In men’s hoops, the NCAA Final Four is not comprised of teams that most sports fans were expecting: A 3rd-seeded Connecticut, a 4th-seeded Kentucky, an 8th-seeded Butler, and an 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth (which I will abbreviate as VCU). Picking this Final Four field was as easy as posting the names of the 68 tournament teams on a dartboard, putting a blindfold on, throwing four darts, taking the blindfold off, and reading the names of the universities where the darts landed. You didn’t need to know much about men’s college basketball to figure this out. In fact, the more you knew about men’s hoops, the more likely you were to predict the wrong Final Four.
Two Associated Press stories about the NCAA tourney caught my eye that I’d like to share with readers.
A story written by AP’s Paul J. Weber recaps VCU’s stunning upset victory against a 1st-seeded Kansas squad. Kansas was so heavily favored to win, not just this game, but the entire tournament, that even President Obama predicted that Kansas would win it all.
VCU’s coach, Shaka Smart, has an Ohio connection. A history major, he graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon College, where he also played men’s basketball at the Division III level of the NCAA.
As if the pre-game taunts from Kansas players weren’t enough, as if the arena chock-full of Kansas fans weren’t enough, as if the naysaying sports reporters and pundits weren’t enough to get under the skin of Shaka Smart, VCU’s coach plainly saw that the game’s referees weren’t going to call the game the way Smart saw it. Adversity reared its head anywhere the coach cared to look. There was no friend to be found anywhere outside the VCU camp. Every last one of those converging on the VCU contingent were foes.
And then Coach Smart was whistled for a technical foul. That’s it. That’s the last straw. Enough. To seek redress for these grievances, there was only one option left open to VCU: WIN!
Here’s an excerpt from the story, and I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting the most salient quote from the coach in bold print:
Smart, the 33-year-old whose enigmatic personality has made him a breakout star, was so animated shuffling in front of his bench that officials shooed him back. Another official later served Smart his first technical all season.
Smart said he used that moment as a motivator – though he had to clean up his language first.
“It was basically forget the refs, forget Kansas, this is all about us,” Smart said. “We got to do what we got to do.”
Among the field of Kentucky, Connecticut, Butler, and VCU, I was feeling mixed emotions about whether I’d like to see Kentucky win it all or Butler win it all.
Butler, located in Indianapolis, is another giant-killer small school, just like VCU, but I tend to favor teams from the Midwest. Butler competes in the Horizon League, against schools such as Cleveland State, Wright State, and Youngstown State.
Kentucky is the team that ousted Ohio State by just a smidgeon in a game that went down to the wire. If Ohio State can’t win it all, then a consolation would be that OSU lost to the eventual champion. Kentucky is legendary in the annals of men’s basketball lore, so it’s no great shame for Ohio State to lose to such a highly-vaunted hoops program.
Kentucky? Butler? Kentucky? Butler? Kentucky? Butler? Kentucky? Butler?
Which brings me to the other AP story, penned by Oskar Garcia, about who the Las Vegas oddsmakers favor for the men’s NCAA championship.
You’re not a regular long-time reader of Buckeye RINO if you are unaware of the fact that I have always vehemently opposed gambling. Let’s see . . . there are at least . . . let me count (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, . . .) at least 22 blog posts chiefly about my anti-gambling views. There are additional blog posts in which some other issue is more prominent, yet my opposition to gambling still gets expressed. So, to the casual, infrequent Buckeye RINO readers or those who are just recently coming into regular contact with my blog, let me just say, “Hi! My name is Daniel Jack Williamson, and I’m opposed to gambling.”
As I contemplated whether I wanted Butler or Kentucky to win it all, I had an epiphany. I ought to be rooting for VCU, and the Oskar Garcia article explains why. Here’s the opening paragraph:
Las Vegas casinos have tabbed Kentucky the latest favorite in an NCAA tournament full of upsets, and are hoping that Virginia Commonwealth ends its improbable run without a title.
Now here’s the clincher. It’s a quote from Mike Colbert, an insider in the sports betting industry in Las Vegas.
“VCU is the one team that we don’t want to win,” he said. “Every other team is good for the house.”
Right now, VCU is the underdog among the four with 7 to 1 odds. Back when VCU reached the round of 16, however, the odds of them winning it all were 80 to 1 , so, to say the odds have improved dramatically since VCU has advanced through two more tourney rounds is perhaps an understatement. Apparently, some big wagers were placed on VCU last week at the 80 to 1 odds. If a VCU championship materializes, it’s going to sting the sports gambling apparatus.
My antennas are up. My radar is beeping. The trajectory of whatever is out there faintly portends that Vegas might take a direct hit. Bwahahahahahaha! I’m rubbing my hands together with cocked eyebrows and a mischievous grin on my face as my imagination plays out the complete annihilation of the gambling industry of Vegas in my mind’s eye. I cackle some more and dance a little jig.
I do realize that, in the grand scheme of things, a VCU championship would be just a tiny setback for an industry that wins day in and day out. Sporting events are strewn throughout the calendar, so the pipeline of $$$$ flowing to the industry won’t really be interrupted, as the house will win 99.99999999% of the time no matter which contestants win or which ones lose. The industry almost always has all bases covered, but apparently VCU is one of those very rare exceptions.
Just the same, I derive some perverse delight from any event that causes the gambling industry to flinch because of pain, however fleeting the hurt may be, so VCU is my team leading up to this year’s Final Four match-ups.
I hope that Coach Smart takes offense against Las Vegas for not just disrespecting VCU, but for openly spouting its venomous contempt of VCU. This is disrespect beyond opposing players, opponents’ fans, the media, or even the refs, for they might not want you to win, but they wouldn’t want actual harm to come to you. Vegas would probably break the legs of every VCU player if they figured they could get away with it. I hope that becomes bulletin board material in the VCU locker room.
Nobody’s looking out for the best interests of VCU in Vegas.
If it enraged Coach Smart that he could find no one outside the VCU camp who possessed even an ounce of goodwill toward his team at the Kansas game, then it has now been confirmed that the coach is not the least bit paranoid as VCU heads into the last two games. Vegas is truly out to get him and the team. Winning it all is the only way to turn the tables on Vegas.
Forget those hateful conspirators! This is not about what the haters want. It’s all about VCU and what its players actually do on the basketball court at the appointed hour. When play commences, the haters will have no power to determine the outcome. Only the team that steps out onto that floor has that power.
Forget Las Vegas! This is all about you, VCU! Do what you gotta do!