Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Final Four Program's NBA Players

Forget the guys who you will actually see play in the Final Four. Let's look at what these programs produce for the NBA. North Carolina and UConn are among the top schools in sending guys to the NBA. Michigan State has a few big time guys still doing their thing. Villanova? Not so much.

So here are my starting five (or three for Nova) for each Final Four team:


Raymond Felton
Vince Carter
Marvin Williams
Antawn Jamison
Rasheed Wallace

Kyle Lowry
Randy Foye
Tim Thomas

Ben Gordon
Rip Hamilton
Ray Allen
Rudy Gay
Emeka Okafor

Shannon Brown
Jason Richardson
Mo Peterson
Zach Randolph
Paul Davis

Memphis Needs to Move to the Big East

When the Great Conference Raid of the early part of the decade was going on, the Big East stocked up on Conference USA schools to fill their mega-conference. To keep a football league going (only Syracuse, Rutgers, West Virginia and Pitt remained), the Big East added C-USA's Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida to the mix (they also sped up UConn's participation).

The Big East also took in non-football schools Marquette and DePaul. But not Memphis. Why?

Whatever the reasoning was, I think both Memphis and the Big East would benefit if they partnered up. Adding Memphis would boost the football conference to nine members (perfect size for football) and bring in yet another dominant hoops program into the fold. Memphis is already a rival to Louisville and Cincinnati. It makes sense.

*Of course, I think 16-teams in the Big East is ridiculous so a 17-team league is insane! I would love to drop a school from the current membership, but no one fits the bill. St. John's has to stay since they bring in New York; Seton Hall does the same. You cannot get rid of any of the football schools even if you wanted to (looking at you, South Florida). The only team I feel that could be dumped is DePaul, but that closes up the Chicago market.

For Memphis, this would put them in the big, big time. They are already one of the better programs in the nation. However, their membership in the soft Conference USA has made them a sort-of UNLV of the 21st century. This big program that dominates its inferior league and then tries to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

There is nothing wrong with that, but it is tough to keep things going on the fringe. If Memphis was in the Big East, I don't think John Calipari would think about going anywhere else. He'd still get the same great recruits, he will see his program on television a whole lot more and his team would be more battle tested than it is right now. Sure, he'll lose more games in the Big East, but his teams will be better off when the tournament comes around.

At Kentucky, Calipari will get those things. He'll have the huge platform to sell his program. His team will be on ESPN and CBS all the time. He'll get to play the Louisvilles, North Carolinas, Indianas and Floridas of the world on a yearly basis. At Memphis, Calipari must schedule a lot of tough non-conference games to offset the week conference schedule. At Kentucky, the schedule pretty much writes itself.

It's not Calipari's fault that he longs for these things. Memphis cannot give him that. They can give him a program with more backing than people think, a conference he can dominant and he has shown he can get anybody from anywhere to come to his school. He also answers to no one. There aren't the lofty expectations like there are at Kentucky. Memphis was just upended in the Sweet 16 this year. Still a pretty good year for the Tigers. While Kentucky would love that right now, that won't play too well for too long. Just ask Tubby Smith.

This is Memphis' golden era.

And there is the thing. If Calipari leaves, who would want to take his place? Who would want to come into a program that will be completely deflated? Who would want to follow what Calipari did? Players will pour out of the program over the next year or so and Memphis will go back to the way it was before 2000.

I know that realignment isn't the fad right now and the Big East is overweight as it is. But Memphis needs to keep plugging away and trying to get in the Big East before it is too late.

Tony Bennett to Make Sweet Music In Virginia

In all my years as a fan of the ACC, it has always baffled me that Virginia struggles to put together a great basketball program on the court. Oh, they have had some great moments (the Ralph Sampson years, the Bryant Stith/Jon Crotty years) but they haven't had the level of success that many other ACC programs have enjoyed.

The University of Virginia is legendary, beautiful and one of the better schools in the nation. They have constructed an awesome John Paul Jones Arena for basketball and play in one of the premiere conferences. There is talent nearby in the D.C. area, Baltimore and in Virginia. There is no reason that the Cavaliers cannot compete with ACC's elite.

I don't think they've had that great coach since Terry Holland left. Yeah, Jeff Jones is a decent (look what he is doing at American) and Pete Gillen was highly regarded but they haven't had the kind of coach that gets the blood boiling in Charlottesville.

Enter Tony Bennett. The former UW-Green Bay guard who played for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets is set to be the Cavs' 11th coach in it's 100+ year history. This is a guy that Indiana and LSU wanted last year. This is a guy who can get things done.

Just look what he did at Washington State. WSU is hardly a hotbed of basketball action. Yet, he led the school to their first Sweet 16 appearance in 2008. His style of play may not be sexy in the flashy ACC, but it works and will be tough for opponents to prepare for. It is the same style his father Dick Bennett had at UWGB, Wisconsin and Washington State. It works.

This should be interesting and I think this is a great hire for the Wahoos.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bobby Knight, Coach K, Ol' Roy and Rick Pitino Clash With Metallica

Here is a very interesting combo: Metallica with four great college coaches. In Guitar Hero's latest commercial that features people doing the dance from Risky Business (remember Kobe and friends having a good time?), NCAA coaches Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino and Bobby Knight are getting ready for that "old time rock-n-roll."

That's when Metallica interrupts their singing by pimping their new Guitar Hero: Metallica game. The coaches' heads are obviously CGI'd, but it is still a weird site to see these four greats at the same place.

Kentucky Fans Should Ask NC State About Calipari

NC State isn't Kentucky. But the Wildcats should listen to the Wolfpack about trying to lure John Calipari away from Memphis.

Three years ago, NC State was looking for a new head coach after firing Herb Sendek (dumb move, by the way). They wanted Calipari ... but Calipari said he wasn't interested. He said he had a good thing at Memphis.

Any of this sound familiar, Kentucky?

Calipari seemed to change his mind and became interested in NC State. So much so that he flew in a private jet to Raleigh and toured the campus. Meanwhile in Memphis, the university was gearing up to give Calipari a fat raise.

Again, NC State isn't Kentucky but they should look at what happened in 2006. Maybe he is just trying to squeeze a few more bucks out of the school. After all, there was buzz the other day that the school was working on a more lucrative deal for their coach. Don't you think if he listened to what Kentucky was offering that Memphis will do what it takes to keep him?

It could be the real thing or it could be a smokescreen. With Calipari, you can never tell. But Kentucky fans shouldn't count any chickens before they hatch.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pat Riley to Kentucky? Maybe Sean Miller?

Here in the KY, there is tons of speculation about who will be the next head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats. Despite the fact that Billy Donovan has said he isn't leaving Florida, people here still have hopes that he's on his way. But a new name has gotten some buzz: Pat Riley.

Riley is currently the team president of the Miami Heat and is in his first year of his latest retirement. Buzz is that some folks in Lexington have seen Riles around town in the last couple of days. He was a star guard for the Wildcats during the mid-1960s and was on that team that lost to Texas Western in the 1966 NCAA Championship game.

Here is the only problems. Riley turned 64 last week and it is unclear how long he would want to coach. He's been burned out before and the grind of recruiting and all of that could wear on him. Also, he's an NBA guy that hasn't dealt with the college game (except for scouting) since leaving Kentucky as a player in 1967.

I don't see this happening, despite any rumors going around. I can see Kentucky going up I-75 and checking on Xavier's Sean Miller. Miller took over a budding program and as actually elevated it. The guy Miller took over for, Thad Matta, is currently leading Ohio State into greener pastures (by the way, Matta is a guy Kentucky fans like, too). Miller is a great coach and seems to be cool enough to deal with the pressures that the Kentucky job brings.

Ranking the Elite Eight Matchups

1-UConn vs Missouri: Really, this is a matchup of one team who was won of the season long favorites to win the championship against a team that probably nobody knows anything about. Mizzou feels like a Cinderella since they are the only non blue-blood remaining (well, aside from Oklahoma).

This is a game that will feature that frentic Missouri trap against a team with size and speed. It will be interesting to see if Missouri can attack the basket against Hasheem Thabeet like they did against Memphis. Pick: UConn

2-North Carolina vs Oklahoma: The hype will be about Blake Griffin vs Tyler Hansbrough. The real story will be the guard play. Can Oklahoma's guards hold down Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington? If they can't, then it won't matter if Griffin beats Hansbrough in their battle.

Carolina will throw four guys at Griffin: Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller. I expect Griffin to put up big numbers like he's been doing all tournament, but I'm not sure if the rest of the Sooners can deal with the rest of the Heels. Pick: North Carolina.

3-Louisville vs Michigan State: The star matchup here will be on the sidelines. The suits. Rick Pitino against Tom Izzo. Both are outstanding tournament coaches. Both have won one championship and both have taken their teams to multiple Final Fours.

The key will be if Louisville can speed up Michigan State. The Spartans are a tough half-court team that can take the Ville out of their game. Pick: Louisville

4-Pittsburgh vs Villanova: Nothing against this game, but it is the lone rematch of the bunch. Two Big East schools duking it out. Hard to believe that both these teams struggled in their first round games against ETSU and American, respectively. This will be a defensive affair, which both teams love, and could come down to the final shot. If so, I like Pitt. Pick: Pittsburgh

3-Michigan State/Louisville
4-North Carolina/Oklahoma

Who In Their Right Mind Would Come to Kentucky?

I know that there are many people that would love to be the new head coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team. However, odds are that none of those people will be a major splash.

Why would any elite coach take on this job? Florida's Billy Donovan already has said no which is the smartest move he could make. When the job was open two years ago, Donovan took his time dispelling the rumors that he could be heading to Kentucky. This time, he said he wasn't interested about the exact same time that Billy Gillispie was fired.

Why would Donovan want to be at Kentucky? He was an assistant there? He's a legend at Florida right now and is that program. Kentucky fans freaked out when their team missed the NCAA Tournament this year. Donovan's Gators have missed the last two ... but you don't hear anything about it.

Donovan has a better program in the same conference (hell, same division). Sure, basketball isn't the lifeblood of Gator Nation like it is in Lexington, but that can be a good thing sometimes.

The chatter now has moved to three other major names. There is rumblings here in Kentucky that the school will see about bringing Rick Pitino back. Why would he want to come back? He already helms a legendary program in Louisville, plays in a much superior conference, can get recruits to come there and is having success. Why leave? If he went back to Kentucky, he'd be fighting against his other tenure at the school. Remember Joe Gibbs, Rick!

John Calipari? Why would that man leave Memphis for anything? Recruits flock to his program, they are guaranteed 16 wins a year since they play in Conference USA, there is a huge following of the program with none of the pressure.

Tom Izzo? I don't think so. He has an outstanding thing going at Michigan State. He has a title, been to several Final Fours (may be on his way to another) and has no problems recruiting to East Lansing. He's already at home.

I don't see any other big-time coach jumping ship either. Now you are down to the "stepping-stone" guys. Ya know, the coaches who bounce from a small school, to a lesser known BCS school, to an elite job. Kind of like what Gillispie did.

The top name on that list is Travis Ford, a former Kentucky player who is an up-and-comer at Oklahoma State. Ford is a good coach, but is he really ready to handle Kentucky? He played there, but this is something totally different. Still, Ford may be the new head man.

It could be somebody else, but whomever it is will find that this job is unlike any other.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Duke's Season Ends With An Amazing Thud

People have been saying that this was one of Mike Krzyzewski's best coaching jobs. Maybe so, but that is a nice way to say that they are overrated. In a good way. There is no way this team should have held the No. 1 ranking during the year. There was no way this team was a legit title contender.

All that showed up during the Blue Devils' Sweet 16 matchup with Villanova. In a game that was really never close, Nova dominated Duke with a 24-point victory.

Thank you!

Now we can go until November without seeing Coach K (there are no Olympics either!). No more Scheyer faces to hide from. No more gushing over Gerald Henderson. No more Greg Paulus ... forever. No more Lance Thomas celebrating when he does something right ... which is rare. No more Kyle Singler sweat. No more Cameron Crazies.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ranking the Sweet 16 Matchups

1-North Carolina vs Gonzaga: You can say that I ranked this game up here because I'm a Tar Heel fan, but I don't think another game in this round will feature more guys who will be playing in the NBA. There are stars in this one with Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Jeremy Pargo and Josh Heytvelt. The key guy may be Matt Bouldin who is the kind of guy that kills Carolina. This will be a high scoring affair that should be quite a show. Pick: UNC

2-Memphis vs Missouri: This will be an amazing game. Both are great defensive teams, but in different ways. Memphis locks down opponents all over the place. Missouri puts on that rabid press that forces guards to cough up the ball and give the Tigers (Missouri, that is) easy buckets. It will be interesting to see freshman Tyreke Evans handle that. There is the factor that Mizzou coach Mike Anderson used to coach at UAB, the last Conference USA team to beat Memphis (Anderson was the coach of that team). Still, Memphis is so deep and so tall that they have the talent to deal with the pressure. Pick: Memphis

3-Duke vs Villanova: One of those 50-50 games. These teams are very similar. Great guards, defensive nature and not the most depth in the frontcourt. Interesting now that this game is in Boston. That was Big East country for years and should benefit Nova. But Boston has become ACC country now that BC is a member and Duke's last non-Carolina loss was up in Boston. Pick: Villanova.

4-Michigan State vs Kansas: Of all the games out there, this is probably the one where the picks are split down the middle. Now, we've already seen this game before with the Spartans blew out the Jayhawks a few months ago in East Lansing. But Kansas gets this game on a neutral court and Cole Aldrich is playing better than any big man right now (save Blake Griffin). Michigan State is playing better, too.

5-Oklahoma vs Syracuse: Above, we have seen games against similar type teams. This one will be a battle of opposites. Syracuse will use it's zone against Blake Griffin and the Sooners. This will make Griffin's job tougher and force the Okie guards to have big games. The Orange are deep, talented and have the horses to deal with Oklahoma. Pick: Syracuse.

6-Louisville vs Arizona: Here is a game featuring the tournament's overall top seed against the "Cinderella" of the dance. But that number by their names will be the only evidence of that. Zona has ballers and they may be playing their best ball right now. Louisville hasn't been very impressive thus far but it seems that when they are pushed they put it together to get the win. Pick: Louisville.

7-Pittsburgh vs Xavier: Of the No. 1 seeds, most people see Pitt as the shakiest. The Panthers have struggled in both of their games this year. Xavier, like Pitt, is a tough defensive team that loves to bang and rough it up. But Pitt is better at it and should find their footing. This will also feature Xavier head coach Sean Miller taking on his alma mater. He was the one who assisted on the "send it in Jerome" dunk. Pick: Pittsburgh.

8-UConn vs Purdue: There will be a few more eyes on this one since allegations have arisen of recruiting violations at Connecticut. Moving that aside, no one has played better than the Huskies in this tournament. Coming into the season, Purdue was highly regarded but they may be the 16th-best team left in the tournament. Louisville-Arizona may feature the top seed against the lowest seed ... but this one may feature the best team left against the worst. Pick: UConn.

2-Michigan State/Kansas
6-North Carolina/Gonzaga

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seth Curry to Transfer From Liberty

(Hat tip: The Dagger)

Stephen Curry's little brother, Seth, is set to transfer from Liberty. Curry (that would be Seth) led all freshmen in scoring with a 20.2 ppg average. In a statement, Seth says that his decision "is based on my desire to develop as an athlete to the fullest of my potential and take advantage of new opportunities that may be available to me in a higher rated conference.”

If you read between the lines, that means that Liberty is too small for his talent. That is rather interesting. You would think that Davidson is waaaaaaay too small for big bro's talent and he has stayed at least three years.

This also points to the fact that there may be some feelers around him suggesting he could do better elsewhere. There is nothing more than speculation about where he may go. I agree with Chris Chase at the Dagger that his eyes may be set on an ACC school or Charlotte.

The Currys are from Charlotte and heading to the 49ers would be a big step up. Charlotte has fallen on hard times of late and need a star to make them relevant again. Michael Beasley was supposed to be that guy but he bolted to Kansas State when Dalonte Hill was hired there from Charlotte.

Seth would be able to play in a second-tier conference in the Atlantic 10 and get to play at home. He's also stay away from going to Davidson where comparison's to Stephen would be unfair.

There is also the possibility that he'd go to an ACC school. Virginia Tech is first up to bat since father Dell starred there in the 1980s. However, Tech blatantly brushed off both Currys during recruiting and that option may be dead. He could go to Virginia, but they don't even have a coach right now.

If he wanted to stay close to home, there are the Big Four in North Carolina. UNC, Duke, NC State and Wake Forest. If he goes to Carolina, Duke or Wake, he could get lost in the shuffle and lose a lot of playing time. Not to say he wouldn't be a factor but all three of those schools already have established guards in place. UNC probably will lose both Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson but they welcome in two McDonald's All Americans to take their places.

The best bet could be NC State. State is reeling and would give Seth Curry the opportunity of a lot of minutes and the national platform that comes with playing in the ACC. No one around the nation cares about the Wolfpack, really, but those games against the Heels, Devils and Deacs do get on TV. State also lost Brandon Costner to the NBA and watched Trevor Ferguson quit basketball. The opportunity is there.

Clemson could also be a possibilty. It is about the same distance away from Charlotte as Raleigh is. It would also give him the more small town feel that he's had in Lynchburg, VA.

I Don't Like the NFL Screwing With the Schedule

I said it once at FanHouse and I'll say it again here: I don't like that the NFL is going to screw with the 16-game schedule.

The current schedule is awesome. It divides easily into quarters, the byes are done at a quick pace and the actual construction of the schedule is perfect. You play the other three teams in your division twice (6 games), one entire division in your conference (4 games) that rotates in a three year cycle, one entire division in the other conference (4 games) that rotates in a four year cycle and then the two teams who finished in the same place in the divisions in your conference that you aren't set to play (2 games).

I like it this way. But I also know that things change.

It seems as if their mind is already made up. 2010 will probably be the last year of the 16-game season. May it rest in peace. The NFL will vote whether to have a 17 or 18-game season starting in 2011. However many games they add on to the regular season, they will take games off the preseason.

Okay! Since this is going to happen, let me look at the positives.

It is better for season ticket holders. NFL teams make their fans pay for two preseason games at full price despite the games being meaningless. Instead of paying out the booty for two preseason snoozers, fans would now get a game that actually counts.

Fantasy football gets better! A longer NFL season would mean a longer fantasy football season. Instead of the typical 13 or 14 week season, now we can fool around for up to 16 weeks. With the extra week or two of games, byes should be spread out a little more evenly (now there are two weeks of the season where six teams are on a bye).

Still, where will the add the games? Maybe one week earlier (around Labor Day) and one a week later (first week of January)? I don't like pushing the Super Bowl back to much since it would then move in on college basketball territory.

Also, how will they schedule the extra opponents? My best guess would be that instead of playing the two teams who finished in the same place as you in those divisions, you just play another entire division.

Let's use the Redskins for an example. Every year, they will play the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles twice apiece. They will also play one entire division in the AFC (let's use the AFC West for this exercise). In the current format, they would play one entire division in the NFC (that would be the NFC South). That is a total of 14 games. To get to 18, they may as well let the Redskins play another entire division in the NFC. Rotate it in a three year cycle to what division you DON'T play each year.

2009-Don't play the NFC West
2010-Don't play the NFC South
2011-Don't play the NFC North

That would be somewhat fair.

Still, I hate that it has gotten to this point. I love my NFL the way it is right now and I don't like seeing things tweaked that seem fine.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is This the Beginning of the End For Sidney Lowe at NC State?

It probably wasn't more of a blip on your sports radar, but Brandon Costner is leaving NC State and entering the NBA Draft.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I feel a bit sorry for NC State. Growing up in Charlotte, State was actually a good program. They had a championship head coach in Jim Valvano and routinely were near the top of the ACC standings. UNC-NCSU games used to be epic.

That was nearly 20 years ago. Since then, State has had a few grasps at the ACC's gold ring but haven't been able to sustain it. They had a good thing with Herb Sendek but treated him like crap and watched him bolt for Arizona State. That was unheard of that the head coach of NC State would leave for a Pac-10 school with a limited hoops history.

They brought in Sidney Lowe to replace Sendek. Lowe hadn't been in college sports since winning the 1983 national championship with the Wolfpack. He had been in the NBA in a variety of roles and was the head coach with Vancouver/Memphis and Minnesota. His head coaching record in the NBA? How is 79-228?

His first season saw State make a nice run to the ACC title game. Since then it has been all downhill. His once team-on-the-rise has crumbled around him. Last year, he netted a huge recruit in J.J. Hickson. Hickson was great in his lone season in Raleigh but he didn't really fit in with his teammates. Not to say he was a problem or anything, it is just Lowe did a poor job of incorporating him into what the team was trying to do.

One of those guys who suffered was Costner. In Costner's freshman season, he was a stud and became the toughest guy to match up against during their late season run of 2007. When Hickson got there, Costner was lost. I've watched enough Wolfpack games to see that Costner has regressed as a player. He's a more consistent shooter than he originally was but he has lost of lot of everything else.

I think this may be the beginning of the end of Lowe in Raleigh. He's a good guy who tries very hard but I don't think it is working. What big time recruit will take a risk of going to State when (a) he didn't really do much for either Hickson or Costner or (b) no one knows how long he will stick around. What big time player wants to be overshadowed in his own town by what North Carolina and Duke are doing? Who wants to take a beating from those McDonald's All Americans that the Heels, Devils and Demon Deacons roll throught Tobacco Road?

It will be interesting to see what State will do next. How long is Lowe's leash? And if they do let him go after next season, what will be their next move?

Remember that they flew John Calapari in for a look-see a couple of years ago (Memphis made sure he need not look for other employment. Imagine a Triangle with Roy Williams, Coach K and Calapari? Wow!!! Maybe a guy like Xavier's Sean Miller (the Pack got Sendek from Miami-OH)?

Whatever they do, they need to do something. NC State used to be the cream of the the ACC in the 1950s and stayed very, very relevant through the 60s, 70s and 80s. Part of me wishes they'd come back.

If Pod Sites Are Wrong, Then Why Do Other College Sports Do It Too???

A week ago, I wrote about how I think people's whining over pod sites being too close to home was ridiculous. ESPN's Doug Gottlieb went on a rant about how it just isn't what college sports was about when North Carolina and Duke get to play in Greensboro and Villanova gets to play in Philly while the other schools must travel all over the country.

In my original post, I came from the point of view of it being better for the fans. This post will be more about what Gottlieb said.

Let me get this straight, Mr. Gottlieb: it's not fair that the best college basketball teams get to play closer to home? This isn't the college way?

I call shenanigans!

Look all over the college landscape. No one complains when USC plays in the Rose Bowl! Or if Miami-FL played in the Orange Bowl! Or if some ACC team has to go up to Boise to play Boise State in the Humanitarian Bowl! How about playing Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl? No one bitches.

The Football Championship Series holds its playoffs at the home of the higher seeded team. Any complaints?

How about the College World Series. Not the Series itself (it's always in Omaha) but the tournament leading up to that. Those regionals and Super regionals are always played at the best team's home stadium. Does anyone bitch about that? I don't hear it!

How about the freakin' NCAA women's tournament. How is it fair that No. 2 seeded Auburn must play No. 7 Rutgers on their home floor???? Rutgers promptly beat the Tigers and will advance to the Sweet 16.

You're next argument will be that women's basketball and college baseball don't have the kind of following that fans will travel all over the place to see those teams play. Maybe so, but who cares about fans, Mr. Gottlieb! It is about being fair to the tournament and letting all teams battle on neutral courts. That's what you said.

Plus that theory doesn't fly with college football. You don't think Trojan fans would follow USC to whatever bowl they played in? Still, they get to play in their hometown in a stadium they play in at least once every other year. If Miami-FL won the ACC, they would play the Orange Bowl in their home stadium. The bowls know that they like those local teams because it means they should sell a lot of tickets.

So don't knock the NCAA for housing its tournament games in fan friendly venues. Unlike every other major college sport I just named, it is the only one that doesn't see a team play on its home court during the tournament.

How is that for fair!?!?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Sweetest Of Sweet 16s

Welcome to one of the best Sweet 16s ever.

Due to the fact that there were a limited amount of upsets in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, we will have a stacked Sweet 16. If the selection committee made a tournament that needed just 16 teams then it would almost look exactly like this.

On the right side of the bracket (East and South Regions), chalk has held serve. Both regions still have their No. 1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds alive. In the Midwest and West Regions, the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds are still kicking. The only "surprise teams" left in the dance are No. 5 Purdue in the West (and many felt they were better than No. 4 Washington) and Arizona, who is the Midwest's No. 12.

All of the top three seeds in each region are alive along with pretty much every team that was fashioned a championship caliber squad. There are some epic match-ups looming. How is North Carolina-Gonzaga for you? Memphis-Missouri? Michigan State-Kansas? Oklahoma-Syracuse? Duke-Villanova?

Even those sneaky seeds of Purdue and Arizona have a good chance to beat UConn and Louisville, respectively. Only three non-BCS teams remain (Memphis, Gonzaga, Xavier) and all three are the class of the non-BCS bunch.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Duke and UNC Should Always Share a Pod Site

Both North Carolina and Duke played in the Greensboro pod site for their first and second round games. In the first round, their fans were separated by a two-hour intermission where the Tar Heel fans were ushered out after watching UNC pound Radford and the Blue Devil fans came in to see Duke face Binghamton.

In round two, both games were played in front of the same audience. Much of the crowd was wearing their Carolina blue while a good section were wearing their Duke blue.

During UNC's win over LSU, the section of Duke fans cheered as the Tigers took a five-point lead in the second half. In the final minutes of Duke's close victory over Texas, the many Tar Heels fans that stuck around rooted hard for the Longhorns. Duke fans cheered "Go Tigers" while UNC fans threw up the "Hook Em Horns!" sign.

I'm not B.S.ing when I say that if I had been at that game, I swear I would have brought some sort of Texas paraphernalia with me to cheer on the Horns. And I'm not too thrilled with Texas after they came and took Mack Brown and left our football program in a decade-long funk.

Lay Off Obama Doing His NCAA Bracket

For full disclosure, I'm a registered Republican. I also don't care that President Obama decided to do a bracket for the NCAA Tournament.

Some people are bent about it. They say that he has much more to worry about that doing some stupid ol' brackets. That is technically true, but he can take about a half hour out of his year to do something that many, many people in offices all around this great nation do. Most of us have more important things to do at work than doing some stupid ol' brackets. Get back to work!!!!

Maybe you do your brackets on your own time. I know we like to think that the President is always on duty ... and he is ... but he is allowed to have his own time. Even salaried employees all over the world have their own time. What's the difference in his doing his bracket on ESPN from the White House than, say, President Bush flying to various baseball parks and throwing out the first pitch. Or in 1994 when President Clinton flew to Charlotte (my hometown) to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Final Four? Twice. Those trips cost taxpayer's money for Air Force One to get him there and the security to make sure nothing pops off.

Obama is known in these circles as a Sports President. He loves sports and loves to express his opinions. Hell, he would make for an outstanding blogger! But don't think he's the first to love sports like this. Eisenhower played golf more than Tiger Woods does now. Neither Bush missed an opportunity to show up at a major league ballpark. Richard Nixon was diagramming plays for the Washington Redskins.

The point is that these guys have the highest of stressful jobs and having a few moments to "get away" and do something fun isn't a crime. It has to be healthy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rating the Commercials During the NCAA Tournament

One of the things that I always remember about the NCAA Tournament is the commercials. Unlike the Super Bowl where they are quick hitters and then they are gone, these commercials stick around for three weeks.

AXE: I did think that Axe deodorant commercial where dude lifts up his arms and a flow of water comes flying out. I die laughing when he high fives the people on the bench and douses them with his man-sweat.

SONIC: Sonic usually has some great commercials during March Madness ("get rid of that weak tot action!"). This year, the weak-tot twosome are eating their tater tots when one gets mad at the other for not sharing. The guy diagrams a play and ... well you just need to see the commercial.

ETRADE: I'm usually not a fan of these commercials, but thanks to it I've been humming "Broken Wings" all weekend.

WOLVERINE: Yep, the movie looks cool.

AT&T: I used to like their commercials with the two basketball fans (it was Cingular, then). They are just going back to their regular commercials about throwing away rollover minutes. Yawn.

KGB: I guess this is a company that you text a question and they'll give you the answer. That's great for people who can't Google on their cell phone, I guess.

CAPITAL ONE: Glad to see some credit card company is having a good time! I do like the Spaghetti Jimmy ad better than most of their others.

COKE: I don't which one I'm sick of more. The Coke Zero that apparently tastes like Coke or the guy who is feening for a Coke and keeps seeing Coke bottles everywhere he goes?

CHEVY: Howie Long is a trucker. He likes trucks.

Storylines to Look For In NCAA Tournament's Second Round

-Louisville's bracket opened up. Many felt that Louisville had the easiest route to the Final Four. It got even easier on Friday when No. 4 seed Wake Forest was beaten by Cleveland State and No. 5 Utah was beaten by Arizona (though Arizona looks like a more dangerous team). On the bottom half of the Midwest Region, No. 6 seed West Virginia also fell.

-Speaking of Louisville, they got a stroke of luck that Ohio State was defeated by Siena. If Louisville did play Ohio State, it would have almost felt like a road game. Yes, the Ville and The Ohio State University are about the same distance apart from Dayton but you know Buckeye fans would have been in full effect on Sunday. Now the Cardinals should own the town.

-It will be interesting to see how Memphis and Pittsburgh come out after receiving first round scares. Memphis was trailing Cal State Northridge late before coming back for the win. Pitt held off a pesky East Tennessee State squad to move along. To the untrained eye, they view this as foreshadowing of things to come. If Memphis and Pitt struggled against those small schools then how will they handle Maryland and Oklahoma State, respectively? I don't see these two teams flaming out but it does express the feeling that anyone can get beat by anyone else from here on out.

-Keep your eye on Greensboro. First off, North Carolina plays LSU. After that, Duke plays Texas. Since there is not break between sessions like on Thursday, this means that both Duke and UNC fans will be filling the Greensboro Coliseum. Suddenly LSU and Texas will have massive cheering sections.

-The fact that both Arizona and Cleveland State won their games, it ensures that at least one double-digit seed will get to the Sweet 16. Zona is a No. 12 seed; Cleveland State is a No. 13.

-On the other side of the bracket, Western Kentucky faces off against Gonzaga. That means at least one mid-major will get to the Sweet 16. Neither are strangers to it, either.

-My major upset pick? Michigan over Oklahoma.

-Best game of the second round? Early candidates are Michigan State-USC, Washington-Purdue and Duke-Texas.

-The Big XII is 6-0 in this tournament. Quite impressive. However, some of those teams could/should get picked off this weekend. Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are playing against top seeds (Pitt and UConn, respectively) and Texas faces Duke. The only advantages are Oklahoma against Michigan ... and I just said that's my upset pick ... Kansas against Dayton and Missouri against Marquette.

-Coaching. There are some outstanding coaches out in that field. You'll have John Calipari taking on Gary Williams. Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim have all led their teams to titles (11 titles). That didn't even mention Bo Ryan, Jamie Dixon, Mike Anderson, John Beilein, Herb Sendek, Mark Few, Trent Johnson, Rick Barnes, Jay Wright, Ben Howland and Sean Miller.

The ACC Didn't Show Up In the Tournament

Everyone says the Big East is the best conference in the nation. I agree, to a point, but don't think the gap is as big as people think. I mean, the ACC did win 10 of 16 meetings between members of the conferences this year. The ACC did get in as many teams in the NCAA Tournament as the Big East did and they have four less teams. Of course, the NCAA Tournament is where the true value of a conference's strength are measured.

For the ACC, it didn't stack up.

Thursday was fine. North Carolina completely blew away Radford despite not playing ACC Player of the Year Ty Lawson. Duke blew up Binghamton and, for a night, put the rest that this was a team that chokes in the dance. Maryland actually pulled an upset by beating the No. 7 seed California Bears. The one stain was that Clemson underacheived in the tournament yet again.

That's a 3-1 mark heading into Friday where three more teams had a chance to flex the ACC's muscle. All three teams that were playing were rated a better seed. All three lost.

Boston College went out and lost to USC pretty handily. While the game was closer than the final score indicates, it wasn't that close. Florida State lost a tough, tight game to Wisconsin in overtime. And the shocker of them all, Wake Forest was pounded by Cleveland State. Yes, a team that was once ranked No. 1 in the nation lost to a team that wouldn't have even been invited to the tournament if they hadn't upset Butler for the Horizon championship.

Seven teams got into the dance. Only three teams remain out of the 32 left. While North Carolina and Duke are nice bets to get to the Sweet 16 and both have the ability to get to the Final Four. Still, it is disheartening for the conference that complained so much in recent years about why they didn't get more teams in.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why No Outrage Over Ovechkin's Celebration?

Congrats to Alexander Ovechkin and his 50th goal of the season. But did you see the celebration afterwards?

I'm fine with it, but why doesn't anyone complain about it? If Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson score a TD and did that, there would be people crying about it. If a baseball player hit a home run, placed his bat down and did the same thing Ovechkin did, there would be a riot on the field.

Again, I am fine with it. These are professional sports. These guys get paid to do what they do. This isn't the NCAA where these are just kids trying their best. I don't want to see that in this NCAA tournament. But pro sports is full blown entertainment and, really, nothing more. I thought that the "hot stick" was funny just like I thought T.O.'s sharpie celebration was funny. If the opponents don't like it, they can express their feelings on the next play. T.O. may get a shot the next time he's on the field. The baseball player may get one high and tight in his next at-bat. In the NHL, well they have all kinds of ways of policing themselves.

The point is that these aren't apples and oranges. It isn't cool in the NHL and not in the NFL. Well, it is but it shouldn't be.

Despite What Some May Say, I Like the NCAA Tournament Having "Home Teams"

ESPN's Doug Gottlieb said today that he doesn't like the fact that teams play so close to home in the NCAA Tournament. He says it isn't fair that Villanova gets to play in Philly or that North Carolina and Duke are down the road in Greensboro. He says it takes away the neutrality that the tournament is supposed to bring in crowning its champion.

I understand what he is saying ... but I wholeheartedly disagree.

In fact, I wish they took it a bit further. No, not schedule the games on anybody's actual home floor. To be honest, I did feel a bit yucky about Nova playing at the Wachovia Center. But the arena was filled and electric.

No. Give the little schools a better opportunity to play near home. I was thinking about Portland State not being in the Portland pod. Mississippi State was instead. I know that there are these rules of creating this bracket but I wish there was more of a consideration for the smaller schools. Why was East Tennessee State sent to Dayton to face No. 1 Pitt instead of to Greensboro to face No. 1 North Carolina? Why was No. 14 seeded Cornell sent to Boise while No. 14 Stephen F. Austin was sent to Miami?

I think the committee does try to do this. I mean, North Dakota State will be in Minneapolis, VCU and American were in Philadelphia and Utah State will be in Boise.

But I do understand Gottlieb's point. It does take away from the tournament when the big seeds get to play in front of their fans and make it difficult for an upset to occur. You think the crowd wasn't a factor in Nova's comeback win over American?

Next year, New Orleans will be a pod. So will Providence, which is good news for UConn or any other nor'eastern school. I'm sure UCLA and Cal would love to start their Road to the Final Four in San Jose. Syracuse would love to be in the Buffalo pod. You can make a case for Buffalo (Syracuse), Spokane (Washington, Gonzaga), Jacksonville (Florida State), Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and Oklahoma City (Oklahoma).

But this isn't a new thing. Remember that Kansas won the 1988 title in Kansas City. UCLA won the 1975 title down the road in San Diego and the 1972 and 1968 titles right there in Los Angeles. NC State won their 1974 title in Greensboro. Kentucky won the 1958 title in Louisville. CCNY won their 1950 NCAA title in New York City.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some Storylines to Look For in the NCAA Tournament

-North Carolina and UConn have the pressure of failed seasons if they don't come away with the title. These two were, at one time, the easy favorites to cut down the nets in Detroit. Of course both cannot win it so at least one was destined to fail. It will be interesting to see how these two teams handle that pressure.

-Pitt and Memphis have a lot riding on this tournament, too. During the season, Pitt emerged as one of the true power teams that should get to the Final Four. Memphis has a lot riding on any tournament run. John Calapari's insistence that the Tigers should be a No. 1 seed means they must get to the Final Four to prove it.

-Arizona needs to prove they deserve to be in. Zona gets a good team, but a "upper middle class" conference champion in Utah. Many people were surprised to see Arizona in the tournament and while it is unfair to expect them to win a game in the dance (they are just a No. 12 seed), they do need to put up a fight.

-Is the Big East king? Seven Big East teams made the tournament (the ACC and Big Ten matched that number) and three of them are No. 1 seeds. Five of them are a No. 3 seed or better. Conference supremecy is so hard to gauge until this tournament comes around. How the Big East performs in this dance could be the biggest story of them all.

-Speaking of being the king, I am very interested to see how the Big Ten performs. They got a higher percentage of their teams in than any other conference. Still, there isn't one team that is a really favorite to get to the Final Four, let alone a National Championship. Michigan State could, but no one trusts them. Purdue is healthy and getting some love as a buzz team. Add into that that everyone's upset pick is Western Kentucky over Illinois. The flip side is that a lot of people are feeling Michigan over Clemson.

-Who will be our new Stephen Curry? Many times one guy sparks a fire in the tournament and becomes the "did you see that" player. A bracket buster. Curry did that last year as Davidson took down Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin. Wally Szczerbiak, Tyler Coppenwrath and Eric Maynor became first weekend stars with their various play in the tournament. Guys like Danny Manning, David Robinson and Carmelo Anthony take over the tournament for a little longer. There is usually somebody who becomes The Man of the tournament, even if it is for a couple of days.

-Will people show up? I am very interested in how the economy will affect this tournament. I'm not an ad guy so I don't know about how CBS' corporate sponsors. I just want to see the fan support. With some programs traveling to great distances, I want to see how full these arenas are. No offense to Dayton, Minneapolis, Boise and Greensboro but these aren't big time tourist destinations at this time of year. Portland and Miami are lovely, but they can be long, expensive trips.

ACC vs Big East in 2008-2009

-North Carolina over Notre Dame, 102-87
-North Carolina over Rutgers 97-75
-Duke over Georgetown, 70-56
-Duke over St. John's, 76-69
-Florida State over Cincinnati, 58-47
-Boston College over St. John's, 82-70
-Boston College over Providence, 81-76
-Miami over St. John's, 70-56
-Virginia Tech over St. John's, 81-67
-Miami over Providence, 78-66

-Pitt over Florida State, 56-48
-UConn over Miami, 76-63
-Georgetown over Maryland, 75-48
-Seton Hall over Virginia Tech, 77-73
-Marquette over NC State, 68-65
-Syracuse over Virginia, 73-70

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sportz' West Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Memphis. All of the buzz in this region is about the Tigers proving that they should have been the top seed in this region. This team has won 25 straight games and are playing as well as anyone in the nation.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: UConn. Did you think I would say Memphis? UConn has been at or near the top of the rankings all season long. If there was a UConn-Memphis game, I think Memphis wins. The problem is that I think Missouri will pop Memphis and that matchup will never happen.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN No. 3 SEED): Purdue. The Boilermakers were picked to be one of the elite teams in the country when the season started. Injuries have kept that from happening but they seem to be coming into the tournament as healthy as they've been all season. They should be able to upend Washington and then give UConn all they can handle.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Utah State. This was a nationally ranked team for part of the year. They open up against a reeling Marquette team. Other than that, I really don't see any big upsets in this region.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: BYU and Texas A&M. So, for the second straight year we get these teams facing off in the 8-9 game? The NCAA should have moved them around.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Washington. They will play the first two rounds down the road in Portland. If they get to the Sweet 16, they should be the only western team left playing in the West Region.

MUST WATCH GAME: California-Maryland. This the only first round game that seems to be up in the air (aside from the repeat of BYU-A&M). Can Greivis Vasquez carry his team past the Berkeley Bears?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sportz' East Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Pittsburgh. The Panthers are a nasty team. They are talented and physical and can make you play the way they want you to. They are like Mike Tyson in the 1980s. It seems as if the best shot to take them down is to get DeJuan Blair in foul trouble (which can happen). If that is what you are hoping for, good luck.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Pittsburgh. I don't see anyone challenging them until the Elite Eight. From there, they've played Villanova before and they match up nicely against Duke.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN No. 3 SEED): UCLA. They have only been to the last three Final Fours. Granted, several of those guys are gone to the NBA now but this team is still tournament savvy and has the talent to run with most teams.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Portland State. Look, Portland could get smoked right off the bat. But they do face a Xavier team that hasn't looked too hot over the last few weeks. From there they'd most likely face a Florida State team that is riding a hot player in Toney Douglas. If they can figure out how to bother Douglas, they could pull off another upset. Remember that this team was in the tournament last year so the awe factor is cut down quite a bit.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: UCLA. To be honest, there really isn't much of an issue of bad seeding in the East Bracket. I just think that No. 6 UCLA is stronger than No. 5 Florida State and No. 4 Xavier. That doesn't mean I believe they definitely should be a No. 4 seed but I think they deserved better. Also, UCLA gets to fly aaaaaalllllllllllllllllll the way to Philadelphia to play VCU. If they win that, they get to face Philly-native Villanova in the second round.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Villanova. Duh! They get to play their first two games at home in Philly and then, if they advance, move up the coast to Boston.

MUST WATCH GAME: Florida State-Wisconsin. Two teams who play in conferences that got 7 teams in. Wisconsin loves that slow-down game and physical defense. FSU wants to seperate Toney Douglas from that sticky D and have him go off.

World Baseball Classic Sucks - Let's Get Rid Of It

I don't really care about the World Baseball Classic. I don't. I forget that it is going on. If SportsCenter didn't show the highlights every night, I wouldn't have remembered they were playing.

No, it isn't because Team USA flamed out. I didn't care when they were performing well in the first round. I wasn't distraught like I would have been if my favorite pro team was playing bad or if our Olympic team wasn't doing well. I don't care."

I gave this thing a chance, too. It was a neat thing in 2006 when it started and I wanted to see if it was going to grow on me this year. It hasn't.

Now in the headline I say that I want to get rid of it. Maybe that is too harsh. The other countries love it. They care. Most of the people playing in it are from American-based pro teams so we get to see these guys with our city's name on the front of their jerseys. These countries are watching these home grown superstars now coming back and wearing their country's name on their jersey for just three weeks every three years. It works for them.

Maybe keep the WBC but keep it out of the United States. Play the games in the Far East and Caribbean wear crowds can get into it. I think the structure is decent though they could operate it similar to the NCAA baseball tournament.

Just don't ask me to care. I'm just waiting for the MLB season to start going.

Sportz' Midwest Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Louisville. The Cardinals are playing their best basketball right now. They are talented, deep and well coached. Terrence Williams has been unstoppable of late and could vault his team back to the Final Four.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Louisville. To be honest, I only see a couple teams that the Cardinals could lose to (more on that later). The thing is, I don't see them losing.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN No. 3 SEED): Wake Forest. This is the one team I can see giving the Cardinals a lot of trouble. They are very talented, very deep and very athletic. They have the guard-play that can help to handle the Louisville pressure. The problem is that Wake has been erratic of late and has lost some of their early season swagger.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Arizona. I know, I know. It isn't very sexy to pick a Pac-10 team that has been to the tournament every year for the last couple decades as your Cinderella. But Arizona has a few things going for them. Despite barely making it in the tournament, no one questions that they have some talented guys on this team. They also got a favorable matchup against Utah. Finally, they have this huge chip on their shoulder. If they get past Utah ... well, I just told you about Wake Forest.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Ohio State. Sorry. but I don't understand how the Buckeyes are a No. 8 seed and Siena is a No. 9. Big whoop, I know, but Siena also has to play Ohio State in Dayton, Ohio. Not cool!

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Louisville. The Cardinals will play their first two games in Dayton and their next two games up the road in Indianapolis. If they get to the Final Four, Detroit isn't a big drive away.

MUST WATCH GAME: Utah vs Arizona. This may not be the best game to actually watch (Boston College-USC may be that game). But this will take a middle-of-the-road team from the Pac-10 against a champion from the Mountain West. This will either validate the selection committee's acceptance of Arizona or the Mountain West's claim that it should be a respected high-major.

Monday, March 16, 2009

South Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: North Carolina. The Tar Heels one goal has been to win this tournament. That was evident during the season when they seemed to sleepwalk in January. It was evident over the weekend when they came out flat (and without Ty Lawson) in the ACC Tournament. For all the talk of "bigger things", it is time to act.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: North Carolina. I still believe that UNC is the best team in the nation when they decide to be. There are some huge landmines potentially out there, but I see them getting to Detroit.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN No. 3 SEED): Gonzaga. Gonzaga is nearly as talented as anyone else in the country. They have a few NBA hopefuls on the roster and are actually playing their best basketball right now. They could give UNC fits in the Sweet 16 and have the ability to get to the Final Four.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Temple. I really like Western Kentucky in their game with Illinois, but I don't think they can do in the Zags. Dionte Christmas could be the next Stephen Curry in the fact that he could carry his team to several upsets. Temple has the ability to upset Arizona State and Syracuse and could cause problems for Oklahoma/Clemson/Michigan.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Butler. Really, there isn't much to gripe about in the seeding of the South Region. You can argue that Butler deserved to get a seed better than a No. 9. This was a team that spent most of the season in the Top 20 of the rankings. At least give them the seeding advantage over LSU!

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: North Carolina. Gonzaga gets to play in Portland and Oklahoma moves up to play in Kansas City. But that doesn't beat North Carolina in Greensboro. The Coliseum will be swarming with Carolina blue (and Duke blue, since they play in the other bracket there) and no other team visiting, save Radford, is anywhere near there. From there, the Heels would go to Memphis. Not a big advantage except that it is near where Tyler Hansbrough grew up.

MUST WATCH GAME: Clemson vs Michigan. If there was one game in the South to watch, this would be it. Neither team is title-worthy but both are capable of making a run. I love watching Clemson play with its pressing defense, tough frontcourt and free-wheeling shooters.

Okay ... Here Are My NCAA Tournament Gripes

I need to be like the other gazillion bloggers, talking heads and analysts who must moan about the NCAA tournament bracket. There isn't much to bark about, but here is a quick list:

ARIZONA? I don't understand why Arizona is in this thing. They have some talent on that squad but I don't think they deserved to get in. I know that the committee looked at the "whole body of work" and all, but when a team goes into a tailspin for no reason at the end of the year ... that needs to be weighed.

LOUISVILLE AS THE No. 1 OVERALL SEED? I don't get this either. I agree that the Ville should have been a No. 1. Just not the overall No. 1. Yes, they won the regular season title in the Big East. But they didn't have to travel to Pitt, UConn or Marquette. Yes, they won the Big East tournament but they didn't have to face Pitt or UConn. That isn't their fault, but it doesn't make me believe that they are really the best team in that conference ... let alone the top seed overall. Pitt or North Carolina should have been.

TEXAS A&M VS BYU AGAIN? I don't know if the selection committee knew this, but they scheduled Texas A&M vs BYU in the first round for the second year in a row. That's crap. Last year, the Aggies beat the Cougars to advance in the West Region. This year, they will meet again in the West Region. Both years, it was the No. 8 vs No. 9 matchup. Why not let these guys see someone else in the tournament?

OHIO STATE AS A 8-SEED GETS TO PLAY IN DAYTON? You would think that the two hour drive from Louisville to Dayton for their first weekend of games would give the Cards quite the home court advantage? Nope. It will work against Alabama State or Morehead but it may not work in Round 2. See, No. 8 Ohio State will be there to play No. 9 Siena. So if the Buckeyes advance, you know they will have quite the following in Dayton. I understand the need to put teams as close to home as they can, but why do they get to play in state while No. 3 Missouri and No. 4 Xavier must travel to Boise? No other No. 8 seed is anywhere near home. By the way, Ohio State's A.D. was on the selection committee.

PITT PLAYS IN DAYTON? I may be wrong, but I would think Pitt would've rather played in Philadelphia. It is in state, nearly the same distance and they have played there before.

Getting 64 of 65 Correct!! I Did a Bang-Up Job!!!!

I didn't do too bad. I did miss one "lock". I had San Diego State as a team that was "looking good" for a bid. That didn't happen. My other 60 locks were spot on.

As for my "final four in" (note: It was a "final five" until Mississippi State stole a bid by winning the SEC tournament), I got all four correct. The "fifth" team was St. Mary's, so I surmise that Mississippi State stole their bid.

So, I missed one bid. I picked San Diego State and Arizona got in instead. I don't get that (I had the Wildcats sixth in my last teams out), but getting 64 out of 65 ain't bad.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Memphis May Not Get a No. 1 Seed Despite Being the No. 1 Team

The Memphis Tigers were impressive at burning through the Conference USA Tournament in the same manner they blazed through the conference season.

And that's the problem.

Memphis could actually be the No. 1 ranked team in the nation on Monday ... but may not get a No. 1 seed when the bids are announced for the NCAA Tournament later today.

With North Carolina, UConn, Pitt and Oklahoma losing before their conference's championship games (only UNC won a game), No. 3 Memphis could climb to the top spot in the rankings. Could. Now the announcement of the tournament could change perceptions of the voters, but it is a strong possibility.

It is nearly a lock that North Carolina and Pitt will get two of the No. 1 seeds. Louisville should get a third with their Big East regular season and tournament titles under their belt (They just went 19-2 in the so-called toughest conference in America). The fight will be between UConn and Memphis.

I think UConn is the better team but Memphis may have more juice right now. Memphis hasn't lost in months while UConn enters the NCAAs on a two-game losing streak. I know that this is a new year, new tournament and new teams ... but the NCAA does take into consideration your past history. Since Memphis has been a fixture in the second weekend of the tournament (barely losing to Kansas in the title game a year ago), they could get the nod. Especially since UConn hasn't won a postseason game since 2006. No Big East wins; No NCAA tournament wins.

Still, if you lined them up side-by-side then many would pick UConn to win.

We will find out today who gets that final No. 1 seed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This Is Why March Madness Is the Best Thing Going

I love the Super Bowl. Bowl season is cool. The World Series and NBA Finals? Awesome. But nothing beats March Madness.

Just take today for example.

Pitt loses to West Virginia in the Big East quarterfinals. Both Kansas and Oklahoma lost in the Big XII quarters. Villanova beat Marquette on a buzzer beating shot. Clemson loses to last-place Georgia Tech.

And there was that six overtime game between Syracuse and UConn.

The first two days of the NCAA Tournament are the most magical moment in sports. But I got chills today. I woke up had my Sportz Room (four TVs, two computers) on full blast. ACC Tournament over here ... Big East Tournament over here ... Atlantic 10 right here ... SEC over here ... flip over to the Big Ten tournament ... etc.

I don't put a ton of thought into these conference tournaments. Just because UConn, Pitt, Kansas and Oklahoma lost today doesn't mean that none of them can win the NCAA Tournament. But there is a different kind of magic in these things. As an ACC guy, it is neat to see every team and every player in the same place to battle each other one last time. The roar of fans representing both schools playing while the fans of other schools pick sides.

I love it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stop Trying to Fix the NCAA Tournament

With this being "Championship Week", a lot of talking heads are spouting off about ways to fix the NCAA Tournament. Some don't like these small schools getting in. Some believe only the best 65 teams should be included.

Take your noses out of the clouds, people.

The NCAA Tournament is the biggest sporting event in this country. Yes, it out-does the Super Bowl. I love the Super Bowl, but only two fan bases can really enjoy it. The rest of us are betting. In the NCAA tournament, there are 65 fan bases that are involved. Fan bases that also loathe one or two (or more) schools that are in as well.

Look, the small schools deserve their place at the table. It makes up the fabric of the tournament. Who doesn't get goosebumps watching these mid-to-low major conference tournaments and seeing the emotion that goes into those games. Yes, you will see some great basketball in the big conferences, but there isn't the do-or-die feel of those championship games.

And while pretty much all of these smaller schools have no shot to actually win the thing ... there is always George Mason out there to show that it could happen. Davidson, a college with about 1,000 people, was a shot away from getting to the Final Four last year.

Some of the best moments involve the Vermonts, Santa Claras, Richmonds, Cleveland States, Weber States, Sienas, Coppin States, Hamptons, Princetons, Valparasios and East Tennessee States of the world. The first weekend is about survival. You know there will be some upsets; you just hope that it isn't you suffering them.

If these small schools aren't in ... then who gets in? Maryland? Providence? Teams that had all kinds of chances to prove to the world that they could be a top team and failed?

So stop the crap about not letting the mid-majors into the dance.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No Gripes Whatsoever With ACC Awards

Anytime awards are handed out, controversy is nearby. This guy didn't deserve it. That guy was better. East Coast Bias. Blah blah blah!

Well, I really have no gripes with the ACC's awards. None.

UNC's Ty Lawson was the Player of the Year in the conference. Not only did he play like a POY, but his team needs him to do so every night. Just ask Duke and Florida State about how valuable he is.

The All-ACC team was pretty good, too. Lawson is joined by fellow Tar Heel (and fellow POY winner) Tyler Hansbrough, Florida State's Toney Douglas, Duke's Gerald Henderson and Miami's Jack McClinton on the first team. Those were the five best players this season, which is saying something in this conference. When you can make a second team of Wake's Jeff Teague, Clemson's Trevor Booker, BC's Tyrese Rice, Duke's Kyle Singler and Maryland's Greivis Vasquez ... well, you have a very deep conference.

FSU's Leonard Hamilton won the Coach of the Year award and deservedly so. His Noles weren't expected to do squat this year but they ended up fourth in the highly competitive ACC. He should be finally leading his team into the NCAAs next week. I could make a case for Boston College' Al Skinner, but I really can't argue with Hamilton.

Meet Your Tournament Mascot: Western Kentucky

Meet Big Red, the mascot for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

T.O.'s Affect On the NFL's Schedule

Hat tip to Chris Chase at Shutdown Corner for the idea for this.

The Buffalo Bills now have Terrell Owens. Of course there are some downsides to bringing a guy like that in. There are also some good things too. For starters: exposure.

Last year, the NFL couldn't capitalize on Brett Favre going to New York since the schedule had already been set when he was dealt. The 2009 schedule hasn't been released yet, so rest assured that T.O. will get a chance to show his wares to a national audience at some point(s) during the season.

Here are the Bills' opponents for the 2009 season:
HOME: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Colts, Texans, Buccaneers, Saints, Browns
ROAD: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Jaguars, Titans, Panthers, Falcons, Chiefs

I think that it's a no-brainer that one of the Bills-Patriots games will get some major love. Randy Moss vs Terrell Owens, anyone? Like Mr. Chase wondered, you know that this has to be a Week 1 Sunday night game. It has to be! Moss, T.O. and some guy named Tom Brady and his return after a year off with a knee injury.

There is also the Bills-Dolphins. Remember that this was one of the better rivalries in the NFL. It gets even better with Owens on one side and Bill Parcells, his former head coach in Dallas and current Czar of the Phins, on the other.

How about the Bills-Colts? I like the Bills-Saints, to be honest ... especially if N'Awlins reels in LaDainian Tomlinson. Think of the receiving talent that will be on that field. I also like the Bills-Panthers (the lone Panthers game I attended was against Buffalo).

These games will get sprinkled around. Maybe an early season Sunday nighter, a Monday night game or two (ESPN seems to like having a Bills game here and there) and maybe an NFL Network game. Don't forget that the NFL's primest time is actually the late game on Sunday.

I'm not sure what games the NFL will select, but rest assured that the Bills are coming to a prime-time slot near you.

NCAA Tournament Looks a Lot Like the Mid-1980s

The mid-80s were a great time. Reagan-omics. Back to the Future. Smurfs. Great college basketball.

In the mid-80s, North Carolina was an elite team filled with stars, the Big East put three teams in the Final Four and Memphis State was the fourth team.

In 1984, North Carolina was the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament. They fielded a team with Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Kenny Smith and Brad Daugherty. The best Tar Heels team ever fizzled in the Sweet 16 and were bounced by Indiana. In 1985, the Big East sent St. John's, Georgetown and Villanova to the Final Four. That still is the only time one conference placed three teams in the Final Four. Memphis State was the only non-Big East team to make it.

In 2009, North Carolina was the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament. Despite some missteps, they enter Championship Week as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. The Big East has a chance to put UConn, Pitt and Louisville as No. 1 seeds and all could make it to the Final Four in Detroit. If one of them doesn't get there, Memphis just may.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tyler Hansbrough's Emotional Senior Day Speech

What Will the NCAA Tournament Do Without Stephen Curry?

The Davidson Wildcats lost in their SoCon Tournament semifinal matchup with College of Charleston yesterday. The loss, of course, knocks them out of an automatic bid. Their record and computer numbers suggest they are knocked out of an at-large bid as well.

So one of the biggest stars in college basketball won't be participating in the biggest event. Well, at least the N.I.T. folks will be happy.

Curry was the darling of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The fact he got off on teams like Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin (and nearly beat eventual champion Kansas) made him somewhat of a mythic hero. He wasn't just a Tyler Coppenwrath or Wally Szczerbiak; He lasted for a while like David Robinson did with Navy.

In what should be the most un-mid-majored NCAA tournament in quite some time, it seems fitting that the biggest mid-major star won't be there either.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Tough Experience Watching UNC-Duke

As a die-hard Tar Heels fan, it goes without saying that the two games against Duke get my attention more than any other game. Right at January 1st (when my new batch of vacation days come in), I put in for the first Duke-UNC game which usually takes place in the first week or two in February. I'm usually already off on the Sunday in which the regular season finale takes place.

That was today. As I sat on my couch to watch the game, visions of another ACC regular season championship, the conference tournament's top seed and a possible No. 1 ranking were filling my head. Oh, it was also the final time Tyler Hansbrough will play at the Dean Dome. This was a big game.

So it was great to sit here just outside of Cincinnati where a storm was coming. So for the first half of the UNC-Duke game, my local CBS affiliate (Channel 12) decided it needs to keep interrupting the game to show me where the storm would be heading. Mind you, they didn't cut in during commercials or during the halftime show where Seth Davis said Virginia Tech and Northwestern would make the dance (seriously, why is this idiot on TV?).

The second half ... things changed. Instead of breaking into the game periodically to give me updates, Channel 12 decides to go full blast with the weather report while keeping my game up in a window in the bottom right corner. I could see the game as if I was watching a 9" screen but could hear nothing. And forget trying to read any graphics they were posting.

Still, the Heels won a good game, 79-71, and became ACC champs. That storm that was supposed to hit never materialized in my neighborhood. A few gusts of wind and a two-minute rain shower was all we got.

IF I WERE COMMISH: I'd Abolish the NBA's Divisional Format

Last month, I complained that the Portland Trailblazers should be moved to the Pacific Division and Phoenix should switch to the newly named Midwest Division.

I'm still in that corner, but I'm joining the movement of people who believe that the NBA should just abolish the divisional format.

After all, is it really used for anything? In the NFL, division winners earn home field advantage for at least one game in the playoffs. And just like MLB and the NHL, there is a weighted schedule towards divisional opponents in the NFL. The NBA doesn't do that. They virtually play the same amount of games against conference opponents instead.

So why are there six divisions? So six teams can feel like they've done something important?

After all, we will pretty much only see conference standings at this time of year. Seriously count how many times they will show you a graphic of the division races to the times they show graphics of conference races. It won't be close.

So why not abolish the divisional format and just have two 15-team conferences? After all, that is what they really are.

If you think that is totally stupid (you can't say its confusing), then why not just go back to the two division system of pre-expansion? There was a little bit of divisional integrity since the division winners were the top two seeds in their conference's playoff bracket. Have a 7-team division and an 8-team division in each conference.

ATLANTIC: Boston, Miami, New Jersey, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Washington
CENTRAL: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, Milwaukee, Toronto

MIDWEST: Dallas, Denver, Houston, Memphis, Minnesota, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, San Antonio
PACIFIC: Golden State, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Utah

I like it.

If you still like the current format because more teams get division championships, then why not just have 10 divisions of three teams?

NORTHEAST: Boston, New Jersey, New York
MID ATLANTIC: Charlotte, Washington, Philadelphia
SOUTHEAST: Atlanta, Miami, Orlando
GREAT LAKES: Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto
MIDEAST: Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee

SOUTH: Memphis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City
TEXAS: Dallas, Houston, San Antonio
MIDWEST: Denver, Minnesota, Utah
SOUTHWEST: LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Phoenix
PACIFIC: Golden State, Portland, Sacramento

Sportz' Bubble Watch - March 8

Another wild day of bubble games. Kentucky and Maryland suffered devestating losses. Penn State, Creighton and Minnesota also lost ... but are they done yet?

Check out my latest BUBBLE WATCH.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Terrell Owens is Now a Buffalo/Toronto Bill

News is reporting that Terrell Owens met with and agreed to a deal with the Buffalo Bills. It is apparently a one-year deal.

This is quite interesting on so many fronts. One ... the Bills?? Really? The Bills really don't have a quarterback in place like San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas did and already have a premiere wide receiver in Lee Evans.

But Buffalo has been desperately trying to bring in a number of guys this year to help with the offense ... namely Laveranues Coles and Fred Taylor. With Marshawn Lynch pleading guilty for a weapons charge, the NFL could suspend him for a couple of games this season. Buffalo does need a guy like T.O. but it is hard to see why T.O. would go to Buffalo/Toronto.

It will be a great opportunity to show some humility and maybe get a deal from a contending team in 2010.

UPDATE: The deal looks like a one-year deal for $6.5 million.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ten Places Terrell Owens Should Go to For Our Amusement

Forget logic for a moment. Forget salary caps, personnel and burned bridges. Imagine if we could plop Terrell Owens on any team we wanted. What would be that team? Here are my top 10 guesses ...

10-CAROLINA: Just to see if Steve Smith hits him or not.

9-BALTIMORE: He nearly was a Raven five years ago. I just want to see how Ray Lewis handles Owens if he gets a bit hot-tempered.

8-INDIANAPOLIS: T.O. would have to respect Peyton Manning, right? That will be until Manning throws a blame-tantrum his way (or does that scrunchy-face-while-pointing-out-what-route-you-were-supposed-to-run look).

7-NEW ENGLAND: Randy Moss + Terrell Owens = Unbelievable. T.O. would love to be in a place where the camera is always on. There is also the viewing pleasure to see if T.O. can destroy one of the model franchises in sports.

6-WASHINGTON: Daniel Snyder is Jerry Jones, Jr. You think he'd love to be the man who tamed T.O.? Imagine the rivalry if Owens walked into New Cowboys Stadium wearing a Redskins jersey.

5-MINNESOTA: It makes sense from a football standpoint. However, T.O. and Brad Childress loathed each other when all hell broke loose in Philly. This would get good!

4-NEW YORK: Giants? Jets? It doesn't matter. T.O. in the Big Apple might be exactly what A-Rod needs right now.

3-CINCINNATI: Who wouldn't want to see T.O. and Chad Johnson on the same team? I get chills just thinking about it.

2-OAKLAND: Imagine T.O. in Oakland. With a young, unproven Jamarcus Russell. Tom Freakin' Cable would be his coach. Oh, and Crazy Al is the owner. How long do you think it would take before T.O. ran that team?

1-PHILADELPHIA: Nothing would be better than McNabb-Owens II. Imagine both of them looking at each other and saying, "well, the closest we got to winning it all was that one season we were together".

Tyler Hansbrough's Senior Night

I would never say that Tyler Hansbrough is the best player in North Carolina's illustrious history. Guys like Phil Ford, Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Antawn Jamison and others are right there with him in the argument. There hasn't been a player more decorated than Psycho T, however. An All-American for, likely, four seasons. ACC and National player of the year awards. Conference scoring and rebounding titles. He is the Tar Heels' all-time leading scorer and could topple J.J. Redick as the ACC's scoring leader. He already owns the NCAA record for made free throws.

I know it seems as if Hansbrough has been at Carolina for 10 years but remember the time right as he got to Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels has just won the 2005 NCAA Tournament and was watching stars Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams leave early for the NBA. Add that to the graduations of Jackie Manuel, Jawad Williams and Melvin Scott and the Heels lost their top seven scorers from that title team.

Hansbrough wasn't even the highest regarded prospect in the ACC (Duke's Josh McRoberts was). That Carolina team was picked by many to be a bubble team that needed its youngster to grow up in a hurry for them to have any chance to defend their title.

He, along with fellow freshmen Danny Green, Bobby Frasor and Marcus Ginyard joined holdovers David Noel and Reyshawn Terry to become a No. 3 seed in the East Regional and a buzzworthy darkhorse to win the title. The signature moment of the season was in the final regular season game. Hansbrough's Heels went into Duke on J.J. Redick and Sheldon Williams' senior night and beat the highly ranked Blue Devils. They would go on to lose to George Mason in the second round of the tournament.

Since that time, Hansbrough has led this team to a couple of No. 1 seeds in the dance, one Final Four, two Elite Eights. He never lost in his four trips to Cameron Indoor Stadium, is 5-2 against the hated rivals in his career and has two ACC regular season and tournament titles (a win over Duke on Sunday gives UNC another season title and the top seed in the conference tournament). Due to his National Player of the Year award, his No. 50 will be retired in the already crowded rafters at the Dean Dome.

Sunday is senior night in Chapel Hill and it should be an emotional and proud day for Heels fans. Hard to believe that this will be the last time that Hansbrough will play in that building again. That was the floor in which he poured 40 points on Georgia Tech as a freshman. That is where he dunked on 7'9 Kenny George. That's where his nose was broken by a Gerald Henderson elbow in the last time that these two closed out the season at the Dean Smith Center.

The weird thing is how many people are sleeping on Hansbrough this year. Due to Psycho T overkill, people are tired of hearing about how great he is and concentrate on what he will be at the next level. The time for that is in June when the NBA Draft comes; I'd like to look back to what he has meant to the Carolina program. It is very rare to see a guy come in and dominate as a freshman and have it last four years. Guys like Jordan, Jamison and Joseph Forte have come in as freshmen and taken the league by storm but none of them got to have a senior night.

I'm not underestimating what Frasor and Green's impact has been on this program too. Both have been key members who have given a lot to fill certain team roles. Remember that if not for an injury to Ginyard, Green would have probably spent his entire Carolina career as a sixth man. Remember that Frasor was the team's starting point guard until Ty Lawson rolled into town. Both will be important parts of what Carolina will become in March and April.

But this will forever be known as the Hansbrough Era in Chapel Hill. As a Heels fan, I'd just like to say 'thank you' to Psycho T for what he has done for the program. It's rare to find a guy who gives as much as he has to a college program. Hopefully he can give them the ultimate team prize of a 2009 NCAA Championship.

Even if he doesn't, it has been one heck of ride!

Sportz' Bubble Watch - March 6

Another big day of bubbling in college basketball. Penn State got a huge win over Illinois with a shot near the buzzer to win it. That gives the Nittany Lions a sweep over the Illini and a higher-than-expected seeding in the upcoming Big Ten tournament.

They weren't the only bubble team in action on Thursday. Check out my latest Sportz' Bubble Watch to see some movement.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cowboys Cut Terrell Owens

Wow. I really, really, really didn't think that Jerry Jones had it in him. I can't believe that he actually cut Terrell Owens.

ESPN.com is reporting that they did just that.

Of course, there will be several teams lining up for T.O.'s services (unfortunately, methinks that my beloved Redskins could be one of them). There is usually a team or two that is desperate enough to look past anything to sign a guy. Just wait and see when Michael Vick becomes available.

What does this mean for Owens? Well, it looks as if his shot at winning a Super Bowl ring is over. He had a decent shot in Dallas and I can't see another legit contending team going after him. He has blown opportunities in three cities where the franchises were playoff-caliber teams. Why would anyone give him a shot unless you're the Detroit Lions?

Stephen A. Smith says that he'd be interested in going to a team like the Colts, Giants or Patriots. Well of course he does. What receiver wouldn't want to catch a pass from a Super Bowl MVP quarterback who has a great shot at a Super Bowl every year? The issue is that he doesn't fit in any of those places.

Can you really see T.O. as a Colt? That is a team that Peyton Manning is God and what he says goes. When is the last time you saw anyone yell back at Peyton after he goes off on them? I don't see how Owens can deal with that. As for Peyton's brother Eli, well the Giants are trying to rid themselves of Plaxico Burress. So why dump Burress for Owens? If you want a problem player, keep the one that has been there and known for being an ass and not known for imploding teams. The Patriots? Think Belichick and Brady will deal with that mess? Could T.O. and Randy Moss co-exist on the same team?

The Cardinals don't need him; Seahawks just signed Houshmandzadeh; Steelers won't touch a guy like that; Philly is obviously out; Washington doesn't have the money; Green Bay is too small for him and they'd be scared that he'd devour Aaron Rodgers; Tampa doesn't have a QB; Carolina doesn't need him; Neither does Denver, New Orleans or many of the top dogs; That leaves teams like the Chargers, Vikings, Bears, Jets and the bottom feeders.

Maybe he will just go away.