Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Sports Columns

March 13, 2014

Get ready for March Madness

CROSSVILLE — The madness is under way, March Madness, that is.

Some automatic bids have already been awarded for both the men and women's national tournaments which will begin last week. More automatic bids will be extended this weekend as other conference tournaments are played.

Automatic bids awarded for men's basketball were Coastal Carolina (Big South), Delaware (Coloniel Athletic), Eastern Kentucky (OVC), Harvard (Ivy League), Manhattan (MAAC), Mercer (Atlantic Sun), Milwaukee (Horizon League), Mt. Saint Mary's (Northeast Conference), North Dakota St. (Summitt League), Witchita State (Missouri Valley) and Wofford (SoCon).

Automatic women's qualifiers are Albany, NY (American East), Baylor (Big 12), Chattanooga (SoCon), DePaul (Big East), Fordham (Atlantic 10), Gonzaga (West Coast), Marist (MAAC), Nebraska (Big 10), Notre Dame (ACC), Penn (Ivy League), South Dakota (Summitt League), Southern Cal (Pac-12), Tennessee (SEC), UConn (American Athletic), UT-Martin (OVC) and Winthrop (Big South).

There are still a few conferences wrapping up tournaments this week before the brackets are announced March 17.

I expect the No. 1 seeds in the women's bracket to be UConn, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Baylor. Nebraksa could either be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed 

The ACC, Pac-12, Big East, Big 12, Southland, Patriot League, MEAC, SEC, American East, C-USA, Mountain West, Mid-Amercian, Atlantic-10 and SWAC open play this week seeking one of the remaining automatic bids that go tournament and regular season conference champions which do not have post-season affairs. The complete field will be announced Sunday evening.

The Tennessee men are projected as one of the last four teams in the NCAA field. Should they stumble in this week's SEC tournament, their fate is sealed.

South Carolina and Mississippi State won opening round games in the SEC Tournament Wednesday night.

Three coaches have been given their walking papers. UNC Wilmington fired former Vol Coach Buzz Peterson, while Tennessee State fired Travis Williams after two years and Bowling Green State did not renew Louis Orr's contract.

Will Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin return next season? He still has year last on his contract, but does UT have the money to buyout another coach? We'll have an idea after the Vols play this weekend in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. The Vols play the South Carolina/Arkansas winner this afternoon in the SEC with the winner advancing into the semi-finals Saturday.

What a job Jim Foster did at Chattanooga. The Lady Mocs won their 15th SoCon Tournament title, qualifying Chattanooga for a 12th trip to the Big Dance and 10th since 2001.

Foster is the first coach to take four women's programs to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament. Seven other coaches have taken three teams to the big dance, according to the Chattanooga Sports information Department.

He also guided St. Joseph's (6), Vanderbilt (10) and Ohio State (10) to the NCAA Tournament.

This is the 27th time in his 36-year career he has guided a team to the NCAA Tournament.

My colleague at the Times Free Press, Mark Wiedmer, brought up an interesting scenario. The Lady Mocs are projected as a No. 12 seed, which is paired against a No. 5 seed. He pointed out Chattanooga could face NC State who is coached by former Lady Moc mentor Wes Moore. NC States RPI is 17th, while Chattanooga's is 46th.

Over the years, a 12th seed has beaten a fifth-seeded team in the tournament. The Lady Mocs are capable of going deep into the tournament.

••••

It was announced the SEC Network has landed Brent Musburger and Jesse Palmer as their lead announcers for the upcoming football season. Musburger will not call the national championship game, but will call a bowl game and Big 12 basketball for ESPN.

In my opinion, that was not a good choice. There are better play-by-play announcers than Musburger. Dave Neal and Andre Ware are better fits since they've called SEC games on a regular basis and are more familiar with the league.

Will Bruce Pearl show up on the SEC Network as a basketball analyst next season? He has been doing some announcing on ESPN lately.

••••

The TSSAA Legislative Council approved girls wrestling as a sanctioned sport beginning in 2015-'16. The girls wrestling finals will be held at the same time of the Class AAA, Class A/AA and Division II boys final. Both CCHS and Stone Memorial have girls wrestlers and have sent student/athletes to the state tournament.

Also, the  Legislative Council voted 7-2 Wednesday to table a proposal to split public and private schools at its meeting Wednesday. The Council formed a committee to study it and bring it back at a future meeting.

Under the proposal, all private schools would in Division II, which was created in 1997 for schools which give need-based financial aid; however, some private schools which don't give aid have played in Division I.

It will be interesting to see who TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress puts on the committee. He could have members from the Board of Control, the Legislative Council and representatives from Division I schools, large and small, Division II schools and the 22 private schools in Division I.

What are you going to do with the 22 schools? How are they going to fit in the 21 state championships — 11 girls and 10 boys? Who goes from the district to the region? Changes will  have to be made to all sports.

If the private schools are moved, will they be given representation on the Legislative Council and/or Board of Control? If passed, this would take effect for the 2015-'16 school year.

If this happens, current Division I districts would have to be readjusted for the final two years of the current period which ends in the 2016-'17 school year.

What will happen with these home school teams, like the Chattanooga Patriots, and private church schools, i.e., Lancaster Christian School and Lighthouse Christian School.

The two Christian schools were on SMHS' basketball schedule, while the Chattanooga Patriots has played CCHS for several years. I believe there is a conference for those religious-based schools.

••••

(Ed Greif is the Chronicle sports editor and his column appears regularly.)

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