HILLARY SMITH: NCAA tournament brings hoops enlightenment

2014-03-23T21:00:00Z 2014-03-23T21:29:30Z HILLARY SMITH: NCAA tournament brings hoops enlightenmentHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
March 23, 2014 9:00 pm  • 

Tarheels, Wolverines, Blue Devils and Spartans.

Mascots that are regularly seen in the NCAA tournament are commonplace in the sports vernacular.

Huskies, Irish, Boilermakers, Lady Vols.

You don't have to look it up, you know who I'm talking about.

Terriers, Flyers, Chanticleers.

You knew that was Wofford, Dayton and Coastal Carolina, right? Right.

By the way, a chanticleer is a rooster, if you're up on your Canterbury Tales.

Besides squinting at the screen past the Baylor Bears neon green uniforms, the NCAA tournament is a time for introducing the casual fan to the intricacies of the teams they've missed all season.

* If you're not a dedicated fan of the SoCon — aka the Southern Conference — you wouldn't know that Arnold Palmer (Wake Forest) came from the same conference that houses the Wofford Terriers.

* Or if you don't watch every game on television every day, you wouldn't know that Joel Bolomboy, a sophomore forward at Weber State is of South African and Russian decent. His father is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and his mother is from Russia. He found his way as a 6-foot-9 basketball player.

"Air Up There," anyone?

* Though Louisiana-Lafayette played two losing games in the tournament in 2004 and 2005, the Ragin Cajuns — and more importantly the NCAA — don't count those appearances whey they say this year was the first trip since 2000. In '04 and '05, the Cajuns played a player who was using correspondence courses from another school to remain eligible for basketball. So, despite a close 68-62 loss to Louisville in 2005, the loss doesn't actually count.

* While Wichita State's wins until Sunday rolled the team through the Missouri Valley Conference and into a No. 1 seed, it's less known that the mascot — the Shockers — is short for a harvester, or shucker, of wheat. Also lesser known is that Wichita State is 13-12 overall in the tourney and before last year's run to the Final Four had won just two tournament games in the previous 32 years.

*Cal Poly's sub-.500 record overshadowed the fact that the Mustangs were playing in just their second postseason tournament ever. As in the team was created in 1921 and has suffered through futility, ever. Last season, the 'Stangs were 18-14 and played in the CIT tournament. This year, their Big West tournament win was enough for a ride to the dance and a 1-1 record thereafter.

The thrill isn't over with two weeks of games left — except for a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed that fell Sunday, for them, it's over — but the introduction to some newbies and outsiders has been a ride worth taking.

This column is solely the opinion of the writer. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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