There are only two local angles to really play in this year's NCAA Tournament. Cornell's medical school is in Manhattan and the Big Red are a 12 seed taking on Temple on Friday afternoon. An upset win might make for a smoother prostate exam or two so let's all throw our support behind the boys from Ithaca.
That's pretty thin, but it is as close as our fair city comes to an actual dog in the hunt. It seems more likely that New Yorkers looking for something near and dear to their heart are clinging to the Big East as a way to generate interest in the tournament beyond beating Lem from accounting in the office pool. The greatest moments in conference history play out at the Garden, so there's a connection of some magnitude there even if the local teams fell flat this year.
You might be better off going nuts for Cornell. The Big East flopped royally on Thursday. One win in four tries with no team seeded lower than sixth, and that one win was a highly unimpressive survival in overtime by Villanova against a 15th seeded Robert Morris team that led all game before wilting under the bright lights. Georgetown, Marquette and Notre Dame got no such reprieve.
No loss was worse than Georgetown's humiliation at the hands of an Ohio team that couldn't even manage a winning record in the Mid-American Conference. An alien dropped in with no idea about either team's pedigree wouldn't have thought for a second that the Hoyas were a heavy favorite, a result that's got to make you think twice before doubling down your bet on Pittsburgh against a school called Oakland that's not from California.
The Big East flameout mostly wounds pride and busts up bracket pools, but there might be some tangible effects for one man. Norm Roberts was probably getting fired even if the Big East won every game on the slate from now until there were only Big East teams left in the dance. At this point, though, what argument can he make for keeping his job?
"Well, we play in a tough conference and I think we showed progress in our ability to compete with those elite programs."
"So you're at the level of Robert Morris but below Ohio or Old Dominion? That's swell. What else you got?"
"Um, people like saying 'Nooooooorm' when I walk into rooms?"
"You can show yourself out."
It doesn't say much for the job done by Jim Calhoun, either, since we're on the topic but that's about the only thing Roberts and the UConn coach have in common.
If things don't get better in a hurry for the beasts of the East, we might be stuck rooting for Kansas State to make a deep run simply because they are from Manhattan. Manhattan, Kansas, of course, but beggars can't be choosers.