A New Order on the Court

Friday, March 24, 2006

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

That's a famous saying, translated from a Robert Burns poem, that means that things don't always go as planned.

I wonder what Burns, a Scottish poet who lived in the 1700s, would have thought about this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament.

If things had gone as planned the first week of the tournament, the top four seeds in each of the four regions would have won their first two games. Wow, did that plan go awry!

The first week of the tournament was packed with upsets. Six of the top teams, including basketball powerhouses Ohio State (a No. 2 seed), Tennessee (also a No. 2) and North Carolina (No. 3) got knocked off by teams with lower seedings (a higher number on a 1-to-16 rating). That means they lost to teams the NCAA committee and other basketball experts thought were not as good.

Two of the biggest surprise teams were local favorites George Mason (a No. 11 seed) and Georgetown (No. 7). George Mason beat Michigan State (No. 6) and North Carolina, two schools that were in the Final Four last year. That's pretty good for a team some folks thought should not even be in the tournament.

Now the George Mason Patriots will play the Wichita State Shockers (No. 7). Can George Mason beat them? Sure. They beat Wichita State earlier this season, 70-67, in Wichita, Kansas. Tonight, the Cinderella school from Northern Virginia will play in front of a home crowd at the Verizon Center in Washington. I don't want to jinx them, but I think the Patriots will pull off another upset.

Georgetown made the Sweet 16 by beating Northern Iowa (No. 10) and by cutting Ohio State to ribbons with its Princeton-style offense. That's an offense of precise passes and cuts to the basket that Princeton University ran under its legendary coach, Pete Carril. Now, Coach John Thompson III has brought the Princeton offense to Georgetown.

Can the Princeton offense beat high-flying Florida (No. 3)? The Gators won their first two tournament games by 26 and 22 points. The Hoyas likely will win if they control the tempo of the game and get the ball to 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert. The sophomore, who went to high school at Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, is getting better every game.

Of course, the four No. 1 seeds -- Duke, Connecticut, Villanova and Memphis -- still were in the tournament after the first week. If things go as planned, those teams will be going to the Final Four next week in Indianapolis, Indiana.

But things do not always go as planned in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Robert Burns could have told us that.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's Friday sports opinion column and is an author of sports novels for kids.


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