The Somali Pirates became March Madness’ latest victim Thursday as their title dreams were dashed in the Sweet 16.
Nestled on the Indian Ocean’s rocky western shores, the mid-major Pirates were expected by many analysts to make a deep tournament run, and were even considered a dark horse championship contender. Instead, they will settle for a return to anonymity.
The Pirates defeat came at the hand of the perennial power Ohio State Buckeyes, their performance doomed by cold shooting and a foul prone defense.
“Maybe I was just swept up in the Somali hype, but I was surprised to see the Pirates eliminated like that in the Sweet 16,” said tournament commentator Jay Bilas. “Normally, oppoents can’t handle the variety of lethal weapons they bring on board, and teams are almost always terrified to play them. But against the Buckeyes, the Pirates’ shooters couldn’t hit water from a boat.”
Though not a historical powerhouse, in recent years, the Pirates have slowly gained notice, building a program that has drawn the attention of blue chip organizations such as the U.S. State Department, the NATO Supreme Command, and the U.N. Security Council. With those advances, many insiders felt the Pirates had been building towards mounting one big run in 2010-11.
“The truth is, for the Somali Pirates, their window of opportunity to do something big was this year and this year only,” said Fran Frascilla, an ESPN scout in charge of overseas coverage. “They put the world on notice that they were gearing up for a title run this March. My guess is that by this time next year, most of their key players will jump ship, and the remaining team will be lost at sea.”
For scores of fans watching at home, including United States President Barack Obama, the Pirates’ premature loss not only cost the team a championship, but ruined their brackets.
Obama appeared on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption on Thursday to comment on the Pirates defeat.
“Every year, a small time program gets a chance to play Cinderella heading to the ball,” Obama said. “With their take no prisoners attitude, I, for one, was sure that the slipper would fit the Somali Pirates this year. There’s always next March.”