COLUMN: Cinderella dropped her shoe in the transfer gate | Tuesday News

MORGANTOWN — The other day, just before the start of the NCAA men’s basketball championship, I found myself deep in conversation at the Boston Beanery in Morgantown with my friend Michael Spevock from Fairmont.

It would be nice to tell you that we were talking about Tolstoy, politics, the latest Wordle challenge, vintage cars or rare books, but as usual around these rooms in mid-March the conversation was about the NCAA tournament , which was set to be contested this year without West Virginia’s presence other than Bob Huggins’ adventure in TV commentary.

“I have your title for tomorrow,” Spevock said. “‘No more Cinderellas.'”

The reference, of course, was to the expected effect the transfer portal and NIL would have on the competitive nature of college sports and how unrestricted transfers and the NIL pot of gold at the end of the rainbow transfer heaven offered in larger and wealthier schools would change the balance of power.

By now, if you are a regular reader, you will understand that I have watched the comings and goings of Mountaineer sports teams and have been convinced that controls should be applied to both the portal and NIL, otherwise we would see the rich getting richer the poor. fuck off.

Then they kicked the ball and March Madness began.

Quickly, it became apparent that St. Peter’s had three ugly sisters-in-law.

This year’s first two rounds, which brought the tournament into the Sweet 16, which will be played this coming weekend, showed little change in the power structure.

In fact, if anything, it’s more competitive than it’s ever been.

As we enter the Sweet 16, three of the four No. 1 seeds remain in the tournament, with No. 1 seed Baylor being voted out in the second round. By the way, it wasn’t a Cinderella team leaving Baylor in the dust, having fallen to a very hot team from North Carolina who might just be a legitimate title contender.

But in seven wins by the No. 1 seeds, three of them were seven points or less, with No. 1 seed Gonzaga having to call on everything she had to claim a four-point win. points over Memphis and Arizona being lucky to survive a spirited, upset bid by the Big 12’s TCU, 75-70, in a game much closer than the final score.

OK, the top five seeds dominated, going 31-17 in the tournament. But once they knocked the teams completely out of the tournament in the first round, the second round produced a 9-7 record from those Top 5 seeds, nine of the 20 Top 5 teams have already been eliminated.

If anything, the first weekend seemed to indicate that, at least in basketball, Cinderella is still alive and well.

St. Peter’s, of course, captured the nation’s imagination just as so many little-known little schools had over the years, but this 15th seed simply exploded onto the scene beating not only a No. 2 seed, but one of the Top 5 programs in NCAA history – Kentucky.

He also offered a clue that despite the transfer portal, there is hope for anyone in basketball as he stunned the Wildcats despite the College Basketball Player of the Year Game of the year, Oscar Tshiebwe, who snuck out of WVU through the portal to reach his potential in Kentucky.

The victory brought back memories of so many other impossible upsets that made March Madness America’s athletic No. 1 spectacular: Richmond’s No. 15 toppled Syracuse in 1991; Loyola-Marymount crushing defending national champion and No. 3 seed Michigan, 149-115 in 1990; 15th seed Florida Gulf Coast stunning No. 2 Georgia Tech, 78-68. In 2018 and the grandfather upset them all, with the 16th seed UMBC beating top-seeded Virginia 74-54.

Strokes of luck? Not really. Consider this.

George Mason’s 86-84 is in that group, upset by No. 1 UConn as the No. 11 seed in 2006.

It was 16 years ago, a year ago when George Mason also beat Michigan State’s No. 6, North Carolina’s No. 3 and Wichita State’s No. stun Georgia Tech to reach the Final Four.

Their coach? Jim Larranaga, who has now turned No. 10 Miami into a giant killer by upsetting both No. 7 LSU and No. 2 Auburn.

One thing is certain, No. 10 Miami or No. 11 Iowa State will reach the Elite Eight and it’s the poster kids who say the transfer portal can be the best method for a quick turnaround in basketball. -ball.

Miami lost five players on the transfer portal after a 10-win season in 2021, but Larranaga, 71, simply recharged with the transfer of DePaul Charlie Moore and Jordan Miller, transferred from the coach’s old school to George Mason joining a classy talented rookie recruit to build an NCAA team.

All of this may signal that things at WVU aren’t as bad as one might think, at least in basketball, where the influence of one or two transfers can turn a losing team into a winning team into a flash.

WVU, of course, has been devastated over the past two years by transfers, players turning pro or graduating, but Bob Huggins is committed to fixing it and making better use of the portal.

This year’s tournament shows that conclusively through Miami and the Iowa State team, a team that won just two games last year, none in Big 12 play, and moved on. to the Sweet 16 as the No. 11 seed with upsets of No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 6 LSU.

How did Iowa State engineer its turnaround after losing its top three scorers on this team to two wins?

New coach TJ Otzelberger brought six transfers such as top scorer Izaiah Brockington, his two spark plugs to Aljaz Kunc and Gabe Kalscheur.

Chosen last in the Big 12 pre-season coaches poll, they show defense and heart all the way to the Sweet 16.

Basketball is more sensitive to the comings and goings of the transfer gate in that a player can have much more impact than a player on a football team. This is true due to the lesser number of players on the field and on the roster and that a football player can influence attack or defense while a basketball player can influence both.

In basketball, the road to quick destruction or rebuilding through the portal is far greater than it is in football, although when you get hit in football like WVU has been with defections massive, it can be just as devastating and more difficult to remedy.

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