The Tiny Easter Egg Hunt of College Athletics

Unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, few athletic departments did much for Easter in social media. The lack of team photos with “Happy Easter” written underneath them was surprising.

The only exception I saw was the Big West Conference.

That’s right folks, the only league to really wish its followers a happy Easter was far from the Bible belt. Instead it was league based in liberal California. Go figure. Wichita State did get creative by having an Easter egg hunt during a baseball game. Each egg contained team memorabilia and goodies. Now that’s sports marketing at its finest.

Mercer did not do anything with Easter but it did succeed in tying its baseball team to Duck Dynasty. That’s pretty close I suppose.

When Duck Dynasty is used in sports marketing, the end is near.


Fighting the Critics of College Basketball

I take it UConn fans are having a good time.

I take it UConn fans are having a good time.

Kentucky and UConn, two teams that couldn’t do any better than an eight and a seven seed respectively, are in the title game tonight.

For many, this game symbolizes everything wrong with college basketball. Connecticut is just coming off some recruiting scandals. Kentucky is a lightning rod for critics as the Wildcats go through recruiting classes the way car insurance companies go through advertising campaigns.

Tweets I’ve seen go as far as calling Kentucky “the Devil of college basketball.”

Kentucky went 4-6 against the RPI Top 50 in the regular season. Three of those losses were to Florida.

Connecticut went 7-5 against the RPI Top 50 in the regular season and has now defeated Florida twice if you count the tournament. But three of those losses came to Louisville. A team Kentucky has now beaten twice.

So both teams have taken out each others nemesis. Both have loss games to squads that failed to make the tournament. Kentucky had the embarrassing defeat to 14-20 South Carolina.

This game tonight is telling many people that the regular season does not matter. That’s a perception fans will have to get over.

Watching the women’s tournament explains why the men’s tournament should be rejoiced. There is a huge lack of parity in the women’s basketball. Parity that has made the men’s tournament so exciting.

Parity is why Mercer can beat Duke. Why Dayton can make it to the Elite Eight as bubble team. Why UConn and Kentucky can make it to the title game.

On the women’s side it was a foregone conclusion that UConn would meet Notre Dame. The two undefeated teams will meet Tuesday night. I’m happy for them and the women’s tournament should be respected. Just read some of the blog posts from the players themselves to see how important it is.

But while the women’s tournament values juggernauts, I like how open the men’s tournament is more. This is not a condemnation on the regular season. It’s just how deep the talent pool is in the men’s game right now. Soon, we will see a 16 seed take down a one. The parity of the sport is reaching that level.

So instead of whining about tonight’s game as a funeral for the good old days of college basketball, look at it as two teams that earned their way through tough competition to get here. The Huskies and Wildcats were challenged greatly on their way to the title game and persevered.

Isn’t that what we want in a national champion?

Nine Overlooked Details of March

Here are some things you might have missed while paying attention to all of the March Madness awesomeness.

No. 9: The Big-12 fails to boast
It’s very common for conferences to talk themselves up with postseason success and here is the Big-12’s attempt.

The more you know.

The more you know.

On the surface, this is impressive. However, the Big-12 has fewer teams than the other leagues on this list with only 10. Everyone else has 12 or more, hurting their percentage.

With that taken into account the chart doesn’t really say much at all. It doesn’t help that none of the seven Big-12 teams made it to the Elite Eight.

No. 8: NIT upsets

While there were several upsets in the NCAA tournament, there were quite a few in the NIT too. Robert Morris took down a No. 1 seed for the second straight year in St. John’s. Conference USA was able claim success having Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech reach the quarterfinals. Belmont was the victim of a court storming at Clemson. I guess beating Belmont is like beating Duke in the eyes of Clemson fans.

No. 7: Best fan photo ever

There have been some amazing photos of fans and players celebrating in the tournament. The best has to go to two rival coaches eating popcorn together. I’m biased being born in Kentucky, but Denny Crum and Joe B. Hall is just too good to pass up. Hard to believe they host a radio show together now.

No. 6: Year of the Bison

North Dakota State has to have the happiest athletic department this year. With a FCS championship and a basketball team that won its first ever NCAA tournament game, things are pretty darn good.

No. 5: Women’s NIT
There actually is a women’s NIT and unlike the men’s it is 64 teams. That’s a lot of postseason basketball that receives little to no media attention. This tweet confirms that.

That’s the best crowd for round 2? That’s 10 percent of the attendance for some of these men’s NCAA Tournament games.

No. 4: CBI team with a losing record

If you can’t get into the NCAA Tournament or the NIT there is always the College Basketball Invitational. The CBI has attracted some power conference teams in the past and got Penn State and Texas A&M in this year. So it’s sort of legit.

Problem is Siena is in the championship final. The Saints were the only team in the field to have a losing record and they might win it all. Kind of looks bad for the CBI but it’s not its fault. Other teams turned down their CBI bid like Indiana, allowing lesser schools to get in. Siena is making the most of their opportunity as it should. Postseason basketball should never be taken for granted.

No. 3: A women’s CBI exists too.

The Women’s Basketball Invitational has already crowned their champion as Illinois-Chicago defeated Stephen F. Austin in the title game. While attention is scarce, it is still a meaningful event to the team’s fans.

No. 2: CIT is still meaningless

Meaningful is the opposite of the College Tournament or CIT. Unlike the CBI, the CIT field is composed of nothing but mid-majors, most of which are from conferences with low RPIs. The CIT does not have a set bracket making it a tournament that’s constantly in flux and difficult to follow. Check out how many people attended a game at Eastern Michigan. Less than 400!

So what does the CIT do to validate themselves?

Rookie of the Year from 4 on Vimeo.

Because claiming Damian Lillard is going to make people care? Sorry, but finding the one or two guys from small schools who made it big in the NBA is not compelling enough. The other tournaments have more NBA prospects. Good luck with that.

No. 1: Central Missouri shows dedication

The University of Central Missouri won the division II basketball title Saturday and congratulations. UCM goes with the Mules for its men’s teams and Jennies for its women’s. I guess the Philadelphia Phillies are a softball team then.
The main story here though is how UCM reacted to the championship title. Whoever runs their Twitter account was updating a softball game for the “Jennies” while the “Mules” won the championship game on the hardwood.

This has to be the most dedication to a job I’ve seen by an athletic department. Most would have solely focused on the basketball game but here is UCM weaving it in and out with regular season softball coverage.

Props to Central Missouri to making sure the Jennies get the same amount of respect as the Mules. Feminists better rejoice.