For the first time in probably 30 years, I didn’t fill out a bracket for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this year.
I started to do it the day after the brackets were revealed, put it aside till the next day and never got back to it.
So my bracket didn’t blow up like everybody else.
The first weekend of March Madness was madness indeed. For the first time ever, a 16-seeded team knocked off a number one team when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) defeated Virginia, which entered the tournament as the number one team in the country.
But Virginia is a team noted for its defense and when the Cavaliers fell behind my more than 20 points in the first half, they didn’t have the offensive firepower to come back.
UMBC almost pulled off a second upset before losing to Kansas State, 50-43, March 18 in a game that was hard to watch because neither team could score.
THE UMBC upset over Virginia threw the Southern Regional bracket into chaos. Going into the Sweet Sixteen March 22, Kentucky is the highest seed left in the South at number five.
The Wildcats gets Kansas State, the nine-seed, in the second game of the regional. The first game features Nevada, the seventh seed, against 11th-seed Loyola Chicago, which upset Miami and Tennessee to make it to Atlanta.
The West Regional, which is being played at Staples Center March 22 and 24, also has lost the top end of its bracket.
No. 1 Xavier got knocked out by number nine Florida State and two-seed North Carolina got humiliated by Texas A&M, the seventh seed.
Fourth-seeded Gonzaga held serve by knocking off Ohio State and Michigan used a buzzer-beater to knock off Houston, setting up Michigan-Texas A&M at 4:30 March 22, followed by Gonzaga-Florida State.
The other regionals, which play March 23 and 25, followed the brackets more closely.
In the East, West Virginia is the lowest seed at 5. Top-seeded Villanova, second-seeded Purdue and third-seeded Texas Tech all survived. West Virginia faces Villanova and Purdue will face Texas Tech March 23 in Boston
In the Midwest Regional, top-seeded Kansas and second-seed Duke appear to be on a collision course for the regional final March 25. Kansas needs to get past fifth-seeded Clemson and Duke has to figure out how to score against Syracuse’s famed zone defense in the regional semifinal March 23 in Omaha.
I’m picking Kentucky, Gonzaga, Villanova and Duke to survive this weekend and make it to the Final Four in San Antonio March 31.
PAC 12 BUST: Last week I was complaining that the NCAA Selection Committee did not give the Pac 12 Conference proper treatment in seeding the tournament. After the Pac 12’s performance in the NCAA and NIT tournaments, I withdraw those comments. The Pac 12 Conference didn’t deserve more than three teams in the NCAA Tournament and the two teams — UCLA and Arizona State — selected to play in the play-in games got their just desserts.
Both teams rolled over and got defeated in their play-in games and Arizona, the conference champion then got blasted by 13th-seeded Buffalo, meaning the Pac 12 was watching the tournament at home before day two had started.
In the NIT Tournament, USC barely survived its opener against North Carolina Asheville and then blew a late lead and lost to Western Kentucky, 79-75, in the second round.
The Pac 12 sent five teams to the NIT and only Utah will advance to the quarterfinals. Anymore post-season performances like this and the Pac 12 might soon be relegated to mid-major status, with only one selection to the NCAA Tournament each year.
There is an obvious anti-west bias in college sports, because the people back east don’t stay up late enough to watch the late games here. But perception can become reality when western schools don’t perform well when everyone is watching.
The Pac 12 needs a big bounce-back season next year to keep from sliding into irrelevancy.
PREP HOOPS: We will be keeping our eyes on four area high school basketball teams that are playing for state championships March 23 and 24 at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. The Windward High girls team faces Pinewood at 6 p.m. March 24 for the open division state title.
The Serra High Girls face Sacred Heart Cathedral at 6 p.m. March 23 in Division 1.
For the boys, View Park plays at noon March 23 against Stuart Hall for the Division IV title and Crossroads High in Santa Monica faces Alameda at 4 p.m. March 23 for the Division II title. Crossroads is led by Shareef O’Neal — the son of Shaquille O’Neal — who is 6-10 and headed for UCLA next season.
The Windward girls, led by junior guard Charisma Osborne, are trying to win back-to-back state titles. Osborne scored 26 points in last year’s title game and played all but 23 seconds.
She should be one of the most sought after girls players in the country after next season.
BAD BREAK: A week away from the start of the Major League Baseball season and the Dodgers got bad news March 19 when third baseman Justin Turner broke his left wrist when he got hit by a pitch.
Turner is a key member of the Dodgers, a leader on and off the field. His career is one of the feel-good stories.
A Southern California native, Turner played high school ball at Mayfair High in Lakewood and then played college ball at Cal State Fullerton. He was drafted as a junior by the New York Yankees in the 29th round in 2005 but chose to play his senior year at Fullerton and moved up to the seventh round, where he was picked by Cincinnati.
After three years in the Reds system, he was traded to Baltimore, where he was finally called up to the majors in 2009. In the spring of 2010, however, he was waived by the Orioles and signed by the Mets.
After three and a half years with the Mets, he was not offered a contract after the 2013 season and the Dodgers signed him the following February, inviting him to spring training on a minor league contract. Turner made the team as a utility infielder and when Juan Uribe pulled a hamstring he became the regular third baseman. He hit only seven home runs in 107 games that first season with the Dodgers. He increased that to 16 in 2015, 27 in 2016 and 21 last season, while cementing his position as one of the team leaders.
The Dodgers are deep enough to survive the injury, which will cause Turner to miss the first six-to-eight weeks of the season.
Logan Forsythe will move from second to third base most of the time and catcher Kyle Farmer also will see some action at third.
He leaves a gaping hole in the third spot of the batting order. Manager Dave Roberts said he would probably move first baseman Cody Bellinger from the fourth slot to the third slot in the batting order with Matt Kemp or Yasiel Puig hitting cleanup.
With the exception of outfielder Andrews Toles tearing up a knee last year and Adrian Gonzalez wearing out at first base, the Dodgers didn’t suffer any significant injuries to position players last year.
They won’t be able to say that about 2018.