For a three week period, you can’t beat the excitement and drama of the NCAA tournament. Upsets, near upsets, buzzer beaters, heroes, goats (and scapegoats), second guesses (and second guessers). But there’s more than just the games that goes on during March Madness.
For coaches and players in the NIT (and the other post season tourneys), they’re so focused on winning that next game, you’d never know there was anything else happening. To them (and I speak from experience as teams I was associated with went to the NIT ten times), it’s simply an extension of the season, e.g. scouting reports, walk-throughs, pregame meals, etc. Maybe not as many individual workouts because you want players’ legs rested (even though a few will still come in - to get some extra shooting, if nothing else). Then, if there’s time, maybe you catch an NCAA game - especially if friends are involved.
Another interesting dynamic is the coaches on the hot seat who have unexpectedly won (Cuonzo Martin, Johnny Dawkins) - undoubtedly disappointing some of the fans - and maybe even administrators who are now pretty much obligated to extend, rather than terminate, their contracts. Anything less makes the coach a “dead man walking” and a target for rival coaches to inform recruits how the coach won but didn’t get an extension so, if you want to go to a school where there’s likely to be a coaching change . . .
On the flip side, there are the hot coaches (Greg Marshall, Shaka Smart) most likely being contacted (through their agents) by bigger institutions (schools with much, MUCH higher budgets and a salary that will elevate the coach and his family - extended, not just immediate - to another tax bracket). Since timing is everything, they do so shortly after they lose, hoping to catch them at a weak moment. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t but, hey, the schools figure, it’s worth a shot. Added to all that are the coaching jobs that are open and the maneuvering that takes place among the assistant coaches, those who’ve been recently fired and the guys who were out of the game but want to get back in.
Sometimes, nice things happen - like Dayton extending Archie Miller’s contract (through 2018-19 season, a move that can be used as a positive in recruiting) after the Flyers beat Ohio State (no wonder the Buckeyes wouldn’t schedule them), then topping that off (there are people in Dayton who felt nothing could top beating OSU) with a win over #3 seed Syracuse.
As luck would have it - because we all know the committee doesn’t intentionally set up games like Dayton-Ohio State or make an undefeated (but in the Missouri Valley conference) Wichita State have to go through Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan State to get to the Final Four (Barkley made me put that one in there) - in Indianapolis one of the Sweet Sixteen games will be Kentucky-Louisville. That it’s those two is a big enough story but the fact that the game is close enough for both sets of fans (although if that game were played on another continent, their respective supporters would find a way to get there) makes it even more compelling. Did I mention that scalping tickets is legal in Indy? Sometimes even the sleazy catch a break.
As if all that intrigue isn’t enough - beyond just the actual games on the men’s side - how about the second seeded Duke women losing to #7 DePaul? There’s no joy in Krzyzewski-ville. With all that’s going on, the best advice might just be:
“Live every day as though it was your last - and one day, you’ll be right.”