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Ball Four

By Zachary T. Ball

We are about to embark upon the greatest spectacle in all of sports--the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, which begins this Thursday.

And while this event should totally consume the life of any true hoops fan, the Harvard administration seems to have a poor understanding of how to schedule theses, midterms, problem sets and papers around these basketball games.

Given this extreme lack of administrative planning, some students may be forced to do actual academic work at the same time that games appear on TV.

With this in mind, I have attempted a list of interesting first round matchups--games one should see, even at the expense of that elusive honors diploma. These include Princetonesque upset possibilities, as well as fun games featuring contrasting styles or exciting individuals.

As far as upsets go, the obvious choices are the aforementioned Princeton, and whoever is playing Arizona--this year that happens to be South Alabama, though it really doesn't matter who they draw. The point is, Lute Olsen cannot coach basketball. As the saying goes, "Never has so little been done with so much."

South Alabama's tenacious defense and great work ethic means it is just the kind of team the free-wheelin' Wildcats will dread running into in the first round.

As for Princeton, this team is good. They have almost the entire squad back from last year's victory over UCLA in the first round, and they're as disciplined as ever. Princeton faces a sliding California team that, although experienced and tough defensively, is playing without leading scorer Ed Gray (24.8 points per game), who is suffering from a broken foot. Look for Ivy League dominance of the Pac-10 to continue.

The Clemson-Miami (OH) matchup looks like a good one. Miami has a recent history of pulling off first round upsets (it drew Arizona in the first round in 1995, Olsen did the rest). The Redskins are young, but they shoot well and senior forward Devin Davis is for real.

Clemson's meteoric rise this season, during which it briefly hit the top five, was probably over-achievement, but the Tigers rode the surge to a fourth seed despite a late season plunge. Clemson is a tough opponent, but it won't have a cake walk to the second round.

Illinois State and Iowa State are two teams with talent, depth and scoring ability, but they also feature big question marks. Illinois St. features sophomore Rico Hill (19 ppg) and it goes fully ten deep on the bench. But the Redbirds have no seniors on their roster and no NCAA experience.

For its part, Iowa St. has a great scoring threat in senior Dedric Wiloughby (18 ppg) and solid interior defense from 6'11 senior Kelvin Cato. The Cyclones have been ravaged by injuries and suspensions, and although healthy now, the team has not played together as a unit for much of the year. This one should be a tough contest.

Georgetown drew UNC-Charlotte in its first round game. The matchup features pure athleticism and the tournament's second-leading scorer, Victor Page, plus a lot of cool-sounding foreign names on the Georgetown roster. UNC-Charlotte, on the other hand, plays solid all-around defense and often lives or dies by its three-point shot. This should be one of the better 7-10 games.

St. Mary's boasts 7'3, 345-pound center Brad Millard as well as competent outside shooting. This offensive balance is more than its highly-tauted opponent, Wake Forest, can claim during the latter stages of its season. The Gaels could give Duncan everything he can handle and the fireworks inside should be fun as well.

These games alone should provide plenty of reasons to give the term paper a rest for another day.

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