The last shot was thrown from almost mid court. The tension was high, players and coaches were sweating with anticipation, and the crowd was silent as the ball sailed to its final destination as seconds ticked down. A million eyes were watching what could have been an amazing upset. But alas, the ball was just a little too much to the left and the game was over. Duke barely survived. The final score was 71-70, and even though Belmont lost, it was still a great game.
Then, it was UCLA and Mississippi Valley State’s turn to play in front of the nation. Would this match up conjure as much drama as the game I had witnessed a few minutes ago? The answer was simple: HELL NO. UCLA quickly jumped up to a 10-2 lead, and the ass whooping officially started.
As I watched UCLA decimate Jerry Rice’s former school, a question had popped into my head: Why is it so often that number 15 seeds can come so close, but number 16 seeds get blown away year in and year out? Does the one difference in seed really matter that much?
In the past few years, we’ve seen some close calls by 15 seeds. This year there was Belmont. In 2006, there was a near 2 vs. 15 upset when Tennessee barely beat Winthrop thanks to a Chris Lofton three pointer. In 2005, 2-seeded UConn survived a two possession scare against UCF, beating them 77-71. In 2003, Wake Forest barely beat E. Tennessee St by 3 points. The 15 seed also have won 4 games, with a particularly memorable win by then Californian Steve Nash who lead Santa Clara over Arizona way back in 1993. Is there anything Steve Nash can’t do? (Please don’t answer that question).
The 16th seed on the other hand hasn’t fared quite as well. The last time the 16th seed was remotely close to winning anything was wayyyyy back in 1996 when Western Carolina lost two number 1 Purdue by only 2 points. For a 15 seed, you only have to travel to last night.
The other embarrassing fact that everyone knows is the 16th seed has a winning percentage of zero in the NCAA tournament. Sometimes I really wonder what the coach of a 16th seed tells his team before the game:
“Okay guys, now I know we are a huge underdog in everyone’s eyes, but remember, the underdog always has a chance. That’s how David beat Goliath, Rocky beat Apollo Creed, and, um, how the Little Giants beat that pee wee football team coached by Al Bundy!”
Player raises hand.
“Hey coach, can you point to any real examples?”
Coach starts to sweat.
“Well um, back in 1972, I believe a 16th seed won… oh wait, there were no 16th seeds back then. Well back in 1990… oh, that didn’t happen either… um….”
Awkward silence. Another player raises his hand.
“Um coach, you still with us?”
Coach looks dumbfounded.
“Shit, we’re fucked.”
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s how the Miss. Valley State locker room pregame went, because they sure played that pathetically on the court. Meanwhile, Belmont gives Duke a run for their money and coach Rick Byrd is a hero for one day. The media loves him, CBS loves him, Vince Gill really loves him, and he didn’t even win the game!
It’s pretty crazy how a one seed differential can lead to such a disparity in results. Even in office pools, the 16th seed is taken as a joke. A person can look like a total jackass for picking 16th seed UT-Arlington to upset Memphis. A pick like that would raise eyebrows and a few “what the fuck is wrong with you”s from co-workers who take this stuff seriously. Meanwhile, someone who picks Austin Peay to upset Texas later today or Boise State to beat Louisville is sometimes seen as a gutsy guy (or girl) who has to be some kind of college basketball genius in order to make such an outlandish pick. It’s sad that even a person who has no interest in college basketball until tourney time can sniff out the pure crap that a 16th seed often is labeled as.
Yet, that begs the original question, how is a 16th seed that much crappier than a 15th seed? Is the seeding committee really that accurate? If the 15th seed played the 16th seed 100 times, would they win 100 times? Will the 16th seed ever win a game?
My answers: probably, maybe, not for a while.
Thus that begs another question, if the 16th seed always loses, why do they play at all? I mean as a 15th seed, you kind of figure 4 teams did it before, but technically as a 16th seed your chances are zero. Sure there’s pride, but at what cost? It’s hard to have a winning mentality with history against you. And as Miss. Valley State proved yesterday, being a 16th seed really makes you that much horrible because yesterday, in Anaheim, they fuckin’ sucked. I mean 29 points? Really? That’s it? Even Cal State San Bernardino scored more points. Who? Exactly.
The worse part is when the CBS commentators try to say that Mississippi Valley State tried their hardest and they should be proud. Yeah, I’m sure they’re fucking sterling right now.
I don’t mean to sound like an ass or anything, I’m just pointing out the complete difference a team performs when they are labeled a 16th and a 15th seed. One plays utterly horrible; the other plays somewhat decent while hoping to catch their opponent snoozing. While that’s not much to hope for, at least they have a chance to win. I have a gut feeling that if UCLA was a 2 seed and Miss. Valley St. was a 15 seed, maybe at least MVS could score more than a feeble 29. Maybe they’ll even get to 40!
Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong today, and maybe a 1 seed will go down thanks to UT-Arlington or Mt. St. Mary will pull through and win one! What the hell am I saying? They’re going to get killed. If only they were a 15th seed, then it would be close until the inevitably fuck up at the end (what kind of shitty end play was that Belmont?)
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