Monday, March 30, 2015

NCAA Should Pull Events Out Of Indiana

As most of you know by now, the state of Indiana is passing a law that makes it alright for businesses to discriminate against homosexuals if it is part of their religious beliefs.  You may also know that Indianapolis is the site of next weekend's Final Four.  Wonder if that topic will come up?

It should.

The NCAA has to do something.  Right now, the NCAA won't hold postseason events in the states of South Carolina and Mississippi because they still fly the confederate flag (though there has been a big flap about South Carolina hosting NCAA Women's basketball tournament games this year).  The NCAA should look into bans into states that have outright laws that discriminate like this.  I know it could be a slippery slope since this could be extended to states that ban gay marriage or some other forms of discriminatory policies, but it should at least be approached.

Sports can do that.  Remember that the NFL pulled a Super Bowl out of Arizona due to that's states refusal to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.  The NCAA has already made a stance on the confederate flag.  Those are symbolic things.  This is a reality of lawful discrimination.  The NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis and holds the Final Four there every four or five years, needs to make another statement (well, other than the strong official statement they did make).  

Next year's NCAA women's basketball Final Four will be in Indianapolis.  How can that happen?  Move it somewhere else.  The men's Final Four will be back there in 2021.  Threaten to move that.  No other NCAA sanctioned postseason event should be held there either, and conferences that can, should try to move postseason events away.

Judging what NCAA president Mark Emmert said, "We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.  Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."

That is a good first step.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Elite 8

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.  This one will take the entire Elite 8 as one day.

GAME OF THE DAY: Kentucky vs Notre Dame. This was sooooo close.  Notre Dame had Kentucky beaten, but the Wildcats made key defensive plays late and smartly went to Karl Anthony-Towns and attacked the rim to squeeze this one out.  While this team may be unbeaten, that doesn't mean they are unbeatable.  With Wisconsin up next and Duke possibly on the horizon, Kentucky will have to earn this one.  Sure, Michigan State-Louisville went to overtime, but everyone will be talking about this game Monday morning.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Michigan State vs Louisville. The only non-No. 1 seed left in the tournament.  Tom Izzo has done a great job with this team over the last two months.  They will be a huge underdog to win this thing, but the fact that the Spartans have ended Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisville's seasons (plus their last loss was a great game to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game) means they are battle tested.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big Ten. Despite all my love for the ACC in this spot and the Big 12 all year, it is the much maligned Big Ten with two teams in the Final Four.  Amazing.  Wisconsin seemed pre-ordained to be here, but Michigan State seems like a legacy at this point.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: ACC. Notre Dame and Louisville were ousted.  Louisville was the favored seed against Michigan State and were beaten; the Irish had Kentucky on the ropes and just couldn't pull it out.  To have the biggest win of the entire season on your fingertips and letting it slip really hurts. 

DUD OF THE DAY: Duke vs Gonzaga. None of the games sucked, but Duke pulled away late and made this one a bit of a dud.  Many people wanted to see if the Zags were Final Four caliber ... and they were ... they just can't break that wall yet.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Duke. The Blue Devils went all Duke on Gonzaga late and used all that talent to break off another trip to the Final Four.  Amazing.  While Kentucky may be the team to beat in the Final Four, Duke could be the most talented.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Coaching. While this hasn't been a chalk tournament, it was a pretty well constructed one.  Three of the No. 1 seeds are left and a wildcard No. 7 seed.  But look at the coaches.  Krzyzewski.  Izzo.  Calipari.  Ryan.  All are well versed in Final Four runs.  Only Ryan doesn't have a title.  Six National Championships won by the coaches.  This should be some great chess matches.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Sweet 16, Day 2

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

GAME OF THE DAY: Michigan State vs Oklahoma. It looked like Oklahoma had a hold of this one ... until the Spartans do what they do.  Survive and advance in March.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Michigan State vs Oklahoma. The only true upset in the Sweet 16.  There are some great teams out there, and despite the fact that Mich State is a No. 7 seed, they have the pedigree to be right there in the mix.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. I know I've been riding on the ACC in this spot (and that I'm an ACC guy), but today two teams from the conference won, making three teams in the Elite 8.  Duke and Louisville will be the favored seed in the next round.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Pac 12. Nothing shameful, but UCLA and Utah's seasons ended today.  UCLA took a controversial bid and made a Sweet 16 run while Utah rode their seed out and lost a close game to a talented Duke squad. 

DUD OF THE DAY: Gonzaga vs UCLA. UCLA struggled with their three-point shooting, which is what propelled them in this tournament.  Gonzaga led big and held on for the win.  Every other game had at least some drama.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Gonzaga. Like I just said, the Zags did what they needed to do to advance.  This could finally be the year that they get to the Final Four.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: The muscle moves on. Like yesterday, the big dogs keep winning.  Aside from the East Region, the No. 1 seeds are all still alive.  Two of them will face a No. 2 seed in the Elite 8; one will face a No. 3 seed.

Friday, March 27, 2015

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 all four games going on at the same time.

GAME OF THE DAY: Wisconsin vs North Carolina. This was a high level basketball game.  Both teams played well offensively and it was a back and forth game all night.  North Carolina showed that it can hang with anyone when it gives the proper effort.  Wisconsin showed just how good, poised and experienced they are.  This team can win a championship.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Notre Dame vs Wichita State. There were no true upsets.  In fact, all teams that won tonight have 5 losses or less.  But this game was the lone one where the loser didn't have double-digit losses.  Wichita State is a good team and many wanted to see them get a shot at Kentucky again.  Notre Dame pulled away and kept that from happening.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. Grasping for straws here, but Notre Dame is in their first Elite 8 since 1979.  Yeah, North Carolina lost but they pushed the Big Ten champion to the limit.  The ACC is guaranteed two spots in the Elite 8 with Duke also playing on Friday for a spot.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big 12. The mighty Big 12 just has one team left (Oklahoma) after West Virginia got spanked.  This hasn't been as banner of tournament for the league as we thought during the season. 

DUD OF THE DAY: Kentucky vs West Virginia. The media really wanted us to believe that the Mountaineers could hang with Kentucky.  Nope.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Kentucky. The Wildcats just obliterated West Virginia in a way that it wasn't even funny ... and it shut up a lot of the people who were clinging to their bored play in the first weekend.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: The muscle moves on. As I mentioned earlier, the top seeds all moved on.  That's what they are supposed to do.  Kentucky, Wisconsin and Arizona all have designs on a National Championship.  They all showed up tonight (though Arizona looked more shaky).  Notre Dame is a wildcard here as this is one heck of a shooting team with an ability to run you around on the defensive end.  Their matchup with Kentucky should be great.

What To Look Forward To: 2015-16 Tar Heels

The entire starting unit should be back for another crack at a Final
Four run in 2015-16.

Mighty Wisconsin ends the North Carolina Tar Heels season in the Sweet 16.  Better than the past two seasons, but not as good as I felt this team was prior to the start of the year.  Of any Carolina team I've seen in a while, this team certainly was in its place.  Essentially, the Heels beat all the teams it was supposed to beat and all 12 of their losses (with the exception to a loss at Pitt) was to a tournament team.

Carolina was the 2nd best rebounding team and the 2nd best assist team in the nation (and 17th in scoring).

So now we look to next year.  Provided no one leaves (I don't see that happening, but you never cough*Bullock McAdoo*cough know.  Brice Johnson would be the leading candidate to leave, but I don't see that happening, especially with his rather pedestrian tournament showing.


MARCUS PAIGE (Sr):  Paige had a down year to his standards.  Still, he is the heart and soul of this team.  He needs to work on being aggressive.  Now, this isn't all his fault.  He needs to have other guys able to create their own shots and hit perimeter shots to help space the floor and keep defenses from solely focusing on him.  If he can have a healthy season, we could see Paige back in the ACC Player Of The Year race.

JUSTIN JACKSON (So):  Jackson had an up-and-down freshman season.  Still, it says a lot that Ol' Roy stuck with him the entire season.  It paid off.  Over the final few weeks of the season, Jackson found his three-point shot and showed a lot more aggressive play.  He still gets lost out there at times, but his little floater should be one of the Heels' go to moves next season.

J.P. TOKOTO (Sr):  Tokoto is one of the most frustrating players.  His defense is really good and he is one of the best passers on the team.  His ability to play point forwards allows Paige to move without the ball.  That's a big deal.  But Tokoto is known for some bone-headed plays.  He'll throw balls away, take bad shots and take dumb fouls.  If he can shore that up, he'll be one of the most important cogs in a possible Final Four run next year.

BRICE JOHNSON (Sr):  Johnson also frustrates, but in a different manner.  He's so talented but sometimes we just don't know he's on the floor.  Some games he looks unstoppable.  He's got an array of ways to get off his shot and he can receive the ball and get it into shooting position faster than anyone in Chapel Hill since Antawn Jamison.  One thing he really needs to work on is his fouling.  He reaches in way to much and doesn't move his feet well on defense.  Essentially, he cheats defensively and it puts him in foul trouble.  He fouled out against Arkansas in the 3rd round and was in foul trouble all game against Wisconsin.  When he gets into a rhythm, he's tough.  But he can't do so when he's not on the floor.  Also, like Paige, he needs to be more aggressive offensively all game long.

KENNEDY MEEKS (Jr):  Meeks had health issues in the postseason (flu, knee sprain) which limited his effectiveness.  He, like Johnson, also has a tendency to foul a lot.  Meeks was a beast at times during the season and then looked ... meek ... at others.  He's an under the rim kind of player, and I'd love to see him be able to get more like Sean May or Tyler Hansbrough where they became decent mid-range shooters.  Also, it seems as if Meeks has a good game, Johnson doesn't.  They need to figure a way to make that work better and if Meeks had a more consistent jumper like Johnson does, it would do a world of good.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - Round of 32, 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: Wichita State vs Kansas. Just like on Friday, there wasn't a ton of nail-biting upsets today.  However, the feel and fire of the Wichita State-Kansas game was palpable.  A battle of the Sunflower State being played in Omaha, the crowd and both teams were into this.  The fact that the Jayhawks have been ducking the Shockers put a little spice on this one.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Michigan State over Virginia. There were three games where the lower seeded team won, but none of them felt like a true upset.  Sure, Wichita State running Kansas was ... shocking.  And while a lot of people penciled in Michigan State over Virginia here, it still is a pretty big upset.  Michigan State hasn't had their typical Sparty season and Virginia has spent most of the year near the top of the rankings.  For the Spartans to end Virginia's season like this was an upset.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. Sorry for beating a dead horse, but the ACC is now 11-1 in the tournament.  Sure, Virginia lost today, but the league has 5 of the Sweet 16 and, due to NC State and Louisville facing off in the next round, one guaranteed spot in the Elite 8.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big Ten. The Big Ten split their games today, with Wisconsin and Michigan State winning and Iowa and Maryland losing.  Nothing to be ashamed of here, but they were the one league to have multiple losses.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Duke vs San Diego State. Just not a good game to watch.  Duke had this game in control pretty much the entire way.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Duke. If Okafor dominates the paint like this and they keep hitting all those shots ... they are scary good.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Great coaching. Just look at the names of some of these coaches in the Sweet 16.  Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Bob Huggins, Bo Ryan, Mark Few, Sean Miller, Lon Kruger and Mike Brey have a combined 10 titles and loads of tournament experience.  Steve Alford, Mark Gottfried, Gregg Marshall, Larry Krystkowiak and Chris Mack aren't slouches, either.  This is a big dog bracket of coaching.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

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: Notre Dame vs Butler. A battle of the Hoosier state was as good as it gets.  The Irish and Bulldogs went back and forth and needed overtime to determine the winner.  Big defensive plays and huge shots late made this game exciting and the fact Irish coach Mike Brey revealed his lost his mother earlier in the day makes it more touching.

UPSET OF THE DAY: NC State over Villanova. The Wolfpack are on a roll.  Two days after a wild comeback to beat LSU, NC State knocked off a No. 1 seed.  NC State had control all game long and held off every comeback attempt by the Wildcats.  The East Region looks to be wide open now.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. The ACC won three more games today, making them 9-0 so far in the tournament.  NC State made Villanova the first No. 1 seed to fall and Notre Dame played with toughness to oust Butler.  Add in North Carolina's fast-paced win over Arkansas and the ACC is dominating this tournament.  By the way, the ACC women's teams are currently 8-0 in their NCAA tournament ... making the league 17-0 right now.  Duke, Virginia and Louisville play today.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big East. The Big East has taken a beating over the last two days.  Butler, Georgetown and Villanova all lost today (Xavier did win).  Nova became the first No. 1 seed to be knocked out and G'town gave up a big lead to Utah and couldn't recover.  Add that in to St. John's and Providence's loss a day earlier and the Big East has just one team remaining.  

DUD OF THE DAY: UCLA vs UAB. Both teams had stunning upsets in the Round of 64, but UAB just couldn't hang with UCLA and were promptly eliminated.  UCLA, controversial for not only getting in the tournament but beating SMU on a much-discussed goaltending call, will be in the Sweet 16.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Kentucky. They may not win pretty, but they took Cincinnati's aggressive and slow down style and made it work for them.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: ACC. The league already has three of the spots in the Sweet 16 with Duke, Virginia and Louisville (all the higher seed) attempting to join them.  The league is undefeated and it will be interesting to see how deep these schools can go.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

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: Louisville vs UC-Irvine. Unlike yesterday, there weren't many candidates for this spot.  The Cardinals close win over Irvine gets the spot due to how close the game was.  Key defensive plays late are what won the game for Louisville.  Of course, most of us will remember UCI's 7-foot-6 Mamadou Njiaye.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Dayton over Providence. The only real upset.  The 11th seeded Dayton Flyers won their second game on this tournament by out-muscling the Friars.  The Flyers have had a quirky benefit of playing a First Four game on their home floor, then playing a second round game up the road in Columbus, OH.  Dayton will now face Oklahoma.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: ACC. The ACC won three more games today, making them 6-0 so far in the tournament.  Sure, there were some close calls in there (Louisville, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame) but every ACC school is still alive in the Dance.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big East. After a big day on Thursday, the Big East saw Providence upset by Dayton and St. John's lose to San Diego State.  Really, all those one-bid conferences had a bad day since none of them won and most didn't come close.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Iowa vs Davidson. Davidson was getting a lot of buzz as a possible Cinderella team again.  They had one of the most efficient offenses in the nation.  Then they go out and look very scattered and were blown out by a non-elite Iowa squad.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Duke. Not they just blew out Robert Morris in Charlotte, but that they shot 63% from the field and had 28 assists.  They also hit 10-of-21 from behind the arc.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Where are the upsets? Yesterday, we had some great games.  Today?  Not so much.  That happens in the tournament sometimes.  Of the 16 games played, 15 were won by the higher seed.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Where Will UAB Go When Conference USA Kicks Them Out

UAB has been one of the talks of the NCAA Tournament with their stunning defeat of Iowa State in the Round of 64.  It is a good story for a school that needs some good feelings from their sports programs.

See, it was over three months ago that UAB announced that it was scrapping their football program.  Gone.  Kaput.  A controversial decision, for sure, and one that will have big consequences on their other programs.  Namely, this Blazers basketball team.

See, the C-USA wants their members to have football teams and UAB won't.  Conventional wisdom says that UAB must leave the conference and find a new league to play in.  But that isn't very easy.  See, this could be a giant fall for the Blazers if they don't watch it.  While the C-USA isn't a super conference, it is on the level just below the major conferences.

Let's assume for this argument that no other major football conference will let them join as a non-football member.  So no jumping to the American Athletic Conference or something.  So where could they go?

NCAA Tournament MOPs Rarely Turn Into NBA Studs

Shabazz Napier was the MOP of the 2014 NCAA
tournament.  Does that mean he will have the same
success in the NBA?

The NCAA Tournament is in full swing and that means guys will be making big plays and having big games to help his team advance to a title.  Sometimes it is the gutsy upperclassman.  Sometimes it is a hot hand.  Very few times it is a big time NBA prospect.

It used to be the MOP turned into quite the NBA player.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won it three times.  Bill Walton won it twice.  David Thompson, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, James Worthy, Hakeem Olajawon and Patrick Ewing all won it and are now Hall Of Famers.

No, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player tends to peak during their basketball career that final weekend of the college basketball season.  Don't believe me?  Well, let's look at and rank the last 22 MOPs according to their NBA careers.

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

Georgia State's head coach Ron Hunter may have
made the most memorable moment of the 2015
NCAA Tournament.

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: Georgia State vs Baylor. Honestly, how hard is it to pick just one game as the Game Of The Day?  There were so many great ones.  But this one barely takes the top due to the sheer upset nature of the result as well as exciting game-winning shot as well as G-State's head coach Ron Hunter falling off his stool.  One of the tournament's great moments.

UPSET OF THE DAY: UAB over Iowa State. First off, UAB was 16-15 when they started play in the C-USA tournament.  They went on to win the automatic bid and then knock off one of the buzziest Final Four picks in the field.  Add in the fact that UAB's athletic department has had a tough time since announcing it was shutting down the football program and the uncertainty that has surrounded the program.  The Blazers win was quite stunning.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: Big East. A couple conferences had a nice day, but the Big East did quite well.  Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier and Butler all won their games and, relative to today, did so handily.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Big 12. Rather shocking.  The conference most felt was the best, top to bottom, came out with a thud.  Both Iowa State and Baylor lost as No. 3 seeds to No. 14 seeds.  Also, Texas got beat by Butler.  Also, the state of Texas had a bad tournament as Texas, SMU, Texas Southern, Baylor and SF Austin all lost.  

DUD OF THE DAY: Kentucky vs Hampton. Not surprising, since it was the undefeated team taking on a team that, with the loss, finishes below .500.  It wasn't just a dud because it was a blowout, it was also because Kentucky kind of mailed it in once they took a sizable lead.  Hey, it happens.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Villanova. These Wildcats won by 41 points over Lafayette.  Not only did they win convincingly, they played very well throughout the entire game.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Close games. As I alluded to earlier, today was an outstanding day of tournament basketball.  We had a record FIVE games decided by a single point.  We had another decided by two points and two more by three points.  I didn't even mention the amazing comeback by Cincinnati with a buzzer beater to force overtime.  Or NC State's buzzer beater to beat LSU.  Or Harvard coming back from down 16 points to nearly beat North Carolina.  Just so many great games today.


*Ohio has had a nice tournament.  Ohio State, Dayton, Cincinnati and Xavier all won their first tournament games.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sportz' 2015 MLB Predictions

The 2015 baseball is nearly upon us, so it is time again to make my futile picks for the season.  So here it goes, division by division:



What once was a strong division now looks like it is Washington and everyone else.  Both the Phillies and Braves are embracing some rebuilding while the Mets and Marlins have been in that camp for a few years now.  The Nats have been among the best in baseball the last three years but cannot make that translate in October.  So we'll have seven months to break that down.  After the Nats, who knows what will happen?  Miami failed at just buying wins before and instead have built a nice club that can contend now.  The Mets will need all that pitching to lead the way.



St. Louis has a mini dynasty going on right now.  In last 15 seasons, they've won the division 9 times and finished 2nd three times.  All that includes 11 playoff berths.  The Cards are a bit older and there's injury issues with Alan Wainwright.  Still, it is hard to bet against their success.  That is, unless you are a Back To The Future Fan and do believe that the Cubs will win the World Series.  I don't think they're there yet, but this team has taken a major upswing in hope.  The Pirates are still right there, as usual, but will have some more teams battling them for wildcard spots.  At the bottom, the Reds seem to have the better roster than the Brewers, but Milwaukee tends to exceed expectations while the Reds underperform.



The big spending Dodgers are again looking like the class of the West.  They'll be a better defensive ballclub and that pitching is still damn good.  San Diego decided to go for it this year which should make the Pads a really fun team to keep track of.  Not only did they buy a new, more offensive-minded outfield, but they also snagged James Shields.  If the Dodgers or Giants slip up, San Diego is in the mix.  Speaking of San Fran, it is an odd numbered season.  As good as the three teams at the top of this division are, the bottom is that bad.


1-Blue Jays
2-Red Sox

Why not the Blue Jays?  They currently hold the longest playoff drought but they have a nice young staff.  It all comes down to if the offense can hold up.  Boston will hit, but can they pitch?  This is a very subpar pitching staff that may not survive in this division.  The Orioles have been baseball's darlings, but losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis could damage their playoff hopes.  Drama will be the keyword for the Yankees this year as long as A-Rod is on the roster.  Tampa is rebuilding mode.


3-White Sox

Is this the Tigers' crossroads?  They've won this division four straight years but is that greatness decaying?  The once dominant pitching staff is showing signs of wear (Justin Verlander) and defections (Max Scherzer).  This is an expensive team that may not be able to plug in the holes like they've been able to do in recent years.  The Indians were pretty good last year despite some injuries.  If they can all get on the page, they could topple Detroit.  Chicago?  The White Sox are a true wild card.  They have nice pieces but do they all fit together?  They've gotten better in some spots.  We all loved the Royals last season, but the small ball they played worked when the pitching was dominant.  No Shields could bring them back down the ladder.  This division is tough.  To put it another way, Kansas City could win the AL East if they were in that division.




Seattle, who has laid in the weeds for most of this decade, looks to break out and back to the division titles.  Nelson Cruz joins Robinson Cano as mashers who will up the M's sometimes sluggish offense.  The pitching staff is nice and uses their defensive infield wisely.  The Angels will try to keep Seattle in their place as they return another great roster, albeit with some issues with Josh Hamilton.  The A's can mash, but will all that tinkering the last few years cost them?  Texas is coming off a injury ravaged season.  Houston is still rebuilding.


NL:  Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Padres, Marlins
AL:  Tigers, Mariners, Blue Jays, Angels, Indians


Nationals over Mariners

Sportz' NCAA Tournament Recap - First Four

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: Ole Miss vs BYU. This was a season where everyone has complained about the lack of scoring and the boring pace of play.  Well, this was a game where we had 184 points scored ... and that was in regulation!  These two teams just went at it, hitting shot after shot and making big plays.  Just a super game.

UPSET OF THE DAY: Hampton over Manhattan. Not a huge upset (that's hard in the First Four), but Hampton was a sub-.500 team and got a tournament win.  Shame that Quentin Chievous turned his ankle late, but hopefully he'll be healthy enough to take on Kentucky in their next one.

CONFERENCE OF THE DAY: SEC. Ole Miss was a very bubbly team heading into Selection Sunday and BYU was one of the buzz teams for a Cinderella.  Despite falling behind by 17, the Rebels looked outstanding in coming back to win that game.  Even though it doesn't really count towards this page, the SEC also looked pretty good in the NIT as Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Alabama won their first round games.

CONFERENCE WITH A BAD DAY: Atlantic Sun. North Florida was the lone team playing in the First Four that won a regular season title and they couldn't beat a team that finished 3 games back in the Northeast Conference.

DUD OF THE DAY: Hampton vs Manhattan. In a round filled with nailbiters, the game that is decided by 10 points is the boring one.

DOMINANT PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY: Ole Miss. I know that it was a close game, but did you see them in the second half against BYU?  Ole Miss scored 62 points ... in the second half.  They also shot 60% in the 2nd half and turned the ball over just three times.  That second half performance alone would've beaten Dayton or Boise State and nearly would've beaten Manhattan.

UNDERLYING STORYLINE OF THE DAY: Dayton in Dayton. This was a sketchy situation that really looked bad.  I know Doug Gottlieb touched on this during the broadcast, but it really isn't fair for Dayton to be playing an NCAA tournament game on their home court.  I know, I know.  Kentucky gets to play in Louisville, Duke plays in Charlotte and we have had schools playing virtual home games.  But they aren't playing on their actual home floor.  To me, the NCAA might want to find a neutral site for the First Four.  A gym that no Division I school calls home.  Maybe Kansas City's Sprint Center?  Or Cincinnati's US Bank Arena.  Dallas' American Airlines Center.  Or why not just have these games played in the pod city anyway (like the Hampton-Manhattan game just being played in Louisville).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sportz Assassin's South Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Duke. The Blue Devils may be the one team that can topple Kentucky and they'd have to get to the Final to do so.  They have NBA talent, clutch guards and a nice mix of youth and experience ... and a guy name Krzyzewski ... to get it done.  

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Gonzaga. I really think this is set up for a Duke-Gonzaga matchup in the region final and Gonzaga's ability to wear out Jahil Okafor will win out.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): SMU. I really like this team.  They are a tough-nosed team that plays smart and has nice size and athleticism.  Oh, and they have Larry Brown who has done it all and won't get cute during the tournament.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Stephen F Austin. As a rule, I tend not to pick the same Cinderella two years in a row.  But SFA is good enough to upset Utah like they did VCU a year ago.  The next step for them is getting to the Sweet 16.  The Georgetown/Eastern Washington winner could be ripe for an upset as well.  

WORST SEEDING ERROR: UCLA. Sorry, but I didn't see them in the tournament at all ... let alone not having to play in the First Four.  I was genuinely shocked when this selection came up.  

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Duke. Well, for the first weekend, Duke (Charlotte) and Gonzaga (Seattle) have distinct home court advantages.  If SMU (or Stephen F. Austin?) can get to the second weekend, they could have a nice gathering in Houston.  Still, that's an advantage for Duke.

MUST WATCH GAME: SMU vs UCLA. Forget what you've read up there for a moment.  UCLA, despite me not thinking they should be in the tournament, is and they have talented and athletic players.  It will be fun to see them go against Larry Brown (who took UCLA to the title game in 1980) and his SMU squad.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Iowa State vs SMU. There could be some other nice matchups ... but this one should be the best game.  The Cyclones are an extremely well coached team and I'd love to see Fred Hoiberg and Larry Brown play chess against each other.

See also:
South Region preview

East Region preview
West Region preview
Midwest Region preview

Sportz Assassin's East Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Villanova. The Wildcats have had an amazing year and the committee obviously valued them by making them the 2nd overall seed.  Nova has been a bit under the radar when compared to the other elite teams.  

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Virginia. Wow, have people just left the Wahoos for dead.  A little over a week ago, Virginia was entrenched as the 2nd ranked team in the country.  They lose with seconds left at Louisville to end the season then lose to a solid North Carolina team in the ACC tournament.  Their only other loss was a late game meltdown against Duke. Now no one believes in them?  Watch out.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Michigan State. Tom Izzo's teams tend to perform well in the NCAAs.  With an interesting bracket laid out here, the Spartans may be able to be the low seed in the Final Four.  While they may be an underdog virtually the entire way, they have the ability to move a long way in this bracket.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: Dayton. They Flyers are in a First Four game in their own arena.  This is a team that went to the Elite 8 last season and head coach Archie Miller has done a great job with this year's team.  

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Northern Iowa. How is this team a No. 5 seed?  I know rankings don't mean much, but this has been a top 15 team for a bulk of the season and yet they are treated like just some other mid-major?  Unreal.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Villanova. To the victors go the spoils.  The Wildcats start their journey in-state by traveling to Pittsburgh before moving up the Syracuse for the regional finals.  Really, only Providence and Albany can feel great about playing in Syracuse.

MUST WATCH GAME: NC State vs LSU. LSU is talented with a few first round NBA picks on their roster.  They are also inconsistent.  NC State has been on a nice roll of late and have beaten Duke, Louisville and North Carolina.  This will be one of the best matchups of the first (or second or whatever) round.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Virginia vs Michigan State. This was a great game in last season's NCAA Tournament and it could be even better.  Two tough coaches squaring off.  As you saw above, Virginia is my pick to win this region and Michigan State is my danger team pick.  One will be gone after this matchup.

See also:
South Region preview

East Region preview
West Region preview
Midwest Region preview

Sportz Assassin's West Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Wisconsin. The Badgers are a complete team that has done this before.  They have some familiar foes in this bracket and the probable Player Of the Year.  They felt they let a title slip away last year and are back to finish the job.  

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Arizona. I've been on Arizona all year long.  Their three losses are a bit weird (none made the tournament) yet they are 18-0 against the RPI Top 100.  Those three losses were by a combined nine points.  They got size and are athletic and have been just spanking teams of late.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): North Carolina. The story of UNC this season is that they have the talent to beat anyone but they don't always have the drive.  They showed toughness against Virginia in the ACC tournament but then got shaken by a Notre Dame run the next night.  They have size, depth and can pound the boards which would make a matchup with either Wisconsin or Arizona a must-see.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: BYU. From "First Four" to "Final Four"?  Not quite.  But BYU could do some damage in this bracket.  They won at Gonzaga which means they are dangerous.  They can beat Ole Miss, Xavier and Baylor and sneak into the Sweet 16.  

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Ohio State. Honestly, I cannot find any real gripes with the seeding in this region.  Maybe the Buckeyes could have gotten a #9 seed instead of Oklahoma State?  

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Arizona. Really, no one has that great of an advantage, but Arizona gets to head to Portland and then Los Angeles.  If they get Wisconsin in the region final, they'll definitely have the edge in home court.  

MUST WATCH GAME: VCU vs Ohio State. VCU's trapping defense against the OSU backcourt of D'Angelo Russell and Shannon Scott.  This should be a fun game to watch.  

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: North Carolina vs Arkansas. Both teams want to run, run, run.  North Carolina's offensive rebounding ability is outstanding but the Hogs can force some turnovers.  This would be a track meet.

See also:
South Region preview

East Region preview
West Region preview
Midwest Region preview