Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stop Telling Us About "What the Fans Want"!

Right now, the NFL has locked out their players. In a few months after what promises to be a great playoff season, the NBA will do the same. They'll talk of economics, revenue sharing, salary caps, free agency and ... to a lesser extent ... safety.

One thing that will get thrown out there by commissioners, owners, players and the media is about "what the fans want". Please. On the list of things that the owners and unions wish list, what the fans want isn't near the top.

First off, the fans don't want to hear any of this. Yes, this is a labor dispute and they happen all the time. When dealing with billions of dollars, it is a delicate issue that isn't resolved as simply splitting the pot down the middle. Fans, for the most part, understand that. Just don't drag us into it. Don't tell us "the fans want to get this done" because that won't factor into any of the negotiations.

See, fandom is a sticky thing. It is almost like an addict and sports are our enablers. If the NFL only played half a season, there will be more than enough fan support to fill up those stadiums and care about their product. And while in some cities it may take time to warm back up to the teams, it'll happen eventually. If it doesn't, they'll just move the franchise to another town that will.

That's sports for you. They know they just don't have you hooked but that your heart and soul is invested in these teams. I am a Redskins fan. That's part of my identity. When the Redskins lose or play well, people talk to me about it. No matter what happens in the labor dispute, I'll still be a Redskins fan. Believe me, if the Daniel Snyder era hasn't driven all the fans away then it just isn't going to happen.

I became a Redskins fan, interestingly, during the strike-shortened 1982 season. I stayed one after the 1987 replacement player games. I've stayed a Cincinnati Reds fan after the Selig & Fehr Show decided to shut down the World Series in 1994. I kept being a Laker fan after the ugly labor dispute of 1998-1999.

These leagues know this, so they can act however they want.

They can demand new stadiums and arenas by threatening to bolt if they don't get it. That's why the Sacramento Kings ... once a raucous fanbase ... will be leaving for Anaheim or Las Vegas or anywhere else with the arena they want to rip from the fans. How else could the Seattle SuperSonics leave town for Oklahoma City? Easy. To gain a new set of fans that will do anything to lure and keep a franchise in their city.

If sports leagues cared about what fans want, no team would be relocated without an obvious fan revolt (i.e. not supporting the team). Most of the time that's the case, but how could the NFL allow the Cleveland Browns to move to Baltimore? That was for the fans, right? Oh, they did put an expansion team back in Cleveland in a couple of years ... but the NFL benefitted from record-setting expansion and franchise fees which allowed the new ownership to gouge the fans with higher ticket prices and funding for a new stadium. Thanks for the help, guys.

If the NFL cared about the fans, why are they pushing an 18 game season when pretty much every poll shows that the fans don't want that?

If the NFL cared about the fans, why don't the intervene in Cincinnati where the fanbase absolutely loathes owner Mike Brown? Why can't they hold their owners accountable for success?

If the unions cared about their fans, then why do they allow franchise players to walk away from their teams and leave a demolished franchise in their wake?

If the leagues cared about fans, then why is there always buzz about ripping All Star voting away from the fans and giving it to media members and/or coaches and players?

If the leagues ... including the NCAA ... cared, then why are the NCAA tournament games starting at 10pm at night? Must be nice for the fans that the Ohio State-Kentucky game ended after midnight, Newark time. Same goes for World Series games that many people (namely kids) will never see the end of.

If the leagues cared about fans, then how could the NFL have completely screwed them by charging outrageous prices to Super Bowl XLV for seats the fans' butts were to be in didn't exist? Or to charge me tons of dough to sit in the rafters of a domed football stadium to watch a Final Four game and suffer through poor sighlines?

Not to say that these leagues don't care about fans at all. The entertainment value at these stadiums is nothing we've ever seen before. With all the different things to do, the more comfortable seats, the better food, the more amenities and overall spector of these games, these leagues do pour a lot into giving fans more than just the game they are watching. You can go to a baseball stadium on game day and not even bother watching the game -- there's so much to do. The Fan Experience has never been better.

But that's not what these leagues are talking about.

Seriously, if the sports leagues cared, they'd cut everything by 15% to help us in this terrible economy. Cut the ticket prices, concessions, parking, merchandise as well as the player's salaries and revenues. Wait, that's a silly idea since it doesn't benefit anyone other than the fans.

Look, I don't expect the fans to be the number one priority of these labor disputes nor do I think that they honestly don't ultimately care about us. Just stop acting like we, the fans, are a bigger part of this than we really are. Stop using "the fans" as a bargaining chip between the two sides ... or worse, don't say it to patronize us.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tough Day To Be An NCAA Referee

Sunday, March 20, 2011 will go down as "Bad Ref Day" in the sports world. That's because three suspect calls helped decide three NCAA Tournament games.

WASHINGTON CLOCK: The first happened in the UNC-Washington game. The ball went out of bounds with about 1.1 seconds left ... but the clock stopped with 0.5 seconds left. All of that was legal since the clock is supposed to stop when the whistle is blown and not when the ball hits out of bounds. The official may have blew the whistle too late but there is that human reaction time that does factor in.

However, the official's mistake was to not even bother to check the replay to adjust the time. Probably the officals would have tacked on those extra tenths of a second that would've given the Huskies a much better chance at hitting a tying three at the buzzer.

TEXAS' FIVE SECONDS: As everyone has been pointing out, the referee blew the whistle too early this time. With Texas attempting to inbound the ball, the ref clearly counts to four and then blows the whistle. That allowed Arizona to get the ball back on their own baseline.

At the time, the Longhorns were up by two. On the ensuing inbounds play, Arizona's Derrick Williams scored on a blind shot and was fouled. Williams hit the free throw to take a one point lead. After the game, Williams admitted that he felt no contact.

SYRACUSE BACKCOURT: This one has been up for debate. With the game tied, Syracuse was called for an over-and-back violation. Scoop Jardine was in the front court, lept in the air and caught the ball. When he landed, one foot was touching the midcourt line.

There has been much controversy on the interwebs about this call. I've seen no one on TV argue this call, but the blogosphere and message boards are debating this quite a bit. You ARE allowed to receive the ball in the backcourt on an inbounds play. However, Jardine wasn't established in the backcourt (he left from the frontcourt) so the call doesn't apply here. Still, with all of the uproar among the fans, you'd think someone would give a decent explaination of the rule.

Better Documentary: UNLV or Fab Five?

Over a week ago, two interesting documentaries were released on television that chronicled some of the most well known college basketball teams from the early 1990s.

The UNLV doc took a look at Jerry Tarkanian's renegade Runnin' Rebels program that he lifted to prominence and eventually a national championship. The Fab Five doc looked at the Michigan freshmen's career at the school as well as their impact on basketball since. They are eerily similar yet done differently. Let's take a look:

INFORMATION: I think the most important item in a documentary is the information it is providing. This was a bit of a mismatch. The UNLV doc was just an hour long and covered nearly a two decade time frame. The Michigan one was two hours long (commercials included) and covered just a couple years of actual basketball but fast forwarded to the impact of both the kids games and the eventual sanctioned levied against the program. Just the amount of time available and the amount of info makes this a landslide. WINNER: FAB FIVE

STYLE: ESPN (who aired the Michigan doc) has done a great job with their "30 for 30" series. They have a wealth of resources and their own library to get everything they need. HBO, though not a sports channel, has done an excellent job over the last three decades in all types of documentaries, including ones involving sports. I liked the style HBO had with better interviews, still photos and old footage. I do wish they got a few more player interviews. WINNER: UNLV

SUBJECT MATTER: To me, the UNLV documentary was a bit more interesting than the Michigan one. That means nothing more than personal preference. The actual happenings at UNLV and how a school no one cared about in a city known for a lot of seedy things drew more interest from me than the fact that five high-ranked recruits decided to go to the same school. I've seen that before and since (John Calipari has done that in two of the last three recruiting classes) ... though the characters of that Michigan team far dominant any of the other "fab freshmen" we've seen. Not to mention that UNLV wasn't as well known even during their dominating reign. They were a Big West school that got late night game times if they were shown at all. WINNER: UNLV

THE TWO MAIN ABSENTEES: One problem both docs had was the fact that the two most well known players of those subjects decided not to participate. Both, by the way, went on to be No. 1 draft picks in the NBA. Larry Johnson and Chris Webber both played just two years at their schools but both were lightning rods as well as highly successful players. The bigger absence was Webber. LJ was a JUCO transfer; Webber was a highly touted high school player. LJ wasn't the reason UNLV fell off the map -- Webber was the reason Michigan did. Despite sanctions against UNLV, none of their records were thrown out. Due to Webber's transgressions (as well as a few others), those two Final Fours and championship game appearances are erased.

It would've been very interesting to see Webber to respond to all of documentary. So his exclusion was missed. WINNER: UNLV

WATER COOLER-ABILITY: This one is another slam dunk for the Fab Five. First, there's been enough controversy from the Michigan documentary that it ellicited a response from the normally quiet Grant Hill as well as forcing Jalen Rose into a scrambling role. There's been tons of discussion on that doc on many sports talk radio and TV shows. The UNLV doc? Well, many of you didn't even know there was one. WINNER: FAB FIVE

WHICH ONE WAS BETTER?: Again, this goes by personal preference ... but despite my elevated interest in the UNLV documentary, the Fab Five one was better. It brought up way more emotion in it than the Runnin' Rebels one just because of all that controversy. People who hated the Fab Five will hate them more after watching it. As for UNLV, the most controversial part of that was Tark the Shark ... and he's a tough guy to completely hate. The Michigan film . WINNER: FAB FIVE

WHICH TEAM WAS BETTER, 1990-1991 UNLV OR 1992-1993 MICHIGAN?: I'm going with UNLV. That 1990 and 1991 UNLV teams were freakin' machines! They had more style and glitz than the Wolverines did. It would be a great game, but I don't think Michigan could keep up with UNLV. Both went to two Final Fours, both won two games total in those Final Fours ... but Michigan didn't win the title that UNLV did. Michigan didn't enter a Final Four with an undefeated record like UNLV did. UNLV beat Duke in 1990 by 30 points in the title game and lost by a bucket to Duke in 1991. Michigan was rolled by Duke in the 1992 title game. WINNER: UNLV

Friday, March 18, 2011

NCAA's "Official" Box Score Of Duke Game Filled With Errors

Hat tip to ACC NOW:

The NCAA's official box score of the Duke-Hampton game is filled with factual errors. The biggest one ... the freakin' final score!

The final score of the game was Duke 87-Hampton 45. has the "offical" score as 87-47. Um, wrong. More problems as laid out by ACC NOW:
Hampton’s Brandon Tunnell was credited with an extra field goal and Darrion Pellum with an extra missed field goal, as the Pirates were 19-for-55 from the field, not 20-for-57. The Pirates had 29 rebounds, not 22; and four assists, not three.

Duke, meanwhile, was 32-for-60 from the field, not 32-for-59 -- Kyle Singler was 4-for-9 from the field, not 4-for-8. Duke had 38 rebounds, not 35.
To cap it off, the official play-by-play credited Hampton's Tunnell with a bucket with five seconds left. Except that in the real game ... Duke's Kyrie Irving held on to the ball and dribbled out the clock.

Amazing that a body like the NCAA that helms over many of the finest universities in our nation can just completely screw up an official box score of an NCAA Tournament game featuring the defending national champions.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sportz Assassin's West Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Duke. Like it or not, the Blue Devils are the top seed again. This team has the knowledge that they just won a title a year ago and the horses to repeat.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: UConn. They made an amazing run to the Big East championship and they have a guy in Kemba Walker who can carry a team deep into the tournament.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Texas. The Longhorns spent about a six week stretch of what may have been the best basketball played all year long. Sure, Rick Barnes' teams seem to fall short during the tournament, but this team could be different.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Oakland. Of course, Texas may not get out of the first round. That would mean Oakland popped them. The Golden Grizzlies have Keith Benson who is an NBA-talented player and gives them that rare big men that most smaller schools in the tournament lack.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Michigan. I just don't see how the Wolverines garnered a No. 8 seed. They, to me, weren't a solid bet to get into the tournament until the final week of the season.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: San Diego State. This one very easy. They'll play their first two games over in Tucson then the next two up the road in Anaheim. Despite being a newcomer to the national scene, their fans are boisterous.

MUST WATCH GAME: Texas vs Oakland. You want to see Benson, first of all. And you want to see the buzzing mid-major against a team that stumbles come tournament time.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: UConn vs Cincinnati. The Bearcats played the Huskies tough just a few weeks ago in Storrs. You rarely (read: never) see a conference battle this early in the tournament so it should be a treat.

Sportz Assassin's Southeast Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Pitt. I'm not that sold on the Panthers, but they did win the Big East regular season crown and they do have some bangers who can take the team deep.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Florida. I'm not entirely sold on the Gators either, but I think they have a draw they can handle to the Elite 8 and someone else will do their dirty work and knock out Pitt.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Kansas State. K State was among those most talked about as a preseason pick for the Final Four. But they got off to a rocky start. Over the last month or so, the Wildcats have stepped it up and have the guard play to go deep in the dance.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Michigan State. I know, it's tough to be a Cinderella team when you've been to the last two Final Fours. But they are a No. 10 seed that has really underperformed this year. Tom Izzo is an excellent tournament coach and could get this team back on track. The region is weak enough to feed a run by Sparty.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Utah State. How does a ranked team that has barely lost all year long get saddled with a No. 12 seed?

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Florida. A couple games in nearby Tampa before heading off to New Orleans.

MUST WATCH GAME: Butler vs Old Dominion. I love ODU so much that I see them beating Pitt. But they must get by a Butler team that is coming on strong and were the National runners-up a year ago. Even though both are "mid majors", both have tons of tournament experience.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Pitt vs Old Dominion. This is where the first No. 1 seed could go down.

Sportz Assassin's Southwest Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Kansas. The Jayhawks are on a roll and, according to me, they are the best team in the tournament for the second consecutive year (well, we know how last season went).

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Kansas. I just said that I thought they were the best team in the tournament.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Louisville. Rick Pitino knows a little something about the NCAA tournament and his Cardinals squad just reached the Big East title game.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Richmond. This is a team that can rain threes ... which is usually one of those ingredients for an upset. The Spiders did beat Purdue and can be a Sweet 16 team.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Notre Dame. I just feel they deserved a No. 1 seed instead of Pitt ... and there is a good argument that they deserve one more than Duke.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Kansas. Though Texas A&M could play in San Antonio, I'm not leaning on them getting to the Sweet 16 and their first weekend in Chicago isn't really an advantage. Kansas gets to play in Tulsa then San Antonio on their way to Houston.

MUST WATCH GAME: Vanderbilt vs Richmond. Both teams enjoy jacking up threes. That means a lot of fun for us as we could see some wild momentum swings.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Kansas vs Illinois. Probably not a great matchup, but this is where KU were ousted last year. Plus we get to see Bill Self go up against his former team.

Sportz Assassin's East Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Ohio State. They've been the best team all season long. They are the top seed overall in the tournament and will be one of the favorites to win the whole she-bang.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Ohio State. This is a strong region, but Ohio State is the class of the bracket. They have the ability to beat Kentucky, Syracuse or North Carolina.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Kentucky. The Wildcats have NBA talent ... though they are a bit undisciplined. Still, they have the horses to beat Ohio State, Syracuse or North Carolina in Newark.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Marquette. They are an 11th seed but they can do some major damage. They get Xavier first ... then, most likely, Syracuse. They can beat X and, obviously, won't be afraid of the Orange. From there, they could face an inconsistent UNC team, Washington or Georgia. Again, the Eagles could make some major noise.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Georgia. How did a team that was on the wrong side of the bubble two weeks ago get a No. 10 seed? Especially one that just lost to fellow bubble team Alabama (the Tide didn't get a bid).

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Syracuse. Spending the first weekend in Cleveland isn't a bad drive for Orange fans. And you know that if the Cuse get to the Sweet 16, the Prudential Center in Newark will be packed with Orange-clad fans.

MUST WATCH GAME: George Mason vs Villanova. Very interesting matchup. You have a Nova team that was a top 10 squad for much of the year before falling apart in the last few weeks. George Mason has been the mid-major darling this season. You have the bulky Big East facing off against the underdog Colonial.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Kentucky vs West Virginia. Don't you think the Wildcats want a piece of the Mountaineers after they beat them last season with a Final Four berth on the line? Well, the Kentucky players who stuck around.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Five Biggest Tournament Snubs

Below are two sections of snubs. One is for the teams that felt like they should be in the tournament but didn't. The other is for the teams that did make it, but things aren't as kosher as they should be.


1-Colorado: I'm not as outraged as most about Colorado's exclusion from the dance. But it does stink when you see UAB, Clemson and VCU make it in. The Buffs' problem was their non-conference schedule was horrible. While that did drive down their RPI, this team did fairly well in the highly competitive Big XII. Clemson and UAB have beaten nobody this year. Colorado beat Kansas State three times.

2-Alabama: It's not Bama's fault that the SEC West sucked. They ran away with the division and looked the part of a tournament team. Oh, and the Tide beat Georgia ... an SEC East team ... in both their meetings this year, including on Friday night in the SEC tournament. Yet Georgia is a No. 10 seed in the tournament and Bama gets no love. Alabama also won at Tennessee ... another SEC East team who fit comfortably in the tournament.

3-Virginia Tech: The Hokies live on this snub line every year. This year, they have much less of a gripe. After their signature win ... over Duke ... Tech looked remarkably bad the rest of the way -- save an ACC tournament win over Florida State. By the way, that Duke win is probably a better win than any of the other bubble teams. UAB lost to Duke by 21 when they hooked up.

4-Harvard: You know an Ivy League school wasn't going to get an at-large bid ... but why not? The Crimson beat fellow bubble schools Boston College and Colorado. They hold the highest RPI of anyone to not get into the tournament. And they lost an automatic bid on a buzzer beater in a one-game playoff with Princeton. I think we'd all like to see how Harvard would perform here than, say, UAB. If the RPI was so important to the Selection Committee that UAB got in and Alabama didn't, then why didn't Harvard have a chance?

5-St Mary's: They were a true bubble team, but they did beat Gonzaga and St. John's who are both in the tournament. Sure, the win over the Red Storm came at the beginning of the season when they weren't anything similar to what they are now, but it does count in their body of work. St. Mary's officially gets to be the team to wear the crown of "nobody will play us". It's hard for a west coast school who has been pretty good over the last several years to get anybody of note to come their direction. Instead, they have to go to places like Vanderbilt (which is tough for anyone to win) to try to pick up some love.


1-Notre Dame: The Irish barely finished behind Pitt for the Big East regular season championship. The Irish beat Pitt at Pitt in their lone matchup. Pitt lost their first Big East tournament game while Notre Dame clobbered Cincinnati, a No. 6 seed in this tournament, by 38 points. Yet the Irish are a No. 2 seed and Pitt is a No. 1. It is a big deal. Notre Dame now sits in a bracket with Kansas as the top seed while Pittsburgh sits atop a region with Florida as the No. 2.

2-Purdue: The Boilermakers are one of the better teams in this tournament and, to me, deserved a No. 2 seed ahead of Florida and, maybe, North Carolina. Sure, Purdue hasn't finished strong but neither has Tennessee or Georgetown who both got darn good seeds for their resumes.

3-Cincinnati: Their No. 6 seed is fair, but having to potentially face fellow Big East for UConn in the second round is rather cheesy. I mean, did the Big East get 17 teams in or something? Granted, three of the four No. 6 seeds are Big East teams ... and the other is playing a Big East team ... it's hard to place them. To me, switching the Bearcats with the Temple Owls makes more sense. It's the same bracket (West) and Temple is the No. 7 seed. Cincy would get Penn State before facing San Diego State. Then they could play UConn in the Sweet 16, which is much better.

4-BYU: Getting a No. 3 seed isn't that bad, but when you have been so good all year long and one guy gets kicked off your team late in the season because he had sex with his girlfriend, it's hard to swallow falling to a 3-seed. The Cougars did beat San Diego State twice (albeit with the now-suspended player) and the Aztecs got themselves a No. 2 spot.

5-Ohio State: Okay, you are the No. 1 overall seed and you have hot North Carolina, tough Syracuse, talented Kentucky and physical West Virginia in your bracket. Granted, the Buckeyes won't get to play all these teams but a Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky is pretty tough. The biggest complaint would be in seeing Pitt's region filled with pretty sketchy teams.

Sportz Assassin's FINAL Bubble Watch - March 13

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

So, here are my locks ... yes, by conference. The ones in green are spot on, no doubt locks. The ones in blue are pretty much in, too, though they can't afford to go in a tailspin. The ones in orange are smack dab on the bubble but would be in if the selections were being made today. Every team in red are on the wrong side of the bubble right now and would miss the dance.

I figure there are 18 conferences who are one-bid leagues and 13 conferences that could net multiple bids. So who should be going?

ATLANTIC COAST: Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Boston College.
Clemson and Virginia Tech got big wins in the ACC Tournament to earn a bid. Boston College's rough showing in the quarterfinals knocks them out.

BIG EAST: UConn, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Pitt, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John's, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Marquette.
Big East's 11 teams in the tournament is insane. But they all deserve to be there. But are any of them a championship team?

BIG TEN: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Illinois, Penn State.
I think Penn State gets in (ed. note: the Big Ten championship game is currently in progress) regardless of what happens today. Michigan and Illinois scoot in as well.

BIG XII: Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Colorado, Baylor, Oklahoma State.
Colorado is one of those last four in and will most likely sweat out Selection Sunday. Everybody else is pretty much set.

PAC-10: Washington, Arizona, UCLA, USC, Washington State.
I don't think USC makes it. I feel that they needed to get to the Pac-10 championship game to at least have a shot at the NCAAs. Washington State just hasn't done enough.

SEC: Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia.
Alabama, to me, is THE ultimate bubble team. I have them in instead of USC, but many have them out. Georgia lost to Bama in the SEC tournament which eliminates them.

MOUNTAIN WEST: San Diego State, BYU,
UNLV, New Mexico.
Really no surprises here. SDSU and BYU will be big time seeds while UNLV is securely in.

A-10: Richmond, Temple, Xavier
Richmond didn't mess around and claimed a bid for themselves. That win means one less spot for another bubble team

COLONIAL: Old Dominion, George Mason, VCU.
C-USA: Memphis, UAB, UTEP.
MVC: Indiana State, Missouri State.
WCC: Gonzaga, St. Mary's
Memphis' Conference USA championship pops their bubble in a good way. Really, in all of these schools, only UAB and Missouri State need to sweat. St. Mary's may be worried as well. I only think St. Mary's gets in out of that group ... though their resume is a bit suspect.

America East (Boston),
Atlantic Sun (Belmont),
Big Sky (No Colorado),
Big South (UNC-Ashville),
Big West (UC-Santa Barbara),
Horizon (Butler),
Ivy (Princeton),
MAAC (St Peter's),
MAC (Akron),
MEAC (Hampton),
Northeast (Long Island),
Ohio Valley (Morehead State),
Patriot (Bucknell),
Southern (Wofford),
Southland (Tx-San Antonio),
SWAC (Alabama State),
Summit (Oakland),
Sun Belt (Ark-Little Rock)
WAC (Utah State)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let's Keep Our Mouth Guards IN Out Mouths, M'kay?

Mouth guards have been all the rage in the NBA over the last couple of years. What was once used by only a few of the big bangers underneath has become the must need accessory in the League.

Back in my day (1990s), wristbands were the thing. Except you had them everywhere but your wrists. Usually they were a lot higher up on the arm. We've seen the sleeves come en vogue as well as those pads that protect the ribs. Naturally, mouth guards would be next. I have only one problem with that, though.


There is nothing better to watch than NBA players leaving their mouth guards hanging out of their mouths. We have the subtle hang. There is also the end-of-the-guard-in-the-mouth trick. Some actually touch the guard and take it completely out of their mouth.

I get that mouth guards aren't comfortable. If they were, everyone would be wearing them. I understand that during the down time of a game, you want to take it out and a basketball uniform doesn't really lend many places to store it. Football players can hang it in their facemasks or leave it dangling on a strap. Hoops guys have it tougher.

So I'll make a deal with you: Kill the halfway chew-a-thon on your mouthpiece and you may take it out with your hand to hold on to it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stop With the "ACC Sucks" Chants

Is the ACC down? Yeah a bit. Ever since the league expanded from 9 to 12 teams several years ago, the league hasn't been as deep with solid teams as they've had before. Certainly this isn't the ACC of the 1980s or 1990s where there were 3 or 4 really, really good teams each year.

But stop it with the "ACC sucks" chants. The ACC has held its own.

After all, what conference have the last two National Champions come from? That's right, the ACC. And since 2001, what conference has won 5 of the 10 championships in that time frame? Yep, it is the ACC.

The Big East and SEC have two each. The Big XII has one.

How about since 1988? Yep, the ACC has won 8 National Championships (they've also won 10 titles since 1982). The only years since 1988 when there wasn't an ACC team in the Final Four? 1996, 2003, 2006 and 2007. That's it. In the last 23 years, there have only been four Final Fours that didn't contain one ACC team. In fact, in 1990, 1991, 2001 and 2004, two ACC teams made it to the Final Four. So in 23 years, 23 times an ACC team made it to the Final Four.

Over the last 12 years (since 1999), an ACC team has been in the championship game 7 different times. Duke (3), North Carolina (2), Georgia Tech (1) and Maryland (1).

Everyone is on the Big East's bandwagon. But did you know that the last time a Big East team made it to the NCAA Championship game was back in 2004 when UConn beat Georgia Tech for the title? In that same time span, the Horizon League, Conference USA and the Colonial Athletic Association have each sent a team to the title game.

That last Big East title appearance was a season after Syracuse won it with Carmelo Anthony. Add in UConn's 1999 title and the Big East have won just three championships over the last 25 years.

Look, the Big East is ... top to bottom ... a beast of a league. Every week there are a bunch of games between ranked teams. But to say that the ACC is done or isn't in the elite status as before ... well, you haven't been paying much attention to the last weekend of the season.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Let's RPI the NCAA Tournament

Here is what the NCAA Tournament would look like if we just used the top 68 teams of the RPI (as of Saturday March 5th):

1-Kansas vs 16-Virginia Tech/17-Miami (Tulsa)
8-Cincinnati vs 9-Tennessee (Tulsa)
4-Syracuse vs 13-Marshall (Denver)
5-Arizona vs 12-St Mary's (Denver)
2-Notre Dame vs 15-VCU (Chicago)
7-Vanderbilt vs 10-Memphis (Chicago)
3-Purdue vs 14-Clemson (Chicago)
6-George Mason vs 11-Illinois (Chicago)

1-Ohio State vs 16-Gonzaga/17-Oakland (Cleveland)
8-Villanova vs 9-Missouri (Cleveland)
4-West Virginia vs 13-So Miss (Washington)
5-Kansas State vs 12-Florida State (Washington)
2-North Carolina vs 15-UTEP (Charlotte)
7-UNLV vs 10-Boston College (Charlotte)
3-Georgetown vs 14-Belmont (Tampa)
6-UConn vs 11-Butler (Tampa)

1-BYU vs 16-Minnesota/17-Marquette (Denver)
8-Texas A&M vs 9-UCLA (Denver)
4-Texas vs 13-Princeton (Tuscon)
5-Utah State vs 12-Michigan State (Tuscon)
2-Pitt vs 15-Penn State (Cleveland)
7-Old Dominion vs 10-Missouri State (Cleveland)
3-Florida vs 14-Richmond (Tampa)
6-St. John's vs 11-Colorado St (Tampa)

1-San Diego St vs 16-Wichita State/17-Cal (Tuscon)
8-Temple vs 9-Harvard (Tuscon)
4-Wisconsin vs 13-Michigan (Tulsa)
5-Louisville vs 12-Washington (Tulsa)
2-Duke vs 15-Oklahoma St (Charlotte)
7-UAB vs 10-Georgia (Charlotte)
3-Kentucky vs 14-Central Florida (Washington)
6-Xavier vs 11-Cleveland State (Washington)

The Midwest Regional winner faces off against the South Regional winner ... and the East Regional champ and West Regional champ face off.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of the RPI, but the Selection Committee seems to love it. The question is, would we have a better tournament like this instead of having a Selection Committee do it ... and using all those automatic bids?

Observations From Carolina-Duke

North Carolina beat Duke last night to claim the ACC regular season championship. Quite a game to watch.

THE RIVALRY: Well, below is a nice list of why this is the best college hoops rivalry ... and may be the best collegiate rivalry. The schools are 8 miles apart. One is a private school; the other a public school. One is filled with out-of-staters; one is mainly in-state students. One plays in a small bandbox that is hell on opponents; another plays in the ACC's largest arena that is hell on opponents. One has the Crazies, the other has the Wine and Cheese Crowd (though it sure didn't sound very winey or cheesey last night).

Not to mention the players. There are lots of guys that were recruited heavily by both schools. Harrison Barnes was all but sealed to go to Duke before Carolina swooped in and got him. Danny Ferry was a Tar Heel fan but signed on to Duke. There are many, many others ... including next year's freshman sensation Austin Rivers who both Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski went after (Coach K won).

And remember in high school when you might run into your rivals at McDonald's or the mall or something? Same thing happens here. They are around each other all the time.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: Last night was the sixth time the outright ACC regular season championship game down to the final game between these two teams. Of the 58 seasons of ACC basketball, North Carolina has won at least a share of the regular season title 28 times. Duke has 19 titles. Only twice (2001, 1979) have both schools tied each other for the ACC crown. Still, that means 45 of the 58 ACC championships have been won by UNC, Duke or both. The last school outside of these two to win an outright ACC championship was Wake Forest in 2003 (Virginia and Maryland have each shared an ACC crown in that time).
PRIME TIME: This was the first time CBS showed a regular season game in primtime.

REMEMBER DECEMBER?: What made this matchup all the more unlikely was how these teams were perceived in December. UNC was, at one point, 4-3 and looked very disjointed. Heck, back in January, they were spanked by lowly Georgia Tech by 20. This team was sitting on the bubble and it looked like last season would repeat itself. The Heels have won 20 of 23, the ACC and now have a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament in the bag and could climb to a No. 1 or No. 2 depending on what happens in the ACC Tournament this week.

As for Duke, there were people saying that this team could go undefeated. They were defending champions, brought back everyone but Brian Zoubek and Jon Scheyer and added Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry. Now, who knows what would've happened had Irving not gotten injured ... but injuries happen in sports and are part of life. Still, Duke was 15-0 and looking like they'd roll into ACC play.

They have been 12-4 ever since, which isn't anything to sneeze at. But for a team that many felt couldn't be beaten, they've looked rather suspect down the stretch.

PLUMLEES: Most overrated Duke recruit(s) since Ricky Price. Two of the brothers are already at Duke with another one on the way. Add all of them together and they could equal one Brian Zoubek.

Duke must have the Plumlees do something in the NCAAs. Last year's team was set up in a similar way (mainly a guard oriented team), but Zoubek ate up a ton of space, was active and a solid defender. These Plumlees aren't that. Neither was Zoubek until his senior season, but that doesn't help Duke out right now.

DEXTER STRICKLAND: Now that Larry Drew II is gone, Strickland has taken on the role as the Tar Heels that makes you most nervous. Strickland forces shots, drives into traffic and seems to go against the offense at times. But he makes some of those shots and had the big dunk at the end of the game that put the nail in Duke's coffin.

NOLAN SMITH: He should unanimously be the ACC Player of the Year. To see his basketball maturity over the past four years is stunning.

ROY WILLIAMS: Ol' Roy has to win the ACC Coach of the Year award. Guiding this team to an ACC title is one thing, but to do it after you lost a lottery pick (Ed Davis), two transfers (Travis Wear, David Wear) and having another kicked off the team (Will Graves). He then had to deal with Larry Drew II quitting on the team in the middle of the ACC season and losing Reggie Bullock to a knee injury. They now only have 8 scholarship athletes playing right now and their backup power forward is 6-4 Justin Watts. To pull this off is one of Roy's biggest acheivements.

NEXT WEEK: All this is fine and dandy, but we may get to do it all over again next week ... and a No. 1 seed could be on the line.

68 Team Tournament Already Seems Like a Bad Idea

We have yet to see what the first 68-team NCAA Tournament will look like, but I'm already hating it.

First off, do you need to have your bracket filled out by Tuesday morning? Or are we throwing out those "play in games"?

Second off, look at these extra teams that are getting in. Needless to say, I'm unimpressed.

In Joe Lunardi's latest Bracketology, he has as his "last four in" as Colorado, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Michigan State. Really, none of those teams have done anything to wow you into believing they could scare anyone in the tournament. And remember that those teams are on pins and needles ... and if they fall out of favor, teams like Alabama, Georgia, USC and Missouri State are next in line. Again, unimpressive.

All of this makes me think THANK GOD THEY DIDN'T EXPAND TO 96 TEAMS!! Imagine if we had to fine 18 more teams to put into this tournament. Then we could look forward to adding teams like East Tennessee State, Duquesne, Hofstra, James Madison, Valparasio, New Mexico, Miami-FL and California. It would be insanely watered down.

I know we live in this crazy time where "everyone needs to be involved" and we hand out ribbons and trophies just for competing. We're not 5 years old anymore and you can tell these kids that they aren't good enough to be in the tournament ... so they aren't. I'm not saying to go back to the good ol' days and making only the champion of the conference as the lone representative in the tournament, but there is an opportunity for those bubble teams to show their worth. Early losses doesn't show me that you necessarily belong in the tournament.

It's stupid.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bengals Are Right To Call Carson Palmer's Bluff

Here is something I thought I'd never type: the Cincinnati Bengals front office (all three people) are doing the right thing when it comes to the Carson Palmer situation.

To get you caught up, Carson Palmer wants out of Cincinnati so badly that he is threatening to retire if the team doesn't trade him. The Bengals' public stance is they are not going to deal Palmer and that he's their quarterback.

While that may frustrate Bengals fans, they are doing the right thing.

That doesn't mean they can never trade him. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that the Bengals would be smart to not cave into Palmer's demands right now and looking desperate. If they were aggressively looking to deal him now, not only would it open the floodgates for any other moody Bengal to write his own ticket out of town, but the Bengals lose trade leverage.

Sitting on this situation would be best.

Cincinnati can look for deals behind the scenes. There are plenty of teams in need of a quarterback (Vikings, Cardinals, Redskins, Titans, Niners, Seahawks, Panthers, Dolphins and Bills) and not that many names out there to be had. Several of those teams would be interested. Deal him for something of worth.

Now if a deal can't be done, then fine. Just sit on him. If he quits, he quits. That would mean your highest paid player doesn't want his money ... which looks good to the cheap Bengals. I know that the team gets nothing back in terms of talent, but letting him walk could pay off down the road.

I mean, if the Bengals panic and deal Palmer ... then what do you think Chad Ochocinco will do? If the Bengals don't give in to their franchise quarterback, everyone else knows they have a slim shot to work their way out.

Plus Bengal fans must remind themselves that there is some labor discord out there. If the lockout extends deep into the summer, then (a) you aren't even able to make trades, (b) another team would most likely pass on a deal since they'd have limited time to work Palmer into their playbood and (c) the Bengals would have a tough time getting their new QB ready.

To me, it makes sense for the Bengals to play this game of chicken with Palmer. After all, they have a lot less to lose.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Late, But Here Comes Texas' Collapse

Stop me if you've heard this before: the Texas Longhorns have struggled a bit after being considered one of the best teams in the country.

That's right, it is time for the Texas Collapse.

The Longhorns were once the hottest team in the country ... and that was just two weeks ago. Since then, the Horns have lost 3 of 4 -- all to unranked teams sitting on the bubble. They lost at Nebraska, at Colorado and now at home to Kansas State. Wedged in there was an uninspiring win over last place Iowa State. Their final game is at Baylor who are fighting for their tournament lives.

If you recall, last year's Horns team faced an even more devistating collapse. After starting the season 17-0 and climbing to a No. 1 ranking, Texas went 7-10 the rest of the way including a first round NCAA Tournament loss to Wake Forest. The same Wake Forest team that would fire it's coach not too long after that.

Two years ago, Texas began the season 11-2. They would go 12-10 the rest of the way.

While this year's fall isn't as dramatic for a variety of reasons, it is still troubling. All the analysts went on and on about how strong Texas was ... especially on the defensive end. Aside from their loss at Colorado where they gave up 91 points, they've still done a nice job defensively. It is their offense that stinks.

They shot 36.4% against Nebraska.
They shot 42.6% against Colorado.
They shot 33.8% against Kansas State.

In Texas' three losses in this stretch, Jordan Hamilton has shot a combined 15-for-58 from the field.

Teams struggle from time to time, but what should concern Longhorn fans is that their last two seasons have ended rather abruptly. In 2009, they were ousted by Duke in the 2nd round of the tournament. Last year, it was in the first round to Wake.

This year -- who knows?