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March 29, 2002
by Bill Hogan



Talk about putting the (dessert) cart before the horse. Talk about counting your (marinated) chickens before they hatch. Talk about putting all your (deviled) eggs in one basket.

The Georgia Dome, home to the 2002 NCAA Menís Basketball Final Four, is part of a convention complex known as the Georgia World Congress Center or GWCC.


The GWCC web site posts a list of upcoming events that will be hosted by one of their facilities up to a year in advance. I took a peek at their event calendar a couple of weeks ago and found that a Duke University Reception was scheduled for March 30, 2002.

A reception on the same day that the Final Four is to begin. A reception in the same complex that is hosting the Final Four. Coincidence? Overconfidence? Call it what you want, I call it bad mugombo.

Like when your teamís kicker is lining up for a game-winning twenty-nine yard field goal and the broadcaster points out that he hasnít missed from inside the thirty in six years. Bad mugombo.

Or when your teamís best free-throw shooter is on the line with the game in the balance and Dick Vitale calls him Ďautomaticí. Bad mugombo.

Coach K told the media after losing to Indiana in the Sweet 16 that he was well aware of the fact that, on any given day, his team could be beaten. Coach K should have passed on that little pearl of wisdom to the person at Duke in charge of renting out large banquet halls.

One overeager administratorís sense of preparation turned out to be the Ďkiss of deathí for the Blue Devils. No team could have overcome the bad karma produced by planning a Final Four celebration before the games have been played.

Nowhere will you find a more superstitious group than in the sports world. Grown men who refuse to shave or change their underwear for fear of Ďthe jinxí. Pre-planning a Final Four reception is like stepping on a crack while walking under a ladder with a black cat clawing at your eyeballs.

That reception hall is going to be as cheerful as a dot-com stockholders meeting. Forget about the pigs in a blanket and stuffed mushrooms, that crowd will need a heavy dose of bourbon and a keg or two. On second thought, is it too late for the organizers to get their deposit back?

Or maybe they can sublet the space to the Hoosierís Boosters. Though Iím sure Coach Davis and the IU team would be just as happy with a small gathering at the Dennyís all-you-can-eat buffet on I-20 just west of Atlanta. No bad mugombo there (just bad sausage).

Most people will point to Jason Williamsí missed free-throw as the cause of Dukeís elimination. I blame the Duke University Reception Committee.

They should have known better. They should realize that in sports Ė with the exception of figure skating and pro wrestling Ė there is no such thing as a sure thing. That being a number one seed doesnít mean that you automatically advance to the Final Four.

In fact, since the NCAA started seeding teams in 1979, there has never been a Final Four where all the number one seeds were represented. Never. And in case youíre surprised the five seeded Hoosiers made it this far, Indiana becomes the seventeenth school seeded five or higher to make it to the final weekend.

And just because IU, with a 24-11 record, has as many losses as the other three teams combined, it doesnít mean they donít have a shot at winning it all.

In 1983, sixth seeded N.C. State beat a Houston team that was loaded with future NBA stars.

In 1985, Villanova wasnít even the second best team in their conference. And as an eight seed, they knocked off the defending NCAA Champions from Georgetown.

Kansas knows first hand that seeds go out the window at the Final Four. In 1988 they went in to the final weekend as a sixth seeded long shot and left Kansas City with a National Championship.

Iím not sure what kind of appetizers they will have at the Duke University Reception on March 30 at the Georgia World Congress Center, but I have an idea what the main course will be. The head of the guy/gal who booked the banquet hall before March Madness began Ė on a silver platter.

Iíll be at IUís all-you-can-eat buffet at Dennyís.


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