I don’t follow college basketball at all, and even March Madness holds only a faint interest for me, since I’m usually wrapped up in spring training at that point. I do pay attention to one aspect of the tournament though: I pull for the maidens – that is, the teams that have never won the championship before. (In horse racing, a maiden is a horse that has never won a race.) We came close to having a maiden team win last year with Memphis, but they let me down.
Unfortunately, this is looking like a really lousy year for maidens. Memphis has just been knocked off by Missouri, and while Missouri is an even bigger maiden than Memphis (the Mizzou Tigers have never reached the Final Four, and this is just their third Elite Eight appearance), Memphis was Ken Pomeroy’s top-ranked team, so in theory, they had a better shot to topple one or more #1 seeds.
Pitt is the only maiden among the #1 seeds, but of course, they barely got by Xavier, which doesn’t inspire any confidence in me that they’re going to beat this relentless ‘Nova team.
Today was actually the better day of the two Sweet 16 days for maiden teams, as Friday’s four games feature just two maidens: Oklahoma (two title game appearances: a 1988 loss to Kansas and a 1947 loss to WHO THE HELL LOSES TO HOLY CROSS IN ANYTHING? back when the court was 12 feet long and they used peach baskets instead of nets) and Gonzaga (never reached the Final Four). Gonzaga faces UNC, who seem to be the consensus “expert” pick to win the whole shebang.
College basketball might be the most likely endeavor among major team sports where you could very easily see a maiden winner every two or three years. In MLB, we get long droughts, but there are only eight franchises that have never won, two of which are less than twenty years old. (It’s nine if you don’t count the New York Giants’ titles for San Francisco). The NFL and NBA have more maidens, but more than half the franchises in each league have won, and it’s hard to get all worked up about Oklahoma City’s title drought of one year even if we don’t give them Seattle’s win in 1978-79. In college basketball, not only do we have a huge number of schools that have never won – only 34 of 347 schools who play D1 basketball have won it – but it takes neither a long time nor a large number of great players to make a team competitive. Unfortunately, we’re on track for our third straight year without a maiden winner after a great run of five in ten years (Arizona, Connecticut, Maryland, Syracuse, and Florida).
* Speaking of the NCAA, Dayn Perry has a great post on Spolitical about the exploitation of college athletes, specifically those in “revenue sports,” which for most schools means football and basketball. That said, issues like revocable scholarships crop up in baseball as well. You’re a freshman pitcher. Coach works you so hard that by year-end you can’t comb your hair and have to visit Dr. Andrews. You’re out for a year or more and odds are your velocity isn’t coming back. You lose your scholarship. Coach loses … nothing. Yeah, that seems fair. If scholarships were guaranteed for three years, wouldn’t coaches have an incentive to handle players (particularly pitchers) better in at least their first two years at the school?
* So my alma mater has a couple of researchers trotting out the new vegetarian mantra that eating beef boosts global warming. Here’s the part that confuses me: If raising cows means more greenhouse gas emissions, can’t we slow global warming by killing all cows? That seems to be the obvious conclusion here.
* Handshake deals are illegal under MLB rules, folks. The Nats should tell Young’s agent to shove it. An oral agreement is only worth as much as the paper it’s written on.