Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chick-fil-A Bowl Renaming Is Just Peach-y To Me


The Chick-fil-A Bowl is changing their name again.  It will be ... the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl!  Okay, while that isn't entirely new, it is refreshing to see that name again.

See, the Peach Bowl has been played since 1968 and was known as such until 1997.  That year, Chick-fil-A bought the sponsorship rights and the game was named the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.  In 2006, they scrapped the Peach and kept the company name.

People like me were a bit miffed.  While I get the point of all these sponsorship named bowls, I don't like that we ditched traditional names altogether.  We have the Fiesta, Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls ... not the Tostitos, Vizio, Allstate or Discover Bowls.  Yeah, there are the GoDaddy, Outback, Belk and Russell Athletic Bowls ... but none of them really had a historic name that preceded it.

This isn't the first time this has happened.  The Sun Bowl in El Paso has been going on since 1935.  However, their title sponsor at the time, John Hancock, took over the name and became the John Hancock Bowl from 1989 to 1993.  After that, the Sun Bowl was reinstated with a variety of sponsors headlining.

I like that as a compromise.  Sure we can have the John Hancock Sun, Norwest Sun, Wells Fargo Sun, Vitalis Sun, Brut Sun or, now, the Hyundai Sun Bowls from year to year ... but let it have a name.

This may happen more than you think.  With the new college football playoff format, it was wanted for the Peach Bowl to get their name back to be in sync with the Rose, Fiesta, Cotton, Orange and Sugar Bowls so it will be in the rotation of semifinal games.  Yeah, money was the motivator to get the Peach Bowl name back ... but it could help in other cities as well.

How about bringing the Copper Bowl back instead of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl?  The Motor City Bowl is back instead of the Little Caesar's Bowl?  The Hall-of-Fame Bowl instead of the Outback Bowl?

And the big one:  the Citrus Bowl coming back and ditching the Capital One Bowl.

Let's make the Texas Bowl in Houston the Bluebonnet Bowl again?  Or give the sponsorship bowls a chance to add a name to it.  I'm fine with every bowl with a sponsor.  It's money, I get it!  But let's at least have something that doesn't sound as cheap.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sportz' First Round NBA Predictions


It is NBA Playoffs time once again and ... well ... uh ... uh ... my beloved Lakers aren't in it.  Not even close.  And it feels weird, although very expected.

For 16 teams, however, the playoffs are an exciting time.  For teams like the Heat, Spurs and Thunder, it is what they've waited all year for -- a shot to get back to the Finals.  For teams like the Pacers, Rockets and Clippers it is their chance to get it all together and make an outside run for a title.  For others like the Wizards, Raptors and Bobcats, it is a exciting time for their cities as they return to the playoffs.

There is no Lakers, as I've said.  No Celtics.  No Knicks.  No Pistons.  No Sixers.  The 1980s youngster that lives in me cannot believe that.  But let's look at all eight series to see who I got advancing.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1-INDIANA PACERS vs 8-ATLANTA HAWKS:  While the Pacers are the top seed in the East, it isn't like they've just rolled into it.  The Pacers are struggling a bit.  Maybe the wear and tear of the season?  Maybe a bit of "let's get this thing going" set in?  Whatever it is, it needs to go away.  The Hawks aren't a bad team at all and can give Indy some troubles, as they split during the regular season with Atlanta winning their last two meetings.  Still, I think Indiana may get it together as their focus on winning a title becomes bigger than whatever their issues are.  By the way, the NBA still doesn't give the Pacers any respect as two of their scheduled five games will be on NBATV and not on TNT or ESPN/ABC.  Pacers in six

2-MIAMI HEAT vs 7-CHARLOTTE BOBCATS:  The Miami Heat have been in that same "ick" feeling that the Chicago Bulls of 1993 or 1998 and the Lakers of 2002 were in: defending two-time champions just trying to slosh through the season so they can get to the playoffs and three-peat.  I don't blame them.  On the other side, the Bobcats (soon to be Hornets) are having a great season.  This was a team that won 28 games over the last two seasons combined.  They surprisingly won 43 this year and are making only their 2nd trip to the postseason.  House money all around here.  Even with a loss in this series, they will have an offseason filled with promise of a good, young team that should get better along with the very popular rebranding of the franchise as the Hornets.  Miami has owned Charlotte this year and it will be the same again.  Heat in four.

3-TORONTO RAPTORS vs 6-BROOKLYN NETS:  I'm sure everyone had the Raptors pegged as the Atlantic Division champs when the season started, right?  No?  The Dinos get the Nets, who were the popular preseason pick for the division in the first round.  Despite most people's disinterest, the Raptors are playing at a high level right now and have won 9 or 12 entering the playoffs.  The Nets closed out pretty lame, but have really recovered from a hellish 10-21 start that saw a lot of rumor buzzing around the club.  That means BK rolled off a 34-17 streak since then and seem to be responding the Jason Kidd's coaching.  I'm going to go with the 90% of people who continue to disrespect the Raptors by picking the Nets in this one just because I'd like to see a Heat-Nets conference semifinal matchup.  Nets in six.  

4-CHICAGO BULLS vs 5-WASHINGTON WIZARDS:   Who had Washington as the 5th best team in the East?  The Wizards are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 back in the Gilbert Arenas/Antawn Jamison days.  They haven't won a playoff series since 2005 when they beat ... the Chicago Bulls.  Give the Bulls a lot of credit.  They finished as a 4th seed despite losing Derrick Rose again early on in the season.  Their defensive effort has gotten them here along with an MVP-type season from Joakim Noah.  That makes this series with the high-flying Zards all the more interesting.  What wins?  Slick offense or punishing defense?  I pick defense this time due to Chicago's experience and the fact that defense isn't as streaky as shooting is.  Bulls in six.  

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1-SAN ANTONIO SPURS vs 8-DALLAS MAVERICKS:  Welcome to the Western Conference!  This is where a matchup like this can happen.  A 49-win team is the 8th seed (for a comparison, the Mavs would have been the 3rd seed in the Eastern hierarchy).  The Spurs have that single-mindedness of letting a championship slip away from them last season.  Unlike Miami or even Indiana, they haven't suffered a we're-going-through-the-motions-because-we-are-just-waiting-for-the-playoffs sluggishness.  They've secured home court for the entire postseason and know that Game 7 will be on their home floor.  The Mavericks are back in the playoffs with Dirk Nowitzki showing why he's a first ballot Hall Of Famer.  Both teams are rather old so it should be an old fashioned slug-fest.  Still, I think the Spurs are on a mission.  Spurs in five.

2-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER vs 7-MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES:  Kevin Durant is the league's MVP, no doubt.  He carried this team to this point in the brutal Western Conference.  Waiting there is a Memphis squad that has really come around after dealing with a weird coaching change and injury issues.  Remember that it was these Grizzlies that were in the Western Conference Finals last year --- not the Thunder -- after their conference semifinals series last year.  This should be an awesome series just like a season ago.  Still, I'm putting my money on KD, even if Russell Westbrook isn't 100%.  Thunder in six.

3-LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS vs 6-GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS:  This series should be an 11-game set with no off days.  Two passionate fan bases that are hoping for big things after looooong waits.  SoCal vs NoCal.  Both young teams with dynamic point guards and high flyers surrounding them.  Shot blockers, gunners who are both coached by former NBA point guards.  SportsCenter highlights all over the place.  To me, the basic line will be if the Clips can hold their own on the perimeter against the Warriors need to keep Lob City from stomping on them.  I'm leaning on the Clippers to pull through.  Blake Griffin has been pretty special this season and may be too much for the Warriors to handle.  Clippers in (hopefully) 7.

4-HOUSTON ROCKETS vs 5-PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS:  Here are two teams that were on everyone's lips when the season first started but kind of went by the wayside when the calendar turned to 2014.  The Rockets were the new "it team" when Dwight Howard joined up with James Harden and were a Finals favorite.  The Blazers flew out to a 24-5 record which shocked everyone.  Since then the Rockets' story wasn't as interesting and they settled in their rightful place behind Western stalwarts Spurs, Thunder and Clippers.  The Blazers followed that blazing start by going 30-23 the rest of the way including a stretch where they went just 21-22.  This will be a three point shooting frenzy both ways but I think the Rockets are built better for this series.  Rockets in six.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

UConn Joins The College Basketball Elite

UConn beat Kentucky for the NCAA Championship which places the Huskies in some elite company.  As you can see below, they've had quite the run.  Well, it is really time to look at UConn a little closer and maybe put them with those "blue bloods" we always hear about.

*UConn won their 4th title.  Only UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana has won more.  

UConn is up there in championships.  They now have the same total of titles as Duke.  They have one more than Kansas and Louisville.  Yet when we typically think of the "blue bloods" it is Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Duke as well as red-blooded Indiana and Louisville.  UConn deserves their spot in that company.

*UConn's four title have all come since 1999.  In that time span, only North Carolina, Duke and Florida have won multiple titles ... and all of them won exactly two apiece.

Really think about that.  That's pretty remarkable.  Among the other blue bloods, that holds up very well.  UCLA, of course, won 10 titles in 12 years from 1964 to 1976.  Kentucky won four titles in 11 years (1948-1958).  Duke won their four titles in a 20 year span (1991-2010).  That's pretty much it.

Indiana won three titles in 12 years (1976-1987) and their closest four was from 1953-1987 (35 years).  North Carolina's closest title haul was three in 17 seasons (1993-2009) and they had four in 28 years (1982-2009).  

*UConn's head coach Kevin Ollie won the title in his first NCAA tournament as coach.  That hasn't happened since Steve Fisher did it with Michigan in 1989.

That is sort of remarkable in one aspect.  I mean, to get your first head coaching gig and then two years later you are in the tournament and then winning it?  Amazing.  If you've noticed over the past few decades, big time schools are scooping up most of the titles.  Those schools rarely hire first time coaches.  John Calipari won a title in his 3rd year at Kentucky, but he was a head coach for a long time before that.  So was Roy Williams, who won in his 2nd season at North Carolina.  Tubby Smith won in his first season at Kentucky, but he was already an established coach elsewhere.

*Ollie became the first head coach to win a title at his alma mater since North Carolina's Roy Williams in 2009.  

That's always a cool story.

*Ollie is the third straight NCAA championship head coach (and fourth in five years) whose last name ends with a vowel.  Ollie joins Rick Pitino and John Calipari in the streak, with Mike Krzyzewski winning in 2010.  UConn's old coach, Jim Calhoun, is the odd ball of the last five years.  

It really is rare.  Except that Krzyzewski has four titles.  Notable vowel-ending coaches with titles are Izzo, Massamino, Valvano, McGuire (Al and Frank), Heathcote and Iba.

*UConn won last night in Arlington, TX.  They've also won titles in San Antonio and Houston.

It is quite a neat feat, but it has been done before.  UCLA won three titles in California (twice in Los Angeles, one in San Diego).   UCLA also won twice in Kentucky (both in Louisville) and twice in Missouri (Kansas City and St. Louis).  Duke has split their four titles ... two in Indiana (Indianapolis) and Minnesota (Minneapolis).  Indiana won two titles in Missouri (Kansas City) and two in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).  North Carolina has won two titles in Louisiana (both New Orleans).

Kentucky has won eight titles in eight different states.

*As a No. 7 seed, UConn was the 2nd worst seed to win the NCAA tournament.  Only No. 8 seed Villanova in 1985 had a worse seed.  

Villanova beat Georgetown in one of the most memorable upsets in tournament history.  This game doesn't come close to that because Kentucky was actually a worse seed than UConn.  Yeah, UConn was the "home" team for this game due to their better seed.

*The UConn-Kentucky title game was the first championship game that didn't involve a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed.

It was the worst combined seeding (15) in title game history.  It beats out UConn's last title, when they were a No. 3 seed and beat No. 8 seed Butler for the title.

*UConn wins the tournament as a member of the inaugural season for The American Athletic Conference.  Louisville, who was also a member of the AAC in 2013-2014, won the title last season as a member of the Big East.  Next year, they will be a member of the ACC.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Impact on UNC: James Michael McAdoo To Go Pro

McAdoo will leave UNC with a rather mixed opinion
of his career in baby blue.
Junior forward James Michael McAdoo has announced he is entering the NBA draft.  It has caught a lot of people off guard because he seemed to be using "we" a lot when discussing next year's Tar Heels squad and ... well ... if hadn't left for the 2012 or 2013 drafts when his stock was a lot higher, why would he do it in this stacked draft where he isn't projected as a first round pick.

Let's get that question out of the way first.  Remember that he has the ability to test the draft waters once during his collegiate career, provided he doesn't sign with an agent.  That way he could work out for teams and attend certain pre-draft camps and see what he needs to work on.  Again, provided he hadn't signed with an agent, he can come back to Carolina and play his senior season.  Since he would be a senior next season, he may as well use this option this spring since he will have to go pro after the next college season anyway.  

That was something that Danny Green did as a junior back in 2008.  Green came back to school, became a starter and helped lead the Tar Heels to the 2009 National Championship.  Now Green is a starter for the NBA's best team, the San Antonio Spurs.  

McAdoo could be doing that.  He won't say so because that would let NBA teams know he isn't seriously in the draft and they won't waste their time on working him out or scouting him.  So he could come back.  But from how everyone is acting and saying around the program, McAdoo is gone.

What are McAdoo's prospects?  Not great.  While he did improve slightly from his sophomore season, it wasn't like he took the world by storm.  Ask any Tar Heels fan and they'll tell you he was as frustrating a player they've seen come through Chapel Hill.  He could have games where he looked dominant.  He could carry the Heels for stretches with great mid-range shooting or (sometimes) attacking the basket.

Or he'll have games like he did against Florida State late in the season where he failed to score a point.  He spent countless games in foul trouble due to bad plays.  He lacks a back to the basket game for a power forward but struggled at times in the small forward role.  He's a poor free throw shooter who doesn't have a tremendous range.

He'll be a classic tweener.  Someone will take a chance on him ... probably in the 2nd round ... because of his pedigree and his size.  From there, it will all be on him.

Where does that leave North Carolina?  Everyone thought he'd be back next season and now he (presumably) won't.

Actually, UNC has it covered.  Right now, the starting lineup is most likely Nate Britt, Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto and Kennedy Meeks with McAdoo's spot open.  Bryce Johnson most likely gets the nod.  Johnson has been referred to by some NBA scouts as the Tar Heels' top prospect last season.

It will also clear out some space for the Heels in the frontcourt where they are actually deep.  They have Meeks, Desmond Hubert and Joel James as the main centers.  Johnson, Isiah Hicks and Jackson Simmons will be the main power forwards.  Plus the Heels have wing guys like Tokoto as well as incoming freshmen Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson.  There's plenty of talent.  Granted, McAdoo coming back would make this team better, but it would stunt the growth of others.

Like Reggie Bullock last season, who many questioned his decision to enter the draft after his junior season, it may work out better than people thought.  I hope so.  McAdoo will always be a Tar Heel and I wish him nothing but the best.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Remember We Get More Realignment This Summer

Louisville is the biggest name to switch
conferences this summer.
With the Final Four set and ready to roll on Saturday, let's remember how much of a business college sports is.

Meaning, while this last summer was filled with schools moving all over the place, there is still some big time moves going on in this coming July.  I'm more of a college hoops kinda guy so I'm taking this from that point of view mainly.

LOUISVILLE TO ACC:  The biggest move is the Cardinals to the ACC.  Not only does adding L'ville to the already big name league makes it bigger, but it is quite the cat-and-mouse game with the Big Ten.  Sure, the Big Ten took Maryland from the ACC which seems like the bigger move (more on that later), but the ACC continues to not only own the East coast but have moved into the Big Ten's midwestern territory with Notre Dame and Louisville.

Forget that for a moment, though.  You will have Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Williams and Pitino in one league?  Wow.  And Louisville has been a very good football school of late (they went 12-1 this past season) and joins the league that has the defending champion.

MARYLAND, RUTGERS TO BIG TEN:  Rutgers really steps up a notch.  The Scarlet Knights programs don't really warrant a Big Ten membership.  They've been mediocre at best and don't scream success like the additions of Nebraska or Penn State did.  Rutgers and Maryland is a money grab by both sides.  The Big Ten network now gets into the New York to Washington territory and the two schools get a financial windfall.

What will be interesting is Maryland's exit from the ACC.  There is a nasty battle waged between the league and school over the exit fee.  The league set a huge fee and then Maryland shocked everyone by bolting.  The league wants its money and Maryland thinks it is excessive.  How this goes will be huge.  For Maryland, it could really cost them a lot of the income they were set to receive from the Big Ten.  For the ACC, a loss could completely make their exit fee a joke and all the member schools won't fear it in case another league comes calling.

That is big since there is alleged poaching from each conference by the other.  Maryland alleges that the ACC attempted to lure Big Ten schools to join up (no specific schools were mentioned, but you had to feel Penn State was one of them and possibly Northwestern the other -- pure speculation by me).  The Big Ten had been trying to get some sort of combination of North Carolina, Clemson, Virginia or Georgia Tech, among others.  For now, everything seems calm on that front.  But as we just saw with the ACC and the Big East, it doesn't take long for these kinds of things to kick up again.

Sorry.  Competition wise this will be interesting.  Maryland is a good hoops program that can run with the rest of the Big Ten at times.  Rutgers could join Northwestern and Penn State as teams that routinely sit at the bottom of the standings.  As far as football goes, both programs have their moments but I don't see them making Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin or Nebraska sweat.

DAVIDSON TO ATLANTIC 10:  Davidson is that school that Steph Curry went to.  The Atlantic 10 is the 2nd best non-football conference.  For Davidson, this is an obvious step up from the SoCon.  As we saw, the A-10 sends multiple teams to the tournament and just watched Dayton make it to the Elite 8.  Davidson gets the A-10 back into Charlotte (where UNC-Charlotte left for Conference USA after nearly a decade) and further south.

EAST CAROLINA, TULANE, TULSA TO THE AMERICAN:  These three school must feel like those new kids in class that no one likes.  When the old Big East was trying to hold things together, they welcomed these three schools (East Carolina was originally for football only) and it caused a rift in the conference.  As you know, the old Big East spit into two and these schools will join The American Athletic Conference (ECU will now join as a full member).

Considering Louisville and Rutgers are leaving, this isn't a fair trade.  Tulsa did make the NCAA tournament this season by winning Conference USA and could be the one school that can compete on the basketball side of things.  All three have had their moments football-wise.

WESTERN KENTUCKY TO CONFERENCE USA:  When this whole realignment thing happened, the Conference USA has routinely been one of the conferences that has been hit the hardest.  The Big East and WAC, sure, but the C-USA about 10 years ago had Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, Saint Louis, Marquette, DePaul, South Florida, among others in it.  Now it is picking itself up with leftovers, old Sun Belt and WAC members and schools starting up Division I football programs.

Count Western Kentucky into that mix.  Oddly, this is a school that can compete in this league right away.  Plus this league has teams in Houston, Charlotte, San Antonio, Tulsa and Miami.  The bad thing is that this league has basically turned into a shadow of itself.

MERCER, EAST TENNESSEE STATE, VMI TO SOUTHERN CONFERENCE:  The SoCon loses Davidson, Elon, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern this summer.  Davidson is a big loss, but the others can be replaced.  VMI and ETSU were once members of the SoCon.  Mercer is the more known school at the moment, as they just beat Duke in the NCAA tournament.

The fact that ETSU (27 seasons) and VMI (79 seasons) are coming back is a good thing for the league.  Mercer is moving up the ladder from the Atlantic Sun and can hopefully build on this year's success.

APPALACHIAN STATE, GEORGIA SOUTHERN, NEW MEXICO STATE TO SUN BELT:  This matters mainly for the football side as both App State and Ga Southern are stepping up into DI.  New Mexico State is orphaned once the WAC folded up its football side of things and joins only in that sport.  In basketball, neither of the joining schools have mattered much at all.

IDAHO TO BIG SKY/SUN BELT:  Since the WAC is no more and Idaho is, I guess, a Sun Belt football school, they needed somewhere for their other sports.  The Big Sky is a good place.  It is geographically good and joins the Vandals with Idaho State.  Idaho was an original member of the league from 1963 to 1996.

ELON TO COLONIAL:  Sorry, but this is huge for Elon.  To go from ... well, who is Elon? ... to the CAA?  I know the CAA isn't what it was just a few years ago, but it still is a nice league for a school like Elon.

ORAL ROBERTS TO SUMMIT:  Yep.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Elite 8


Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room.

GAME OF THE ROUND: Wisconsin vs Arizona. Nothing better than extra basketball!  Two teams going toe-to-toe at the end of both regulation and overtime.  I know it doesn't seem pretty when a game is such a defensive battle, but true basketball fans loved it.  Wisconsin looks like a champion and I think can beat anyone left.  Frank Kaminsky is having one of those amazing NCAA tournament runs.

UPSET OF THE ROUND: UConn over Michigan State. Michigan State was the trendy pick to win the title.  All the guys at ESPN picked them.  So did yours truly.  UConn was a 7th seed that had a head coach making his first NCAA run.  Sure, the game was in New York and loads of Husky fans made the short trip, but this was quite an upset.

CONFERENCE OF THE ROUND: SEC. The SEC was much maligned all season long.  So much that they nearly only had two of their 14 schools make the tournament.  Well, those two are among the four teams remaining.  And heading into Saturday, I can see Florida and Kentucky as sort of favorites to play for the title.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD ROUND: Big Ten. The Big Ten had the opportunity to send three teams to the Final Four.  Instead, only one is going and needed an overtime to do so.  The Big Ten's regular season champ (Michigan) and tournament winner (Michigan State) will watch Wisconsin carry the conference flag.

DUD OF THE ROUND: Florida vs Dayton. If we reseeded the Elite 8, these two teams would have been set up as the 1-8 matchup.  And it was that for the most part.  Dayton didn't play well, but Florida made a lot of that happen.  The Flyers should be proud of their effort and how far they got.  And Archie Miller's name will get thrown around when several higher profile jobs open.  

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Florida.The Gators didn't play as well as ... well ... really any of the other winners, but they did the best defensive job and made their game the least nail-biting.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Your Final Four. This is a very interesting Final Four to say the least.  You have Florida, the No. 1 overall seed and the lone top seed left, back in the Final Four for the first time since their repeat championships in 2006 and 2007.  Billy Donovan's team has the look of a team that is taking what is there..

You have UConn.  Kevin Ollie is making his first tournament appearance ... let alone Final Four.  Think about this : if UConn wins, they will have as many titles as Duke does.  Shabazz Napier has that look of a tournament great like fellow Husky Kemba Walker, or guys like Danny Manning, Carmelo Anthony, Mateen Cleaves or Pervis Ellison.

There is Kentucky.  When the season began, this was a team destined for greatness.  When the season ended, they were an unranked team that was seeded at the No. 8 spot.  Going for their 9th title and their 2nd in three seasons.  The young team actually fulfilling their Fab Five-esque prophecy.

And Wisconsin, who last won this tournament back in 1941 ... the third year of the tournament.  A team that is the least sexy of the four but may be the best.  

FINAL THOUGHTS:

*Conference Count:
1-Big Ten (Wisconsin)
2-SEC (Florida, Kentucky)
1-American (UConn)

*Overtime count is now at SEVEN.  That ties the record set in 1995 and 1997.

Multiple Teams In The Final Four ... Again?


The 1975 tournament was the first that allowed multiple teams from one conference to qualify for the event.  The very next season, Indiana and Michigan met for the championship ... obviously both were from the Big Ten.

In the 39 tournaments since the tournament expanded like this, there have been multiple teams from one conference in the Final Four 22 times.  Amazing that more than half of the tournaments have had this occur.  Only three times have those teams gone on to play for the National Championship.

This season, the SEC sees Florida and Kentucky in the Final Four and, if both win on Saturday, would face off for the title.  The SEC last sent multiple teams to the Final Four in 1996 and 1994 ... and both years ended with an SEC team winning the title.

Also interesting is the fact that of the 21 previous times a conference sent multiple teams to the Final Four, only 10 times ... less than half ... did that conference end up winning the title.  Last year, Louisville won the title while fellow Big East member Syracuse also made the Final Four.

In 1985, three of the Final Four were made up of teams from the Big East.  With realignment, the 1976 Final Four will be made up of teams from the same conference as Rutgers will join the Big Ten next season.  The 2005 Final Four was made up of two Big Ten teams as well as North Carolina and Louisville.  Louisville will join UNC in the ACC next year.

The same could be said for 2002 (Maryland joins Indiana in the Big Ten), 1998 (Utah is now in the Pac-12 with Stanford), 1983 (Louisville will join NC State in the ACC), 1982 (Louisville, again, with UNC), 1978 (Kentucky and Arkansas are now in the SEC together; Duke and Notre Dame are in the ACC together), 1975 (Louisville and Syracuse in the ACC), 1951 (Kansas State and Oklahoma State are in the Big 12), 1948 (Kansas State and Baylor in the Big 12), 1947 (Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12), 1943 (Georgetown and DePaul in the Big East) and 1942 (Stanford and Colorado in the Pac-12).

In 1972, North Carolina, Florida State and Louisville are now all in the ACC.

Below are the 22 instances of multiple teams from one conference in a Final Four.  Teams in bold were champions that season.

2014:  SEC (Florida, Kentucky)
2013:  Big East (Louisville, Syracuse)
2009:  Big East (UConn, Villanova)
2005:  Big Ten (Illinois, Michigan State)
2004:  ACC (Georgia Tech, Duke)
2003:  Big 12 (Kansas, Texas)
2002:  Big 12 (Kansas, Oklahoma)
2001:  ACC (Duke, Maryland)
2000:  Big Ten (Michigan State, Wisconsin)
1999:  Big Ten (Michigan State, Ohio State)
1996:  SEC (Kentucky, Mississippi State)
1994:  SEC (Arkansas, Florida)
1992:  Big Ten (Michigan, Indiana)
1991:  ACC (Duke, North Carolina)
1990:  ACC (Duke, Georgia Tech)
1989:  Big Ten (Michigan, Illinois)
1988:  Big 8 (Kansas, Oklahoma)
1987:  Big East (Syracuse, Providence)
1985:  Big East (Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's)
1981:  ACC (North Carolina, Virginia)
1980:  Big Ten (Purdue, Iowa)
1976:  Big Ten (Indiana, Michigan)

Same with the realignment issue above, the 2009, 2001 and 1987 Final Fours will now be seen as schools from different conferences.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, Day 2


Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch two games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Kentucky vs Louisville. Truth be told, all four games were pretty good.  All four went down to the final minute.  All four were decided by five points or less.  Louisville led this game pretty much the entire way but Kentucky's poise ... surprising for such a young team against a defending champion ... won the game for the Wildcats.  Fierce rivals made this a bit more emotional that most Sweet 16 contests, but it was a great game regardless.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Kentucky over Louisville. Funny that three of Friday's games saw the better seed lose (Virginia, Iowa State, Louisville) but were any of these true upsets?  The only reason Kentucky gets the nod here is the fact they were the lowest seed to win.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big Ten. The Big Ten got three teams in the Elite 8.  After Wisconsin advanced on Thursday, Michigan State and Michigan moved on Friday.  Heading into the regional finals round, all three could find themselves in North Texas.  

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big 12. Both the Big 12 and the ACC saw their final teams bounced from the tournament.  The Big 12 gets the nod here because they got a tournament-high 7 teams in the tournament and none of them made it to a regional final.

DUD OF THE DAY: UConn vs Iowa State. There were hardly any duds on Friday, but I'm going with this one.  Iowa State got out to such a lousy start that this game didn't look very competitive until about six minutes left in the game.  While the other three games saw a lot of tense moments, this was the Cyclones climbing uphill all game long.  

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: UConn. As I just said, UConn ran out to a big early lead and held on to it for most of the game.  Iowa State made it interesting late, but the Huskies just marched up to the line and hit their free throws to put a lid on this one.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Replay. I know I've harped on this a lot during these first three rounds, but they need to streamline this replay.  In the Kentucky-Louisville game, they took about 8 minutes to try to find out who knocked a ball out of bounds.  When they came with a verdict, it was like they just went with the call on the court instead of a definitive decision.


In the Michigan State-Virginia game, Virginia hit a shot with 1.1 seconds left.  When Michigan State inbounded the ball, Virginia fouled and they everyone was walking to the other end for free throws.  The refs went to replay to see how much time should've been on the clock after Virginia's shot even though a play had run in between.  

I love replay ... don't get me wrong ... but this has been just overkill.  In the Kentucky-Louisville situation, there should just be a time limit like the NFL has.  If it is that difficult to figure out, just go with the call on the court and move on.  Both sides will swear they should have gotten the call anyway so just make a decision and let's play.  It really deflates the game and makes the flow a bit colder.  In the Michigan State-Virginia game ... I do understand that a split second can make a difference ... but unless it is an obvious abuse of running the clock, just let it goooooo, let it gooooo.  We can do this all game long and accrue all these extra tenths-of-a-seconds to make the right timing of the game.  Again, if the clock blatantly ran too long or, even like the UNC game, started way too late let's go check that out and change it.  But spending five minutes to add on a split second is ridiculous.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

*Ohio, Texas and North Carolina started with four schools in the tournament.  Ohio (Dayton) is the only one that still stands.

*Conference Count:
3-Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin)
2-SEC (Florida, Kentucky)
1-American (UConn)
1-Pac 12 (Arizona)
1-Atlantic 10 (Dayton)
*Overtime count is still at SIX.  The record is seven in 1995 and 1997.

*This is actually one of the most magical Elite 8s in a while.  Your matchups?  Tournament favorite Florida gets the Cinderella Dayton, the only #1-#2 matchup with Arizona and Wisconsin, recent tournament standards Michigan State and UConn face off in New York, and sudden darlings Kentucky takes on defending runner-up Michigan.  Other than Dayton ... but really know knows ... can be looked at as a championship team.

*Dayton is trying to be the first Atlantic 10 team to reach the Final Four since UMass in 1996.  VCU, now an Atlantic 10 school, made the 2011 Final Four as a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference.  Technically, UMass's appearance has been vacated.

*The Big Ten is trying to become the second conference to place three teams in the Final Four.  The only other time it happened was in 1985 when the Big East sent Villanova, Georgetown and St. John's to the Final Four in Lexington.

*The American and Atlantic 10 are still alive.  The Big East and ACC aren't.

*A lot has been made of the fact that we were seeing regular season rematches earlier in the tournament.  The fact that Kentucky and Louisville met in the Sweet 16.  I love it!  I think it puts extra narrative in a tournament.  Who cares if it would be better if they met later on in the Dance?  It actually makes these contests more likely to happen.  Plus with the restraints off the seeding process, it allows for more teams to play closer to home than ever.  That's why we got Kentucky-Louisville in Indianapolis instead of Kentucky playing in Anaheim.

Friday, March 28, 2014

2013-2014 Will Be Remembered As Bad NBA Season

What will the 2013-14 NBA season be most remembered for?

Well, Adam Silver took over for David Stern.  That is huge.  Whomever wins the championship will have it be memorable.  Maybe it is the Heat's three-peat season?  Maybe the Pacers first ring?  Oklahoma City's first title.  Maybe the Spurs win their 5th title?

And there you have it.  Silver and the fact that we really, really, really are just been in a holding pattern for the Conference Championship weeks.  We all are waiting for late May/early June when we get to see the Heat-Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Spurs-Thunder in the West.  Whatever combo makes the Finals will have their own storyline.

Aside of that, what we've watched this year has been horrible basketball.  Bad matchups all over the place.  Injuries.  Rumors of tanking.

This is the season the Lakers and Celtics both missed the playoffs.  Not just missed the playoffs, but as of March 28th won just 47 games ... combined!!!   Hey, 1980s!  The Lakers, Celtics, Pistons and Sixers will not be part of the playoffs.

A year where the Philadelphia 76ers just tied the NBA record for longest losing streak at 26 games.  They will probably break that tomorrow night against the also awful Detroit Pistons.  Yet, despite losing 26 straight games, the Milwaukee Bucks still have a worse record that them.

Not only are the bad teams bad, but they're making it seem like other bad teams are good.  The Charlotte Bobcats went 7-59 just two years ago.  That was the worst record in NBA history.  History.  History!!!!  The only significant moves they've made since then was drafting a mediocre Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in 2012 and signing Al Jefferson in 2013 and they are now sitting as the 7th seed in the East standings.  Heck, they are just three games back of being the 5th seed!

This is the year that Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade have both missed significant time for the Thunder and Heat, respectively, yet their teams are still sitting as the No. 2 seed in their respective conferences.

Derrick Rose has pretty much missed this entire season.  The season of injury.  The season where Kobe Bryant played all of six games.  And none of those six were any good.

The Lakers.  The Lakers have had guys like Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, James Worthy and Shaquille O'Neal suit up for them over the last 25 years.  Last night against the lowly Bucks (which the Lakers lost), they sent out a starting lineup of Kendall Marshall, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman.

The funny thing is that we have been promised two things that may not happen for all these sad sack losers.  The upcoming NBA Draft and the upcoming free agent frenzy.  Both will happen, but neither may be as great as we've been led to believe.

If you have paid attention to the NCAA Tournament, you have seen some of these can't-miss studs turn in some horrible games.  Andrew Wiggins, who six months ago was the greatest thing since LeBron James, scored a robust 4 points against Stanford in a Round of 32 loss.  Wiggins' teammate Joel Embiid, who is likely a top three pick, didn't even play in the Big Dance due to a back injury.  Jabari Parker's Duke squad were dismissed in their first game to ... Mercer?  Kentucky's "greatest recruiting class in history" still has them alive, but they also earned a paltry No. 8 seed.  These guys may turn into nice or even great players.  But they may not be the franchise saving class like the 1984, 1996 or 2003 classes were.

And that free agent class this summer?  It also could be a bust.  Many people believe most of the biggest names will stay put when all is said and done.  The Big Three in Miami may just stick around for a few more years.  Dirk Nowitzki isn't leaving Dallas.  Tim Duncan isn't leaving San Antonio.  The Suns can match whatever anyone offers Eric Bledsoe.  Same goes for the Pistons and Greg Monroe.

Carmelo Anthony could leave New York.  But only one team can get his services.  The teams that lose out will have to fight for scraps.  You may end up just picking among guys like Gordon Hayward, Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson and Zach Randolph.

This season has just been bad all the way around.  Bad teams playing bad basketball.  Sure, we will get a nice Clippers dunk or another huge scoring night from Kevin Durant.  We also got a bored Heat team sloshing through the regular season.  Who cares?  They, like the rest of us, are waiting until June.  Again, those conference finals should be really, really good and the following draft and free agency period will be lively.

But it may not be worth it.  Not to sit and watch a game this season.

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, Day 1


Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch two games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Arizona vs San Diego State. Heading into the Sweet 16, SDSU was my sleeper pick for a Final Four run.  This is a fine defensive team who I felt could give Zona some problems.  In the first half, that fact was clear.  The Aztecs owned the Wildcats for the first 17 minutes or so.  But when Arizona got to stretch its legs and San Diego State went on a predictably cold offensive stretch, Zona showed why they can win a title.  Nick Johnson had an outstanding final three minutes.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Dayton over Stanford. This was technically the only true upset, though Dayton is an 11th seed that beat Stanford, a 10th seed.  Still, a month ago who had Dayton in the Elite 8?  The Flyers got out in front of Stanford and impressively held off every attempt for a Cardinal comeback.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Atlantic 10. Four separate conferences won a game on Thursday.  Florida, Arizona and Wisconsin expected to be here.  The A-10's Dayton Flyers did not.  When placed against the backdrop of Duke's Mike Krzyzewski claiming two weeks ago that the ACC should get more teams in than the A-10 makes it all the more sweet.  Or should I say, elite?

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Pac 12. Arizona did get into the Elite 8, but Stanford and UCLA fell short.  Both had a legit chance to advance but just couldn't stay close to their opponents.  The Pac-12 had three teams in the Sweet 16 just like the Big Ten and SEC.  The other two still have their three remaining.

DUD OF THE DAY: Wisconsin vs Baylor. In my "second chance bracket", I had Baylor upsetting Wisconsin.  I think Wisconsin is a title team, but I just liked Baylor's mix of size and athleticism.  Either way, I expected this to be the best game of the night.  And it was the worst game of the night.  Wisky jumped all over the Bears and Baylor just never was in the game.  

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Wisconsin. Of the three big dogs that played on Thursday, Wisconsin had that championship dominance.  Not only did Wisconsin dare Baylor to hit from the outside and win that battle, their offense just cut up the Bears' zone.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Big dogs. I always look at the NCAA tournament as it truly is ... three separate weekend tournaments.  You win one tournament, you move on to the next one.  The first weekend is about survival.  Next weekend is about winning a championship.  This weekend is about how the big dogs handle being a big dog.  This weekend is about both accomplishment and promise.  You are proud and excited for winning your two first tournament games (or three, in Tennessee's case) but you also have that taste of a Final Four or maybe a title.  It's right there.

But these games usually pit many of the teams that have that feeling of a championship.  When the brackets were announced, Florida, Arizona, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa State and Louisville all felt like they should be able to win the championship.  Before the season started, Kentucky was the frontrunner for the title.  UConn has a championship pedigree.  So does UCLA.  I always love this round just because it is usually the best basketball of the tournament ... even if it doesn't have the sexiness of a Cinderella story.  Many years, we still get that story.
 

FINAL THOUGHTS:

*Ohio, Texas and North Carolina started with four schools in the tournament.  Ohio (Dayton) is the only one that still stands.

*Conference Count:
3-Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin)
3-SEC (Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee)
2-American (Louisville, UConn)
1-Pac 12 (Arizona)
1-Big 12 (Iowa State)
1-ACC (Virginia
)
1-Atlantic 10 (Dayton)

*Overtime count is still at SIX.  The record is seven in 1995 and 1997.

*In this second weekend of games, there are some interesting venue items to think of.  One, is the fact that Madison Square Garden is hosting a regional final.  Awesome.  The second is that UConn will be playing in it as the worst seed left in the East Region.  Will that atmosphere be too much for the other schools?  I don't think Michigan State will have a problem, but will relative newbies Virginia and Iowa State buckle?

We also had Arizona play San Diego State in Anaheim.  Love that atmosphere.  Tonight, we get Louisville vs Kentucky in Indianapolis.  Wow!  That crowd should be live!  Michigan fans, who will see their team face Tennessee in the early game in Indy, should be well represented.

The only odd one is Memphis.  Really, no team can call that an easy road trip ... with two California teams making up half that bracket.

*Dayton is trying to be the first Atlantic 10 team to reach the Final Four since UMass in 1996.  VCU, now an Atlantic 10 school, made the 2011 Final Four as a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference.  Technically, UMass's appearance has been vacated.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Round of 32, Day Two


Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Kentucky vs Wichita State. The  Iowa State-North Carolina game was a close second due to a last second shot and a controversial ending, but this game had two teams playing at a high level trading punches.  It had big shots, big defensive plays and big moments.  It had the promise of a young team that may finally have figured out how to get it done.  It also had quite a crowd.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Stanford over Kansas. Stanford is a pretty good team that has won some big games before ... namely beating Arizona.  And Kansas was missing one of the best players in the nation.  Still, on a day that didn't see a tremendous amount of true upsets, this one was quite the shocker.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Pac 12. The SEC and Big 12 were close, but the Pac-12 can point to three of their teams winning today and getting to the Sweet 16.  Arizona and UCLA looked pretty dominant and Stanford, as mentioned, pulled off the day's biggest upset.  The SEC is still, surprisingly, undefeated in this tournament and also has three teams left.  The Big 12 saw Baylor and Iowa State win, but Kansas beaten.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Missouri Valley. Look, of the eight teams that lost today, each came from a different conference.  ACC, American, West Coast, Big 12, Atlantic Sun, Southland, Big East and MVC.  I put the MVC on here because their loss was the first No. 1 seed to go down.  It also proved to many as an indictment on their league that no one challenged Wichita State this year and the couldn't take the first big dog they met on the way to the Final Four.  While Creighton is now a member of the Big East, they were a MVC member last season and they were pounded by 30.

DUD OF THE DAY: Baylor vs Creighton. There were quite a few duds today, but this one was the dudliest.  I thought this would be a good contest between a big, athletic team like Baylor against a veteran club in Creighton ... and we'd get a classic game where Doug McDermott shined.  Nope.  Baylor won by 30 and McDermott was MIA.  

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Baylor.It wasn't just that they beat Creighton by 30 points, it was the fact that the shut down Doug McDermott.  In the meaty part of the game that actually mattered, McBuckets scored in the single digits.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Clock operators. I am a huge Tar Heels fan and please believe me that I wanted to write on this before the controversial ending between UNC and Iowa State.  Watching the Kansas-Stanford game actually triggered my thinking about this clock situation and then it happened to come to a head in that UNC-ISU game.

I have actually watched at least part of all 52 games up to this point and I have watched the ending of every close game of this Dance.  Nearly every game we get to see the last two minutes take 15 minutes.  The officials are constantly checking the replay monitors for clock situations.  Add another second?  Or two?  Or just 0.3 seconds?  More than once have they had to do the whole math equation like they did at the end of the UNC-ISU game.  Seriously?  In the times we live in we cannot get a better way of time keeping?  Heck, San Antonio, Orlando and Milwaukee are NBA arenas and I don't see this kind of issues in Spurs, Magic and Bucks games (well, Bucks fans want their games to end as soon as possible).

I'm not arguing with getting it right.  I'm not.  I just don't understand the constant need to have mistakes to fix.  

FINAL THOUGHTS:

*Ohio, Texas and North Carolina started with four schools in the tournament.  Ohio (Dayton) and Texas(Baylor) only have one left each.  North Carolina is done.

*Conference Count:
3-Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin)
3-SEC (Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee)
3-Pac 12 (Arizona, UCLA, Stanford)
2-American (Louisville, UConn)
2-Big 12 (Iowa State, Baylor)
1-ACC (Virginia
)
1-Atlantic 10 (Dayton)
1-Mountain West (San Diego St)

*Overtime count is still at SIX.  The record is seven in 1995 and 1997.

*People usually complain about teams getting to play tournament games close to home and, per usual, it has been a mixed bag this year.  Duke was upset in Raleigh, Syracuse was upset in Buffalo, Kansas and Wichita State were upset in St. Louis.  Florida moved on in Orlando (though they would have done so anywhere), UCLA and Arizona are still alive in San Diego, Baylor won in San Antonio.  The one team that really seemed to benefit from the close venue was Wisconsin.  The Badgers were down by 12 at halftime to Oregon before they went on a run to make it a game.  The crowd in nearby Milwaukee was pretty much all Badger fans and it sounded like a true home game for Wisconsin.  That seemed to help pull them through to end against the Ducks.

*Three double-digit seeds made the Sweet 16 (Dayton, Stanford, Tennessee).  Since Dayton and Stanford face off next week in Memphis, at least one double-digit seed will make the Elite Eight.

*The Sweet 16 gives us some interesting geographical battles.  First off is obviously Louisville-Kentucky in nearby Indianapolis.  Michigan is also in Indy and fans won't have to go too far to play against Tennessee.  We also will get Arizona-San Diego State in Anaheim.  
And you know Madison Square Garden is gonna be live to see UConn try to upend Iowa State and Virginia or Michigan State.

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Round of 32, Day 1


Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Dayton vs Syracuse. There were a few really good games and a couple came down to the closing minutes.  This one, however, went down to the final shot.  Dayton and Syracuse truly traded the lead all through the second half and Tyler Ennis' three point shot at the buzzer had that feeling like it was going to go it.  It didn't.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Dayton over Syracuse. By name and seed, this was an upset.  If you look at how these two performed leading up to the tournament, it shouldn't have been too shocking.  Dayton's win ensured a double-digit seed would advance to the Sweet 16 in 28 of the last 30 tournaments.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big Ten. The Big Ten went a perfect 3-0 on Saturday.  Regular season champ Michigan dominated Texas.  Michigan State was doing the same to Harvard until the Crimson just kept coming.  Still, the Spartans pulled away late.  Wisconsin was down by 12 at half to Oregon, but came back to win in nearby Milwaukee.  We have three Big Ten teams in the Sweet 16.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. Two of the new ACC members lost on Saturday, leaving only Virginia and UNC left to carry the conference's flag.  Syracuse, as we've said, suffered the biggest upset of the day to Dayton.  Pitt wasn't supposed to beat top overall seed Florida, but they were barely in that game at all.

DUD OF THE DAY: Louisville vs Saint Louis. This wasn't a good game to watch at all.  You had an interesting matchup where a pressing team like Louisville took on a great ball-control team like Saint Louis.  Instead, we got early foul trouble for the Billikens and bad offense all around. It was a robust 25-16 at halftime.  Saint Louis finished the game 0-of-15 from behind the arc and just 9-of-16 from the foul line.  

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Florida.The Gators showed why they are the tournament's top seed by physically dominating Pitt.  They looked a lot better than in their opening round win over Albany.  San Diego State looked very strong also, but they did so against a North Dakota State squad that just looked a bit tired.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Chalk winning.
 After a couple days of some shocking upsets, we got a pretty tame day on Saturday.  Sure, Dayton did upset Syracuse, but the Flyers played great in the final weeks of the season while the Orange limped into the dance losing 5 of 7.  UConn's win over Villanova wasn't a tremendous shock either since these old Big East foes came into the game pretty evenly matched.  

FINAL THOUGHTS:

*Ohio, Texas and North Carolina started with four schools in the tournament.  Ohio (Dayton) and North Carolina (UNC) only have one left each.  Texas (Baylor, SF Austin) still has two

*Conference Count:
3-Big 12 (Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor)
3-Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin)
3-SEC (Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee)
3-American (Louisville, UConn, Memphis)
3-Pac 12 (Arizona, UCLA, Stanford)
2-ACC (Virginia, North Carolina)
1-Big East (Creighton)
1-Atlantic 10 (Dayton)
1-Missouri Valley (Wichita St)
1-Atlantic Sun (Mercer),
1-Mountain West (San Diego St)
1-WCC (Gonzaga)
1-Southland (SF Austin)


*Overtime count is still at SIX.  The record is seven in 1995 and 1997.

*People usually complain about teams getting to play tournament games close to home and, per usual, it has been a mixed bag this year.  Duke was upset in Raleigh, Syracuse was upset in Buffalo.  Florida moved on in Orlando (though they would have done so anywhere), UCLA and Arizona are still alive in San Diego, Kansas and Wichita State are alive in St. Louis, Baylor is alive in San Antonio.  The one team that really seemed to benefit from the close venue was Wisconsin.  The Badgers were down by 12 at halftime to Oregon before they went on a run to make it a game.  The crowd in nearby Milwaukee was pretty much all Badger fans and it sounded like a true home game for Wisconsin.  That seemed to help pull them through to end against the Ducks.


*While you were watching the tournament, Marquette head coach Buzz Williams took the same job at Virginia Tech.

*Today gives us the team that started the season with dreams of going 40-0 (Kentucky) against the team that could actually do it (Wichita State).

*My high horse here, but I just hate the way the NCAA schedules these games.  I understand there are certain logistics to consider, but why is a Villanova-UConn game in Buffalo, NY finishing after midnight?  Seriously.  Two east coast teams playing in an Eastern Time Zone city is tipping off after 10:00pm ET?  Meanwhile the games in Spokane, WA are done?  Oh, and today the games start at 12:15p ET in St. Louis ... which is in the Central Time Zone and means locally it starts at 11:15am ... feature Kansas taking on Stanford.  Stanford students in Palo Alto, CA will have to be ready to watch their team play a 9:15am PT tip.  That's just dumb.

I hate that kind of scheduling.  I understand that can happen and that CBS wants to set up their schedule in a certain way, but to me you should have had the Wichita State-Kentucky game (which is also being played in St. Louis) first since it is at least somewhat a decent time for those schools and then have the Stanford game following.

At least on Sunday, they do a little better.  The Arizona-Gonzaga game gets the late tip, which is scheduled at 9:40p ET or 6:40p PT.

If you watched the UConn-Villanova game ... which was pretty tight until the end ... you saw a ton of empty seats late in the game.  Like I said, it was after midnight in the city and for those fans and they all left.  Granted, I'm sure many of those fans that left were upset Syracuse fans (they lost to Dayton prior to the UConn-Nova contest) who wanted to move on ... while the celebratory Dayton fans went out to celebrate.  But it wasn't like a lot of UConn or Villanova didn't travel to Buffalo either.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Looking Ahead To The 2014-15 Tar Heels


The Tar Heels will suit up to battle the Iowa State Cyclones in the third round of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow.  UNC will try to get back to the Sweet 16 ... but it also could be the final game of this season.  Say what you want about this season and how it has gone down, but aside from this tournament, it is in the past.

So let's look ahead.  What will the 2014-15 Tar Heels look like?

POINT GUARD:  Nate Britt (So)

This is the biggest guess, but I think Britt gets the nod.  Point guards entering their second season under Roy Williams tend to "get it".  Look at Marcus Paige this year, or Raymond Felton in 2005 (his junior season, but his 2nd under Ol' Roy) or Ty Lawson in 2008, or Kendall Marshall in 2012.  

While Britt isn't in those guys class, he has shown signs of being a darn good player.  Britt is decent defensively, moves the ball up the court aggressively and seems to be a pretty cool cat with poise.  He's not the greatest of shooters, but the fact that his mid-range jump shot has been pretty good this season shows he has potential for it.

BACKUPS:  Joel Berry (Fr), Stillman White (So), Luke Davis (Sr)

Berry will be a better point guard at Carolina than Britt.  He's in that Lawson mold of a tough kid.  He's in that Paige mold as a guy who can score.  And he's got that passing ability like Felton did.  Williams hates having to play freshman point guards (though he had to do so with Lawson, Marshall and Paige) so expect Berry to start on the bench.  White returns after a two-year Mormon mission.  The last we saw of White, he was starting for the Heels in an Elite 8 showdown with Kansas in 2012 due to Kendall Marshall's wrist injury.  He showed huge stones during that two game run as the Heels starter (he also started the Sweet 16 game against Ohio) and Williams likes his scrappiness.  Davis, a walk-on, has been used this season in very small spot duty.  Most likely, the Heels will use a rotation of Britt, Paige and Berry at the point guard spot.

OFF GUARD:  Marcus Paige (Jr)

Paige is the Heels top scorer this season and should return for his junior season.  Roy Williams seems to completely trust him and would love to start him at the point guard spot.  The problem is that UNC doesn't really have anyone they can slot in that shooting guard spot next year.  With Paige on the floor alongside Britt, the Heels really don't suffer from their offense running poorly.  In fact, it seems the offense gets faster and more efficient.  Paige will be the man running the show regardless of if Britt or Berry is on the floor with him.

BACKUPS:  Theo Pinson (Fr), J.P. Tokoto (Jr), Justin Jackson (Fr)

Tokoto will probably start at the small forward spot, so he will only shift over to the shooting guard spot during foul problems or if Williams wants to go big.  Pinson is like Tokoto.  He's a freak athletically who can score.  Pinson won't be ready to start for this team, Tokoto is in another position and Jackson doesn't really fit totally in that role.  To be honest, you could see Joel Berry in this role if Williams gets pressed.  This is a thin position that guys will get shifted to due to their riches at other positions.

WING FORWARD:  J.P. Tokoto (Jr)


One of my favorite surprises this season has been Tokoto.  During his freshman season, he had games where he just looked so bad.  So lost.  He was a freak athlete that couldn't fit in anywhere.  But kudos to Tokoto for working on his game last summer and stepping into a role the Heels really weren't ready for him to take.  P.J. Hairston was supposed to be the starter but his poor choices caused his Heels career to end before the season and Tokoto filled in admirably.

He's a very good defender who attacks the boards and, like we've said, can sky for some big plays.  He led the Heels in steals this past season (no one was even close) and he finished 2nd in assists.  He isn't a consistent perimeter shooter, but he obviously got better.  He's absolutely horrible at the free throw line ... but so is everyone not named Paige or Britt.  Tokoto will be more important next season as he will see a lot of time at the off guard spot.

BACKUPS:  Justin Jackson (Fr), Theo Pinson (Fr), James Michael McAdoo (Sr), Isiah Hicks (So)

There will be a lot of guys who fill this role.  Tokoto will start there, but Williams could switch around guys along with his other forward and center spots.  Jackson is a top talent who ... I think ... will really shine next season in the same way Kennedy Meeks did this year.  That will be big for the Heels so they don't have to have to play certain guys too many minutes.  Pinson won't really fill this spot unless UNC runs two point guards in the back court and he is on the court.  McAdoo could see more minutes here if the two freshmen can't step up.  It will be in name only as he could be on the court with Bryce Johnson and either Meeks or Joel James.

POWER FORWARD:  James Michael McAdoo (Sr)

I think McAdoo will be back for his senior season.  Not only did he buck the trend by returning for his sophomore year when most people thought he should have left, he would be better served to stay one more season and enter the 2015 draft that isn't as stacked as the upcoming one.

When the Heels went on their late season run, McAdoo played great.  I think he could have that Tyler Zeller kind of impact on this program.  Zeller was a pretty good player who showed signs of getting it ... and then really broke out his senior season and won ACC Player Of The Year.  McAdoo has that feel to him.

BACKUPS:  Bryce Johnson (Jr), Isiah Hicks (So), Jackson Simmons (Sr)

The Heels are stacked up front.  So stacked that Johnson, who should be starting, has to come off the bench.  Johnson is another freak athlete who really hits the boards, blocks some shots (leads the team) and led the team in field goal shooting.  Position be damned, you find a place to put him on the floor.  The Heels could go big with Meeks, Johnson, McAdoo and Tokoto along with Paige and dominate the boards.  I love Hicks and though he hasn't shown much in his freshman season, he is a stud who will turn into a beast in the next two seasons.  Simmons is Roy's trust guy.  He always hustles and plays hard even though he lacks much athleticism.

CENTER:  Kennedy Meeks (So)

Meeks took over the opening at the center spot midway through the season.  He's not a high riser, but he's a big body with soft hands and an ability to both pass and hit a mid-range jumper.  For a guy who isn't much of a leaper, he does a great job on the glass.  Reminds me a lot of Sean May.  Because Meeks is surrounded by guys like Tokoto, Johnson and McAdoo, his lack of athleticism isn't a tremendous problem.

Behind Meeks is the other guys who auditioned for the gig.  James originally had the starting job but doesn't have the offensive ability that is needed.  James is a man inside and takes up space, but he is extremely raw.  Desmond Hubert will be a senior and we know what he will bring.  He's a defensive guy who can really get up and down the court.  Williams loves his hustle and ability to change shots.  Hubert, however, is much worse offensively than James.  Hubert has bad hands, no shot and gets his points primarily on put-backs.

BACKUPS:  Desmond Hubert (Sr), Joel James (Jr)

Looking at next year's team, it seems that it will be a lot like this year's team.  The only player we know is gone is senior Leslie McDonald.  McDonald was a long range shooter that was streaky at best.  His talent alone will not be tremendously missed, his ability to knock down shots will be.  That fact means next year's Heels will be a team predicated on their size and their dual point guard skills.  Kind of like this year.

What will be different is the wing depth.  They didn't have that this year.  With Hairston suspended, only McDonald and Tokoto were true wings on this team.  Jackson and Pinson add to that and hopefully they can equate to solid wing options.

What Roy Williams should love is that this team will be very athletic.  With Paige, Britt and Berry rotating in the backcourt ... Tokoto, Pinson and Jackson rotating on the wing ... and combos of McAdoo, Johnson, Meeks, Hicks and Hubert in the frontcourt and this team should be able to run teams out of the gym.