Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sportz NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, Day 2

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

GAME OF THE DAY: Michigan vs Kansas. Easy pick since the other three games were pretty much blowouts.  But this one had an epic ending.  From Trey Burke's ridiculous three to the overtime dominated, This was a furious game with a very exciting ending.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Michigan over Kansas. As far as seeding goes, this was the only upset.  Even then, many people had the Wolverines getting past the Jayhawks here.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big Ten. A day after Indiana was knocked out of the dance, Michigan saved a spot in the Elite 8. Ohio State will be favorites to beat Wichita on Sunday so a Michigan win would put two conference teams in the big dance.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big 12. Really, no conference deserves to be here, but Kansas was the next #1 seed to lose ... and heart wrenchingly.

DUD OF THE DAY: Florida vs Florida Gulf Coast. For a half, this game was pretty decent.  But the Cinderella story ended with about 5 minutes left in the first half.  The Gators went on a 16-0 run to stop the life out of FGCU.  While there are still some good stories left, the ultimate darkhorse has been knocked out.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Louisville. They're the only #1 seed left now and boy do they look good.  They took their foot off the gas pedal a bit against Oregon, but they just owned the Ducks.  With a huge game against Duke up next, the Cardinals will try to continue to be the class of the tournament. 

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Cinderella's broken slipper. The NCAA Tournament is a great event because it means so many things at different times.  The first weekend is all about those no-names that come up and bite one of the big dogs.  The second week, however, usually has balance restored.  Sure, there are times where you get a Butler or VCU surprising us (or even a Wichita State playing for a Final Four spot tomorrow), but usually it is those teams who believe they can win a title flexing their muscle.


*The Elite 8 is set.  We have the Big East (3), Big Ten (2), ACC (1), SEC (1) and Missouri Valley (1) conferences represented.   My picks?  Louisville, Ohio State, Florida and Syracuse. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sportz NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, Day 1

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

GAME OF THE DAY: Ohio State vs Arizona. Another game, another huge shot to win the game for Ohio State.  This one was huge since they'll be seeing the #9 seed Wichita State on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.  The Buckeyes came back from down big to take this game over and fought back a scrappy Zona squad.  Now onto the bruising Shockers.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Syracuse over Indiana. Looking at the matchup, you may not think it was an upset -- I saw it to be a Syracuse win -- but when you look at the season as a whole, it kinda is.  Indiana was the preseason fixture atop the polls and the odds on favorite to win the title.  Or, at the very least, get to the Final Four.  That didn't happen.  The Hoosiers won two games in this tournament and are now gone.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big East. The final run just keeps on going.  Not only did Syracuse upset Indiana in one side of the East Region, but Marquette upset the Miami Hurricanes in the bottom half.  That means that we get an all-Big East regional final and guaranteeing the conference will send a team to Atlanta for the Final Four.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. Four different conferences lost today (ACC, A-10, Big Ten and Pac 12), but the ACC's regular season and tournament champion was just demolished on Thursday.  Miami looked bad ... really bad.  They couldn't hit anything, showed nothing that resembled an offense and just looked shook.  Not a great national showing for one of the pleasant surprises in the nation this year.

DUD OF THE DAY: Marquette vs Miami. To piggyback off what I just said, Miami looked horrible.  Marquette, to their credit, jumped all over it and should be given props for helping the Canes look this bad.  Still, this game wasn't close at all and most people were switched over to TBS to watch that great OSU-Zona game pretty quickly.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Wichita State. Yes, Marquette could go here, but Wichita State just owned LaSalle.  I mean OWNED.  This looks like a team that could Cinderella its way to Atlanta.  They get an Ohio State team that has needed near buzzer beaters to win its last two tournament games.  The Shockers continue to out-physical their opponents and crashing the boards.  This will be a very good game on Saturday.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Promise unfulfilled. As I mentioned before, Indiana's coronation ended on Thursday.  They were the overwhelming preseason No. 1 squad (for what its worth, Kentucky started the season at #3) and were kept at or near the top of the rankings despite them repeatedly showing weaknesses.  Miami wasn't expected to do much, but they dominated the ACC's regular season and tournament to become a sorta sleeper pick to win it all.  Neither got past the Sweet 16, meaning their seasons are come to a thud.  Neither team will be what they were this season.  Miami loses its senior leadership while Indiana will likely be plucked through by the NBA draft.  Both will start from scratch a bit and getting this far next year won't be as much a given.


*Again, Wichita State can beat Ohio State and that shouldn't be looked at as a big upset.  This has been a darn good team this year.

*Of course, most people on the East coast didn't really watch Wichita beat LaSalle since the game started around 10pm.  I know it was played in Los Angeles, but the Philly area (where LaSalle is located) had to wait until after bedtime.
*Really, were any of the results on Thursday that big of a surprise?  Syracuse's zone was going to keep the runnin' Hoosiers from getting out of the box, Marquette was going to out-Miami Miami, Wichita State was just to big and strong for LaSalle and Ohio State is just a better team than Arizona. 

*Indiana has lost 7 straight NCAA tournament games against the Big East.

*The Marquette-Syracuse East region final will be the first time conference mates will meet with a Final Four berth on the line for the first time since 2009.  Big East foes Pitt and Villanova met in a classic affair that the Wildcats won.

*Midwest represent!  Three of the four winners on Thursday are midwestern teams (Marquette, Ohio State, Wichita State).  With the Kansas-Michigan winner joining that group and Louisville the tournament's top seed, at least 5 of the Elite 8 will be midwestern schools.  That's not even adding if Michigan State upends Duke.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Let's Have a BIG EAST Reunion Tournament at MSG Each Year!

So the Big East ... as we knew it ... is dead.  We all will miss that tough conference schedule, but what most people will miss the most is that conference tournament in Madison Square Garden.

As the Sportz Assassin, I'd use my "Commish Of All Sports" power to force a preseason tournament at MSG featuring those current and former Big East teams.  Just like any of those other 8-team preseason dances, let's have one for the former Big East.

It would never happen in real life.  For one, that would mean that this would be their one preseason exempt tournament.  Another would be that these teams are facing 18-game skeds and they are already whining about having less space in their non-conference schedules.  You could schedule one of those double or triple headers at MSG, but that doesn't have the flavor of a true tournament.  Have a three day weekend deal -- maybe the Thursday thru Saturday runs.  And as the "Commish Of All Sports", I'd allow for this to be in addition to any tournaments these teams would want to be in and allow for this to be in addition to any non-con schedule.  We want it; make it happen.

So here would be the 8 teams that I'd want in this tournament every year. 

ONE OF THE CATHOLIC 7 OF THE "NEW" BIG EAST TEAMS:  This is easy.  Have one of those new Big East teams in this.  Georgetown would be nice.  Villanova, St. John's, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence or DePaul.  Not the newer teams like Xavier, Creighton or Butler.  No, one of the originals.  And, really, I'd rather have G'town, Nova, St. John's or Marquette above any of the others. (2014 rep:  Georgetown)

ONE OF THE FORMER BIG EAST TEAMS LEFT BEHIND:  Really that is just UConn, Cincinnati or South Florida.  No one cares about USF there, so UConn or Cincy.  Have them rotate year to year.  Start with UConn in the even seasons (2014 rep:  UConn).

ONE OF THE FORMER BIG EAST TEAMS IN THE ACC:  This one opens up a bit.  Not only would you have access to new ACC schools Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Louisville ... but you could also use Boston College, Miami or Virginia Tech.  If you wanted.  Of course, the Orange would be the big draw but you can rotate at least the other three ready to join (heck, Louisville is defending two-time tournament champ and will probably be favored to win the Old Big East tournament next year before joining the ACC).  There are your three really big dogs in your dance.  (2014 rep: Syracuse)

RUTGERS:  You need teams in here, and you cannot have teams in the same conference in this tournament.  Rutgers will be the lone Big East school in the Big Ten, so they get the nod.  It will help bring that "New York" thunder that the Big Ten thinks they're getting with the Scarlet Knights.  So Rutgers is in each and every year (2014 rep:  Rutgers)

WEST VIRGINIA:  They've been out of the league for a year as they are now a Big 12 school.  But bring them in.  Remember WV had that great run a few years back in the tournament, so they'd belong.  (2014 rep: West Virginia)

Now here is where the wrinkle comes in.  Unless you double up in a couple of leagues, you are out of Big East options.  No other conferences house former or current Big East schools.  So now you have to look to schools that weren't in the Big East.  To me, go for those mid-majors in the northeast.  You could add these teams according to who is hot.  Like maybe get LaSalle next year since they are a Sweet 16 team this year and people are getting familiar with them.  Or Albany since they made the dance this year.  Something like that.

ATLANTIC 10 TEAM:  Really the right thing to do.  Have one of the A-10 teams (hopefully from the northeast) in.  Someone like Fordham, Rhode Island, St Joe's, La Salle, George Washington, UMass.  If they wanted a bigger name, maybe reach down to VCU, Saint Louis or Dayton.  Either way, that would be nice to have a school from there into this tournament. (2014 rep: La Salle)

TWO MID-MAJOR TEAMS:  Again, take teams from the area.  Maybe someone from the Northeast Conference (Long Island U, FDU, Wagner, Monmouth), Patriot League (Army, Navy, Holy Cross), MAAC (Manhattan, Iona, Marist, St. Peter's), America East (Hartford, Stony Brook, Vermont, Albany, Boston).  (2014 rep: Albany and Long Island)

So here are the 8 teams in the first MSG Invitational to be held in the fall/winter of 2014:  Albany, Georgetown, LaSalle, Long Island, Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn, West Virginia 

The bracket will be:

#1-Georgetown vs #8-Long Island
#4-West Virginia vs #5-La Salle
#3-UConn vs #6-Rutgers
#2-Syracuse vs #7-Albany

Maybe 2015's looks like this:

#1-Louisville vs #8-Army
#4-VCU vs #5-West Virginia
#3-Cincinnati vs #6-Rutgers
#2-Villanova vs #7-Manhattan

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tournament Times Show NCAA Doesn't Care About Student In "Student-Athlete"

I haven't been shy in saying I'm not a fan of the NCAA -- for a variety of reasons.  One of which has bothered me this weekend and, upon seeing the schedule for the Sweet 16 games, bothers me even more.

Last night ... SUNDAY night ... Duke played Creighton in the city of Philadelphia.  The game time was set for 9:40pm.  It really didn't get going until 10:00pm.  Lovely that the NCAA has schools playing this late.  It would be one thing if it was a couple of west coast teams going at it, but it was an Eastern Time Zone team facing off against a Central Time Zone team in an Eastern Time Zone city.

Sunday night.

I can get with the late start times on Friday and Saturday.  I can even get on board with the Thursday night late tips.  But not Sunday night when these students ... whether it is the ones playing on the court, the ones in the bands, the ones cheerleading, the ones who made the trek all over the country or even the ones who stayed home to watch it on television ... have school bright and early on Monday morning. 

The Sunday schedule is a new thing.  When it as just CBS holding the tournament, this didn't happen.  CBS' final Sunday game was typically at 7:00pm or so in order for them to get to the 11:00 news with no issues.  Now with TNT, TBS and TruTV showing games, the NCAA sees no problem in having these late night tips. 

Never mind that these players miss about 2-3 weeks of school during this tournament (as well as the conference tournaments that preceeded it) or that the NCAA mandates when these teams get into town or their media availability.  That only matters when the NCAA is worried about if football playoff  money will be more than the bowl money. 

To me, this isn't the same as people complaining about the World Series or NBA Finals games starting so late.  That's a different animal.  This one is more of a gripe since this is supposed to be about the "student-athletes" that the NCAA loves to say are going pro in more than just sports.  Yes, sports do provide many kids with the ability to further their education in ways that they may not have been able to do financially.  But for the NCAA to pimp out these kids this badly says something.

By the way, I can't wait to watch the Florida-Florida Gulf Coast game on Friday night in Dallas.  Game time?  10:00pm.

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Round of 32, Day 2

Florida Gulf Coast is the first 15-seed to get to the
Sweet 16
Just a quick recap of what I saw in my Sportz Room -- filled with TVs that I can watch all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Ohio State vs Iowa State. There were several good games that could fit in here.  But this one finished with both controversy (the charge call) and a buzzer beating shot.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Florida Gulf Coast over San Diego State. Sure, it isn't like a #7 seed losing in the Round of 32 is that big of an upset ... except that this is the one time that it is.  Florida Gulf Coast has become the very first #15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16 (making them the lowest seed to ever get this far).  Yeah, FGCU is vastly underseeded, but that is besides the point.  They are in the Sweet 16 while programs like Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA are not.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. Hard to call one league that had the best day today, but I'll go ACC.  Both the ACC and Big Ten sent two teams to the Sweet 16 on Sunday.  Both leagues had teams knocked out (ACC had North Carolina; Big Ten had Illinois and Minnesota).  Both Duke and Miami grinded out wins over their opponents, whereas Ohio State had a clutch three (and that controversial call) to eek out a win and Indiana used a 10-0 run to finish out their game and win against Temple.  Splitting hairs.  Still, the maligned ACC has .

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Mountain West. The MWC were the top RPI conference, but none of their members will be in the Sweet 16.  The A-10 has someone there; So does the Atlantic Sun and the Missouri Valley Conference.  San Diego State was the last man standing after UNLV, New Mexico and Boise State lost their first games and Colorado State lost yesterday.  They not only didn't get it done, but they lost to Florida Gulf Coast.

DUD OF THE DAY: Kansas vs North Carolina. It was the sexy game of the day with two of the blue bloods going after it.  However, neither team really played that well.  Neither could hit anything in the first half, both turned the ball over way too much.  Kansas imposed their will in the 2nd half and quickly turned what looked like an upset ready Tar Heels bunch into a rout over the last 10 minutes.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Florida. On a day where pretty much everyone was tested, Florida cruised by Minnesota with minimal challenge.  Though Kansas did look pretty good outscoring UNC by 21 in the second half.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Block/charge call. It already has been debated on Twitter, ESPN and among friends.  The Aaron Craft block/charge call.  It looked like a blocking foul by the rule book but was ruled a charge by the officials.  It changed the game as it turned a would-be four point lead away from Iowa State into a charge call.  I will be debated in Ames, IA for many years.

There was also a bad call at the end of the Miami/Illinois game which game the ball to Miami after it was clearly out of bounds off a Hurricanes player.  Illinois was down just 2 points with just under a minute left when that happened.


*Florida has three schools in the Sweet 16 for the first time ever.  Miami, Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will all be playing next week.  In fact, Florida and FGCU will battle for a spot in the Elite Eight.
*Conference call:  Here is the myriad of leagues left in this tournament

Big Ten (4 - Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan St, Michigan)
Big East (3 - Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse)
ACC (2 - Miami, Duke)
Pac 12 (2 - Arizona, Oregon)
Big 12 (1 - Kansas)
SEC (1 - Florida)
Missouri Valley (1 - Wichita State)
Atlantic 10 (1 - LaSalle)
Atlantic Sun (1 - Florida Gulf Coast)

*I've been all about the bird mascots this tournament.  Well, Florida Gulf Coast and Kansas won ... but Temple and Creighton lost.  Now the bird mascots are 12-2 in this dance.

*While you were watching the tournament, UCLA fired Ben Howland.  Howland did take UCLA to three straight Final Fours in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  However, UCLA has struggled in the last few years and their recruits haven't always panned out.  There was that Sports Illustrated cover story which put the program on blast and just a basic malaise about the team as a whole.

*Also while you were busy, George Mason is heading to the Atlantic 10.  The conference has to replace Butler and Xavier (who are leaving for the New Big East), Temple (the old Big East) and Charlotte (Conference USA).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

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

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

GAME OF THE DAY: Marquette vs Butler. Just a great game to watch.  Close with nice coaching and both teams just giving everything in this one.  Both teams made some great plays all game long, huge shots and we got a last second shot that was off the mark.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Wichita State over Gonzaga. Whenever a #1 seed goes down in the first weekend, that is an upset.  Even though Gonzaga was looked upon as a weak top seed, those teams should at least get to the Sweet 16.  Wichita not only played their patented defense on the Zags, they hit some great shots with a memorable flurry to end the game.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big Ten. The Big Ten keeps on moving on.  They are now 9-1 in this tournament with both Michigan and Michigan State blowing out their opponents on Saturday.  Not only that, but with Gonzaga going down, Ohio State is now looking at a West Region with just Arizona, Wichita State and the winner of an Ole Miss/LaSalle game waiting in Los Angeles ... provided that they dodge the upset bullet against Iowa State.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Atlantic 10. The A-10 was pitching a shutout until today.  All three schools that played on Friday lost.  Saint Louis (the regular season and tournament champ) were blown out of the gym by 12th-seeded Oregon.  VCU also were spanked in their game.  Butler lost a close one to Marquette.  Now only LaSalle and Temple remain, and Temple faces off against Indiana on Sunday.

DUD OF THE DAY: Michigan vs VCU. I was really excited about this matchup, but it really didn't go as planned.  That VCU pressure defense doesn't work as well when they face off against an opponent with guard play like Michigan.  The Wolverines just bowled over the Rams and coasted into the Sweet 16.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Michigan. Amazing performance by the Wolverines.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Bad seeding. Not only were the people who were against Gonzaga getting a No. 1 seed a bit vindicated, but Oregon and Arizona showed that the Pac-12 was grossly underseeded when the brackets were announced a week ago.  More on Gonzaga below.


*Louisville is the 15th team since 1985 to have won its first two games by at least 25 points.  Only ONE of the previous 14 teams have gone on to win the National Championship (2005 North Carolina).

*Another amazing stat:  Wichita State is just the fifth #9 seed to reach the Sweet 16.

*With Louisville, Marquette and Oregon winning, bird mascots are now 10-0 in the tournament.  Kansas, Temple, Florida Gulf Coast and Creighton play on Sunday.

*Gonzaga got their respect ... then lost it.  These Zags, who have been "the Boise State of basketball", have continued to disappoint in the postseason.  Since their surprise appearance in the Elite 8 in 1999, the Zags haven't gotten back since.  They've had great teams, great players and favorable matchups but can't get it done.  Now they've had the #1 seed they've craved and were ousted before the first weekend was over.  They can't be trusted anymore.

*And that may be the underlying story for this entire weekend.  When the brackets were announced, many bought in to the Zags and had them in their Final Fours.  Others listened to the experts tell us how great New Mexico and Saint Louis were and watched them get upset.  We even bought into VCU who were just spanked by a Michigan team that struggled down the stretch.  Next year we will all probably stick to those power conference teams we are more familiar with (even though Wichita State is in the Sweet 16 as well as the SD State-Florida Gulf Coast winner).  This Sweet 16 will probably see 13 or 14 power conference schools in it. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Round of 64, Day 2

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

GAME OF THE DAY: Kansas vs Western Kentucky. This almost was one of the, if not the biggest, upset in NCAA tournament history.  And it wasn't one of those where the underdog stunned the favorite early and then lost the lead.  This was very much a back and forth affair with the backdrop of a heavily packed and nervous Jayhawks crowd in Kansas City.  Quite an amazing.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown. Stunning.  This is a school that is younger than the players on their basketball team.  They just beat the team that were co-champions of the Big East.  And they did so rather handily.  I know that six other #15 seeds have beaten a #2 seed in tournament history, but this seems the most unlikely.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Atlantic 10. The A-10 is amazingly 6-0 in the NCAA tournament.  Not only did Saint Louis, VCU and Butler win games as the better seed, but Temple upset a NC State squad that was highly ranked in the preseason and LaSalle (who also won in their First Four matchup) upset Kansas State in Kansas City.  Crazy.  This league will have 5 of the 32 teams remaining at the end of the day.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big East. The Big East struggled.  Georgetown was the biggest seed to go down in the tournament.  Notre Dame was crushed by Iowa State.  Villanova and Cincinnati lost close ones.

DUD OF THE DAY: Minesota vs UCLA. After all the hype of the Pac-12's success on Thursday, I was excited to see what UCLA could do against a Minnesota team that barely made the tournament.  Well, the Bruins didn't show up.  Tubby's Gophers took it to UCLA and made a must see close game into a laugher.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Miami. The Hurricanes flexed their muscle with a 29 point win over Pacific.  The ACC regular season and tournament champions have that look as a title contender.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Blowouts. There were upsets, yes, but even they were blowouts.  Only 5 of the 16 games were decided by 8 points or less.  And even in those games, they could/should have been blowouts.  North Carolina were up by 20 on Villanova, LaSalle was up big on Kansas State and Illinois had a 16 point halftime lead on Colorado.


*Bird mascots are now 7-0 in the NCAA tournament.  Louisville, Oregon, Creighton, Marquette, Temple, Florida Gulf Coast and Kansas all won their second round games.  On the flip side, those frisky cat mascots are just 2-8.  Only Memphis and Arizona won their 2nd round games. 

*We will have a #12-vs-#13 game for the second straight season.  Ole Miss will play LaSalle on Sunday with a Sweet 16 bid on the line.

*Kansas will play North Carolina on Sunday in Kansas City.  56 years ago today, North Carolina beat Kansas in Kansas City in one of the greatest NCAA Championship games in history.  The game went to triple overtime before the Tar Heels beat Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks for an undefeated season and a championship.

*The Big Ten is proving how great a league they were this year.  They are 7-1 in the dance with only Wisconsin losing..

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Round Of 64, Day 1

Siyani Chambers

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

GAME OF THE DAY:  Marquette vs Davidson.  This is the one game that held my interest the most.  The first half was back and forth after Davidson jumped out to a lead.  Then the Wildcats owned the second half until a late ... and I mean late ... flurry by Marquette ending on the only NCAA tournament game in the last two years that saw a team take the lead on a shot in the final 10 seconds.

UPSET OF THE DAY:  Harvard over New Mexico.  I was convinced that this was the one non-#1 vs #16 game that was in the bag.  Harvard isn't the same team they were last year when they went dancing ... and I don't mean that in a good way.  Not to mention that people all over are mad as ESPN and other sports outlets whose "experts" kept preaching to us how legit this New Mexico squad was.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY:  Pac-12.  The Pac-12 was thoroughly disrespected in the seeding of this tournament.  Oregon won the Pac-12 tournament and got a #12 seed.  So did California.  Yet both beat their opponents pretty handily.  Arizona also won their game to advance.  The A-10 gets an honorable mention with Saint Louis, VCU and Butler all winning, but they all were the better seed so the Pac-12 gets the nod.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY:  Mountain West.  The MWC was on a roll.  They got five teams in the tournament and were out to show that they belonged with the power leagues.  Well, they are 1-3 so far with only Colorado State advancing.  Boise State lost in their First Four game while UNLV and New Mexico were soundly upset.  San Diego State begins play on Friday.

DUD OF THE DAY:  Michigan vs South Dakota State.  All I heard this week was how SD State's Nate Wolters was going to be so exciting to watch.  On this blog, I even hyped that up.  He is quite an impressive player, but he didn't have his Wally Sczerbiak or Steph Curry moment against Michigan.  Wolters scored just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.  Even the hyped matchup with the Wolverines' Trey Burke was a dud as Burke struggled to score (2-of-12). 

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY:  Syracuse.  The Orange not only blew out Montana, they did so by allowing an amazing 34 points.  The Grizzlies leading scorer had FIVE POINTS!  They shot 20%.  Just 5 assists to 17 turnovers.  Ouch!

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY:  Western hoops.  Thursday was all about the Westsiiiide.  Western hoops isn't given the respect of the eastern side due to coverage and overall star power.  But we got quite a glimpse of what's going on with Gonzaga struggling against Southern, New Mexico losing to Harvard.  But Arizona took care of a lot of people's upset pick Belmont.  St. Mary's nearly pulled off a stunning comeback on Memphis.  Colorado State did their thing against a confusing Missouri team.  And of course Oregon and California pulled off those #12-vs-#5 upsets (which also shows UNLV's weakness).  It was a mixed bag to say the least. 


*I can't believe how bad Pittsburgh looked against Wichita State.  I thought Pitt was vastly underseeded.  Shows how much I know.

*VCU looked very impressive against an Akron team that lacked a point guard.  Now they get Michigan in what could be the game of the day on Saturday.

*That Butler-Bucknell game ... especially the first half ... was hard to watch.  Ugh.

*The ACC is the only conference to have multiple teams in the tournament (four) to not have appeared on Thursday.  Miami, Duke, North Carolina and NC State are all in action on Friday. 

*Verne Lundquist may need to hang it up.  I've always enjoyed his announcing but the last few years have been grating.  His guffaws over anything Bill Raftery says, continues to get names and calls wrong ("and the ball goes out of bounds" ... long pause ... "OH!  There was a foul called.").  It is getting Pat Summerall-esque right now. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I HATE These Bland NCAA Courts

I know I've posted this at least once on this blog if not several times.  I believe I posted this when I worked for AOL's FanHouse.  But I have to say it yet again.


It is stupid.  Several years ago, the NCAA decided that those regional semifinals and finals would be played on courts that have black endlines with blue free throw circle and a huge NCAA logo at halfcourt.  Now, all of the courts in the entire tournament is like this and I find it dumb.

As a viewer, it sucks because you forget which game you are watching and where it is.  Like, I'm flipping back and forth between Michigan State-Valpo and Butler-Bucknell and find myself forgetting which one I'm watching (since I don't really care about either game).  Why can't the Butler-Bucknell game in Lexington have all that blue that we know Rupp Arena has.  Sure, hide the Kentucky Wildcats stuff, but let it have its identity.  Same with The Palace Of Auburn Hills.  Let them have those Pistons colors.  It gives each site its own identity.

Remember the red flooring of The Pit when NC State shocked Houston in 1983?  Or the orange floor of the Superdome when Michael Jordan hit the game winning jumper in 1982?  The burgundy floor at the Metrodome in 1992 or that one moment whatever your school made back in the day.  Now all those moments are on an ugly sanitized court that looks like the other 13 tournament sites that year. 

I hate it.

Realignment Makes For Some Weird Bracketology

This NCAA Tournament will be the last before a bunch of conference moves begin (with even more occurring down the road).  That means this NCAA Tournament could have some interesting little battles.

CINCINNATI-CREIGHTON:  These two schools play in the "second round".  Cincinnati will have the Big East logo on their back ... even though they won't be in the Big East after the season.  You know who will be?  Creighton.  Creighton joined Xavier and Butler to form a new Big East with the Catholic 7 while Cincinnati got left aside and will be in the Insert Name Here Conference. 

LOUISVILLE-DUKE:  These are the top two seeds in the Midwest Region and could see each other with a Final Four berth on the line.  Starting in 2014, these two will be conference-mates in the ACC.  They, along with North Carolina and Syracuse, will form a historically elite base for a historically great hoops league.  Adding in Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Miami and NC State (who are all also in this tournament) makes this the league to watch.

In fact, we could have three of the four regions with a soon-to-be All ACC regional final. The West could see Notre Dame vs Pittsburgh while the East could see Miami face either NC State or Syracuse.  Won't happen, but you never know.

In fact, you can make a region of just the 16 schools in this tournament that have either switched conferences or are about to switch leagues in the next two years. 

Here you go:

Louisville (ACC)
Notre Dame (ACC)
Pittsburgh (ACC)
Syracuse (ACC)
Butler (A-10 ... Big East)
VCU (A-10)
Temple (Big East)
Middle Tennessee (Conference USA)
Boise State (Mountain West)
Creighton (Big East)
Colorado (Pac-12)
Memphis (Old Big East)
Missouri (SEC)
Georgetown (Big East)
Marquette (Big East)
Villanova (Big East)

That doesn't even include San Diego State who aborted a planned move to move their basketball program from the MWC to the Big West. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sportz Assassin's Midwest Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Louisville. The won a wicked Big East tournament and get a very favorable venue list to get to the Final Four.  I buy into the notion that guard play is paramount in the NCAA tournament and the Cardinals have that in spades.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Louisville. I think it is laid out pretty well for Rick Pitino's bunch.  Short trips to Lexington and Indianapolis, a paved road to the Elite 8 and a very flawed No. 2 seed possibly waiting for them.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED):Creighton. Stop if you've heard this before: an experienced team with a player that can carry them.  Doug McDermott is a POY candidate who can put up points on anyone and the experience of playing tough teams in the tournament.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Oregon. The Ducks are tough and underseeded (see below).  In a region that I feel will be mostly chalk, Oregon could be the one school to sneak into the Sweet 16.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Oregon. The Pac-12 tournament champions were completely disrespected with a No. 12 seed.  They struggled without freshman point guard Dominic Artis during the season, but he's back and the Ducks are playing very well of late.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Louisville. A no-brainer and the spoils of being the top overall seed.  Lexington, then Indianapolis, then Final Four.

MUST WATCH GAME: Oklahoma State vs Oregon. Sorry for acting like I'm sounding the Oregon trumpet, but a woefully underseeded Ducks team plays a sketchy Oklahoma State team making their first tournament appearance since 2010.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Duke vs Creighton. Two experienced and talented teams squaring off in Philly.  Duke has lost just once with Ryan Kelly playing ... that that was also the last game they played.  I'll love watching this game to see a tough nosed battle.  Maybe McDermott and Seth Curry can put on a show.

Sportz Assassin's West Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Gonzaga. Well, the Zags get their shot at being the top dog.  The rest of the hoops nation want to know just how legit this team is.  They have star power ... and doubters.  They have experience ... but not as the hunted.  This will be a huge test for the Gonzaga program.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Ohio State. When looking at the schools who are the top seeds in this region, only Ohio State truly impresses me.  Deshaun Thomas is probably the best (and most important to his team) player in the region.  They have experience and toughness after dealing with the Big Ten schedule.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Wisconsin. I'm a big Bo Ryan guy and think he gets a lot out of his players.  Well, he has a great shot to beat Ole Miss in the second round before moving aside Kansas State.  From there, it will be interesting to see how Gonzaga handles that Wisconsin patience and discipline.

YOUR CINDERELLA: Belmont. They have all the Cinderella criteria.  They've been here before, they are experienced and they have a big team in front of them who is ripe for a knockout.

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Pittsburgh. They lost just 7 games all year despite navigating that tough Big East.  They've been ranked most of the year and yet are just an 8-seed?  These Panthers, though not as talented as past Pitt teams, could make noise with a 2nd round upset of Gonzaga.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Arizona. Ohio State does get to spend the first weekend in their backyard, but LA is a long drive, eh?  Arizona starts up one state north in Utah for the first weekend before possibly sliding west to Los Angeles for the regional finals (meanwhile playing the state school east of them along the way).

MUST WATCH GAME: Wisconsin vs Ole Miss. It is rare to see Wisconsin involved in a "must watch" game since the play a deliberate style, but it will be interesting to see them handle Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Ohio State vs Notre Dame. This would be the sexiest matchup (or would it be New Mexico-Arizona?).  Both fan bases will be in full effect in Dayton with two representatives of the best conferences squaring off in a tough guy contest.

Sportz Assassin's South Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Kansas. The Jayhawks are an experienced team with Ben McLemore as a Player Of They Year candidate.  They may have overachieved a bit during the season, but this is a tough team who can cut down the nets.

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Kansas. There are landmines, to be sure, but I think Kansas has a great road to the Final Four and should get their with minimal problems.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Michigan. The Wolverines were ranked No. 1 at on point during the season and were a title contender before a late season swoon.  Guard play is huge in the tournament and Michigan has some of the best with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr.  VCU could also fit the bill, but I think if they get to Kansas, the Jayhawks will have several days to prepare for that pressure defense.

YOUR CINDERELLA: South Dakota State. There isn't any glaring Cinderella in this bracket (does Minnesota or North Carolina count?), but Nate Wolters has the ability to put up huge numbers and an upset over weakening Michigan would put them on the map. 

WORST SEEDING ERROR: North Carolina. They are a tough No. 8 seed and I'm sure Kansas doesn't like them possibly waiting for them in the third round.  Sure, they've lost 10 games this season, but one was to Indiana, two were to Duke and three were to Miami.  They can get hot from deep and topple any of the big seeds in this region.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Kansas. The Jayhawks get to play in Kansas City right off the bat and then move down to North Texas for the regional final.  There are zero Texas teams in the entire tournament, so Kansas shouldn't have a problem bringing their huge fan base down and filling up Jerry World.

MUST WATCH GAME: Michigan vs South Dakota State. Trey Burke vs Nate Wolters should be the reason you must watch this one.  Burke is a national player of the year candidate and Wolters could be the tournament's next Steph Curry/Wally Sczerbiak.  Wolters can light it up and may bring some drama to the struggling Michigan's title run.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Michigan vs VCU. Sure, everyone else is pointing to Kansas-North Carolina, but how about those great Michigan guards going up against that attacking pressure defense of VCU?  I'd love to see how both handle the other.

Sportz Assassin's East Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Indiana. The Hoosiers have been the favorite to win the National Championship all year long.  They've shown quite a few weaknesses, but there isn't a team in the field that could dominate this tournament like Indiana. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Indiana. I think they have an easy road to the Elite 8, where they will meet Miami or Marquette.  While both are good enough to beat Indiana, I don't think they will.  Hoosiers make it to Atlanta.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): NC State. The Wolfpack has woefully been a disappointment this season.  Still, they have tons of talent and have the ability to upset Indiana in the third round and move on.  Likely?  No, but in a season as crazy as this, we could have something like this happen. 

YOUR CINDERELLA: Davidson. They are not the same team that Stephen Curry led to the Elite 8 a few years back, but this is quite a team.  De'mon Brooks is a stud and the Wildcats start off with a Marquette team that may not have deserved their No. 3 seeding.  Then they'd face fellow mid-major Bucknell or Butler.  . 

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Illinois. I didn't have the Illini locked into a tournament bid until the last week of the regular season.  Yet they somehow got a No. 7 seed. 

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: California. The Bears got a bit lucky.  Despite being a 12th seed, Cal gets to play UNLV in nearby San Jose.  Obviously a win keeps them in San Jose to play either Syracuse or Montana.  No one in this region (of probable contenders) has a distinct advantage once they get to Washington.

MUST WATCH GAME: Marquette vs Davidson. Like I said before, this could be a whale of a game.  Davidson is dangerous and Marquette could be ripe for the upset.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Indiana vs  NC State. Before the season started, NC State was supposed to matter.  They were supposed to be a contender.  They were supposed to be a team bursting with NBA talent that could give Indiana a run for their money in the Final Four.  Well, let's see if Indiana does have that glass jaw right off the bat..

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tar Heel Fans: Just Enjoy This Tournament!

This isn't your typical Tar Heels tournament team.  Maybe
we should embrace this ... for once.
I am a North Carolina Tar Heels fan and have been one my entire life.  So this post is to my fellow Heels lovers:

Please just enjoy this tournament.  Enjoy one for once.

North Carolina is seeded 8th and face Villanova in the first second round.  After that, they'd most likely get top seeded Kansas in Kansas City ... the 2nd straight year they'd play the Jayhawks in Missouri.  While every Carolina fan will be rooting the Heels on for a victory, we all know that's probably not going to happen. 

Still, let's enjoy that feeling for once.  That nothing-is-expected-from-us feeling.  That "house money" everyone talks about.  No pressure.  For once.  No pressure.

See, the Heels aren't used to being an 8th seed (more on that later).  The last 7 NCAA tournaments the Heels have participated in, they've been a #1 seed five times, a #2 once and a #3 once.  Only the #3 seeded Heels (the 2006 edition) didn't have Championship pressure on them ... but that Heels surprised many and were a trendy pick to get to the Final Four after Tyler Hansbrough's magical freshman season. 

The year was 2004 -- that's the last time a Heels team came into the NCAA tournament with little fanfare.  That was the first Roy Williams helmed team and came after a woeful 8-20 season in 2002 and an NIT appearance in 2003.  Anything was great.  But even that team had some pressure on it since that high ranked recruiting class (Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants) were supposed to turn around the Heels' misfortunes.  Carolina was a 6th seed and lost in the Round of 32 to Texas that year.

One year later, they were National Champs.

That year began all the expectations.  The 2005 team was highly ranked all season long and ran to a title game with Illinois.  The Heels won, giving Ol' Roy his first title.  2006 was supposed to be a down season, but Tyler Hansbrough caught UNC's fans by storm and the Heels captured that 3-seed and those aforementioned buzz. 

From there, Carolina has been a "title or bust" program.  The 2007 team added a killer recruiting class (Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Brandan Wright) to that overacheiving 2006 team and got a #1 seed.  The Heels got to the Elite 8 and lost, in overtime, to Georgetown (the Heels let a late lead slip away and were blitzed in overtime).  Same deal in 2008, except the Heels made it to the Final Four before getting blitzed by Kansas.  In 2009, the Heels were a #1 seed for the third straight year and 4th out of 5 seasons.  That one, they cashed in for another championship.

The 2010 season was a major hiccup that saw the Heels miss the tournament and go to the N.I.T.  As far as tournament pressure, there was really none because they weren't in it.  The 2011 team got back into the dance and a #2 seed and a loss to Kentucky in the Elite 8.  Last year, aka 2012, the Heels were the favorite to win another title.  But injuries to John Henson and Kendall Marshall derailed the #1 seeded Heels in another Elite 8 defeat. 

This year, the Heels weren't the N.I.T. disappointment of 2010 ... nor are they the buzz-worthy team of 2006.  This is a team deserving of their 8th seed.  They haven't been able to beat the teams better than them but do fairly well against the teams they are supposed to beat.  No Heels fan has delusions of a sixth championship ... though we will cheer for one and be upset when we get eliminated ... so we really are playing with house money for the first time in years.

And I mean YEARS.  In the 1990s, North Carolina was a #1 seed five times, a #2 seed once, a #3 seed once and a #4 once.  They were a #8 in 1990 (see below) and a #6 in 1996 ... also known as the freshman seasons of Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter. 

No, I don't like it.  I rather be one of those teams who has that kind of pressure on it.  The kind where you feel like the regular season is holding you back because you want the tournament to start immediately.  But it is what it is.  The 2013 North Carolina Tar Heels are an average tournament team ... so let's just enjoy that for once and see if we can get a few upsets. 

*The Heels are an 8th seed for just the third time.  The other two times saw the Heels upset the top seeded team in their region in their second game.  In 1990, it was Rick Fox's shot that brought down a strong Oklahoma squad.  In 2000, it was Stanford that saw Carolina's wrath.  That 2000 Heels team continued that magic by riding Joseph Forte, Brandan Haywood and Julius Peppers to a Final Four appearance. 

*The last two times the Heels have played Villanova in the tournament, they went on to win the National Championship (2005, 2009). 

*The Heels have won their last 3 tournament games against Big East schools.  Villanova is from the Big East.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sportz Assassin's Bubble Watch 2013 - SUCCESS!

Well, I did get all 68 schools right for the NCAA Tournament.  I don't do the seeds because (a) I don't have the time, (b) I'm not smart enough to figure that all out and there are many others who would do a better job and (c) it is damn near impossible.

But I did get all 68 picked correctly, which is something for me.  I usually miss on at least one or two.  This year, though, was actually pretty simple so I cannot take too much credit.  After all, I haven't heard much complaining about snubs from the main stream media.  Sure, there are discussions, but nothing like the shouting matches that we've grown to know over the past few years.  That fact means it wasn't that hard to get this right.

After all, the schools I honestly kept moving around in the last few days were Boise State, La Salle and Middle Tennessee State.  I thought Saint Mary's was looking good for the tournament, but I never had them as locks.  All of those four schools will be in those "first round games"  ... aka the play-in games.

Breaking it down a bit more, I was surprised by a few things.

OREGON:  I've had the Ducks as a lock for over a week ... but they received a No. 12 seed by the committee.  That would suggest that they were very much on the bubble before winning the Pac-12 tournament.
WICHITA STATE:  They come in as a No. 9 seed ... which I didn't think they were.  Again, I'm not as big into the seeding as much as how firm I believed they were in the tournament.  I didn't waver with them, but I didn't think they'd get that high a seed.

ILLINOIS:  They got a No. 7 seed, meaning they were easily in the tournament.  While I agree with that, I didn't have them as absolute locks until about a week left in the season.  According to their seed, they were easily in.

THE ACC:  The Atlantic Coast Conference could have some beefs about this arrangement.  Miami became the only ACC school in history to not get a No. 1 seed despite winning both the ACC regular season and tournament.  Duke feels that it not only got shafted by not getting a No. 1 seed, but it got shipped out of the Washington region (in favor of Miami) and placed in Louisville's bracket.  North Carolina can feel they were underseeded as a No. 8 since 6 of their 10 losses this year were to Miami, Duke and Indiana.  They both Virginia and Maryland can feel a bit snubbed by not getting in at all.

UNLV/CALIFORNIA:  First off, California wasn't as big a lock as I thought they were since they gained a No. 12 seed.  But they got lucky.  They get UNLV (well that's tough), but they get them in San Jose ... essentially a home game for the Bears.  Doesn't seem fair.

IT ISN'T THE ONLY ONES:  Here are a few other games where the better seeded team has sort of a home team disadvantage:  Oklahoma State vs Oregon in San Jose, Colorado State vs Missouri in Lexington and VCU vs Akron in Detroit.

UNC/KANSAS:  This may not happen, but we could see a 2nd round mathcup between North Carolina and Kansas.  Kansas knocked out UNC in last year's Elite 8 matchup.  That game was played in St. Louis, Missouri. If they meet up in the 2nd round, that game will be played in Kansas City, Missouri.  Roy Williams has gotta love that.

POD SEEDING:  Aside from Gonzaga, the other No. 1 seeds barely have to travel to get to their games.  Louisville plays in Lexington, Indiana plays in Dayton and Kansas plays in Kansas City (Gonzaga isn't too far in Salt Lake City).  The No. 2s aside from Miami have favorable home court advantages as well. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sportz' Bubble Watch 2013 Edition [Updated: Conference Tournaments]

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.  Any strikethrough means I think their bubble has popped.

EAST (Washington):  Indiana
SOUTH (Arlington):  Kansas
MIDWEST (Indianapolis):  Louisville
WEST (Los Angeles):  Gonzaga

A big shakeup among the No. 1 seeds on Saturday.  Duke lost on Friday, opening up their hold on a top seed.  Louisville won the Big East title convicingly, meaning they should land a top seed.  Kansas did the same in the Big 12.  Both jump Duke for that No. 1 line, knocking them down to most likely the top No. 2 seed.  The other big news was Indiana losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten semis.  While the loss won't knock the Hoosiers off that top line, it may knock them off of the Midwest bracket.  Louisville could be the higher top seed and would get to go to Indianapolis ahead of Indiana.

ATLANTIC COAST: Miami, Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Maryland, Virginia

Maryland hung tough, but couldn't topple North Carolina.  Despite their two wins over Duke, the Terps just won't make it in.  They've had equally bad losses and a poor non-conference slate.  As for Virginia, they will be biting their nails on Selection Sunday.  They've done some nice things to get in, but they've also struggled over the last month of the season.  Their RPI and SOS is bad and it will cost them a bid.

BIG EAST: Georgetown, Louisville*, Syracuse, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Villanova, Cincinnati.

Really, nothing is at stake here.  These eight schools are in and everyone else is either done or will be in one of the other postseason tournaments.

BIG TEN: Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa

Despite Minnesota's flaws, they've got the numbers and the wins to get into the dance.  Iowa doesn't.  The Hawkeyes just didn't play as big a non-conference slate and that is costing them on Sunday.  

BIG XII: Kansas*, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Baylor.

Kansas blew out Iowa State on Friday.  Now, I don't think that hurts Iowa State to the point they fall off the bubble, but it wasn't like it made a good impression.  Still, I think the Big 12 is set with who is in and who is out.

PAC-12: Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, UCLA, California, Arizona State.

Arizona State lost a close one to UCLA, but that may kill their at-large hopes.  The numbers just aren't good. 

SEC: Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, LSU.

Ole Miss beat Missouri and Alabama to get to the SEC Championship game.  I think that has clinched their NCAA tournament spot.  In a tournament filled with bubble teams, they proved they belonged.  The story here is Kentucky getting nailed by Vanderbilt.  Losing stings, but getting blown out by a below mediocre Vandy squad smacks the Wildcats down to emergency status.  Alabama made an effort but just hasn't done enough to warrant a bid.  Same with Tennessee, who I have on the bubble a bit more squarely but I think they just miss out.

MOUNTAIN WEST: New Mexico*, Colorado State, UNLV, San Diego State, Boise State.

Boise State lost to San Diego State, putting them in a tough spot on Selection Sunday.  Boise has 10 losses which isn't sexy when you are a Mountain West team ... but this is a very good league this year.  Their RPI is in range and they have the look of a team that should be in.  They'll be sweating on Sunday. 

A-10: Butler, Saint Louis, VCU, Temple, LaSalle, UMass.

LaSalle's loss to Butler may put them out.  I've been bouncing them all over the bubble of late -- it is that close.  UMass got an enormous win over Temple to move on in the A-10, but losing to VCU ended any hope. 

C-USA: Memphis*, Southern Miss
MVC: Wichita State
SUN BELT:  Middle Tennessee State
WCC: St. Mary's

To the delight of every bubble team, Memphis beat Southern Miss for the CUSA title.  However, Southern Miss is also a bubble team and that 2OT showing against Memphis may get them in anyway.  Wichita State and St. Mary's lost their title games as well and I have them in right now.  MTSU sits and waits as a dominant Sun Belt team that slipped in their conference tournament.  Their RPI somehow says they should be in despite nothing exciting on their resume.


Albany-America East

Florida Gulf Coast-Atlantic Sun
Montana-Big Sky
Liberty-Big South
Pacific-Big West
James Madison-Colonial

Harvard-Ivy League

Missouri Valley

LIU Brooklyn-Northeast

Northwestern St-Southland
South Dakota State-Summit
Western Kentucky-Sun Belt

New Mexico St-WAC

-West Coast

There are still some landmines out there, of course. But as of now, here is how I see the bids going.

Looking At The NEW Big East

Can Georgetown ... or the Big East as a whole
... recapture the glory of the 1980s
It has been said.  It has been settled.

The new Big East will be a 10-member league for the upcoming 2013-2014 season and the old Big East as we knew it is dead.  The "Catholic 7" will add Xavier, Butler and Creighton to their newly formed league and will begin play this July 1.

So let's look at this new league:

Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova and Xavier.  A nice league that has schools in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Providence and Omaha.  Seton Hall is across the river from New York City in New Jersey.  Major cities, major markets.  A nice pull for a new league.

There are some nice arenas in this league.  NBA arenas like Madison Square Garden, Verizon Center (G'town), Bradley Center (Marquette) and the Wells Fargo Center (Nova) are used.  Nice sized arenas are in each other school ... including Butler's historic Hinkel Fieldhouse. 

But let's talk basketball.  This conference is awesome.  It has history as well as good programs today.  However, this Big East will have the gift and the curse of the 1980s.  Georgetown and Villanova won titles in the 80s (Marquette won theirs in 1977) with Providence, Seton Hall and St. John's reaching the Final Four in that decade.  The Big East schools that have done damage since then won't be in this league.  No UConn or Syracuse (the two Big East schools to win National Championships since Villanova did in 1985).  No Louisville or West Virginia, teams who've held the Big East flag when making Final Four appearances of late.

In fact, since the 1980s the only times these member schools even reached the Final Four was 2003 (Marquette), 2007 (G'town), 2009 (Nova), 2010 (Butler) and 2011 (Butler).  Only Butler reached the NCAA Championship game (in both 2010 and 2011).  Marquette was in the Conference USA and Butler in the Horizon League when they made their appearances.  So while the names and cities are big in this league, ultimate success has eluded them all. 

Heck, those teams have struggled to win the Big East tournament.  Georgetown (2007) is the last new Big East school to win that tournament.  The last time before that?  St. John's in 2000.  Yes, since 1995 only two of these NEW Big East members have won the OLD Big East tournment.  The rest were won by schools leaving or have already left for the ACC or Big 12 or UConn, who will be left behind in the American 12/Metropolitan League/Whatever. 

 Butler won the Horizon tournament three times since 2008 and seven times in the last 16 years (a runner-up five more times) and are doing well in their first Atlantic 10 tournment.  Speaking of the A-10, Xavier has won that four times but none since 2006.  Creighton won 12 Missouri Valley titles -- most in conference history -- including the last two and 8 since 1999.  Those teams have tasted success, but not Big East success and not at MSG against those schools.

Still, this will be a quality league and hopefully will have that feel of the 1980s ... when football wasn't part of the picture.  It isn't anymore, either, which should help these programs have the same tight knit feel and brotherhood they had when their original incarnation started in 1979. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Take On NHL's Realignment

Detroit takes its place in the Eastern Confernce
alongside four other Original Six members
The NHL has ... finally ... approved the realignment plan they've been talking about for over a year.  The plan harkens back to the old days of just four divisions instead of six and forces three teams to switch conferences.

Here is the final set-up.  The division names are finalized, so here is the projected names in parenthesis:

DIVISION A (Pacific):  Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

DIVISION B (Mid-west):  Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St Louis, Winnipeg

DIVISION C (Northeast):  Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto

DIVISION D (Atlantic):  Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

Three teams switched conferences.  Winnipeg moves to the Western Conference, while Detroit and Columbus move to the East.  The East has 16 teams; the West has 14.  The top three teams in each division makes the playoffs, with two "wildcard" teams in each conference finishing the postseason lineup. 

Really, this goes back to the old days of the Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe Divisions ... sorta.  The "Atlantic" is essentially the old Patrick Division plus Carolina and Columbus.  The "Northeast" (poor name by me, I know) is the Adams Division, minus the Hartford Whalers (now Carolina) and adding Ottawa, Detroit and the two Florida teams.  The Pacific is the old Smythe, with some movement, and the Mid-west is the Norris.

But who gains and loses by this new format?

WINNER - DALLAS STARS:  Since the six-division format went into effect at the turn of the century, the Stars have been the big losers.  They were a Central Time Zone team playing in a the Pacific Division.  Remember, the NHL has a bit of a weighted scheduling format where you play divisional foes more than anyone else so this was a sticking point.  I mean, many road games that Dallas were playing started at 9:30pm local time.  Now they play in a division where five other teams are also in the Central Time Zone and one in the Mountain Time Zone.

LOSER - FLORIDA TEAMS:  Not huge losers, but with everyone else loving the less travel time, Florida and Tampa Bay actually increase theirs.  They both are in the (yes, horribly named by me) Northeast Division and will have to play Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Detroit instead of enjoying their Southeast Division with Carolina, Atlanta and Washington. 

WINNER - COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS:  The big news was the Red Wings moving to the Eastern Conference, but Columbus is the huge winner.  Columbus, like Detroit, was a Eastern Time Zone team playing in the West.  Now they get to play in the East with other teams in the same time zone.  Also, Detroit goes with them ... albeit in a different division ... meaning that that will continue to be a big draw during the season. 

WINNER - WINNIPEG JETS:  Not as blantant as Dallas in the Pacific Division, but the Jets have been completely out of place since the league came back to the city a couple of years ago.  Now they get to go back and play in their normal environment.

LOSER - EASTERN CONFERENCE:  Really, there was no geographic disadvantage to any of the Eastern Conference teams (other than Winnipeg).  Now not only do they expand their divisional footprints, the conference also gains the powerful Detroit Red Wings in their path.  Plus, since they have two more teams than the Western Conference, 10 teams will fight for those two wildcard spots as opposed to just 8 fighting for the final two in the West. 


LOSER - CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS:  Well, there is one team sad to see Detroit go.  Chicago will be the lone member of the Original Six in the Western Conference.  They lose their rivalry with the Red Wings and gain nothing more than the Jets.  The only blessing for the Blackhawks is now they are the only high-profile franchise in the Western Conference ... but that won't help them at the United Center.

WINNER - NON NHL WESTERN CITIES:  With two less teams in the Western Conference, people are thinking that the NHL may look at expansion.  Maybe, maybe not.  However, if you are in a western city that wants an NHL franchise, it looks better for you now.  There's no way after all this time would they move the Red Wings back west ... and probably not the Blue Jackets (unless they relocate).  So if you are Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City or Saskatoon you may have a little more hope in your heart.  Of course, most of the expansion talk has been about Quebec City, Hamilton or even a second Toronto franchise so nothing is guaranteed. 

LOSERS - FORMER SOUTHEAST CONFERNCE TEAMS:  I've already talked about the Panthers and Lightning, but the Hurricanes, Capitals and Jets will struggle to get into the postseason.  See, the Southeast Division has typically been among the worst in the NHL for years.  But the division champion not only got into the playoffs, but also got a No. 3 seed (at least) and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  Now they'll have a tougher time getting in and an even tougher time getting that coveted home ice.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Notre Dame WILL Be In The ACC Next Year

Will Notre Dame be an ACC member in 2013-2014?
No, I haven't heard that as a definite or anything, but Notre Dame will be a member of the ACC next year in all sports but football ... with the football side of things coming in 2014.

A quick update: 

*Notre Dame announced they will join the ACC in 2015 in all sports but football.  However, everyone assumes that the Irish will get out of their Big East membership in time for the 2014-2015 season.

*The "Catholic 7" announced they were breaking off and forming their own league on July 1, 2013.

*Notre Dame, stuck in a bad Big East lineup, wants out.  They state that they will go join the Catholic 7 schools for one season if they have to and then join the ACC.

*The ACC says they are ready for Notre Dame to join this summer if they can get out of their Big East membership.

Well, since Notre Dame said, essentially, they are leaving the Big East no matter what this summer, it is pretty much a shoo-in that they will be a member of the ACC next season since the league says they are ready.  And they should be.  Since Notre Dame football isn't coming right now anyway, it really only impacts the winter and spring sports and those non-revenue fall sports.  Either way, the ACC says they have the flexibility to work the Irish into those schedules.

The ACC already has planned for their expanded league in 2014-2015.  That was the season that Louisville and Notre Dame join (Syracuse and Pittsburgh are joining this fall) and Maryland is leaving.  The scheduling rotations and all of that were planned out ... so the ACC can move it up a year and just replace Maryland for Louisville in that matrix for one season. 

(Louisville will have to wait until 2014 to join since it will be bringing its football team along.  The ACC and its members already have their football schedules done for the fall and adding Louisville would make for uneven divisions)

Notre Dame will still need to negotiate a buy out with the Big East, but all things considered, that should be a formality.  As I said, the Irish were going to chill with the Catholic 7 anyway, so the Big East really doesn't have much of a strangle hold on the school.

So, this fall we will see the ACC look like this:

Boston College
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
North Carolina State
Notre Dame
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest

In 2014, Maryland leaves and Louisville comes in.  They will play an 18-game schedule with everyone playing at least once against each other.  Everyone will have TWO rivals that they play twice each season.  Then you play TWO other opponents a second time on a rotating basis (likely a six year rotation).

Indiana Shouldn't Have Celebrated BigTen Title Like That

Only UCLA and Kentucky have won more NCAA tournaments
than Indiana, so is a Big Ten title celebration necessary?
For those who missed it last night, Indiana held off on their senior night festivities until after their game with Ohio State in Bloomington.  They also decided to hold a Big Ten Championship celebration ... complete with cutting down the nets ... even though they've only clinched a share of the crown.

I don't like it.

First off, I don't like having the senior night festivities after the game at all.  To me, they belong prior to the game as those kids are emotionally preparing their final game in their college gym.  Furthermore, waiting until after the game also has a chance to do what it did last night -- be an emotional letdown of sorts. 

See, Indiana lost to Ohio State ... so not only did those seniors get emotional over their final game at Assembly Hall, they also know that they have ALREADY PLAYED that final game and that it was a loss.  To me, that final moment you walk off your college gym floor for the final time is a personal one.  Personal reflections and personal memories.  Not one where you look around and know that your last effort at home was a loss with everyone a bit melancholy and bitter.

Second off, I'm not big on those post game celebrations unless you just achieved the goal.  Say Indiana needed to beat Ohio State and they were Big Ten champions.  Indiana wins and then they celebrate.  That's cool.  But when you already had (and, really, all they did was clinched a co-champion spot), I don't think that kind of celebration is necessary.  Do what many schools do and just hold a pep-rally or student assembly to mark the occassion.  Don't schedule a celebration like that after a game ... especially when you lost it.

Sure, Indiana probably figured they would win the game and it all would be golden.  Probably right.  If Indiana had won, a post-game senior night would've been glowing and the celebration would've been more meaningful since the Hoosiers would have been outright Big Ten champs.  But that didn't happen.

Third ... you are freakin' Indiana!  I know that's confusing since this program was near death several years ago.  After the Kelvin Sampson era, Hoosier Nation has watched this team come from a squad of walk-ons and outsiders to one with two possible Player Of The Year candidates and the favorite to win the 2013 NCAA Tournament.  I get that.

But still you are Indiana.  You are in that exclusive club with Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and UCLA.  Schools that were good for a long, long time.  All of them had their down moments and all of them have had recent highs.  Since 1991, Kentucky, UNC, Duke, Kansas and UCLA have won 12 NCAA titles ... yet each one has missed the tournament at some point.  I know Indiana hasn't won since 1987, but they were a finalist just over a decade ago. 

You are Indiana ... not Northwestern.  If Northwestern or Nebraska won the Big Ten title then I'd expect them to go nuts.  That doesn't happen so that one moment in their history would be worth the love.  I know that these 18-22 year olds are in the moment now, but they also came to Indiana to be in a situation like this and be in a place where success is expected. 

I'm not too angry about all of this and it isn't that big of a deal that Indiana had this celebration, it was just a bit shocking to me.  Crean is doing a fantastic job getting Indiana back on the map and instilling pride of the program to the community ... but doing so also means knowing where your place is at the big table even if you hadn't been there in a while.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hornets, Sonics, Pelicans and Kings: NBA's Looming Identity Crisis

Durant may be gone, but what about
the Sonics history?
The NBA will soon have an identity crisis.  No, not the position of who will replace Michael Jordan as Da Man (LeBron has taken that torch as of now) or even in less than one year when Adam Silver replaces David Stern after 30 years of heading up the NBA (though that will be quite an interesting change).

No, we could see the 2013-2014 NBA season open up with several new teams ... that were old teams ... that were older teams ... that may still be around or not ... or something.

(Hopefully) soon, the NBA will decide where the Sacramento Kings will be playing next season.  They were sold to a group that wants to move them to Seattle but Sacto mayor Kevin Johnson has glued together a last ditch proposal to keep them in the capital.  Meanwhile, down in the bayou, the New Orleans Hornets will be changing their name to the New Orleans Pelicans because, well, they seem to think it sounds better.  Due to that, the Charlotte Bobcats are thinking about taking back the Hornets name they had when the city entered the NBA in 1988 and their team robbed by evil owner George Shinn.  Somewhere in the middle, the Oklahoma City Thunder is involved in this mess as well.

Yeah, yeah, yeah..  All that will get sorted out at some point and we'll see what we'll see.  However, it will the backstory behind each of these franchises that will be a murky mess.  A disgusting mess.  The NBA, the record books and even Wikipedia will have to try to explain this complicated web of shared and unshared histories.

SEATTLE:  Let's start here.  Back when the SuperSonics left to become the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA kept the Sonics name, logo and colors back in the Emerald City so if a new team arrived then we go back to the way things were.  It is similar to what the NFL did with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in 1995.  Well, except for one thing.  The NBA even stated that the Thunder and a new Sonics team will "share" the Sonics history.  The NFL made the Ravens, essentially, an expansion franchise even though the players, front office and all that moved with the franchise.  The Ravens record books begin in 1996.  The Browns started as a true expansion team in the way most begin, though they keep all the history.  The Jim Brown era, the Dawg Pound.  Everything. 

So the with the Sonics back in Seattle, that means the Thunder and Sonics share a history ... good and bad (we'll get back into this scenario in the "Oklahoma City" section).

Here is where it gets a bit weird.  If, as expected, the NBA approves the Kings move to Seattle, what happens to the Kings history?  The Kings have been around nearly as long as the NBA has and has history in Rochester, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Omaha and Sacramento.  Does this history go with the franchise and merge with the Sonics?  Does the history die out in Sacramento?  Does it lay in limbo until maybe another franchise (say if Kansas City gets one) sprouts up?  What happens?

For Seattle's sake, they'll get to hang a banner of their 1979 championship along with all those players like Gus Williams, Nate McMillian, Gary Payton, Lenny Wilkens and others who have their jerseys retired as Sonics.  Guys who never set foot in Oklahoma City to play a basketball game.  But would they also get to hang a jersey for Oscar Robertson ... most likely the best Kings franchise player to suit up?  How does that work?  It is a sticky situation to say the least.

Sportz' Suggestion:  Forget the Kings history and just keep your Sonics one.  It is a nice history and those guys like Williams, Payton, Jack Sikma and Shawn Kemp were Seattle Sonics that should be celebrated.  Keep like the Browns and just have that hiccup in your history books. 

SACRAMENTO:  Or as I said, does the history die here.  Look, there is no way Sacramento will get another NBA franchise if the Kings leave for Seattle.  It won't happen for a variety of reasons.  So keeping the Kings name and history here is just dumb.  The NBA could suspend it like the NFL did the Browns ... yet instead of waiting for a team back in Sacramento, they could hold the history for a new franchise.  Kansas City sits with Las Vegas as cities that are frontrunners to get an NBA team, and the Kings franchise used to play in KC.  However, when would that be?  How big of a gap could this history take?  Would Kansas City even want that history back?  And what if it is Vegas or San Antonio or Boise or St Louis or Nashville that got a new franchise?  They would want to start fresh with everything. 

To me, let the Kings franchise die.  It hasn't really done much in 60 years anyway.  The Rochester Royals won an NBL title in 1946 and an NBA title in 1951.  That's been about it as far as great times.  Yes, you had those Robertson era of the 1960 and the Webber-Divac-Bibby era of the 2000s but this isn't a history of shimmering  higlights. 

Sportz' Suggestion:  Have a thing at the Basketball Hall Of Fame to bury the franchise and all its history.  End of story.

OKLAHOMA CITY:  I think the NBA erred with its handling of this.  If you wanted to keep the Sonics history with Seattle, I think you should've just made the Thunder a franchise with a fresh start.  Sure, Seattle had Kevin Durant for his rookie year (and Seattle can boast that), but he will be forever be known as a member of the Thunder.

No one in Oklahoma City cares about the old Seattle days.  That 1979 title wasn't theirs.  Lenny Wilkens never played for them.  I doubt the fans would even care if that Sonics time was lopped off and forgotten.  They are building something new there. 

Sportz' Suggestion:  The OKC should just tell the NBA that they are building their own thing and to just keep all that Sonics stuff back in Washington.  Other than Durant's rookie season and a couple of role guys, there is really nothing that links these two franchises together at all.  Not even the ownership.  When the Hornets left Charlotte and the Grizzlies left Vancouver, the name stayed the same in the new places.  That didn't happen here and if there ever was a time for a clean break, just make it. 

If the Hornets name goes back to Charlotte, should the history join in as well?

NEW ORLEANS:  A quick aside.  Remember that during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Hornets played in Oklahoma City for a bit.  Does OKC get any of that history?  Of course not.  So lop the Sonics off too.

Now to this mess.  On the surface ... and for the last decade ... this has been easy.  The Hornets left Charlotte for New Orleans in 2002.  The NBA promised Charlotte a new franchise that started up in 2004.  Now, the NBA didn't do to Charlotte what the promised to Seattle by leaving the name and history ... even though the NBA did promise the Queen City a team and never did Seattle.  That was mainly due to the fact that the Hornets owner, George Shinn, still owned the team he was moving (in Seattle and now in Sacramento, it was new ownership that was doing it and the NBA could place those stipulations with the sale).  Still, it was easy.  The New Orleans Hornets kept the Hornets history since they remained the Hornets and the new Charlotte Bobcats started as brand spanking new.

But now things have changed.  The New Orleans Hornets are becoming the New Orleans Pelicans after this season.  Now they have new ownership and they want the name to reflect the city.  That's fine.  Teams have changed their names before (see: Washington Bullets errrrr Wizards) and keep that history.  The difference here is that Charlotte is looking into getting the Hornets name back. 

So then what happens?  I'll give my New Orleans suggestion after ...

CHARLOTTE:  Charlotte should do what they can to get the Hornets name back.  It means something there.  The city was deemed a "hornet's nest" during the Revolutionary War and there are many references to the hornets moniker still around the city (the police department has a hornets nest incorporated in their logo). 

The Bobcats have been a dud in Charlotte.  Not only have they fielded bad teams (only one playoff appearance in 11 seasons, zero postseason wins and last year yielded the worst record in the history of the NBA).  No one liked the name when it was presented.  "Bobcats" was created by the original owner, Robert Johnson, who named the team after himself.  The orange and blue colors the team originally used were hated.  Even Rufus the mascot is no Hugo the Hornet.  While there are people who are all in on the Bobcats, the community at large hasn't bought in.

If the Hornets name came back ... along with the teal and the pinstripes and Hugo ... the city would be electric again.  Sure, the team would still blow, but at least there would be more civic pride.  I can go into Charlotte right now and see people wearing old Hornets gear.  You can still buy a lot of Charlotte Hornets stuff online.  It is one of the more popular retro teams in the NBA.  I think it would be wise to bring the Hornets name back.

But what would that really mean for Charlotte and New Orleans? 

Sportz' Suggestion:  Maybe a sorta shared history in a way.  The way the NBA truly envisioned the Seattle/Oklahoma City deal.

The Charlotte Hornets should celebrate the city's entire NBA history.  They should be able to claim the 1988-2002 history and be able to incorporate that into their franchise.  They can also keep (even if they really don't want to) the Bobcats history of 2004-2013.  That is Charlotte's NBA life:  1988-2002, 2004-present.  All that history gets jumbled together.  They can hang that Bobby Phills banner back in Charlotte where fans there remember the sad day he died.  They can claim the Alonzo Mourning jumper to eliminate the Celtics in 1993 again ... like Charlotteans have done anyway.  Many of the old school Charlotte Hornets like Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry and even broadcaster
Steve Martin have stayed on with the Bobcats.  Let Charlotte be able to reclaim that Hornets era. 

And let New Orleans do that too.  They get to keep all of that Hornets history no matter where they were playing.  This was a Hornets franchise from 1988-2013 and there are fans who still will love their N'Awlins Hornets.  Sure, not many claim Larry Johnson or Alonzo Mourning or even Glen Rice, but I believe that New Orleans gets this better than anyone.  While they celebrate the entire Hornets history, they've never really leaned on the Charlotte days.  That doesn't mean they get to lop it off like I want to do with the Thunder.  Let's say that they share the 1988-2002 history in their record books and histories.  It works.  Then, in 2002, those histories separate. 

The Charlotte Hornets:  1988-2002, 2004-present.
The New Orleans Pelicans: 1988-present.

To me, that is the best way.

AROUND THE LEAGUE:  I know this sounds a bit weird ... and it is ... but it isn't unprecedented.  While histories aren't technically shared, there have been franchises that have sort of claimed the same eras.  The Los Angeles Lakers own the history to the old Minneapolis Lakers days and honor those players and coaches in the Staples Center with their Minnesota banner.  While the Timberwolves (who were born nearly 30 years after the Lakers left Minnesota) haven't really honored the old Lakers like George Mikan, I think the NBA should encourage them to be able to.

New Orleans has done so with Pistol Pete Maravich.  Though he was a member of the New Orleans Jazz and subsequently has his number retired by the Utah Jazz (the franchise moved to Salt Lake City in 1979), the Hornets/Pelicans have also retired his number.  I like stuff like that and think the Timberwolves should do the same with their old Laker stars like Mikan. 

To me, the city owns those memories more than the franchise does.  I love the Lakers move of having the Minnesota Lakers banner with all their jerseys honored -- though numbers not technically retired -- and feel that should be thought about elsewhere. 

Oh, and if they wanted to, I wouldn't hate if Utah and Memphis switched names and we had the Utah Grizzlies and the Memphis Jazz ... or even a morph into the Memphis Blues.  That's another post entirely.