Wednesday, March 31, 2010

... Or You Could Take the MLB Back to Just Two Divisions

I've been getting a lot of run about my post saying that MLB should lose the divisional format. I still love that idea. But if that is just too revolutionary for you, how about going back to the two division format for each league?

You could just go back to the basics:


Atlanta Braves
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
Florida Marlins
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
Washington Nationals

Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
Houston Astros
Los Angeles Dodgers
Milwaukee Brewers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
St. Louis Cardinals

I know that breaking up the Cards and Cubs seems iffy ... but they'll still play each other. If you still prefer them to stay in a division together, then just move Cincinnati to the West and St. Louis to the East.


Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays

Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels
Minnesota Twins
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners
Texas Rangers

This is essentially the same divisional lineup that we had in the American League prior to the expansion to three divisions. The only change is that the Rays take the Brewers old spot in the East.

In fact, if you wanted to go back to the pre-wildcard era to make up the divisions, the NL could look like this:

Chicago Cubs
Florida Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals
Washington Nationals

Arizona Diamondbacks
Atlanta Braves
Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies
Houston Astros
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boston College Fires Dudley's Dad

Boston College has let head coach Al Skinner go. It's a sad day in my house. Sure, I'm not a fan of any ACC team that isn't North Carolina, but I liked Skinner.

Skinner came to the ACC and had some very successful seasons right off the bat. They were in the thick of the ACC race in their first couple of seasons and even boasted the ACC's Player of the Year (Jared Dudley). They brought that physical Big East mentality into the stylish ACC and it worked. For a while.

Then those physical beasts all left for the NBA or graduation. Tyrese Rice was a sensational player, but that didn't translate into wins. BC has turned into an also-ran and, in the ACC, that can be very dangerous. Once you go to the depths of the league and stay there for a couple of years, it is very difficult to dig your way back out.

Of course, the reason I like him the most is because he reminds me of Dudley's dad on Diff'rent Strokes.

That's Al Skinner (no, not really) walking in the door of the Drummonds and wondering why Dudley had bring drinking wine.

Monday, March 29, 2010

MLB Should Dump Divisional Format

I've said this about the NBA for years and now I'm saying it about Major League Baseball: Ditch the divisional format.

Bud Selig is planning on some sort of realignment in the near future and while I'm on board if it allows the lower revenue teams a boost in the standings. He's even thinking of a "floating realignment" where teams will bounce division to division on a yearly basis.

I'm more in the camp of's Buster Olney. Olney thinks like me that MLB would be best served to eliminate the divisions and go back ol' skool. Go pre-1969 and just have a National League and an American League.

Now, I know that having a system like that back in the day meant that teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals and Giants dominated the World Series appearances. The difference now is that the regular season league champion doesn't automatically go to the Series. Keep wildcards and all of that. In fact, Olney and I both agree that six teams from each League should get postseason berths.

Olney goes further with it.
You can't mitigate success over a 162-game season; you need to reward the summerlong success. The two teams that finished with the best records in their respective leagues would have a first-round bye, and then the No. 3 and No. 4 teams would play host to the No. 5 and No. 6 teams in the first round of the playoffs -- in a three-game series. Again, this is retro, going back to the old tiebreakers that led to Bobby Thomson's home run in 1951.

Here's the wrinkle: The No. 3 and No. 4 seeds would have home-field advantage for the entire three-game series.
I love this idea. It would allow those "mid-majors" a better opportunity to get into a playoff race yet also gives the teams that did well during in the regular season a decided advantage. As any baseball fan knows, half the league is all but eliminated already and the season hasn't begun.

Olney also is down with an unbalanced schedule ... something the NFL does. Right now they have that in a divisional format, but a new idea would be to let the teams who finished high in the standings to face off more ofter, leaving the lower level teams to battle it out. Fair? No, but the NFL does it and no one bats an eye.

So the Reds, Pirates, Padres, Marlins and Nationals will get chances to beat up on each other while the Cardinals, Phillies, Dodgers and Cubs smack each other around. Again, I'll take more Padres-Marlins games on the back burner if it means we get more Cardinals-Phillies contests.
To me, it would keep the lackadasical teams from benefitting from their enormous resources. The Red Sox and Yankees make it in virtually every year because they can obtain the best level of talent. They can put it on cruise control to make the playoffs. In the unbalanced system, they would have more games against the top teams that they will need to show up. It doesn't go by payroll ... but by talent ... so the Rays would get stuck up there with the big dogs too.

It would also give a lower level team the idea to spend a little extra money for a shot at winning. For example, the Cincinnati Reds would be in the lower half of the National League and playing the other bottom half more than the top half. The Reds could already make a run at possibly getting in the playoff chase this year anyway ... so why wouldn't they just say "look, we'll spend some extra dollars this year and sign a big name or two so we can take advantage of our easier schedule?" Instead of watching their payroll on a team that they know needs a miracle to gain a playoff berth, they can go for it and add some veteran depth.

Just a thought.

Looking Back at My Bracket Predictions

Despite my call of Kansas winning the whole thing and shattering my bracket, I'm not doing too badly. On the major pool I'm in, I'm second out of 101 folks. In another, I'm third.

So how did I do okay despite the crash and burn of my bracket? Well, let's look at how well my Regional Previews went:


Smart pick: Duke winning the region. Aside from Baylor, I just didn't see anyone that could beat Duke in the South.

Dumb pick: Louisville as my "Team to Watch Out For". Yeah, that didn't happen as the Cardinals were pounced on by California in the first round.

Other notes: I did pretty good elsewhere. I predicted that Notre Dame was horribly mis-seeded. They should never have been a No. 6 seed. Also, Baylor did enjoy a nice home crowd in Houston, but it wasn't enough to topple Duke. My pick for best game in the first round (Utah St-Texas A&M) didn't pan out, as Villanova-Robert Morris took that honor.


Smart pick: Cornell as the Cinderella as as Worst Seeding. I wasn't sure if Cornell could get to the Sweet 16, but I thought they had a great shot. They showed that their No. 12 seeding was horrible.

Dumb pick: Texas as "Team to Watch Out For". Didn't work out that way.

Other notes: Like the South, I picked the right team to come out of this bracket. I had West Virginia beating Kentucky for the trip to the Final Four. Also, I did well with my pick of Wake Forest-Texas as the top game of the first round (though Wisconsin-Wofford was pretty good, too).


Smart pick: Butler as the "Team to Watch Out For". I didn't think they could be in the Final Four, but I did think they could make a Davidson-type run.

Dumb pick: Pitt winning the region. Take your pick, as I had a lot of bad picks in this region. But I was working on a hunch that Pitt would win this region because I didn't have faith in either Syracuse or Kansas State. I shouldn't have had faith in Pitt, as well.

Other notes: BYU didn't get to enjoy the home cooking that I said they could. I'm also mad that I went against my gut feeling that BYU-Florida was going to be the top game of the first round.


Smart pick: Northern Iowa as "Worst Seeding". If you look at the facts and numbers, there was no way that UNI should have been a No. 9 seed. The Selection Committee really has some 'splaining to do about that.

Dumb pick: Kansas. I, like half of the country, crashed and burned when Kansas was upended.

Other notes: I did okay in this bracket. I called that the Maryland-Michigan State game would be a classic. I also called that Tennessee was a team to watch out for.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Butler Is NOT a Cinderella!

I cannot believe Butler is in the Final Four. The team sitting just six miles from Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of the Final Four, will be there after their amazing win over Kansas State. Congrats, Butler!

Now let me make this clear: Butler is not a Cinderella.

George Mason, the last true mid-major to get to a Final Four in 2006, was a Cinderella. G-Mason was an 11th seed that beat Michigan State, defending champ North Carolina and tournament favorite UConn along the way. Butler isn't.

Butler is now 32-4. They were the only team in the nation to go undefeated in conference play. They are currently on a 24-game winning streak. Three of their four losses came to teams that are in this NCAA Tournament (Minnesota, Clemson, Georgetown) and a team that was on the bubble (UAB). This year, they beat Ohio State, Xavier, Syracuse and Kansas State.

This was a team that was ranked 10th in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.

As for their seeding (I said in my tournament preview that Butler was mis-seeded), it isn't like a No. 5 seed can't get to the Final Four. In 2005, Michigan State got in at that seed. In 2002, it was Indiana. In 2000, Florida made it as a No. 5 seed ... while No. 8 seeds North Carolina and Wisconsin also made it there.

However, the last team that was seeded 5th or higher to win the championship was Kansas (No. 6 seed) in 1988.

Butler should have gotten the respect it earned by the Selection Committee and placed better than a No. 5 seed. This, by the way, furthers my point that the Selection Committee did a lousy job of setting up this tournament.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Enjoy the Gus Johnson Sound Board!

We needed this. We really needed this. Now we have it!

The Gus Johnson soundboard.

Nothing says NCAA Tournament drama like a Gus Johnson call. In a tournament full of Cinderellas, Gus Johnson continues to be the star. He sounds like he's really having fun as he's calling these games (he also does that for the NFL, MMA and everything else he does). Clark Kellogg sounds like he's trying to hard ("squeeze the orange" has gotten stale really quick.)

So enjoy the Gus Johnson soundboard and keep it handy when the Final Four gets here and no more Gus.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jim Nantz's Crew Sure Loves North Carolina and Duke

Jim Nantz and either Clark Kellogg or Billy Packer love North Carolina and Duke. Over the past several years, Nantz's crew has done more of those two program's games than any other. In fact, Jim Nantz has called 11 of the last 13 NCAA Tournament games that North Carolina has played.

Let's go through the history:

2010: Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg followed Duke in the first and second weekends.

2009: Nantz and Kellogg had North Carolina for the first two weekends and, obviously, the Final Four.

2008: Nantz and Billy Packer had North Carolina for the first weekend, but not for the Regionals. They instead went to the Midwest to follow Memphis/Mich State/Stanford/Texas. They did hook back up with Carolina in the Final Four.

2007: For some weird reason, Nantz and Packer started out in Chicago (Kansas/Kentucky were there) and covered neither UNC or Duke. They then moved over to East Rutherford for the Tar Heels in those two games.

2006: Nantz and Packer did no UNC or Duke games. They went from Philadelphia to Minneapolis ... basically following Villanova.

2005: Nantz and Packer got the greatest gig ever! In the first two rounds, they got BOTH North Carolina and Duke. The games were held in Charlotte and they got 'em both! Nantz and Packer then followed Duke to the Regionals, where the Devils were upset by Michigan State in the Sweet 16. Of course, Nantz and Packer were at the Final Four when UNC cut down the nets.

2004: Here is one that I don't get. Nantz and Packer were in Denver to see a 6th-seeded North Carolina squad that was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001. They then went to East Rutherford where there was no Heels or Devils. They did hook up with Duke in the Final Four.

2003-No North Carolina, but Nantz/Packer did get a Duke game in the West Regional semifinals.

That means 13 of their last 20 assignments were in a site that housed either North Carolina or Duke (and one time with BOTH Carolina and Duke). Of the seven sites they didn't see one of those teams, two of them were Final Fours where neither team made it that far.

Sportz' MLB Predictions

If I were you, I wouldn't take these to the bank. Still, I'm hopeful that I'm right on a good amount of these.




2-Red Sox
4-Blue Jays

1-White Sox


NL PLAYOFFS: Phillies over Rockies, Cardinals over Dodgers; Phillies over Cardinals
AL PLAYOFFS: Yankees over White Sox, Angels over Red Sox; Yankees over Angels

WORLD SERIES: Phillies over Yankees

Butler Has a Chance to Play In Their Hometown of Indianapolis. Is That Rare?

With Butler one win away from reaching the Final Four in their hometown of Indianapolis, it got me thinking about other instances of schools getting to play close to home. It's happened more than you think.

2009-Remember that last year, Michigan State played in the Final Four in Detroit. Not really their home town, but not far away.

1994-Duke got to play in the Final Four in Charlotte, a mere two hours away. Still not really their hometown, but their home state.

1988-Well, technically Kansas isn't in the same state as Kansas City, but it is just an hour away. More on this later.

1975-John Wooden's final title at UCLA came down the street in San Diego.

1974-NC State finished their amazing season with an NCAA Tournament title in nearby Greensboro, NC.

1972-UCLA wins a title in ... Los Angeles. This is the last time that a school played in the Final Four in their hometown.

1968-UCLA in Los Angeles again.

1964-Kansas City was the host site, but it was Kansas State that got to play close to home.

1960-The University of California got to play in the Final Four in nearby San Francisco.

1959-Louisville hosted Louisville in this Final Four.

1957-Wilt Chamberlain led his Kansas Jayhawks to Kansas City to play North Carolina. Three OTs later, and Wilt left a loser.

1953-Kansas in Kansas City again. Third time.

Now, prior to 1952, the Final Four wasn't held at once site. The national semifinals were played at the regional sites. The two winners went to the main site.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ranking the Sweet 16 Matchups (Hint: They Aren't All Sweet)

8-KANSAS STATE/XAVIER: This game probably has the least amount of buzz since (a) Xavier doesn't really have that huge of a following and (b) no one know what to think of Kansas State. Xavier, to me, has waaaaay exceeded expectations. Kansas State is powerful and have some of the best guard play left in this tournament. POST-GAME: I was completely wrong. This may be the game of the tournament thus far.

7-KENTUCKY/CORNELL: This may be the most intriguing matchup in the Sweet 16, but I don't think it will be that great a game. The Big Red will shoot their way into being down six-to-ten points for most of the game before a Kentucky run will end any hopes of an upset. Of course, it Cornell stays right with them to the very end, this will be the game to watch. I just don't see that happening. POST-GAME: I was right about this one. Kentucky kept Cornell at a safe distance for most of the game. What made it worse was that Kentucky really didn't look very sharp, either.

6-SYRACUSE/BUTLER: Another interesting game. I'm not high on Butler at all but all the basketball analysts seem to think they can pull this off. It will pique my interest but I think the Orange will move on fairly easily. POST-GAME: I guess I need to listen to those basketball analysts.

5-BAYLOR/ST MARY'S: Here are two teams making their first Sweet 16 appearances. Going into this tournament, most of the country couldn't name one player on either of these teams. Not now. The Gaels Omar Samhan has emerged as a star and it will be interesting to see him go up against Baylor's lengthy front line.

4-DUKE/PURDUE: This one is great. The issue though is how Purdue keeps in this game. The Boilermakers, remember, were one of the best teams in the nation until Robbie Hummell went down. If the other guys can step their game up (they have so far), they can stick with Duke's Big Three. Should be a really good one.

3-WEST VIRGINIA/WASHINGTON: This game looks a lot better when you take out the seedings. I've been big on these Mountaineers during this tournament, but now they've lost their point guard (though I don't think the drop off will be that jarring). Now factor in that Washington is rolling right now and have the talent to upend WVU. Then I factor in that the Big East hasn't looked that strong in this tournament (at least as advertised). I think this could be a thriller. POST-GAME: But it was not. West Virginia pretty much handled Washington for much of the second half.

2-MICHIGAN STATE/NORTHERN IOWA: No one knows where this is going. Both teams play physical tight games which should ensure that this one will go down to the wire. UNI is the darling of the tournament after they toppled Kansas. Tom Izzo is one of the best tournament coaches you will ever find. Even with Kalin Lucas out, Izzo will have the Spartans ready to rumble. Should be a great game!

1-OHIO STATE/TENNESSEE: The Buckeyes have now emerged as the team to beat in the Midwest Region. Tennessee is a giant killer, having beaten both Kansas and Kentucky this year (not to mention playing Kentucky two more times). This has great personalities in Bruce Pearl and Evan Turner. Neither team is very deep, so that will make for a emotional game.

My picks for the Elite Eight? Ohio State vs Northern Iowa, Syracuse vs Kansas State, Duke vs Baylor and Kentucky vs West Virginia.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm Starting to Like What I See From These Tar Heels

I'm under no delusions of grandeur. Winning a NIT championship doesn't take the ultimate sting of not getting into the actual NCAA Tournament. But I like what I'm seeing from the North Carolina Tar Heels.

This team could be back in the thick of things next year ... provided Ed Davis sticks around one more year (I think he will).

Davis takes the center spot. John Henson, who has emerged during the last few weeks, will be at power forward. Freshman phenom Harrison Barnes will fit right in at small forward. That front line could be among the best in the nation. Then figure their reserves are Tyler Zeller, David Wear and Travis Wear and this is a nice rotation.

The issue will be the backcourt where there are some intriguing options. Rising junior Larry Drew II has started to get it over the last couple of weeks. Incoming freshman Kendall Marshall will push Drew for the starting point guard. Marshall doesn't have Drew's speed, but he is an outstanding passer.

The shooting guard spot is also interesting. You have rising sophomore Dexter Strickland, who at times looks lost. You also could move Will Graves up to that spot, though you may lose something defensively. You also have incoming freshman Reggie Bullock who is a Wayne Ellington type of player.

Leslie McDonald also factors in the backcourt as a combo guard and Justin Watts should get a few minutes.

I HATE the NCAA Tournament Floors

I've whined about this for three years now and I guess I'm about to do it again: I hate the courts being used in the NCAA Tournament.

Three years ago, the NCAA started having all four regional sites on bland, uniform courts. You know the ones -- black sidelines, blue semi-circle at the free throw line and no more color. The left baseline has the name of the city in blue. The right baseline has the name of the arena. In the corners by the bench, they have the logo of the host school.

I'm not a fan of it at all. Wasn't a fan of it during the last two Final Fours. Wasn't a fan of it during the last two years of regional finals. But this year, the NCAA decided to have these floors in the first and second round as well ... killing me.

My main problem is that it really takes away from the viewer. It used to be, these arenas would have their normal floor with some NCAA placards placed somewhere. If you were watching a game in New Orleans, you'd know it from the Hornets' floor. Now, you have really no idea where these games are being played ... I know, I know, the city's name is on there ... by casually observing.

It takes away from the atmosphere. I want to see the Syracuse Regional being played on the patented orange floor. I want to see the St. Louis Regional played on the red and blue floor similar to what the 2005 Final Four had. In the early rounds, I want to see the host team's actual floor.

Having different floors gives the viewer something to separate each pod site. I know that the actual games are what counts and this year's tournament has been thrilling thus far, but stop with the bland floors!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Truth Is That John Wall Very Well May Not Be the NBA's No. 1 Pick

John Wall is easily the top pick in the NBA Draft. We've heard it all year long and it probably end up being true. However, Wall may not fit some of the needs of the teams who could be holding that top draft spot. In fact, Evan Turner makes more sense for many of these teams. Let's take a look:

NETS: Obviously the Nets need a ton of things. One thing they do have (besides Lopez as their center) is point guard Devin Harris. Sure, like most of these teams, the Nets could draft Wall and deal Harris away for help elsewhere, but do you think they'd really get true value?

TIMBERWOLVES: Last year, the Wolves drafted four different point guards (they dealt Ty Lawson to Denver). One, Johnny Flynn, is showing promise. Another, Ricky Rubio, is tearing up the Euroleague and would be the favorite to start in Minnesota whenever he gets over here. He's the exact same age as Wall yet has so much more competitive experience. Again, Rubio's stock keeps soaring that he could bring in a lot via a trade. But the Wolves have maintained their commitment to Rubio and I think that would stick.

WARRIORS: Let's see, they already have Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry as their starting backcourt. Evan Turner would make so much more sense.

PACERS: Well, here is a definite Wall flower. Indiana would almost certainly select Wall if they had the opportunity.

WIZARDS: Same thing here. Though the Gilbert Arenas saga will come back next season, Washington really needs to bury the past and move on with the future. Wall would bring excitement back to the DC area. Even if Arenas sticks around, he could move over to the shooting guard spot or even be traded (though the market on him and his massive contract seems light).

SIXERS: This will be interesting. Wall most certainly would help, but they did draft Jrue Holiday (and are starting him now). Do they draft Wall and try to move Holiday or do they draft Turner and try to move Andre Igoudala?

PISTONS: Another tough one. They already have Rodney Stuckey (they were so high on him that they prematurely dealt Chauncey Billups) as well as a resurgent Will Bynum. They spent a ton of money on Ben Gordon, a combo guard that isn't even starting right now. With Rip Hamilton on the down side of his career, Turner could be the way to go.

KINGS: They just drafted John Calipari's last point guard phenom, Tyreke Evans. Sure, Evans could move over to the two spot and he and Wall would make an insane backcourt. The issue here is that both Evans and Wall would demand the ball to be effective. It's not working out as well over in Golden State where (if you watch the Warriors play) you can see a kind of friction between the two guys who need to be ball hogs. While Wall would bring in a much needed boost to the franchise, with Kevin Martin dealt away, Turner may be a better fit.

JAZZ (FROM KNICKS): Uh, they have Deron Williams already. They don't need Wall. If Utah did get the first pick, expect a trade.

CLIPPERS: The kings of the top overall pick, the Clippers could use anybody. The only problem is that LA has spent a ton on point guard Baron Davis and have an exciting combo guard in Eric Gordon. They really need more of a swing player to fit with Davis, Gordon, Chris Kaman and Blake Griffin.

BULLS/BUCKS: Milwaukee has the option to swap picks with Chicago, which they may ultimately do. The Bucks put a lot on Brandon Jennings, so Wall doesn't really fit.

HORNETS: Um, Chris Paul anyone? Even if they deal him, Collison has tore up the league.

GRIZZLIES: Interesting spot here. Memphis isn't sold on Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo isn't right to play the point. Wall makes all the sense in the world here.

ROCKETS: Well, they do have Aaron Brooks who is a budding star.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ranking the Sweet 16

With sixteen teams left, who are the big dogs left on the block? This ranking system goes by the individual team and not their likelihood of winning the title.

1-KENTUCKY: The Wildcats have been the most dominating team thus far in the tournament and now the favorites to win the whole thing.

2-SYRACUSE: Aside from Kentucky, the Orange have looked the best of anyone in the tournament. If they can get their big man back, they have a great shot at getting back to the Final Four.

3-WEST VIRGINIA: Well, I had them winning their half of the bracket the whole time. Of course, I had them losing to Kansas for the title and you see how that's turned out.

4-KANSAS STATE: The Wildcats are passionate and have one of the best backcourts left in the tournament. Their possible matchup against Syracuse could be the best game of the Elite Eight.

5-DUKE: The Blue Devils are strong since they have three bona-fide scorers and (finally) enough size to bang with big teams.

6-OHIO STATE: Everything is going right for them right now. They have a star player in Evan Turner, a talented starting lineup and they have that big Kansas fellow out of their way. I know I said that I'm not ranking these teams by their likelihood of advancing to the Final Four, but the Buckeyes get 6th-seeded Tennessee before facing either a 9th-seeded Northern Iowa or a depleted Michigan State squad that they've seen already this year.

7-BAYLOR: I've really been impressed with this team's size and speed in the tournament. Now they get a chance to play in nearby Houston for the opportunity to get to a Final Four.

8-NORTHERN IOWA: The Panthers already toppled the best team in the tournament, so you can figure that they can beat any of the other 15 teams on a given night. The most impressive thing about UNI is that they are so good defensively and they have the ability to get you in their style of play.

9-PURDUE: Just how good is this team? Remember that this was one of the top ranked teams all season long before Robbie Hummell went down. I have a feeling that the Boilermakers can stay with anybody.

10-ST MARY'S: With Omar Samhan, the Gaels have a low post precense that only a few teams remaining have. This is a loose, easy going team that isn't fazed by anything.

11-XAVIER: The Muskies are making their typical tournament run. This unknown team has size and a legit scorer in Jordan Crawford. If they get hot, they can beat Kansas State.

12-CORNELL: What can Red do for you? Cornell has been sweet shooting their way to the Sweet 16 and have the opportunity to pull the next biggest upset.

13-TENNESSEE: You can never count Bruce Pearl out. The fact that this team is in another Sweet 16 is amazing after what they went through in the middle of the season. Still, this team has beaten both Kansas and Kentucky.

14-BUTLER: Sorry, but I'm not as sold on Butler as some of these other teams.

15-MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans are the only team from 2009's Final Four still left in the tournament. The issue is that their best player, Kalin Lucas, is out. This team was being held together by duct tape anyways.

16-WASHINGTON: The Huskies are coming on strong at just the right time. They can give West Virginia all they want this week.

Top Ten Moments of the Weekend of NCAA Tournament Action

A quarter of the Sweet 16 are mid-majors. A quarter of the Sweet 16 are seeded 9th or higher. The biggest dog on the block has been ousted. What a weekend (Thursday through Sunday) of college basketball. Love it!

So what were the top ten moments for me of the first two rounds? Let's see.

BONUS-WOFFORD/WISCONSIN: Two things about this game. This would have been sweet to see tourney newbie Wofford beat Wisky (they were right there at the end, but couldn't get over the top). But my favorite dumb moment of this tournament was when the ball got stuck in the back of the backboard between cords and CBS' basket camera. The game was delayed several minutes as they had to find a stick long enough to knock the ball back down.

10-MICHIGAN STATE SQUEAKS BY NEW MEXICO STATE: One of the disappointing moments of this dance was how Michigan State beat NMSU. I'm not saying that the Aggies were robbed of a win (they were down two points when this happened), but I think they got hosed on that "free throw lane violation" that allowed the Spartans to add another point to their lead. That switched the strategy since NMSU had to go for a three instead of a two in the closing seconds. Look, I've watched a ton of basketball this weekend and after that game I noticed so many "lane violations" that weren't called. It just sucks that the season had to end like this.

9-ROBERT MORRIS GETS SCREWED: I don't even want to talk about this anymore. It was horrible.

8-MURRAY STATE'S BUZZER BEATER: The first buzzer beater of the tournament was awesome. Danero Thomas' jumper as the buzzer sounded to beat Vanderbilt still might be the top individual shot so far in the tournament.

7-BYU/FLORIDA: This game gets lost in all of the hub-bub of the weekend. Yet one of the first games on the entire tournament was gripping throughout and ended up going to two overtimes. At the end of regulation and the first overtime, the Gators held the ball for the last shot -- and missed. The story of this one, though, was the Cougars' Jimmer Fredette who slashed and weaved his way to 37 points. And think about this: Florida entered the game on a 12-game NCAA Tournament winning streak. Since their last loss in the dance (in 2005), they won back-to-back national championships.

6-CORNELL DOMINATION: Cornell became the first Ivy League school to win a tournament game in over a decade. They liked it so much that they did it again. It isn't that Cornell is in the Sweet 16 but how they got there. They dominated a tough Temple team in the first round before bowling over Wisconsin in the second round. Now they get the tournament's top remaining seed in Kentucky.

5-WAKE FOREST'S ISH SMITH: People forget about Wake Forest after they were run out of the building by Kentucky. But Ish Smith's shot to beat Texas and complete the Longhorns epic demise was quite the moment.

4-MICHIGAN STATE/MARYLAND: Maybe the best finish of any game in this tournament. The last minute was stunning. The Terps take a one point lead (their first since the beginning of the game) on a Greivis Vasquez floater; Spartans strike back on Green's jumper; Terps retake the lead on another Vasquez floater; then Korie Lucious' three point strike when the buzzer sounds.

3-OMAR SAMHAN: This is a guy that pretty much all of us have never heard of when the tournament began. Right now, he's playing better than anyone in the dance. St. Mary's Samhan has averaged 30.5 pointsand 9.5 rebounds. He is 24-of-32 from the field thus far ... including an amazing 13-for-16 effort against Villanova. And it isn't like this kid is coming on strong all of the sudden; he's been one of the best players in the WCC all year long. His true stardom could be coming from his post-game news conference antics. This is a cat to watch from here on out.

2-OHIO BEATS GEORGETOWN: I know that the No. 1 moment in this list is the biggest shocker, but Ohio's win over G'town may be the biggest upset thus far. A Mighty Big East team gets completely run over by a team that finished 9th in the MAC??? How does that happen? Ohio shouldn't have even been anywhere near this tournament before the MAC tournament started. Then they go and spank the Hoyas. Amazing.

1-NORTHERN IOWA BEATS KANSAS: This is a complete stunner. Kansas was the heavy favorite to win their 2nd NCAA title in three years. Yet, Northern Iowa from the Missouri Valley Conference shot down Goliath.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cornell Just Another Reason Why the NCAA Selection Committee Isn't As Smart As They Thought

I think the right 65 teams made the tournament. I can rail on about Virginia Tech's omission, but I can see why they didn't include them in the dance party.

However, the selection committee did a horrible job at actually seeding these teams. A horrible job. The way this tournament has played out, we are seeing it in our brackets.

CORNELL: When the brackets were announced, I found it ridiculous that Cornell was a 12th seed. Anyone that has seen Cornell play this year knows they are better than that. The Big Red blew out No. 5 Temple in the first round, then blew out No. 4 Wisconsin in the second round. Their matchup with Kentucky in the Sweet 16 in nearby Syracuse, NY will be one of the marquee matchups of the week.

NORTHERN IOWA: Sure, no one had any idea that the Panthers could topple mighty Kansas, but we all had a good idea that they were better than a No. 9 seed. They had the 17th-best RPI ranking and were 10-1 against the top 100 teams. There is no way they should have been seeded behind UNLV and there is no way that Kansas should have had them in the second round.

NOTRE DAME: I said it before and I'll say it again: How in the heck was Notre Dame a No. 6 seed? This was a team that was on the wrong side of the bubble just two weeks before Selection Sunday. All the Irish did was get stomped by Old Dominion.

WASHINGTON/CALIFORNIA: I know that the Pac-10 was down this year, but the committee showed no respect for the league this year. Cal as a No. 8 seed? Washington as a No. 11 was a bit more understandable.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Breaking Down the NCAA Tournament: Day 3

What a day of college basketball? There were more blowouts than I typically like, but there were some outstanding upsets.

GOODBYE, KANSAS: The shocker of the day was Kansas losing to Northen Iowa. Kansas ... like North Carolina last year ... was the favorite to win the title since before the season began. It was Kansas and everyone else. Especially in a year where the other top teams weren't as strong. Kentucky is run by a bunch of freshmen. Syracuse was unranked before the season began. Texas fell off the face of the earth. The Jayhawks had everything and they fouled it up. Congrats to UNI for an outstanding win (they imposed their will on Kansas).

GOODBYE, VILLANOVA: At least Kansas' loss took some of the sting out of Nova's ousting at the hands of St. Mary's. For the second straight game, Villanova just looked out of it. The difference today was that they weren't playing Robert Morris and the officials didn't seem interested in handing the game to the Wildcats. St. Mary's attacked Nova all game long and pretty much dominated the game (though the score was close).

WASHINGTON ROLLS ON: The Pac-10 wins again! The Washington Huskies completely smoked New Mexico and advanced to the Sweet 16.

BUTLER-MURRAY STATE: Maybe the best game to watch of the day was Butler's two-point win over Murray State. With another Sweet 16 appearance, Butler is starting to look like the new Gonzaga.

NO MORE BYU: Goodbye, Jimmer Fredette. I'll miss all those weird scooping shots you were hitting all tournament long.

CONGRATS, BAYLOR: I think it has been under-reported just how awesome this Baylor season is. They just made their first Sweet 16 EVER ... and they'll be playing it in nearby Houston against surprising St. Mary's. Remember that this program was in shambles just a few short years ago. From a murder of a player to a cover-up by the coach, it's amazing that this program has made it to this point so quickly.

Looking Back At Other No. 1 Seeds That Failed to Get to the Sweet 16

While Kansas loss to Northern Iowa was shocking, it isn't like this hasn't happened before. In the last 20 years, it has now happened 11 times in 9 different tournaments. The only thing about this time is the fact that the six year gap between times where a No. 1 seed failed to get to the Sweet 16.

This Kansas loss may be the worst, though. Other No. 1 ranked teams have lost in the second round ... including Kansas ... but really none were as supposedly dominant as these Jayhawks.

Let's look back at the past 20 years of No. 1 seeds failing to get to the Sweet 16:

2004: It happened twice. Kentucky, the top ranked team in the land, was beaten by UAB in the second round of the tournament. Stanford, one of the top teams all year long, was upset by Alabama. The Kentucky loss was worse, a heartbreaking one point loss.

2002: Cincinnati lost to UCLA in the second round. It was a thrillin 105-101 double overtime win for the Bruins. It shouldn't be that shocking. The 8th seeded UCLA Bruins had Dan Gadzuric, Jason Kapono and Matt Barnes on that team.

2000: It happened twice this year, too. North Carolina toppled top-ranked Stanford in the second round. Wisconsin bit Arizona that same weekend (UNC and Wisconsin would go on to the Final Four). That Arizona loss was stunning. The Wildcats had Luke Walton, Richard Jefferson and Gilbert Arenas on that squad.

1998: Kansas was the victim again. In that year, the Jayhawks were beaten by Rhode Island. Probably Roy Williams' most talented team at Kansas and nothing to show for it. Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz led Kansas that year, but couldn't contain Cuttino Mobley and the Rams.

1996: Purdue is beaten by Georgia.

1994: This one was also a shocker. Boston College upset top ranked North Carolina. This was a Tar Heels team that were defending champions that added Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace. Shocking!

1992: Guess what? It's Kansas again! This time, UTEP upended them.

1990: North Carolina smacks top seeded Oklahoma in the second round. Rick Fox hit the game winner as time expired.

Western Teams Flexing Their Muscle In 2010 Tournament

The East Coast gets all the love. A middle-of-the-road Big East or ACC team will get more respect than one from the Pac-10 or Big XII. It's just the way it is.

However, the West Coast has made a nice run in this tournament.

True "west coast" teams that advanced to the second round of the tournament include St. Mary's (which has now advanced to the Sweet 16), Washington, Gonzaga and California. Okay, that's just four teams ... but you also can factor in western schools like BYU and New Mexico as the only non-Eastern or Central time zone schools still alive. Six isn't bad when you consider there are less amounts of teams out there.

Then think of the country's magical dividing line ... the Mississippi River. The Mighty Mississip. The Old Miss. The Old Man.

Well, Kansas, Northern Iowa, Baylor, Kansas State, Missouri and Texas A&M join the six I mentioned above as teams west of the Mississippi still alive in this tournament. That's 12 of the 32 teams.

Also amazing since you figure that the Pac-10, WCC, Mountain West and Big XII are a combined 11-4 in this tournament (now 12-4 with St. Mary's win over Villanova). The Big East alone has already lost five games.

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Conference Breakdown

ATLANTIC COAST (4-3): DUKE, MARYLAND, CLEMSON, FLORIDA STATE, WAKE FOREST, GEORGIA TECH. Despite the ACC having a "down season", they've done pretty well in the first round of the tournament. Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest and Ga Tech all advanced (with the last two pulling upsets to do so). The problem is that only Duke has a good shot at advancing to the Sweet 16.

BIG EAST (4-5): SYRACUSE, WEST VIRGINIA, VILLANOVA, GEORGETOWN, PITTSBURGH, MARQUETTE, NOTRE DAME, LOUISVILLE. Not a good showing by the Big East thus far. Of the four schools that lost in the first round, three were the better seed in their game ... including the upset of the tournament so far in G'town's blowout loss to Ohio. No. 2 Villanova (who got that lofty seed because they are from the conference) were upset by No. 10 St. Mary's. Still, the Big East has a good shot at getting all of those remaining three teams into the Sweet 16.

BIG TEN (4-1): OHIO STATE, PURDUE, WISCONSIN, MICHIGAN STATE, MINNESOTA. Only Minnesota, a No. 10 seed, has lost. The Big Ten has really performed well in this tournament thus far, but the second round is a lot more dangerous. Wisconsin gets a tough Cornell team; Michigan State faces Maryland; Purdue gets Texas A&M. Ohio State is the only school that I feel has a realistic shot at the Final Four. Or Elite Eight.

BIG XII (7-3): KANSAS, KANSAS STATE, BAYLOR, TEXAS A&M, OKLAHOMA STATE, TEXAS, MISSOURI. The best conference in America has the most teams advancing to the second round. Not just that, but they realistically have a shot at getting three of them into the Elite Eight. The thing is that the surest thing in the tournament, Kansas, was ousted in the second round.

MOUNTAIN WEST (2-4): NEW MEXICO, BYU, UNLV, SAN DIEGO STATE. About what you'd think. New Mexico and BYU have been two of the better teams in the nation this year. What will put them further into the "major" category would be if both could advance to the Sweet 16. That's a tall order since Washington and Kansas State are in their way, respectively. A tall order that was too much. No more Mountain West.

PAC-10 (3-0): CALIFORNIA, WASHINGTON. Hey, hey, hey! The much-maligned Pac-10 has come to crash the party. All the crappy Pac-10 has done is beat two Big East teams. Plus, there is buzz that Washington can topple New Mexico (they did) and Cal could give Duke too much to handle.

SOUTHEASTERN (4-2): KENTUCKY, VANDERBILT, TENNESSEE, FLORIDA. The two teams that I felt were the SEC's best (Kentucky, Tennessee) are still around. Suffering another upset loss really hurts Vanderbilt. Tennessee is unexpectedly in the Sweet 16.

ATLANTIC 10 (1-2): TEMPLE, XAVIER, RICHMOND. Not a positive showing for the A-10. All three teams were the better seeds and two of them lost. Both Richmond and Temple were pretty much dominated in their games. Xavier, though, continues to carry the league's torch and has an interesting game against Pitt coming up.

CONFERENCE USA (0-2): UTEP, HOUSTON. Well, neither were supposed to win their games. Houston gave great effort in their loss to Maryland.

WEST COAST CONFERENCE (3-0): GONZAGA, ST. MARY'S. Wow. St. Mary's popped Villanova in a Digger Phelps special (Digger said there was no way Nova could beat St. Mary's). Gonzaga-Syracuse will be very interesting.

WESTERN ATHLETIC (0-2): UTAH STATE, NEW MEXICO STATE. Neither were favored to win their games. Still, NMSU really pressured Michigan State in their matchup. Utah State really couldn't keep up with Texas A&M.

Breaking Down the NCAA Tournament: Day 2

Another great day of first round action! Let's look at what happened today.

BIG EAST DID OKAY: After the panic of the Big East's 1-3 showing on Thursday, Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh did the conference proud and (with Louisville's loss) put the Big East at an even 4-4.

THREE ACC GAMES AT THE SAME TIME: I know that it is tough to schedule these games. You try not to have the same regional teams playing at the same time. But the ACC, which had six teams in this tournament, had three of their teams on at the same time. As an ACC fan, I was flipping back and forth between Ga Tech-Oklahoma State and Florida State-Gonzaga (I barely watched any of Duke's dismantling of Arkansas Pine Bluff).

NEW MEXICO STATE GOT SCREWED: Yesterday, it was Robert Morris which was robbed. Today, it is New Mexico State. Down by two points, Michigan State had one more free throw. It was missed, but the refs called a lane violation on NMSU. The player got his foot in the lane a split second too soon ... something that should never be called. The Spartans got another shot, made it, and forced NMSU to have to gun up a 3-pointer instead of a shot anywhere.

Since that game, I've noticed "lane violations" like that on pretty much every free throw attempt. Not one of them was whistled. Great call, ref!

GEORGIA TECH COULD BE SCARY: I admit that I've not been sold on the Yellow Jackets. But this team has talent all over the place and it seems to finally beginning to gel. Tech made a magical run through the ACC Tournament last week (eventually losing to Duke in overtime for the title) and they really stood up against a very good Oklahoma State Cowboys squad. Their next game against Ohio State could really, really, really be good. If they get to the Sweet 16, they can beat the Tennessee-Ohio winner. A win there and they'd most likely get Kansas ... which is a tough order. But, hey, they just beat the team that had spanked the Jayhawks earlier this season.

Speaking of that, since 1994 there have been seven ACC teams that have been seeded 10th or higher. Six of them pulled the first round upset.

CLEMSON, NOT SO MUCH: I had picked Missouri to upset Clemson in my bracket. Why? Well, I live by the belief that you can never trust Clemson. Right when you think they are good, they slump. And despite being the better seeded team this year, it was the fifth straight one-and-done for the Tigers. By the way, Mizzou has now won five straight first round games.

NOT AS THRILLING A DAY: Unlike yesterday, which featured three OT games and a couple of last second shots, Friday didn't have that kind of drama. Morgan State got us buzzing by climbing to a 10-0 lead on West Virginia ... then the Mountaineers blew 'em out by 27. Really, only three games were really "thrillers". One was the aforementioned Michigan State win over New Mexico State. Another was Georgia Tech's win over Oklahoma State. That game was tight throughout with the Jackets making the big plays at the end.

The game of the day was Wisconsin's four-point win over Wofford. Wofford, making their first tournament appearance, had the Badgers on the ropes.

Both Siena and Florida State came back from big defecits just to get the game close enough to keep an eye on. Everything else today was pretty controlled by one team.

CONGRATS TO CORNELL: The Big Red got their first NCAA Tournament win in their 17th try. The win is also the Ivy League's first since Princeton in 1998.

CONGRATS, PAC-10: The Pac-10 was ridiculed this season for its poor play. Well, they are 2-0 in this tournament with Cal's convincing win over Louisville. They'll join Washington in the second round.

MY SATURDAY UPSET: When you get to this point in the tournament, it's rare to see some shocking upset. The only one that would is if Northern Iowa beat Kansas. So my pick for an upset? Washington over New Mexico. I like the Lobos, but Washington's Huskies are rolling right now and finally reaching some of their potential.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Breaking Down the NCAA Tournament: Day 1

March 18, 2010

Great day of basketball! I felt a little down since North Carolina isn't in the dance this year, but there have been some great games thus far! Here are my thoughts of the first day of action as the day went on ...

BIG EAST OVERRATED?: The Big East pounds its chest that they are the best conference in America. Maybe, but you don't flex that muscle by going 1-3 in your first four matchups in the tournament. It isn't just that the lost, but who they lost to. No.3 Georgetown got demolished by an Ohio team that was below average in the MAC this year. No. 6 Notre Dame was beaten by a pretty good Old Dominion squad ... but you'd think a Big East team could handle that. Then No. 6 Marquette loses to a Washington team that needed a run in the Pac-10 tournament just to get into the dance.

Add in the fact that No. 2 Villanova needed overtime (and some shaky officiating) to down Robert Morris and the Big East isn't having a banner day. Tomorrow should be better since Syracuse, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Louisville are in action.

BEST GAMES OF THE DAY: I have Mega March Madness so I get the opportunity to pick which games I want to focus on. I swear on my life that I picked right (it was important since I had to turn my other three TVs to other games so I wanted the main game I was interested in on my biggest HDTV). I started with BYU-Florida. Um, double overtime is quite a game, eh? Then I moved to Vanderbilt-Murray State. I chose that game since I had been going around telling people that Murray State is my Cinderella this year. And I was treated to the best ending of the day.

The West Coast only game was Butler-UTEP and that was a pretty good game for a while.

The first late game was UNLV-Northern Iowa and that was an awesome game. Close throughout and had a thrilling ending. Right now I chose Texas-Wake Forest so maybe that will end wildly! (Ed. note: It was a great finish. Ish Smith's game winning shot to end overtime? Pretty nice!)

WHERE'S THE ACC?: It is weird that the ACC got six teams into the dance and only one of them played today -- Wake Forest against Texas. Duke, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida State all play on Friday.

WHAT HAPPENED TO GEORGETOWN?: Going back to the Big East's woes, the biggest shocker of the day had to be Ohio crushing the Hoyas. Nobody saw that coming. That team is too talented to keep getting bounced from the NCAAs this quickly.

GOGGLES: Whomever that cat was for Sam Houston State that the call "Goggles" really impressed me. He had a great game in their loss to Baylor, but I was more impressed with his sportsmanship. Whenever people fell around him, he always offered to help them up. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it does matter when you watch it all game long.

UPSET CITY, BABY!: As I'm typing this, there have been five double-digit seeds advancing. Murray State, St. Mary's (who blew through Richmond), Ohio, Old Dominion and Washington. Ohio became the first No. 14 seed to win a tournament game since 2006. Add in No. 9 seeds Northern Iowa and Wake Forest winning and we've had seven "upsets" in 16 games.

WASHINGTON-MARQUETTE WAS RARE: Washington's victory over Marquette was special because ... well, there weren't many games featuring two teams from a Big Six conference. The only other one today was Texas-Wake Forest. Tomorrow, we get Oklahoma State-Ga Tech, Clemson-Missouri and Cal-Louisville.

SO WHAT AM I WATCHING TOMORROW: Since I had the magic touch today, I'm hoping my viewing schedule tomorrow ends up the same way. The first round of games (12:30ish) will have me focusing on Minnesota vs Xavier. I'll have an eye on Cornell-Temple, but I think the Minnesota-X game will be a bit better to actually watch. The second round of games (2:30ish) will be Missouri-Clemson. Again, I'll have an eye on Siena-Purdue since I have Siena as my Cinderella, but you have no idea which Mizzou or Clemson team shows up. The only game during the West Coast only time period (5:00ish) is Utah State and Texas A&M ... which should be a pretty good game anyway.

Tonight, I'll start off (7:30ish) with Georgia Tech-Oklahoma State. It's a hard time slot since three ACC teams will be playing at the same time. I don't care about Duke slaughtering Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but that Florida State-Gonzaga game will be verrrrry interesting. Then to close out the night (9:30ish) is a no-brainer: California-Louisville.

As for Saturday ... well, I'll start with some NIT action with North Carolina-Mississippi State. At 1:00, we will all be treated to St. Mary's-Villanova (could be interesting). The 3:00ish games will have me checking out Murray State-Butler. The 5:30 game will be tough. I think I'm going with Washington-New Mexico over ODU-Baylor. The 8:00ish game will have me checking out Wake Forest-Kentucky with a strong eye on BYU-Kansas State.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

South Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Duke. Like it or not, the Blue Devils are rolling right now. They won both the ACC regular season and tournament titles. Unlike recent Duke teams, they are extremely balanced and have the size to bang with the big boys.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Duke. In a region with a lot of iffy teams, I just like Duke's versatility and the fact they have a Big Three.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Louisville. Having said that, Duke wouldn't like to run into L'ville in the second round. The Cardinals beat Syracuse ... twice. Rick Pitino knows his way around the tournament a bit, too.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Siena. This team has won tournament games over the past couple of years and now they get a reeling Purdue squad. Win that and they have a great shot at toppling either Texas A&M or Utah State.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Notre Dame. How did a team that was on the wrong side of the bubble two weeks ago get the No. 6 seed?

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Baylor. The Bears get a relatively close pod site in New Orleans. If they advance to the second weekend, they'll get to play in Houston. That also would be a coup for Texas A&M.

MUST WATCH GAME: Texas A&M vs Utah State. Two teams that you probably can't name too many players from. Still, this can be an old fashioned West Coast shootout up in Spokane.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Duke vs Louisville. You get Krzyzewski vs Pitino. Two legendary programs. A rematch of the 1986 title game.

East Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Kentucky. The young Wildcats may be the most talented team in the field. They have one of the most exciting players in John Wall and a force in DeMarcus Cousins. Plus John Calipari is great for some tournament banter.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: West Virginia. I love the Mountaineers. They are tough, well coached and have the ability to win close games. This team has clutch players all over the place and match up well against most teams in this region.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Texas. Honestly, you just don't know what you are getting with these Longhorns. This was a No. 1 team a few months ago ... yet they've fallen on hard times. They have Final Four talent, but they just aren't reaching their potential. Still, Kentucky wants no part of them in the second round.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Cornell. The Big Red is back in the tournament for the third straight year. This is one of the great Ivy League teams of recent memory and they get an interesting matchup with Temple right out of the gate. A win there and they will face the Wisconsin-Wofford winner. Maybe they have a Sweet 16 run in them.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Cornell. It is either Cornell or their first round opponent, Temple. Cornell is better than a No. 12 seed. I know the Ivy League isn't powerful, but this is a very talented team that will cause problems.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: West Virginia. Not that they really have any sort of true home court advantage. Still, they'll play up in Buffalo for the first weekend then just south to Syracuse the next weekend. As a Big East school that travels well ... there could be tons of Neers fans at both sites.

MUST WATCH GAME: Texas vs Wake Forest. Again, you just can't trust what the Horns will bring ya. Same goes for Wake. Still, there is star power and fire power in this one ... with the winner having the ability to put a scare in Kentucky.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Kentucky vs Texas. Two teams that spent a week as the No. 1 team in the nation. Texas has the bigs to fight with Kentucky.

West Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Syracuse. The Orange have been a No. 1 team this year, won the Big East regular season title and have one of the toughest styles to prepare for.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Pittsburgh. I don't know why, but I have a hunch that the scrappy Panthers will make a run. I think they upset a game Kansas State team before facing a Syracuse team that they've already beaten this year (in Syracuse).

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN NO. 3 SEED): Butler. The Bulldogs have been entrenched in the rankings all year long and everyone is eager to see if they can make a deep run in this tournament.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Murray State. This is a very balanced team who is very talented. They can beat Vandy in the first round and then up-end either Butler or UTEP in the second round.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: UTEP. I don't get how UTEP is a No. 12 seed when Houston is a No. 13 seed in the Midwest. Some background: both play in Conference USA, UTEP blew through the regular season with a 15-1 record (Houston was 7-9) and these Miners were recently ranked.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: BYU. If the Cougars can get out of their Oklahoma City bracket (that would involve beating Florida and Kansas State), they'll get to play a virtual home game in the regional final in Salt Lake City. And, most likely, they'll be the only western school there.

MUST WATCH GAME: Butler vs UTEP. There are a couple of interesting choices (Gonzaga-Florida State, BYU-Florida, Vandy-Murray State) but both Butler and UTEP have been among the top mid-major teams this year.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Kansas State vs BYU. Great guard play and a star in the making with Jimmer Fredette.

Midwest Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Kansas. Like North Carolina last year, Kansas was the pre-ordained favorite during most of the season. Like UNC last year, I think the Jayhawks will shine. This team has everything you'd want in a champion. Just like UNC last year.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Kansas. This team is just too good. And though the Midwest Region is a bit stacked, it all falls well for the Jayhawks. Not to mention they'd travel down to Oklahoma City and then over to St. Louis for their games.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN NO. 3 SEED): Tennessee. The Vols aren't going to scare anyone, but this team did beat both Kansas and Kentucky this season.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Georgia Tech. You really don't know what you're going to get with this bunch. Still, the Jackets have the ability to put a little run together and get to the Elite Eight.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Northern Iowa. This has been a ranked team for quite a bit of the season, yet they get a No. 9 seed? No offense, but I like what they've done over UNLV or Oklahoma State ... the two teams seeded ahead of them.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Kansas. Again, they head down to Oklahoma City before moving on to St. Louis. Their really is no other school that has any ties to the playing sites ... save Georgetown playing in Providence.

MUST WATCH GAME: Tennessee vs San Diego State. I don't know why, but this game looks like it will be exciting to me. I think it has more to do with the fact that you really don't know what you are going to get out of either of these schools.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Maryland vs Michigan State. Both Gary Williams and Tom Izzo have national championships under their belts. Both have teams capable of making a deep tournament run.

DirecTV and Versus Agree to Deal

DirecTV and Versus have made up. The satellite giant and the upstart sports network have agreed to a partnership, just six months after the channel was taken off DirecTV's programming.

I'm glad. As a DirecTV subscriber over the past 10 years, I love it because it is THE place for a sports fan. Seriously, it is a sports lover's dream. Yet, Versus wasn't on there. Not that it is that big of a deal, but it took the NHL with it. I seriously haven't watched one NHL game this season. None. I'll catch some highlights or even parts of a replayed game on NHL TV, but that's it. Now I'll get to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs ... one of the best pro postseasons out there.

Not to mention that Versus and Yardbarker are quite a team!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Ivan Brothers

I'm a sucker for the commercials during the NCAA Tournament. That usually means Capital One will bring some hilarious ads. I love the barbarians and the old David Spade commercials.

They've already started "The Ivan Brothers" campaign and I'm loving it! Above is an even funnier and longer web video of the brothers; where they came from and how they became so damned good at basketball. Let's just say that head coaches everywhere will be searching the woods for a long lost tribe of Vikings.

(Or was that Eric Montross and Dwayne Schintzus?)

This certainly whets my appetite for the rest of the tournament when, I'm sure, the plot will thicken. What happens to "Big Ivan" and "Little Ivan"?

Thanks to Capital One for the love!

This Just Proves How Ridiculous a 96-Team Field Would Be

Let me start off by saying that I began writing this post by attempting to form a 96-team NCAA Tournament. If you haven't heard by now, the NCAA is toying with expanding the tournament to 96 teams. That's a horrible idea in so many ways.

(I'm open to 68 teams and having eight of the smaller schools play four "play-in games" on the Tuesday before the tournament).

If you want to, attempt to build a 96-team bracket. It sounds easy but it is actually really hard. Sure, the Virginia Techs, Illinoises and Mississippi States are easy to pluck. But when you are trying to field the seeds in the 20s, then it gets ridiculous.

After all, who gets in? Is in the 10th place Big Ten team? Or is it the third place WCC team? And you think that people are whining now about their bubbles bursting! It will be even worse when you are sorting through a bunch of mediocre teams.

If you strictly look at the RPI as a guide to who should be let in, just know that teams like Penn State, Nebraska and South Carolina are in the top 96. Texas Tech is in the top 80. St. John's would probably get in. It's insane.

There is only one good reason for expansion: Money. 31 more teams means 15 more games. 15 more games means opportunities to sell ad space. Other than that, it sucks.

MEDIOCRITY: It will turn the NCAA Tournament into the Bowl Season. Meaning that for every great bowl game we get, we also have to deal with a bunch of 6-6 teams battling over scraps. Again, try to build a 96-team bracket and you'll see what I mean. If you don't want to do that, check out one from the Washington Post and you'll get it.

By the way, Charlotte ... who just fired their coach after a late season collapse ... makes the WaPo's tournament.

Even if you cheat and just add the 32 teams in the NIT, you'll still end up with quite a list of also-rans. Does North Carolina deserve to get into this NCAA Tournament. No. Yet they'd be a cinch in a 96-team field.

COACHING SECURITY: Coaches like the idea because it helps build their resume and gives them some more job security. Give me a break! Just because you squeak into the tournament as a No. 19 seed won't necessarily save your gig. Ask those college football coaches who get canned because they get to go to the GMAC Bowl or something.

THE MORE THE MERRIER: I don't agree with this ... totally. Look, I get that these opening round games (the top 32 teams in the tournament get a first round bye) are opportunities for the smaller schools and conferences to get an official NCAA Tournament win. It actually is a big deal even now with the one play-in game. But will anyone even care? Seriously, none of these opening round games would be interesting to watch.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Even If You Are 'Above It', Please Accept an NIT Bid

This could be one of the best NITs in a while ... at least if you look at the big names that could be toiling in there.

Defending champion North Carolina could be there. So could UConn, the second best team from last season. So should Memphis, who has been one of the elite programs the last couple of years.

Joining them could be schools like Illinois, Minnesota and Cincinnati. Maybe those giant schools won't be there at all. UNC coach Roy Williams said he'd take the bid if asked. Not sure if UConn's Jim Calhoun would.

I'm one of these people who are angered by this. I am a North Carolina fan and, yes, this has been a humiliating season. Coming off a National Championship season softens the blow a bit, but this shouldn't of happened. The team that I spent my nights watching DVRd games of last year didn't even get any DVR love from me this year.

Still, if the NIT comes calling, accept the bid. Yep, UNC fans feel they are too good for the NIT. This is the defending champ that are coming off two straight Final Fours and three straight Elite 8s. They are the second winningest program in history.

But it isn't about me as a fan or the boosters who are sullied by what's been happening. It's about the kids. For once, let it be about the actual kids.

Speaking from a North Carolina perspective, this will probably be Marcus Ginyard's final chance to play basketball at this kind of level. Deon Thompson could catch on in some off-shoot leagues, but none of it will be like this. Give them that chance to keep playing, even if the stakes are nothing to be excited about.

Now, if the players don't want to go ... that's different. If they really feel like they don't want to go (and not pressured to feel that way), then they should shut it down. Notre Dame's players didn't want to accept a smallish bowl bid this past season and sat. But if the school decided that for them, that would be sick.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Respect What the UConn Lady Huskies Are Doing

I know that women's basketball isn't near the top of most sports fans list of things to care about. I keep an eye on what the North Carolina women's team does and check the ACC standings once a month, but that's about all I see. I've yet to watch a women's basketball game this year ... which keeps my streak alive.

Still, I want everyone to realize just how special this season's UConn Huskies are. They are going for their 71st consecutive win tonight and are the overwhelming favorite to win back-to-back undefeated championships.

I know when one team dominates a "fringe" sport, it turns some people off. How great can it be if no one can challenge them? It's not UConn's fault.

This year, they've beaten:
No. 13 Texas
No. 2 Stanford
at No. 11 Florida State
No. 7 North Carolina
at No. 7 Duke
No. 8 West Virginia
No. 24 St. John's
at No. 12 Oklahoma
No. 11 Georgetown
No. 3 Notre Dame
at No. 8 Notre Dame
... and they'll play No. 7 Notre Dame again tonight

How is that for a schedule? And it wasn't like they just beat them ... there were destructions. Here are the margins of victories in those games: 25, 22, 19, 41, 33, 33, 14, 16, 22, 24 and 25. That 14-point win over St. John's is the closest game they've played.

Think about all of that. Using the current AP men's rankings that were just released, that would be like No. 1 Kansas beating Wisconsin, Kentucky, Michigan State (twice), West Virginia (twice), New Mexico (twice), Xavier, Butler and Syracuse. And beating all of them handily.

Again, I can see you rolling your eyes about some team you probably can't name one player from (I can't). Still, respect due. Game recognizes game. It's time we gave them their deserved credit.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

NHL Ratings Still Suck

One week ago, the hockey world was buzzing about how great the Winter Olympic gold medal game was. That gold medal match between rivals USA and Canada was a ratings bonanza. We were told how the success of Team USA would trickle over into the NHL season ... which started the very next day.

And then it never happened.

Last Thursday night ... just four days after Canada's gold medal win ... the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the New York Rangers. That means the NHL's biggest star (Sidney Crosby) who happened to score the gold-medal winning goal was playing in the media capital of the continent. The game was nowhere to be found nationally and it drew just a .96 rating on MSG.

Match that up with a Mets-Cardinals spring training game on SportsNet New York that was shown earlier in the day. That game, which the Mets won 17-11, drew 1.13 rating. This was despite the fact that the game was shown while people were still at work, it was a meaningless game and that the stars were all done by the third inning.

The NHL was shown it's rightful place in the nation's hearts. Not many people care. I kind of like hockey but I rarely watch it during the season. I'll catch the Stanley Cup finals and a few playoff games (especially any Game 7s).

Well, not this year. I have DirecTV and DirecTV decided that it wasn't worth having Versus (the network that houses the NHL) as part of their programming. If you have DirecTV, you'd know that sports are what it is best known for (Sunday Ticket, Mega March Madness). If they don't care, they know you don't either.

Last week, we were all prisoners of the moment. The same way that the WNBA was berthed from the 1996 summer olympics, the NHL was hoping a great tournament would vault the NHL back into the hearts of the nation. It just doesn't happen like that. Despite Crosby's excellence ... he isn't Wayne Gretzky.

The interesting thing is what will happen in 2014. The Winter Games move to Sochi, Russia and NHL commish Gary Bettman hasn't committed to allowing his players to participate. It's interesting because, apparently, it is meaningless for the league itself to risk injuries to teams' best players and getting no return. It is also a bargaining chip for the NHL to NBC, in a weird way. NBC benefitted from the NHL stars in the Olympics and the NHL knows that. They may bang out a little trade: NHL participation in the Olympics for some NBC love during the season.

Who knows?