Monday, March 20, 2017

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Second Round, Day 2

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. There was smack talk and a lively crowd.  The game was back and forth with the outcome in doubt going to the final shot.  No, it wasn't the most eye-popping game on a day filled with some good games but it was fun.  The Wildcats' freshmen came to play and were huge in the final moments.

UPSET OF THE DAY: South Carolina vs Duke.  While this game had upset written all over it, that doesn't make it any less shocking.  For some reason, Duke was looked at as some juggernaut of late, even though they ended up going just 6-4 in their last ten games ... and that includes that magical ACC tournament run.  It was easily a pro-Gamecocks crowd as the game was played in South Carolina and Tar Heel fans who stayed after their game cheered on against the Blue Devils.  South Carolina countered every typical Duke punch and a program that hasn't won a tournament game in over 40 years is now in the Sweet 16.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: SEC. I gave love to the Big Ten for bucking their critics so today I'll do so with the SEC.  I am usually one of those smacking on the SEC but, here they are with three teams in the Sweet 16.  Plus, Arkansas had North Carolina on the ropes before the Heels reeled off a 12-0 run to win.  We all know Kentucky's strength but South Carolina and Florida weren't taken as seriously and they proved their meddle by toppling ACC schools.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. One day after Florida State and Virginia get beat, the ACC sees both Louisville and Duke get upset and done before the Sweet 16.  That means the mighty ACC has just one team remaining in the tournament -- North Carolina.  Last year, the ACC dominated this tournament.  This year ... not so much.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Kansas vs Michigan State. Tom Izzo is the master of tournament upsets and the Spartans looked the part for about a half on Sunday.  But Josh Jackson looked like an NBA player among college guys and the Jayhawks blew out Michigan State in the second half.  With many of the games on Sunday in doubt in the final minutes, this one didn't live up to its brethren.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Kansas. Or should I say Josh Jackson.  Man that guy is good.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Freshmen. Last season we saw upperclassmen take back college basketball and was the narrative of the season.  It's been a good mix this year but Sunday we saw how talented this crop of freshmen is.  Kentucky's freshmen Fox, Monk and Adebayo all were huge late in securing their win over Wichita State.  Josh Jackson ... okay, you know how I feel about his performance.  UCLA's Lonzo Ball was the coolest cucumber in the gym as the Bruins finally wore out Cincinnati.  Even unheralded freshmen like South Carolina's Rakym Felder were big-time.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Second Round, 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: Purdue vs Iowa State. From start to finish, this game was intense.  Purdue did get a huge lead going but the Cyclones fought back to make this one of the best back and forth games in the tournament.  And ... boy ... that Biggie Swanigan.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Wisconsin vs Villanova.  Sure, Wisconsin wasn't a typical No. 8 seed but Villanova was the defending champ and the top overall seed.  Most people had the Wildcats at least to the Sweet 16 if not the Elite 8.  So to see them not playing past the first weekend is quite shocking.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big Ten. Just look at the teams who won above.  The conference has been so maligned this season that to see at least two in the Sweet 16 ... including arguably their two best teams ... is gratifying.  Wisconsin took down the biggest dawg on the block while Purdue earned a ton of respect.  Even Northwestern's controversial loss to Gonzaga was valiant.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. One day after Miami gets blown out, we see Florida State and Virginia look like they didn't even belong on the same court as Xavier or Florida, respectively.  Virginia had been struggling and faced a higher seed ... but to score just 39 points?  And Florida State was never in their game with Xavier.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Florida vs Virginia. Usually the No. 4 vs No. 5 game is competitive.  Not this one.  Virginia looked absolutely horrible and reverted back to a few weeks ago when they just couldn't score.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Xavier. Who are these guys?  Remember that Xavier couldn't beat anyone not named DePaul for, like, a month.  Now they just spank No. 3 Florida State.  In Orlando, no less.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Bad calls. Humans make mistakes and referees are humans.  Still, with all the replay at our disposal nowadays (I mean, refs have gone to the monitor to see exactly how many seconds were remaining in North Carolina's 39-point win over Texas Southern) you'd think they could verify an obvious goal tending.  That missed call along with the technical foul called on Northwestern coach Doug Collins really stole the good feeling from their game with Gonzaga.  It also robbed us of what could have been a great finish to possibly see another No. 1 seed go down.   

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - First Round, Day 2

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: Michigan vs Oklahoma State. Even brushing away all that the Wolverines have gone through in the last ten days, this was set up to be a great game to watch.  At this time in the tournament, it's rare to have to really solid offensive teams face off in what looked like an evenly matched contest.  And it was.  Both teams scored, the game was close and it came down to a final point (okay, a four-point lead was shaved at the buzzer by a three).  Michigan made 16 three-pointers to advance to play Louisville ... which should be a treat of its own.

UPSET OF THE DAY: USC vs SMU.  USC was getting drubbed in this ... just as they were against Providence in the First Four ... but made a huge comeback.  This was different.  A lot of people had SMU as a sleeper team going deep into the tournament while USC was a surprise to some to even get into this thing (sound familiar?).  Now the Trojans are heading into a showdown against Baylor and could find themselves in the Sweet 16.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Pac 12. The Pac 12 saw Oregon, UCLA and USC all win.  Oregon and UCLA flexed their muscle (though the Bruins found themselves in a battle for the middle third of the game).  USC continues the trend of First Four teams winning in the tournament.  This is huge for a league that lost 5 of 7 first round games a year ago and are looking for their first Final Four team since 2008.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big East. Not the greatest day for the Big East.  Creighton was "upset" by Rhode Island in a game they really didn't look that into.  Marquette was in a spirited fight with South Carolina until the Gamecocks just ran 'em out of the gym.  Seton Hall played Arkansas down to the wire but a traveling call and controversial flagrant foul call ended their shot.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Michigan State vs Miami. Miami is better than this.  In a tournament where chalk really ruled, it is hard to explain how a No. 8 seed gets blown out by a No. 9 seed that easily.  The Hurricanes just didn't look good at all.  Michigan State just dominated this one.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: North Carolina. The top seeds UNC and Kansas really showed why they are among the favorites.  But the Tar Heels had no trouble with Texas Southern as they looked like they really wanted to get the taste of that Duke loss out of their mouths.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: The crowd. There are some that don't think it is fair that the big schools seemingly get favorable sites to play in and their fan base just dominates the crowd.  Sure, but its not a bad thing either.  Look at Friday in Indianapolis and Greenville.

Indianapolis saw lively crowds as Louisville and Kentucky were at those sites as you'd expect, but Northern Kentucky, Dayton and Wichita State also represented hard in Hoosierville.  The Dayton-Wichita game had such a lively crowd that it made a lumbering game so much more fun.  Same in Greenville where North Carolina and Duke fans saw their teams cruise to wins but the place came alive when South Carolina finally won its first tournament game since 1973.  

The fun will continue.  Think about the crowds for these games on Sunday:
-Duke vs South Carolina (Greenville, SC)
-North Carolina vs Arkansas (Greenville, SC)
-Kentucky vs Wichita State (Indianapolis)
-Louisville vs Michigan (Indianapolis)
-Kansas vs Michigan State (Tulsa)
-Baylor vs USC (Tulsa)
-UCLA vs Cincinnati (Sacramento)
-Oregon vs Rhode Island (Sacramento)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - First Round, 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: Northwestern vs Vanderbilt. That place was bananas as the Northwestern alumni converged on Salt Lake City to root on their Wildcats against a Vandy team that worked their way back to the tournament.  It was close all game long and, unfortunately, had a mistake by the Commodores sort of put an ick on it.  Vandy's Matthew Fisher-Davis fouled Northwestern's Bryant McIntosh on purpose with less than 15 seconds left ... even though the game was tied.  McIntosh drained both free throws and Northwestern advanced.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Middle Tennessee over Minnesota. On a day filled with chalk, Middle Tennessee's win over Minnesota has the be considered the biggest upset of the day.  It really wasn't surprising, however, since the Blue Raiders upset Michigan State in last year's tournament and Minnesota made quite the turnaround to get into this year's dance.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big East. The Big East went 3-0 today, with Villanova, Butler and Xavier all winning.  Nova had a bit of a struggle with The Mount before moving with Xavier providing an upset of Maryland.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big Ten. No conference had a horrible day and the Big Ten should celebrate Purdue, Northwestern and Wisconsin winning but the two seed upsets happened on the conference's watch.  No. 5 Minnesota lost to No. 12 Middle Tennessee while No. 6 Maryland was upended by No. 11 Xavier.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Villanova vs Mount St. Mary's. It was close at the half ... but the defending champs ended up spanking The Mount in the second half.  Let's just say that it was a very good day of games.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Villanova. The top overall seed looked great in the second half against Mount St. Mary's.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Boring. We always love to look to the NCAA Tournament to see those bracket busters and they just weren't there on Thursday.  Middle Tennessee and Xavier did pull upsets but they certainly weren't shockers.  

The games were really good, though.  There were a lot of competitive games that just didn't provide upsets.  Even Villanova and Gonzaga were challenged for a bit before flexing their muscles.  Only two games were decided by one possession so we didn't have much of a buzz-worthy moment.  Yet.


*Maybe tomorrow will be better?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Annoying People In Bracket Pools

It is bracket time again, so people all across our great land are taking pen or pencil to brackets at hoping for the best.  They reason, they debate, they flip a coin.  Most of all, they think they are correct.  They go to blogs and websites to get that last bit of info to make their selections.

This isn't that post.

This is for those people who collect the brackets.  Those people who tirelessly print the brackets, make copies, convince people to enter a sheet in, chase people down for their money and enter in all the results into some sort of program ... or do the scoring themselves.

Here are the people you are likely to deal with this week and this is just to let you know, you're not alone.

WHAT'S THIS?:  There's nothing like when you hand someone a bracket and they respond this way.  If you don't know by now, you never will.  

THE "FLORDIA" PEOPLE:  Isn't it something when people cannot spell Florida?  It is sometimes "Floirda" or "Florda" but usually I see "Flordia".  First off, you should be able to spell every single state with the exception of Massachusetts and Connecticut with relative ease.  Plus, it is only printed in type in the line right next to your dumb spelling.  

THE NUMBERS PEOPLE: I love those people that refuse to write the names of the teams in the lines but instead write their seedings.  So you  get those 1s and 5s and 12s all over the place so it is awesome when you get to enter that sheet into a database.  Plus I love when they have two #1s facing off in the Final Four and write "1" as the winner.  Thanks.

I'LL GET THE MONEY TO YOU ... :  We all know this.  Those people who just never have the $5 or whatever to pay.  It is the Final Four and you are still telling me to wait until payday?  Great.  God forbid they actually have a shot to win because they'll just hang onto their money with the ol' "well, you'd be giving it back to me anyway" jive.  Oh, and those late payers are usually the ones who are up your butt when they do win and complainin when all the money hadn't been collected yet.  

CAN YOU MAKE A COPY FOR ME:  No.  I can't.  If you can't rewrite your brackets on another sheet for yourself, take a picture with your phone or find a copying machine to make your own, why must I do it for you?  Am I your mother?

THE 2:00 SHEET:  You always have someone a couple hours after the first game started handing you a sheet.  "Well, I couldn't find you and I had the sheet done before the tournament started."  Yeah, but you will end up winning and telling everyone you turned your sheet in late.  Thanks for that.

ABBREVS THAT D'T MAKE SENSE:  Like that.  I can get with the UKs, KUs, OSUs, UNCs and G'towns.  I can get with state abbreviations like NC, FL or IN.  But what is L'lle?  Or Mhst?  

WHO'S WINNING?  It is Thursday night on the first night of the Dance and you are asking who is in first in the standings.  What does that matter now?  That's like on Opening Day figuring out all the playoff scenarios in the baseball postseason.  Too soon, bruh.

THE CRITIC:  People who look at people's Final Four picks and immediately slam them.  Look, Wichita State got there a few years back so who knows what picks are smart or dumb.  

MULTIPLE BRACKETS:  Now, I don't care about people turning in as many brackets as they want.  But if you filled out 10 and had on one of them Florida Gulf Coast beating Georgetown, don't go around claiming your superiority over everyone in the bracket pool.  

PROMISE UNFULFILLED:  There is nothing better than the person who spends Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday telling you how deeply they've been working on their brackets, breaking down to you why they picked who they picked, feeding you what some website said ... and then doesn't turn in a sheet.  C'mon man!

NON-BASKETBALL PERSON:  It is like the Super Bowl -- everyone gets in on it even if you haven't watched a second of it all season long.  But some of those people wanna chat you up as if they are Clark Kellogg or Billy Packer.  This sheet they turned in makes them feel as if they are a big-time poker player on a weekend bender in Vegas and they can't handle it.  

WHOSE RELATIVES?:  I don't care if your entire family fills out one, but please put down somewhere on the sheet that you are the one handing it in.  I will forget who this sheet belongs to about 20 minutes after you hand it to me.  So I have no idea who it belongs to three weeks later.  

UPSETS GALORE:  These people you feel sorry for.  That guy or gal that knows nothing about basketball or how the bracket works yet fills one out with two No. 15 seeds in the Final Four with a No. 8 seed winning it all.  Some years, that No. 8 seed works out for them.  Most of the time it doesn't and they have either that proud look of confidence or that scared look of getting involved in something you're not ready for.  Either way, you have to fake a smile and tell them it could happen.  "Ya never know".

I WAS IN IT UNTIL ... :  Look, there are over 100 sheets in this thing.  I don't remember your sheet off the top of my head.  So don't come in telling me about how close you had things if (a) broke one way and (b) broke another and (c) happened instead.  It didn't.

FORGOT TO FILL IN THE BLANKS:  You usually spent the entire week carefully making your picks.  And then you leave some blanks ... blank.  Thanks.  It really isn't hard to fill out the entire bracket.  Oh, and thank you in advance for calling me up during the Sweet 16 to decide to make a pick then, and then get mad at me for telling you it is too late. 

THE FIRST FOUR GUY:  Usually we just throw out the first four games.  Hey, you won them all.  But someone always advances BOTH TEAMS FROM THE GAME!   

WHO DO I NEED TO ROOT FOR?:  How about the teams you picked?

Sportz Assassin's East Region Preview

Start spreading the news ...

TEAM TO BEAT: Villanova. The defending champs are defending it well.  The Wildcats have been the best team all season long and are looking to become the first team to win consecutive national championships since Florida did so a decade ago. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Villanova. Everyone is salivating over a possible regional final between Villanova and Duke.  There's a lot of basketball to be played and remember that in the last two weeks of the season, Duke lost as many games in a four game stretch as 'Nova did all year.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Virginia. The Cavaliers don't have the NBA talent they've come into the tournament with the last two seasons.  But they do have that pack-line defense which is so difficult to prepare for.  The Hoos have played No. 1 seeds North Carolina twice and Villanova once so they'be been in big games.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: East Tennessee State. T.J. Cromer will be one of your favorite players in a few days and the Buccaneers can be a frenetic bunch.  They get Florida and the Gators really aren't playing their best ball right now.  Sure, getting past Virginia could be tough but it isn't impossible.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: SMU. The eye test tells you that the Mustangs are better than a No. 6 seed.  I know the American isn't a power league, but there are some good teams in there and SMU ran that league.  They are thin, but the six guys that do play are good.  The position-less basketball they play is fun to watch and difficult to deal with.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Duke. The Blue Devils will get to play south a bit in Greenville, SC before heading up to New York where they have a huge alumni base.  Duke loves New York and they just spent last week winning four games in four days (toppling North Carolina, Louisville and Notre Dame in the process) in Brooklyn.

MUST WATCH GAME: Florida vs East Tennessee State. Like I said, Cromer is fun to watch and Florida is one of the neat teams to see if you haven't watched them much.  This is one of those upset alert games that you may want to highlight in your TV Guide (did I just show my age then?).

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Baylor vs SMU. Two athletic teams that are close in proximity (old SWC foes, actually) and who can go after it.   

Sportz Assassin's Midwest Region Preview

With KC and Memphis as regional sites, have we had a better
BBQ tournament?  Why aren't North Carolina and Texas hosting too?

TEAM TO BEAT: Kansas. The Jayhawks have been great all year long.  They have a national player of the year candidate in Frank Mason, one of the best backcourts in the country and a one-and-done talent in Josh Jackson. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Kansas. Kansas is so tough.  They won a ton of close games this season and made several huge comebacks.  This team won't get scared or nervous in any situation.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Iowa State. This goes against my usual feeling that these teams that pull off improbable conference championship runs flame out in the tournament.  I like this Cyclones team.  They could get Kansas in the Sweet 16 and will be ready for it (plus they'll have their own contingent in Kansas City to battle Rock Chalk).  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Rhode Island. The Rams were ranked preseason but injuries derailed their lofty expectations early.  But they've fought back and now look like the team we thought we would see ... especially by winning the Atlantic 10 tournament.  They'll face off against a good Creighton team that's had some struggles without injured point guard Maurice Watson, Jr.  They cooooould then give Oregon fits.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Nevada. The Wolf Pack have NBA talent on the roster, dominated what is usually a competitive Mountain West and then receive a No. 12 seed.  That's tough.  I get it when you look at the Midwest Region teams seeded around it, but that's a tough draw for Big 12 tournament champ Iowa State off the bat and, possibly, Purdue in the following round..    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Kansas. I mean, c'mon.  The Jayhawks go south a bit to Tulsa for the first weekend and then a bit west for the second weekend in Kansas City.  No one has it like that (though remember what I said about Iowa State, who is darn good in Kansas City in their own right).

MUST WATCH GAME: Michigan vs Oklahoma State. Michigan is the darling of the week after their harrowing runway experience and amazing run to the Big Ten tournament crown.  They are on a role.  Oklahoma State isn't too shabby, either.  Jawun Evans is a beast who seemingly can get his shot at any time.  This game should be great eye candy.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Kansas vs Michigan State. Sparty is most frightening when no one is expecting anything.  Izzo's bunch is a quiet, middling No. 9 seed that is sitting there in the weeds.  Kansas should beat them, but you never underestimate Michigan State in March.. 

Sportz Assassin's West Region Preview

Which teams will know the way to San Jose?

TEAM TO BEAT: Gonzaga. The Bulldogs waited for the final regular season game to lose for the first time.  We all know that the Zags are usually good but just haven't broken through to a Final Four despite other instances when they were deemed great.  I get the skepticism, but this team deserves its seed and deserves our respect.  You will all know Przemek Karnowski by the time the month is over. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Arizona. They are peaking at the right time and could be the first Pac 12 team to make the Final Four since UCLA did in 2008.  They are star studded and are hitting their stride at just the right time.  The Wildcats would love nothing more than to avenge their earlier loss to Gonzaga when they were without Allonzo Trier.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Notre Dame. Think about this for a second.  Heading ito the final week of the season, Notre Dame was the only team would could have caught North Carolina for the ACC regular season crown (they finished just behind).  A week later, they lost the ACC title game to Duke.  This is a good team with a great player in Bonzie Colson.  They've also been to two straight Elite 8s.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Florida Gulf Coast. Lob City is no secret ... and no fluke.  They get in-state foe Florida State in Orlando right off the bat.  An upset there and they get a wobbly Maryland or Xavier in the 2nd round with a decent shot at getting back to the Sweet 16.  Remember, the Eagles are 3-2 in NCAA Tournament play.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Vanderbilt. I get that their RPI and those things are good ... but this team lost 15 games this season.  Those 15 losses are the most EVER by a team that received an at-large bid.  So how in the heck did they score a No. 9 seed? .    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Saint Mary's. No one playing in Salt Lake City this weekend is enjoying a huge home advantage, but if the Gaels can get to the Sweet 16, they won't have to travel far at all to San Jose.

MUST WATCH GAME: Florida State vs Florida Gulf Coast. Florida State has a ton of talent.  The Noles are deep with athletic guys who just keep coming after you.  FGCU doesn't have the level of talent, but they earned the Lob City nickname, bruh.  It should be a sparkling offensive game that has upset potential and played in both teams' home state of Florida.  Well worth watching.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: West Virginia vs Notre Dame. Both teams are so tough to prepare for, especially in that second game of the weekend.  West Virginia has that interesting defense while Notre Dame's offense gives opponents fits.  Should be a great battle. 

Sportz Assassin's South Region Preview

Memphis' famed Beale Street

TEAM TO BEAT: North Carolina. The Tar Heels won the nation's toughest league, the ACC, by two full games.  They have all the parts to win the whole thing: they are the top rebounding team, are shooting threes much better than past years, are deep and have experience. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: North Carolina. This is kind of a glamour region with North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA in it but the Tar Heels have the advantage of not having to face both the Wildcats and Bruins.  This is a tough bracket and could be a must-see Sweet 16 round but I think Carolina is the more complete team in the bunch.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Butler. The Bulldogs are being overlooked in this region.  Maybe the roster and coach are different, but this is a program that went to consecutive championship games earlier this decade.  Plus, they gave top overall seed Villanova two of their three losses.  They won't be scared going up against any blue blood.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Middle Tennessee. Much of the same team that upset Michigan State in last year's tournament is back this year.  As much as that was a huge moment in program history, Syracuse trashed them by 30 in the following round.  The Blue Raiders want more and are capable of it.  They get a somewhat favorable matchup with Minnesota then could surprise Butler.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Wichita State. Look, there are a lot of seeding gripes in this region.  UCLA is a 3?  How is Minnesota a 5?  But Wichita State sitting at a No. 10 is tough.  The odd thing is that I saw them as a No. 7 seed so, actually, they are in the right part of the bracket but Dayton should be a bit peeved.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Kentucky. The games could be played in Australia and Wildcat fans will attend.  Still, they just travel up the way to Indianapolis for the first weekend and then down to Graceland for the second.  Not a huge haul for those fans.  Still, wouldn't Memphis be fun with Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA fans in the crowd?

MUST WATCH GAME: Cincinnati vs Kansas State. The 'Bob Huggins Used To Work Here' bowl.  Both are feisty defensive teams who, this season, have learning to fill up the bucket.  Kansas State showed well against Wake Forest in the First Four and will get the rare opportunity of two days off to prepare for Mick Cronin's Bearcats squad.  We could either see a good offensive shootout or a scrappy defensive game.  Either way, it should be a treat.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Kentucky vs Wichita State.  A couple of years ago, the roles were reversed.  Wichita State was the No. 1 seed who had to stare at a criminally mis-seeded No. 8 Kentucky team that would eventually make it to the title game.  Kentucky will have to work for it if they want to get out of this one.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jim Boeheim ... Kindly Be Quiet

So Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim decided to trash the city of Greensboro, NC on his way out the door of the 2017 ACC Tournament on Wednesday.  Boeheim's post game press conference after the Orange's loss to the Miami Hurricanes featured the ACC's signature grump with his "get off my lawn" moment:
"There's no reason to play in Greensboro," Boeheim said Wednesday. "The only reason they play there is because the league offices are there, it's always been there, and there are like 150 people who like to have meetings. It should not be there."
The current ACC Tournament is in Brooklyn for the first time.  Ya know ... New York City.  Close to Syracuse.

Boeheim is correct that the tournament should be in New York and Washington and Atlanta.  Here's the thing -- it also should be in Greensboro (or Charlotte, for that matter which is both big and geographically important).  No, Greensboro can't hold a candle to New York.  Not one soul would truly believe that.  However, the soul of the ACC is there.  It may not be the Big Apple, but it does have value to the league.

Let's rewind a bit about the ACC.  The ACC Tournament was the very first conference tournament.  The league names the tournament champion as the true champion of the conference.  The league was once comprised of 8 members with four being based in North Carolina and two in South Carolina (by the way, Virginia isn't too far away from that either).  The league was created in Greensboro and the league offices remain there.

Greensboro has held the tournament 26 times and is scheduled to host the 2020 tournament.  Raleigh has hosted the event 13 times while Charlotte has done so 12 times (and will host in 2019).  So, yeah, that's 51 times in 64 years that the event has been held in the state of North Carolina.

Yes, the league is different now.  Those eight schools (minus South Carolina and Maryland) blew up to 15 with members now in Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Kentucky and Indiana.  The ACC wanted to expand its brand and now has a nice hold on the eastern seaboard and cities like Boston, New York, Washington, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Miami and Atlanta.  The ACC wanted this.

But Syracuse wanted it too.  Maybe Boeheim didn't, but his university saw the writing on the wall and not only left the Big East before it crumbled but may have actually been the straw that broke the conference's back.  The Big East and New York City were made for each other and had a symbiotic relationship.  It was cool.  While some ACC lifers cringed about moving the ACC Tournament to New York, I'm fine with it.

However, the ACC has a similar relationship with the state of North Carolina and Greensboro in particular.  The city is part of the fabric of the league -- a league Syracuse joined.  Does it give North Carolina schools an advantage?  Maybe.  But there are four schools right next to it so none of them have an advantage over the other.  Oh, and no one complains that the Big East tournament was always held in Madison Square Garden and gave Syracuse and advantage.  Or that Kansas City has hosted 15 of 20 Big 12 tournaments and that Kansas has been in the finals of that event 12 times (winning 10).

Then again, Syracuse went one-and-done in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn.  Duke and North Carolina are in the semifinals.  Again.

Greensboro won't host the ACC Tournament as much as it used to.  The league expanded in order to reach more people and the league would be foolish to not have the event in New York from time to time.  But it would be just as foolish to forget its roots and abandon Greensboro.

Abandoning their roots is what killed Boeheim's cherished Big East, by the way.

The ACC will rotate the tournament.  I could see them doing what they are currently doing.  Have it in Greensboro, Charlotte, Atlanta or Washington and then back to New York for a year or two.  Maybe there will be an outlier and they have it in Boston, Miami or Indianapolis but the ACC's foray into Tampa didn't go so well.

Don't worry, Coach Boeheim.  You will be retired when the ACC goes back to Greensboro in 2020.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sportz' Bubble Watch (2/17)

Okay. I've been doing my whole Sportz' Bubble Watch for a few years now and I think it is time to start back up. With only a few weeks left in the season before conference tournaments, let's see how the bubble looks.

So, here are my locks ... yes, by conference. Locks are teams that I think are in no matter what.  Looking good are teams that are in, barring a total collapse.  I split the bubble teams either In or Out; self explanatory.  Also there's a spot for teams that need a miracle.  No more losses and maybe a deep conference tournament run.

I figure there are 21 conferences who are one-bid leagues and 11 conferences that could net multiple bids. So who should be going?

LOCKS:  North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia, Duke
LOOKING GOOD:  Notre Dame, Virginia Tech
BUBBLE IN:  Syracuse, Miami, Clemson
BUBBLE OUT:  Wake Forest, Georgia Tech
MIRACLE:  Pittsburgh, NC State

The ACC will get a ton of teams in the tournament.  UNC, Louisville, FSU, UVa and Duke are fighting for seeding and a favorable pod locale.  Notre Dame has a slam dunk remaining schedule and just needs to avoid a collapse.  The rest is so much fun.  Syracuse has surged after a bad start to the season (they are a win away from guaranteeing at least a .500 ACC record).  Wake Forest and Georgia Tech are having amazing seasons are could be in those first four games.  Miami and Virginia Tech look solid enough to get in.  Clemson looks good against the best in the ACC but just can't see to bring one of those games home.  

BIG BUBBLE GAMES LOOMING: Pitt vs NC State, Clemson vs Pitt (Tue), Wake/VaTech vs Miami (Wed)


 Villanova, Butler
LOOKING GOOD:  Creighton
BUBBLE IN:  Xavier, Seton Hall
BUBBLE OUT:  Providence, Marquette
MIRACLE:  Georgetown

Creighton is near a lock, but injury issues could sway the committee if Creighton falls flat in these next couple of weeks.  In most years, Xavier would be dead smack on the bubble.  They look alright but don't really have any wow wins to show for it.  But with such a soft bubble this season, they look better than most.  Seton Hall is has Villanova and Xavier coming up (both at home) so this is a great chance for them to make some bubble noise ... especially since they just beat Creighton at home.  Marquette let one slip away against Butler which is one thing, but getting rolled by 18 to Georgetown is quite another.

BIG BUBBLE GAMES LOOMING:  Xavier vs Butler (Thu)


Wisconsin, Purdue
BUBBLE IN:  Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan
BUBBLE OUT:  Indiana
MIRACLE:  Iowa, Ohio State

Again, with the soft bubble ... but the Big Ten could get 7 teams in this thing and this isn't a very good league this season.  Wisconsin and Purdue look to be the cream of the crop ... but we all though Michigan State and Indiana were going to be back in November.  Both the Hoosiers and Sparty are struggling to get in (Indiana's injuries may have sunk them) while Northwestern is moving up the ladder.  Yes, Northwestern is on pace to get to their first ever NCAA Tournament and they are almost in the "looking good" club.

BIG BUBBLE GAMES LOOMING:  Wisconsin at Ohio State (Sun)


Kansas, West Virginia, Baylor
BUBBLE IN:  Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU
BUBBLE OUT:  Texas Tech

The Big 12 is pretty simple.  Kansas and Baylor are fighting for No. 1 seeds, West Virginia is a lock, Iowa State is playing towards a lock, while four other schools are vying for at-large bids and all looking like they should be in.  However, I do have Texas Tech missing the dance. The Red Raiders nearly followed up an upset of Baylor with an upset of Kansas.  Pull that off and there's some real discussion here.  But why is Tech out but K-State in?  Both are 5-8 in Big 12 play, Tech beat K-State in their first meeting (the second meeting is their finale) and the Wildcats have now lost 6 of 7.  The eye test has K-State just a bit ahead of Texas Tech but right now, both could be missing the tournament.

BIG BUBBLE GAMES LOOMING:  Big 12 tournament


Arizona, Oregon, UCLA
BUBBLE IN:  USC, California
BUBBLE OUT:  Utah, Colorado
MIRACLE: Arizona State

The Pac-12 teams will be difficult the seed.  We've seen them completely dismissed by the selection committee before so Arizona, Oregon and UCLA could slip in seeding.  Oh, well, as long as you're in the tournament, eh?  Well, that could also mean a tough time for their bubble teams.  USC looks pretty good, actually, and Cal's resume looks alright but Utah and Colorado lose a ton of gravitas in relation.  For example, Utah has essentially beaten no one and really has no opportunity to beat anyone the rest of the way.  Ugh.  Still, I think the Pac-12 will get at least four, probably five in.

BIG BUBBLE GAMES LOOMING: Pac-12 tournaments


Kentucky, Florida
IN BUBBLE:  South Carolina, Arkansas
OUT BUBBLE:  Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn
MIRACLE:  Tennessee, Miss State

The SEC is having the same issue as the Pac-12.  And since Kentucky hasn't really been as dominant as originally thought, their losses in SEC play hasn't really buoyed the rest of the league.  Florida has been hot of late and is in.  I've been wanting to put South Carolina in the "looking good" category for a while but then they lose (Alabama, Arkansas) or squeak by with a win (Georgia, Mississippi State).  Arkansas is surging a bit after losing 3 of 4.  No one else really looks the part.




LOOKING GOOD:  Cincinnati, SMU
OUT BUBBLE:  Houston, Memphis, UCF

Houston has lost to some bad teams and really don't have any signature wins.  That's life in the AAC.  For instance, the only reason Cincy and SMU aren't locks is that they can't afford to have a slump against their conference brethern.

BIG BUBBLE GAMES LOOMING:  Memphis at Cincinnati, Tulsa at SMU (Sun)



IN BUBBLE:  Nevada
OUT BUBBLE:  Colorado State, Boise State
MIRACLE: New Mexico, San Diego State

Remember a few years back, the MW was a league that was comfortably placing four teams in the tournament?  Last year, it wasn't the same.  This year it's worse.  This looks like a one-bid league.  .

BIG BUBBLE GAMES LOOMING: Mountain West tournament



OUT BUBBLE:  Richmond, Rhode Island, George Mason
MIRACLE: St. Bonaventure

Let me say this here: I've been talking about the soft bracket but this is where it hits hard.  The non-power leagues really don't have much depth to them.  Look at the A-10 who will likely just get VCU and Dayton in there ... with NC State possibly taking on of them coacj;. 



Gonzaga, St. Mary's
LOOKING GOOD:  Wichita State, Illinois State

Really the only thing to look at here is if Gonzaga can go undefeated. On the MVC side, both Wichita State and Illinois State just need to avoid a crumbling slide.

BIG BUBBLE GAMES LOOMING: Conference tournaments


MAAC:  (3/6)

HORIZON: (3/7)
SUMMIT: (3/10)
PATRIOT: (3/8)
BIG SKY: (3/11)
BIG WEST: (3/11)
MAC: (3/11)
MEAC: (3/11)
SWAC: (3/11)
WAC: (3/11)

IVY LEAGUE: (3/12)
SUN BELT: (3/12)