SportsMonday: The Not-So-Sweet 16

Rock chalk, Big Dance. Except for Kansas strangely enough.

For more than 130 years, Kansas University fans, and scientists, have been serenading opposing teams with "Rock chalk, Jayhawk, KU!" The chant, which apparently began as a way for a chemistry professor to fire up his student club (!), has become the college basketball equivalent of former Celtics coach Red Auerbach's victory cigar.

Jayhawk basketball fans often bust out the chant before games, but it sounds best when it rises up at the exact time a victory in a given game has been assured. And given that Kansas had won at least a portion of something like the last 14 Big 12 regular season men's basketball championships before this past season, the fans have had the chance to bust out "Rock chalk" etc. at home game after home game just about forever.

It has been reported that Jayhawks fans also utilize it at football games, but considering that Kansas football is arguably the worst Division I FBS program in the country, those reports seem fanciful.

In a happy coincidence for Kansas fans, the word "chalk" has also long been slang for a favorite in a sporting endeavor. Fans can probably guess why, given that for a long time betting parlors used chalkboards to give bettors the info they needed.

After the opening weekend, this year's Big Dance is most notable for the fact that the chalk has dominated. All but a pair of No. 4 seeds (one of which, wackily enough, was Kansas) advanced to the Sweet 16. Borrrrrring.

Then again, the eternal Big Dance paradox is that TV ratings are apparently better when the traditional powers (Duke, Kentucky, etc.) advance. You would think the majority of college basketball fans would be most excited about the Cinderellas, but that apparently doesn't translate into eyeballs on TV screens.

I blame the Red States.

Anyway, the other remarkable thing about the way this tournament played out over the last four days is that if one tip-in hadn't rolled out, it would have had a completely different feel. I refer, of course. to Aubrey Dawkins' last-second tip-in try for Central Florida against Duke Sunday night when the Knights were on the verge of by far the biggest upset in the tournament so far.

The Blue Devils joined all the first-, second- and third-seeds in the round of 16 along with a couple fourths, fifth-seeded Auburn, who was a better team than the injury- and NCAA-ravaged Kansas Jayhawks (one of their better players was suspended for the season by the ever-clueless organization that bureaucratizes American college sports), and 12th-seeded Oregon.

The Ducks would have qualified as a Cinderella but A) they represent a power conference, the Pac 12, and B) they have a very talented roster that has come together late in the season and has won 10 games in a row. including their victories on Friday and Sunday.

If ninth-seeded UCF could have pulled out the game against Duke, the tournament would had a Cinderella to remember. Central Florida features 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall, a Senegal native who is as fun to watch as so many of the ultra-big men have been in basketball for about as long as the game has existed.

Then again, the tournament would have no longer had top TV draw Zion Williamson of Duke, who played well against UCF but was also battling a case of the dropsies (he fumbled the ball away or almost fumbled it away countless times, oftentimes when he was about to try to drive it in against the potential shot-blocking Fall).

The next game starts, as always, on Thursday night.


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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