Saturday, March 17, 2007

NCAA Second Round To Lack Color

In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Sixty years later, the NCAA tournament has proven that color can still be an obstacle in the sports world. Every tournament team with a colorful nickname was eliminated in the first round.

Representing the color red, the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Miami of Ohio RedHawks were bounced by Boston College and Oregon, respectively. To their credit, both losing teams were competitive against higher seeds. However, they were unlikely to triumph, since red is the color of bricks. On the bright side, as a Red team from Ohio that covered the point spread, Miami made Pete Rose happy.

The Creighton Bluejays came tantalizingly close to victory before falling in overtime to Nevada. Unfortunately for Creighton, it’s hard for Bluejays to win in the postseason when Mitch Williams isn’t on the opposing roster. The other Blue victims were both Blue Devils. Central Connecticut State, as expected, was blown out by Ohio State. However, Duke suffered a rare first round defeat at the hands of Virginia Commonwealth. State Farm is making sure that Mike Krzyzewski will still be seen throughout the tournament. But the company may have to rethink its ridicule of Coach J, who has won exactly the same number of games this March as Coach K.

Due to the existence of the play-in game, at least the Niagara Purple Eagles got one victory this week. Reality set in on Friday, as Kansas quickly eliminated any thoughts of another first round upset. Two sets of Golden Eagles were also sent packing, as Marquette and Oral Roberts fell to Michigan State and Washington State, respectively. They surely would have won if they had dropped the colors from their names, as all the just-plain Eagles advanced to the second round. That group includes the Boston College Eagles, Winthrop Eagles, and CBS broadcaster Ian Eagle.

Other colorful victims included the North Texas Mean Green (against Memphis) and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who dropped a tough one to UNLV. The Stanford Cardinal rounded out the list. Adding an S to its nickname, like the victorious Louisville Cardinals, would have changed Stanford from a color to a group of birds. The Cardinals also possessed two other letters lacked by the Cardinal: O and D.

While the troubles were universal for teams with colorful names, the jinx did not apply to individual players. Seemingly every team left in the field has someone named Green, led by Georgetown’s Jeff Green and Florida’s Taurean Green. Other players who figured prominently in their team’s first round victories included Pittsburgh’s Aaron Gray, Indiana’s D.J. White, UNLV’s Wendell White, and Xavier’s Drew Lavender. Noting the success of those players, do not be surprised if USC guard Gabe Pruitt changes his name to Gabe Blue before Sunday’s matchup with Texas. In that case, a notable USC alumnus can once again scream “You’re my boy, Blue!”

After Selection Sunday, the omission of Syracuse from the field was a major story. However, Jim Boeheim shouldn’t have bothered complaining about the snub. His Orange would be gone by now anyway.