Time to Dance
There is nothing quite like your first dance.
And that goes double for basketball players. In 1986, I fell in love with the sport of basketball because of a freshman named Mouse McFadden and his Run and Gun teammates. That magical season culminating in defeating Indiana, St. Joseph and having victory snatched away by David Robinson and Navy has made March special for me ever since.
I don't know if it has been the emotional rollercoaster of the new job or what but I have never been less excited or interested in college basketball than I have been this year. Selection Sunday has always been a huge deal but this year I have barely noticed.
Cleveland State basketball has been non-news for a long time. The scandal took away the mens mojo and the womens team has always been an afterthought. I have been to two CSU womens games over the years. Five years ago, I took some basketball players to watch the women play and I was shocked at the lack of talent and skill. Maybe it was a bad night, but I wasn't sure how many of the players would start on some local high school teams. The guard play was atrocious. And then I went to see the women play UCONN in Barbara Turner's senior season. I had seen Turner play in high school and wanted to see what the top level of NCAA basketball was like. Cleveland State had certianly improved but UCONN was not that motivated to play that night. Maybe after playing teams like Tennessee and Rugters, it is hard to get excited to play the Vikings but the effort gave a lot of fuel for those who attack the women's game.
But the truth is basketball is really about emotion. The game is the same on every level. Beauty doesn't matter just scoring more points than your opponent. And each game you play to win so you can kept playing.
And while it was the men's team at Cleveland State that teased the city this winter with the return of winning basketball, Kate Peterson Abiad's womens team punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time ever today with a 70-56 win over Wright State. After winning four games two years ago and eight games last year, the Vikings improved to 19-12.
The Vikings, picked to finish eighth in the Horizon League, upset regular season champion Wisconsin-Green Bay on Friday to propel themselves into the nationally televised championship. Of course most of the city couldn't watch it because it was on ESPN-U. Women's sports are often ignored to begin with, but even the big upset couldn't find room in the Plain Dealer until deep in the sports page. Late on Sunday, there was nothing on Cleveland.com but let's hope a NCAA bid gets the team on the front page tomorrow. Or least in the first three.
Normally I am against bandwagon jumpers, but I am hoping the local paper and community hop aboard on this one. Cleveland State can be a tough campus for an athlete- outside the mid to late 80s, even the mens basketball team has a tough draw. Without much of campus and dorms, student body support is tough in the best of times. for Peterson Abiad to turn what was basically into a dead program into a NCAA tournament team is remarkable. Her staff and team deserve some adoration.
And I look forward to cheering them on in their tournament opener later this week. It was a local Cinderella that opened my eyes to this great sport 22 years ago and it was another that got me broke me out of my indifference this year. Go Vikes!