C's Talk Tourney, Downplay Notion of Upsets

NEW YORK – The two most unproductive work days of the year began on Thursday when the 2014 NCAA tournament tipped off. The tournament opened up with its typical madness, as four teams pulled off upsets on the first full day of play.

Or did they?

Brad Stevens walks along the sideline

Brad Stevens coached Butler to two national championship appearances.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Brad Stevens, who coached Butler to two appearances in the national championship game, was asked Friday morning about the drama that unfolded on the first day of games. He didn’t seem to agree with the use of the term ‘upset’ in relation to any of Thursday’s contests, particularly regarding two 12-seeds upending two 5-seeds.

“Were there any upsets? Are there any upsets in that?” Stevens asked with a straight face. “I don’t know. I’ve been on both sides of that 12-5, with regard that I’ve been a 12 and I’ve been a 5. Not much difference between the 12s and the 5s in the games that I saw or was a part of, and that probably is always the case.”

While Stevens downplayed the notion of upsets, he did acknowledge how exciting the tournament is each and every year. The win-or-go-home atmosphere surrounding every single game creates a swing of emotions we all feel as we’re glued to our television sets.

“One of the fun parts is the pageantry part of it,” Stevens said. “It’s the idea that those are upsets. The idea that the loser goes home. The idea that the winner stays to live another day.”

Stevens gave an inside perspective on what it feels like to be on either end of the tournament’s daily finality.

“I think everybody enjoys watching it from the standpoint of watching the emotions of the kids involved,” he said. “I’ve been on both sides of that. The losing is really, really tough, and the winning is just exhilarating.”

Those emotions were broadcast throughout the day on Thursday, highlighted by a game that was eyed closely by two Celtics. Dayton, an 11-seed, pulled off an upset in the tournament’s very first game by knocking off 6-seed Ohio State.

Celtics guard Chris Johnson is a proud alumnus of Dayton. As we all know, big man Jared Sullinger bleeds Buckeye scarlet and gray (that is, when he isn’t bleeding green and white).

The two players watched the game unfold as they flew on the team plane to New York. They exchanged a few friendly barbs throughout the contest before hitting a technological snag. The plane’s wifi connection dropped out as the aircraft descended for landing in New York. That time frame just so happened to coincide with the final two minutes of a one-possession game between Dayton and Ohio Sate. Shortly after touching down and reconnecting to Internet service, each player learned that Dayton had pulled off the upset in dramatic fashion.

Johnson, smiling from ear to ear, looked to be about as happy as he was when he signed his contract with the Celtics. On the other side was Sullinger, who, to his credit, took the loss in stride. He was asked about the defeat prior to Friday’s shootaround.

“If we’re going to lose, I wouldn’t mind losing to a team like Dayton,” said Sullinger, who also noted that a couple of his high school teammates play for Dayton. “On top of that, they’ve got head coach Archie (Miller), one of my favorite coaches. I love Archie. I love Archie to death.”

As much as we all love watching the tournament? Probably not.

America’s work week pretty much came to an end when Dayton jumpstarted the madness by taking down Ohio State. We’ve all been tuned in through our televisions, tablets and phones ever since to catch as many upsets – err… games – as humanly possible.