March Madness does not disappoint

Monday, March 28, 2011

I don't know how the NCAA men's basketball tournament could have been any better so far.

There have been numerous sensational games and stunning upsets, many featuring buzzer-beating finishes.

When all the dust cleared from the weekend, not a single No. 1 or No. 2 seed was left standing. That is simply amazing.

No. 3 seed Connecticut, No. 4 Kentucky, No. 8 Butler and No. 11 Virginia Commonwealth emerged to form an unlikely Final Four.

While Butler surprisingly is in the national semifinals for the second straight year, no squad's tournament run has been more shocking than VCU's, which was mocked by many pundits for even making the 68-team field.

VCU has shut up everybody with a string of upsets, capped by Sunday's stunner of No. 1 seed Kansas.

With all the big favorites on the sidelines, who will capture the title is anybody's guess.

Kentucky has the future NBA talent and tradition, UConn has brilliant guard Kemba Walker, Butler has a knack for pulling out close games and VCU just took down a popular choice to emerge as champion.

Discount any of those teams at your own risk.

There were two items of note last week regarding Ohio Valley Conference's men's basketball.

Tennessee Tech coach Mike Sutton announced his retirement after nine seasons. Associate head coach Steve Payne, who also has been at Tech nine years, will succeed Sutton.

Sutton was stricken in 2005 with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare, life-threatening condition that attacks nerve cells. He said in a press release that he was concerned his health issues might be more limiting and possibly a distraction to the team. He missed two road trips this season due to health problems.

Sutton will remain at Tech as an instructor, according to the release.

And Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall, who transformed the Eagles from among the nation's worst programs into an OVC power, agreed to a new four-year contract.

That seems to end speculation Tyndall might leave for a bigger program following the departure of potential NBA lottery pick Kenneth Faried and fellow all-OVC performer Demonte Harper.

The four-year agreement will pay Tyndall, who recently completed his fifth season at Morehead, $230,000 per year, which will place him at the top of the conference.

Tyndall tied the school record for wins with 25 with Morehead's NCAA tournament upset of Louisville. It was the Eagles' second win in the NCAA tournament under Tyndall.

It was great that the Scott City community held a night Saturday for legendary coach William Wilthong.

The event, at the Scott City Knights of Columbus, was to celebrate the naming of Scott City High School's football field after Wilthong. The Scott City School District approved the naming in January.

Wilthong led the Scott City High School football program from 1968 to 1995 and also coached baseball and served as athletic director for the final 15 years of his tenure.

Wilthong's career record of 193-71, a .731 winning percentage, ranks among the best for Missouri high school football coaches. He led the Rams to 13 conference titles and four district championships in 27 seasons.

Wilthong was among the first coaches I got to know well after starting work at the Southeast Missourian in 1984. I have admired and respected him over the years and still get a kick out of seeing him in the press box at Rams football games.

He's just a great guy and, in about the biggest compliment of all, I've never heard anybody say a bad word about him.

Here's hoping Coach Wil, who is battling health problems, gets to watch plenty more seasons of Scott City football at the field that will bear his name.

Now that former Missouri basketball coach Mike Anderson has bolted Columbia, Mo., to take over the Arkansas program, a big question on the local high school hoops scene is how that will affect Otto Porter.

Porter, Scott County Central's standout 6-foot-9 senior forward, supposedly has been leaning toward Missouri for a while. Anderson's departure could change that.

Porter, ranked among the nation's top 50 prep players by and among the country's top unsigned prospects, reportedly had been considering Missouri, Kansas and Georgetown.

The spring signing period begins in mid-April. Things could get interesting on the Porter front between now and then.

I had a blast at Friday's trivia night fundraiser for the local Alzheimer's Association.

The event, held at Cape Girardeau Country Club, featured a local guest celebrity for every team.

Beats me, but somebody thought I qualified for that description, along with the likes of true local celebrities Southeast football coach Tony Samuel, Southeast baseball coach Mark Hogan and Plaza Tire Capahas manager Jess Bolen, among others.

It was loads of fun and I sat with a great group of people. And, although we didn't win, we finished in the top five, which I guess isn't too bad.

Southeast football will heat up soon as spring practice begins Saturday.

College football teams are allowed 15 spring practice sessions, including a spring game, which for the Redhawks will be April 30.

Area track and field enthusiasts will have a chance to watch their sport this weekend when Southeast will host the 30th annual Joey Haines Invitational.

Although the meet officially begins Friday with the hammer throw, virtually all of the competition will be held Saturday.

The meet always features plenty of talent and excitement, so if you enjoy the sport I suggest you make it out.

Central High School graduate Hannah Kinder recently finished an impressive college swimming career.

Kinder was part of a Texas A&M team that placed 10th at the NCAA championships in Austin, Texas, for the program's fifth straight top-10 finish.

Kinder, a 2007 Central graduate, won the state title in the 100 and 200 freestyles during her senior year.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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