are days freshman can’t miss and days it seems they never left the dorm room. Juniors and seniors are there to season the younger ends of the roster, but when those classes are outnumbered, things get interesting — if you take the Chinese sense of the word.
The only thing certain about this USA Souther tournament is that when it tips off Thursday in the confines of Crown Center Arena, one team will remain come Saturday. Everything else is up for grabs.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com