Tar Heel Fan

Friday, March 31, 2006

Convergence!

It is my opinion after watching numerous science fiction shows that when two forces or entities which are diametrically opposed to one another converge in the same point in time and space that is can potentially rip open a hole in the fabric of reality thus creating a gateway to an alternative universe. Of course in J.J. Redick's case he can hope he gets pulled into an parallel reality where he goes 15 for 18 in the Sweet Sixteen.

Some You Want More Teams?

Every so often the notion is raised that the NCAA Tournament should be expanded to include more teams. This year's bearer of that particular torch is Jim Boeheim, head coach at Syracuse. Boeheim is contending that greater parity necessitates expanding the tournament to include anywhere from 3 to 10 more teams who would most likely force the creation of more play-in games before the actual tournament starts rolling. In fact Clemson coach, Oliver Purnell agrees with Boeheim on the basis that George Mason was almost left out the field. Wait a minute, Clemson's coach? Oh yeah, there is a relevant voice on the NCAA Tournament considering Clemson has not been it since 1998. In fact it has been that long since Clemson actually made it past Friday in the ACC Tournament! But I digress... I would not actually be opposed to some sort of debate on this issue if I thought Jim Boeheim wasn't complete full of it. Boeheim could care less about parity or the poor little George Masons of the world which might get shafted by the big, bad selection committee on Selection Sunday. No, what is happening here is that Boeheim is afraid that Syracuse might get shafted by the committee on Selection Sunday. In fact if Gerry McNamara misses that three pointer against Cincinnati in the first round of the Big East Tournament, then Syracuse would have been NIT-bound. Boeheim, along with all of the other Big East schools have placed themselves in a very difficult position of forming a 16 team super conference which just enough parity in that unless you are an elite team then you will have a lot of trouble putting together a winning conference record. So Boeheim has conceived a notion that if they can add anywhere from 3 to 10 teams to the tournament, they can then slide most of the 15 or 16 seeds from low major conferences into play-in games and bring in mediocre power conference schools who are missing spots due to some of the improved play from mid-majors. In other words, schools like Syracuse(before they won the Big East tournament and got in), Florida St, Maryland, and Cincinnati would have less to worry about if they finish at .500 in their conference because by going to 68 or 75 teams the tournament has room to include more mediocrity on the 8-12 seed line. Looking at the selections from the mid-major conferences it is clear that the selection committee gave those leagues all the bids they could with the exception of Hofstra who was rated virtually the same as George Mason. Common sense says that if you add 3 to 10 teams to the field, the committee will have no choice but to go back to the middle or bottom of the power conferences and include those borderline schools in order to fill out the field. And since they are rated much higher than many of the lower one bid conferences it would mean those power school selections would be seeded in the 8-12 range. The other major flaw I find in the argument is that it supposes the parity we are seeing means more teams should be in the tournament. This is flat wrong. The parity shown this year in college basketball means that the gap between #64 and #1 is closer than it used to be and all throughout the middle lower seeded teams will be more competitive. The last thing you want to do is add more teams to the mix and increase that gap by watering down the field. Boeheim is also operating on the mentality that as long as he can get into the tournament, maybe they can have a run similar to what they enjoyed in the Big East Tournament where they knocked off three ranked teams in succession. Of course there is nothing wrong with that, but Boeheim's assertion that the tournament should be tweaked to account for the George Masons of the world is disingenious since Syracuse was in the same boat as the Patriots, on the bubble. The truth is the mid-majors are maxed out on the number of teams they can conceivably put into the tournament so expanding it only helps the bubble dwelling power conference schools which in the new Big East there are plenty of. This is the bed the Big East made by forming such a powerful conference and now Jim Boeheim and his fellow conference coaches need to go lie in it. Or I have an even wackier idea. How about not scheduling cupcakes in Nov/Dec. and stop losing to the bottom feeders in your conference by 39 points before you go and ask the NCAA to bail your medicore rear end out in the form of a welfare program called "tournament expansion."

Gratuitous Adam Morrison Abuse

Now, let me tell you up front I think Gonzaga's Adam Morrison is a creepy looking fellow. The hair, the mustache, and the facial expression just give me the creeps. So obviously I found this to be very, very funny. http://www.losanjealous.com/2006/03/24/adam-morrison

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Big News for UNC

Big News Item #1 UNC forward/center Tyler Hansbrough will return for his sophomore. And this is not some off the cuff answer to some dumb reporter who asks it during the Final Four and thinks that any player who might jump to the NBA next season is actually thinking about that facing the biggest game of their college career. No, this comes from the UNC Sports Information office. And all of those speculating that he would go, Hansbrough has said he never really considered it and even though UNC coach Roy Williams present him with information that stated he would be a first rounder, Hansbrough decided to come back. UNC loses only David Noel(which is a bigger loss on the intangible side and than the tangible one) and anyone who saw Tywone Lawson play in the McDonalds All American game last night knows that he is quite possibly the second coming of Raymond Felton. UNC will be loaded. Can we start the season in like one month please? Big News Item #2 UNC senior forward David Noel won the college slam dunk contest this evening. There is a three point and slam dunk contest for college seniors every year before the Final Four. Even though I would have loved for Noel to be otherwise occupied in Indianopolis, a win is a win right? Apparently J.J. Redick was not in the three point contest. Over at Inside Carolina there were several theories postulated for why that was the case. Some asserted that unless Redick is able to push off illegally or benefit from a moving screen he simply cannot hit his shot. Another poster express fear that a foul would be called on the ball rack if it happened to nudge Redick. I am of the opinion he simply did not plan to be there because he thought he would be playing for that elusive national title. So sorry that did work out for you J.J.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

UNC Women in the Final Four

Hey, Kara Lawson, how about them apples huh? For those that do not know Lawson is one of the studio analyst for ESPN who said she had predicted UNC would win the regional at the start of the tournament but on the eve of the regional final said Tennessee has too much experience and was playing too well. I guess having less talent and only one serious player in Candace Parker should not have been considered as factors. UNC went up big early as UT's Candace Parker sat on the bench for 8 minutes in the first half with two fouls(now you know how Michael Jordan felt in 1984). Parker is a great player and aside from a couple of big threes from Shanna Zolman she was the only offense UT had. Ivory Latta had a so-so night for UNC but with UNC leading by just six with three minutes left, Latta put a dagger in the Vols collective heart by nailing a three from 23 feet with 2 seconds left on the shot clock. UNC moves on to Boston to face Maryland, the only team to be them this season. Duke won against UConn so there are three ACC teams in the Final Four and LSU.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What is a Mid Major?

I had a commenter on my last post ask why George Mason was considered the first mid-major to make a Final Four since 1979 when schools like Utah and UNLV had been there and in the case of the latter actually won the title? It turns out the commenter had a legitimate point, at least technically speaking. The way the landscape of college basketball is laid out there are essentially six power conferences and then a group of good conferences which are called "mid-major" conferences. After that there are low major conferences who are one bid leagues which become #15 or #16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. By every available definition I can find after consulting Wikepedia and the good people at the Inside Carolina message board UNLV and Utah came from mid-major conferences and are technically speaking considered mid-major schools. So, what why is the media so insisting that GM's run is the first for a mid-major since 1979 when both Penn and Indiana St. made it to the final weekend? The most expedient explanation is that the term "mid major" is not entirely absolute and is not applied simply based on conference association. The term "mid major" is used as a label for a certain type of school or conference which produce consistently good basketball but not at the elite level. Here are the criteria of a true "mid major" as described by the label: -Teams in a historical 1-2 two bid league(The MVC broke this mold by getting four this season) -Teams that are generally seeded in the lower half of the bracket i.e. #8 or lower. -Team that do not tend win more than 1 or 2 tournament games. -Teams that tend to play most power conference opponents on the road and fail to compete with them or win. -Teams that are generally unranked or ranked for a week than dropped at the first loss -Teams and conferences that are generally unknown. So how does schools like Utah, UNLV and Gonzaga fit in with this definition considering the conferences they were/are in are fit the criteria above? They don't because their level of play raised their profile and moved them from a mid-major level to the power conference level even if their conference association is unchanged. In other words if a team excels to the point where they can actively compete and win against traditional power conference schools then they are no longer considered a "mid major." Gonzaga is a perfect recent example of a team who made the transistion. Gonzaga was a #10 seed in the West regional in 1999 when they lost to UConn in the Elite Eight. The Zags were considered a mid-major school and their run was placed on par with the George Mason run this year. However, if Gonzaga had held on against UCLA and then beaten Memphis to make it to the Final Four would they be considered "the first mid-major since 1979 to make the Final Four?" Probably not because none of the criteria above, while applicable seven years ago, no longer applies to Gonzaga. They have been a ranked school, they have been seeded high in the tournament, they have won games in the NCAA Tourney, they are routinely winners against power conference opponents, and they are far from being an unknown commodity. UNLV and Utah had the same situation where they reached a point of being ranked and seeded high where they could beat power conference teams on a regular basis. Simply because a team plays in a weaker conference does not mean they cannot rise to the same level as a power conference elite. What you have in the use of the term "mid major" is a nuanced label based on the evaluation of a team and not hard, fast conference designations based on records or RPI ratings. On the conference level it refers to those leagues which are not one of the power conferences. Therefore any school in that conference is considered by default to be a mid major school. That being said a school can shed its "mid major" label by moving to the elite level by beating power conference schools therefore showing themselves to be a power school from a mid major conference. This is the case for Gonzaga and was the case for UNLV and Utah. In the case of George Mason they were not totally off the radar in many respects but their conference is a mid-major conference and nothing GM had done prior to the tournament would serve to change its designation from being a mid major to an elite school. So, while on a technical level there have been schools from mid major conferences in the Final Four since 1979 those schools were not considered to have been on the mid major level. George Mason is from a mid major conference and according to every criteria that matters prior to the tournament, they are to be considered a mid major school. Whether they will be one a week from now or move into the land of the elite is the telling question.

UNC Women vs Tennessee

So the "bracket of death" culminates this evening in Cleveland with the one loss Lady Tar Heels taking on perenniel powerhouse Tennessee coached by the women's all time winningest coach Pat Summit. Although Duke beat these Vols by double digit earlier this year and Tennessee has had some bumps in the road due to injury, do not expect an easy road for UNC who is not playing that well at this point in the Tournament. UNC is the better team and has been all season so it will be an interesting matchup. Of course ESPN cannot help themselves from kissing up to Pat Summitt and Tennessee. Studio analyst Kara Lawson stated last night that she thought UNC would come out of the region and go to the Final Four...BUT, she felt that Tennessee was too experienced and would beat UNC Tuesday night. Someone explain to me how at the start of the tournament you predict UNC would win the region knowing full well they would probably play UT in the regional final and now when it comes down to it you flip flop and say the Vols will win. Of course it all became clearer to me when I realized Lawson played for Pat Summit at Tennessee!!! I would have thought that Pat Summit being the great coach she is would have taught Lawson a few things like having the courage to stick with a prediciton when you make it. Here is hoping Ivory Latta and gang stick the Vols with beating so bad Lawson feels it in Bristol. In the other regional final Duke plays UConn in the Huskies backyard. Do you think ESPN wanted a UConn-Tennessee national title game bad enough to screw UNC AND Duke with horrible draws and forcing them to play teams on either their home floor or somewhere reasonably close. I hope the Heels win it all but in many ways the women's tournament is a joke. Just ask Stanford about the refereeing last night in their regional final.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Got #1 Seeds?

Because the NCAA Tournament doesn't. Billy Packer and Jim Nantz asserted at the end of the Florida-Villanova game that this tournament, at least through, the first two weeks, has been the greatest ever. I would tend to agree just based on the number of games that went down to the wire and the parity shown by bouncing all four #1 seeds. As every tournament starts, you always ask it to show you something you have never seen before whether it be unbelievable finishes or some sort of incredible Cinderella story. This one has given us every bit of that to the point my BRACKET IS DONE. I HAVE NO TEAM LEFT. And stangely I am at peace. Here are my thoughts on this wackiest of Final Fours. George Freakin' Mason On Selection Sunday when George Mason was revealed as the #11 seed in the East, everyone, including this blogger, said it was a bad pick. GM had lost to Hofstra twice in the final two weeks of the season and since both teams were virutally the same on paper, one would have thought that Hofstra would have gotten the nod. That turns out to have been wrong and whether the fact the George Mason's AD was on the committee had something to do with their bid. So here is a team that by all accounts has no business being in the tournament, especially considering their starting guard Tony Skin had been suspended for striking another player in the groin during a CAA Tournament game. Now, in one respect beating a #6 and #3 is not as big of a deal since that has been done numerous times. GM then got a #7 seed in Wichita St and that was definitely a winnable game. But, playing a #1 seed long considered to be the best team in the tournament was supposed to be the end of the road. In fact GM was down 9 at halftime and all signs pointed to UConn being firmly in control. The Patriots do two things well. They play great defense and they also have a very efficient and deliberate offense. As was the case against UNC, which is built in a similar manner as UConn, GM fed the post and worked for a good shot, even if it meant using the whole shot clock. The shocking aspect of this upset is not the fact that an #11 seed has made the Final Four, since that has already been done in 1986 by #11 LSU. And even though LSU took a tougher road that year having to beat a #6,#3,#2, and #1 to get to Dallas, LSU is also a major program and part of a major conference. George Mason is a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference which prior to this season was a one bid league via the automatic bid. George Mason has only been in the NCAA Tournament four times including this season. This consitutes the first time since 1979 a mid-major conference team has been to the Final Four. The expectation was for GM to fold under the pressure of the regional final. UConn was compared to last season's UNC team on talent level. The only thing UConn has in common with UNC now is they both lost to George Mason in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Can I Get Some Offense? Duke scored only 54 points in their loss to LSU. The UCLA-Memphis regional final produced a total of 95 points. Villanova-Boston College were tied at 51 at the end of regulation and the Texas-LSU regional final was tied at 52 at the same point. While there have been games which have produced fairly nominal scores, it is my observation that more games are falling on the low end of the scoring range. The root cause seems to be bad shooting all around. The shooting percentages have been horrible. Duke shot 27% for example and teams like Villanova and Memphis failed to find the bottom of the nets in their regional finals. It also seems that this season was replete with schools willing to execute their offenses at a more deliberate pace. Defense has also been excellence but it also seems like players just are shooting well. Conference Supremacy? How many people thought that the SEC would get two teams to Indianopolis followed by the Pac 10 and the CAA? Not many. Now, the ACC did not do well and was out by Elite Eight. Then again the ACC was not billed as a superconference with a record 8 bids. Say hello to the Big East with all the hype, two #1 seeds, and no Final Four teams. How about the Big 10 who lost all its teams by the end of the first weekend. The Big 12 had only Texas left and they went home on Saturday. So props to the SEC for getting two teams in and setting up a possible all SEC final. The PAC-10 is often on the raw end of any discussion involving conference prowess and UCLA is there and Washington played UConn toe-to-toe. The CAA? It will never happen again. Tidbits Unforuntate Quote of the Day: "I am a fighter" Tony Skinn(George Mason) who was suspended for punching another player in the groin during the CAA Tournament. Unforunate Quote of the Day II: "We have a tapeworm in our stomach" Glen Davis(LSU) in describing how LSU was still hungry to win a national title. The "Wow Don't We Feel Better Now" Award goes to anyone who lost to George Mason prior to Sunday. Only one time in the history of the NCAA Tournament has a Final Four excluded all four #1 seeds and that was in 1980 when #2 Louisville won the title over #8 UCLA. #5 Iowa and #6 Purdue were the semifinal losers. This is the first time in the 64 team era that at least one #1 seed has not been at the Final Four. Based on seeding, this is the third weakest Final Four field with a seed total of 20. 1980 was the second weakest at 21 and the 2000 Final Four with a #1, #5, and a pair of #8 seeds register a total of 22. Incidentally the strongest Final Four field was 1993 with three #1 seeds and a #2. The 1999 and 1997 Final Fours also included three #1 seeds and a #4 seed. Al four #1 seeds have never made it to the Final Four in one tournament. This is only the fifth Final Four in the last 20 years that does not include Duke or UNC. Only the fourth that is absent an ACC school. And the last time the ACC or Big East did not have an school in the Final Four? 1980. At this point George Mason could win the whole thing. And that is why we love the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Andy Katz Article, Part II

I have gotten some serious response on the Katz article I castigated here so much so I am going to examine the issue further. First of all, I think Katz basic premise was flat wrong and not because I refuse to acknowledge what Duke has done but because saying that Duke winning two games a year in the tournament against #16 and #8 or 9 seeds is comparable to winning seven straight national championship is asinine at face value. In addition to that the UCLA titles and the Duke Sweet Sixteen run are from two completely different eras so the comparison is apples and oranges, heck it may even be apples and hamburgers. The issue I originally took with Katz article was the failure to mention the Sweet Sixteen run of 13 straight UNC enjoyed from 1981-1993. It makes more sense to me that if you are going to compare a thing you should compare the same thing. Since Katz did not do it, then I will do it for him in the interest of full disclosure or some such nonsense as that. 1. Notable Differences The first thing I need to put out there in this discussion is the notable differences between the two streaks. Duke is presently at nine and UNC ran theirs to 13 before losing in the second round of the 1994 NCAA Tournament to Boston College. It should be noted that from 1981-1984 UNC was at a #1 seed twice and a #2 seed twice which means they got a first round bye and then played the #8/9 or #7/10 winner in the second round since the field was made up of 48 teams divided into 12 team regionals. In short UNC only had to win once to make the Sweet Sixteen in the first four years. From 1985 forward when the field was 64 teams UNC won the requisite two games for nine straight years. So in terms of having to win two games to get to a Sweet Sixteen both Duke and UNC have the same streak. That being said, the fact Duke was a #1 seed eight of nine times and therefore played a #16 seed tends to almost negate the fact that UNC only had to win one game early on in their streak. Of course the fact that Duke played well enought all season long to get a #1 seed should be considered as should the fact the UNC also did the same and avoided a first round game all together. The result of this maddening logic? A wash in my opinion, with a slight edge to UNC for having the longer streak even if it was on the back of four tournaments where they only won once to get there. 2. Competition Faced During the nine year streak for Duke, the highest seed they have ever faced is a #8 seed. On the other hand UNC has faced seeds as high as #1 on down the line. Here is the seeded teams faced by both schools during their respective streaks: Duke(1998-2006): 16,8,16,9,16,8,16,9,16,8,14,11,16,8,16,9,16,8 Average Seed Faced: 12.2 UNC(1981-1993: 10,9,10,8,15,7,14,6,16,9,15,10,15,7,9,1,16,9,13,5,16,8 Average Seed Faced: 10.3 Of course raw numbers alone are not enough but consideration must also be given to the fact the UNC faced a #1, #5, and #6 in the second round making their road a tougher one thought some would argue that #1 Oklahama in 1990 was anything but the rank they were given. The other side of the dime on this issue is the fact that a full regular season of excellence placed them in a #1 seed so one can reasonably assume this is as difficult if not more so, considering Duke plays in the ACC, than those UNC wins over closer seeds. This again seems to be a wash to me when all factors are considered. 3. Records in the Tournament I have concluded that it is not enough to evalute the fact that Duke or UNC was able to win two games against largely weaker opponents to get to a certain plateau in the tournament. It is also necessary to evaluate their records overall in the tournament during their respective streaks. Duke: 4 Elite Eights, 3 Final Fours, 1 National Runner-Up, 1 National Championship, 28-8 UNC: 8 Elite Eights, 4 Final Fours, 1 National Runner-Up, 2 National Championships, 39-11 UNC has a slightly better winning percentage(.780 vs .777) and has won their Sweet Sixteen game more often(8 vs 4). UNC also made one more Final Four but also had four more years under the belt. UNC has seemingly finished the deal better winning half the Final Fours they attended during their streak while Duke only won once in three tries. Then again this, like the other factors, is a wash. UNC did better in the Sweet Sixteen but usually bowed out during the next round. Duke in 4 of the last 5 Sweet Sixteen games has lost to a lower seed and that could be considered a major issue since they were the favored team in all but the 2003 game when they were a #3 to #2 Kansas. During UNC's streak the only Sweet Sixteen loss the suffered which could be considered a bad loss was the 1984 loss to Indiana. In 1986 and 1989 UNC lost to the eventual national champion. In 1992, UNC lost to a #1 seed as a #4 seed. It also is notable that when UNC was given a #1 seed during its streak it capitalized on it winning two titles and making three Final Fours in five tournaments as a #1 seed. Duke in 8 tournaments as a #1 seed has made only three Final Fours and won one title. Conclusion The chief fallacy of this discussion rests on the fact that it tends to focus on the wrong periods of success for either program. In UNC's case there is some overlap, but the period from 1991 to present includes seven Final Fours and two titles. Duke went to six Final Fours in eight years from 1986 to 1994 including back-to-back titles which is far better than the current streak. Both programs had a downturn, Duke from 1995-1997 and UNC from 2002-2004 but at the same time both have acquitted themselves as consistant top performers on the college basketball stage. This is what makes the rivalry so intense. For the past 25 years both programs have won three titles and been to a combined 20 Final Fours. In other words Sweet Sixteen streak or not, they are both widely successful and perhaps on some nuanced level one is better than the other. In fact no one remembers which 16 teams won two game year in and year out, they only remember which team was better than the other 64. The only scorecard that really matters is the tally for national titles at each school: UNC 4 Duke 3. And if all goes well in Washington, D.C. tomorrow, UConn could be ready to challenge both schools for supremacy.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Great Finishes

Aside from the Duke-LSU game, which in reality, was a horrible game to watch from the perspective of good basketball, two other Tournament games last night provided sensational endings. In Atlanta, Texas and West Virginia played a classic. Texas led by 12 at halftime but West Virginia on hot three point shooting got back in the game. As the game neared its conclusion, Texas led 71-68 and West Virgnia had the ball. They find Kevin Pittsnogle for the three pointer to tie the game with 5 seconds left. Now here is one of the great dilemmas in college basketball. Do you call timeout and set a play or do you immediately inbound the ball and try to get a shot off while the defense is somewhat scattered. Coaches and analysts alike are pretty evenly split on which option is the best one. I happen to think that if you have a quality veteran point guard then skip the timeout and let him run with it, especially if it is a tie game. Texas' Rick Barnes did exactly that and point guard P.J. Tucker quickly brought the ball up and found Kenton Paulino for a three pointer as time expired. Texas wins 74-71. Hope is still alive in my bracket. However, as thrilling as that game was, the Gonzaga-UCLA game was even better. Gonzaga was up by as much as 17 points and with 3:13 left in the game led by nine at 71-62. That would be all the points Gonzaga would score the rest of the way. UCLA started chipping away at the lead as Gonzaga would go 0-6 over the final three minutes including three missed shots by POY candidate Adam Morrison. UCLA eventually close the lead to 71-70 with 20 seconds left in the game. What followed next was nothing short of incredible. UCLA put on a full court press following a made free throw. Gonzaga inbounds to Adam Morrison in the right corner and he is immediately double teamed. Now, at this point, even with the clock running down, UCLA players do something that I think other players in the same situation should have done in every close game in the past two weeks: they played tough defense without fouling. There have been multiple games where a team needed to get the ball back and either they foul right away or fail to simply use good defense to force the turnover. In this case Morrison is trapped in the corner, so instead of fouling, the Bruins players simply hold their hands straight up and force him to lob as pass out. The pass goes J.P. Batista off the foul line who is immediately besieged by two Bruins defenders. Do they foul him? No, they actually make a play for the ball because Batista is holding it out in front of him while looking around a for his point guard who IS STANDING WIDE OPEN BEHIND HIM UNDER THE BASKET!!! In fact Batista would have been better off to throw the ball up in the air towards his basket rather than stand there holding it out where it could be easily picked out of his hands. Which is exactly what UCLA's Jordan Farmar did. Farmar then catches a streaking Luc Richard Mbouh a Moute(wow, that is a mouthful) going to the basket for a layup with four seconds left. Gonzaga panics, throw the ball to midcourt where it is intercepted by UCLA and tied up for a jump ball. UCLA has the possession arrow, gets fouled and makes 1 of 2 free throws with 1.9 seconds left. Gonzaga throws the ball the length of the court to Batista who takes a valiant shot at the basket from 15 feet and misses off the backboard. UCLA wins 73-71. CBS announcer Gus Johnson has perhaps the best call of the tournament as UCLA gets the jump ball with four seconds left by exclaiming, "Are you kidding me?!?!" That is an often used phrase but in that moment it seemed proper and added to the annals of March Madness. And Adam Morrison provided us with the brutal reminder of how crushing these games can be as he starting breaking down when UCLA got the jump ball and then collapsed the floor in tears when the game ended. I guess we know which clip they will be using in One Shining Moment for the line, "When it's done, win or lose"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Redick. Chokes.

LSU takes down Duke 62-54 in the Sweet Sixteen. J.J. Redick, the often proclaimed "greatest shooter in college basketball" hits only 3 of 19 and two free throws for a grand total of eleven points. Ding, dong the witch is dead. [Update] In my post following Redick's woeful shooting performance at Georgia Tech I wrote this: Duke found out tonight what happens if J.J. Redick has a bad night. Fortunately for them they were playing Georgia Tech and they won 73-66. If Redick lays an egg like that in the Sweet Sixteen against someone who can actually hold it together for 40 minutes, Duke will be taking the quick flight back to RDU. Not to say "I told you so" but you know...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Caption This...

I am Shiva, destroyer of worlds!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Andy Katz Has A Very Short Memory

ESPN.com's Andy Katz has written an article where he asserts that Duke's run of 9 straight Sweet 16 appearances is so impressive that only John Wooden winning 7 straight NCAA titles and 10 in 11 years at UCLA surpasses it. Katz cites the current level of parity in college basketball as the reason why this streak will not likely be matched in the future. And he could be right, except he conveniently forgot to mention that Dean Smith and North Carolina made 13 straight Sweet 16 appearances from 1981 to 1994. In fact UNC maintained the streak by beating the #1 team(Oklahoma) in the country as a #8 seed in 1990 as well as beating a #5 seed(Alabama) in the 1992 NCAA Tournament as a #4 seed. Duke has never faced a seed higher than #8 in the second round during their vaunted streak. Now it could be said that the first four years of the streak were easier since they occurred during the years of the 48 team field which required UNC as a higher seed to only win one game to reach the Sweet Sixteen versus the two a team must win now. Of course as Katz points out Duke has been a #1 seed eight of those nine years and since #16 seeds are now 0-88 versus #1 seeds, we can consider that first game a gimmie. The only thing UNC did in those four years was lose a national title game, win a national title game, lose in the Elite Eight, and lose in the Sweet 16 to Indiana. I think that means on average they won more than two games a year in the tournament during that span. This is classic Mike Krzyzewski worship as practiced by most of the personalities at ESPN. I am not certain how he can, with a straight face, write and post an article lauding Mike Krzyzewski for his streak of Sweet 16 appearances when he is still five years away from surpassing the streak Dean Smith set in the 1980's and early 1990's. Of course Jim Calhoun thinks that UConn reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 9 out of 12 years is pretty swell, but nine straight like Duke is "incredible" Hey Jim, what would think if I told you Dean Smith went to 13 straight Sweet 16's and 15 out of 17 years from 1981-1997. If nine straight is incredible then 13 straight must be downright miraculous. Maybe I should cut Katz some slack since he only started writing about college basketball in the 1990's about the time the UNC streak ended. Of course he also took the time to research what John Wooden did, you would think he would show some respect and gives some credit to Dean Smith for his accomplishment instead of glossing over 13 years of great tournament consistency in an effort to give Mike Krzyzewski another big pat on the back. Copyright © 2006, BCB

Considering Herb Sendek II

Now that NC State has been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Texas, the discussion begins in earnest about his future. In my previous post I, the non-State fan observer, moved myself off the fence concerning Sendek's future(as if anyone really cares what I think, especially as a UNC fan) squarely into the "it's time for a change" camp. I think Sendek is a good coach and I think that he runs a good program. I also think that he has more plateaus than upward climbs and perhaps now is the time to build upon the foundation he has built with a new coach. I still stand by that thought process though when NCSU beat California Friday night and I realized Sendek was 4-1 in the NCAA First Round, it did give me pause to think. After all consistently winning that first game says a lot and perhaps with the right personnel they could move even further in the tournament. The problem with thinking Sendek has hit a wall is there is no way to prove that other than let him keep coaching. There is however another aspect of this issue which may have Wolfpack nation looking for a new coach for all the wrong reasons. It is the "Jim Valvano Factor" Jim Valvano was the NC State head coach from 1980-1989. During his tenure NC State won the 1983 ACC and National Championships, as well as the ACC title in 1987. His record was 209-114 during that time. Here is how NC State finished during the season during the Valvano era. 1980: Lost in NCAA Second Round as a #4 seed to #5 Iowa 1981: No NCAA Tournament 1982: Lost in NCAA First Round as a #7 seed to #10 UT Chattanooga 1983: Won National Championship as a #6 seed 1984: No NCAA Tournament 1985: Lost in Elite 8 as a #3 seed to #1 St. John's 1986: Lost in Elite 8 as a #6 seed to #1 Kansas 1987: Lost in First Round as a #11 seed to #6 Florida 1988: Lost in First Round as a #3 seed to #14 Murray State 1989: Lost in the Sweet 16 as a #5 seed to #1 Georgetown It should be noted that the 1990 team was on probation and could not go to the NCAA Tournament because of Valvano's mishandling of the program. Now, make no mistake Valvano had success at NC State. NC State won a miracle title in 1983. NC State also got into a couple of Elite Eight's in the mid-eighties. The ACC title in 1987 came after a 6-8 ACC season and was the only way they got into the NCAA Tournament. 1988 brought an upset loss to Murray St and in 1989 the Sweet Sixteen run came after they dropped the first round of the ACC tournament to Maryland who was the #8 seed. In essence, Valvano brought a roller coaster of wins and losses to Wolfpack nation. The 1983 title team had 10 losses, by no means a powerhouse. NC State had an average NCAA seeding of 5.6 under Valvano being a #3 seed twice and being as low as a #11 seed. Valvano's win-loss record over the span of his tenure was only slightly better than Sendek's now. Aside from the up and down nature of the program, NC State had players which barely qualified to be in school, developed a reputation of being a school which did not graduate players, and was eventually banned from the NCAA Tournament in 1990 following numerous NCAA violations under Valvano which forced his resignation. So the question I have is where were the lynch mobs asking for Valvano to be fired over the state of the program circa 1988? I understand that winning a title and then making two Elite Eights can have a pacifying effect on the fan base, but honestly speaking which program was better off by the end of its ninth year: Valvano's heading into NCAA probation with a tattered reputation or Sendek's with five straight tournament appearances and a clean program that graduates players to boot. There is only one thing that explains Valvano's immunity from fans versus Sendek's vulnerabilty and that has to do with personality. Valvano put on a show whenever he was in front of the cameras. He was loved by the fans and his passion for the game was infectious. So regardless of how badly NC State performed or regardless of their failure to win games, Valvanno's personality and showmanship deflected any fan rumblings. NC State's record against Duke and UNC was not much better than it is now but fans never asked for a coaching change because Valvano was so lovable and had won a national title. Unfortunately for Sendek he has not developed a cult of personality. 850 the Buzz's Adam Gold called him the "anti-Valvano" and so regardless of the fact that his on court performance is nearly the same and his off court handling of the programs is vastly improved Sendek gets ripped by the fans for not being Jim Valvano. This is the core of what is happening in Raleigh and everyone knows that if Sendek could woo the masses the way Valvano did, no one would be talking about firing him. It is my opinion that Sendek may be at a wall and a new coach may be needed to move the program along. If that is the case, so be it, but NC State fans also need to realize that Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewsk have never had winning personalities, just incredible winning ways. Of course some say current UNC coach Roy Williams meshes those two aspects perfectly. If NC State fans want to get rid of Herb Sendek because they feel he has a hit a limit on how high he can take the program then that is fine. But please do not express a desire to get rid of him because he is not living up the the legend of Jim Valvano. Valvano showed a lot of courage in his fight with cancer and his legacy in that arena is great. His legacy as a head basketball coach at NC State is one of NCAA violations and wild inconsistency. NC State fans really do not want to go back there again do they?

Neutral Court

Among the many controversies that surrounded the brackets for men's and women's tournament none was as perplexing at the treatment overall top seed North Carolina got in their regional setup. UNC got handed what amounted to the "bracket of death" by placing should have been #1 seed Tennessee as #2 followed by Big East regular season champ #3 Rutgers and #4 Purdue. This is not how it is supposed to work for the overall #1 seed. By definition you face the lowest possible seed on that line at each step of the tournament. In other words if Tennessee is #2 in UNC's region that means they are #8 overall which is ludicrous. Aside from the stiff competition there was also the matter of the sub-regional location. There were two possible sites for UNC go to to, Nashville and Norfolk. Being the overall #1 seed one would think that UNC would go to the closest location which would have been Norfolk. The committee operates in a different reality and sent them to Nashville instead and permitted #1 seed Duke, who UNC beat twice, to go to Norfolk. So, no big deal, Nashville is not too far except the committee in all their inifinite wisdom seeded home team Vanderbilt as the #8 seed. Assuming seeding hold the overall #1 seed in the whole tournament would be forced to play a second round opponent on their home court. And silly as I was I thought all tournament games were suppose to be neutral court affairs. Now UNC won the game last night by 19 but the game was tight at points and I am sure playing Vandy at Vandy made their job a little more difficult. And perhaps I should not complain too much since it is essentially no harm, no foul. However it a slow day so I will. 1. Why does the women's selection committee permit lower seeded teams or any team for that matter to play tournament games on their home floor? I tried to come up with a reason as to why the home team would need to be present at a sub-regional to make that particular sub-regional work. The only one I could come up with was crowd support. The women's tournament does not enjoy the same following as the men's tournament. In fact I would surmise that more UNC fans probably traveled to Dayton to see them men play than the top four seeds in Nashville combined to see the women play. So in one respect I can see why having the home team present would raise the crowd levels some. That being said I would conclude that the team that really got screwed in this arrangement was #9 Louisville. As much griping as UNC fans did about playing Vandy on their home court in the second round, it really was not that big of a deal because UNC was so much better than Vandy. Did it disadvantage UNC to have to deal with a hostile crowd and possibly created a more competitive game than they would have faced on a neutral court? Probably, but the effects should not linger. Louisville, on the other hand, is already disadvantaged as a lower seed and that is compounded by the fact they are playing an opponent they could beat on their home court. Are having people in the seats or some other logistical issue more important than perserving some semblance of a neutral court? Apparently so. On the men's side, the pod system puts teams close to home, but never on their home court. Also, in the case of the men's tourney the higher seeds not the lower ones are rewarded with proxmity to home in the sub-regional and also in the regional if it works out that way. #1 Duke played in Greensboro, #1 Villanova played in Philly, and #2 Texas played in Dallas. The locations are all fairly close to home for these teams and though in Duke's case it can actually backfire since UNC and NC State fans can crash the party and create a hostile environment. In the women's tournament I think the real reason behind permitting lower seeds to play at home is an effort to facilitate upsets of higher seeds. Sounds crazy? Take a moment to think about what makes the men's tournament the single greatest sporting event in this country. It captures the very essence of the American spirit by having the little guy rise up and beat the giant. It has the drama of young kids from small schools fighting and scrapping their way to a win over some well known big school. We identify with that because one of the greatest upsets in history was 13 colonies pushing out the British empire. The women's game is largely devoid of this aspect, so by having the #8 seed play on its home floor, it creates a some parity where none previously existed. I also think the support factor is a part of this since no one wants a women's game seen on television with very few people there and the crowd not at least cheering for someone. 2. Shouldn't the courts all be the same? The other issue I have with Vanderbilt as a tournament site is that it has a design that is vastly different than other courts. At Vandy there is more space around the out of bounds and the benches are in the end zones and not on the sideline. This is not really that big of an issue but one that was commented on by UNC players was the location of the shot clock. At Vandy the shot clock is underneath the basket. In other words the shot clock is not located in the same spot as it is in other gyms around the country. One key aspect of tournament play is that all 65 teams play games on courts that a relatively the same. Bench locations might be different, the courts will obviously look different, but one would expect that the shot clock, the game clock, and scoreboard would all be in roughly the same location. In the interest of having a fair tournament, the court environment should be the same. Now granted everyone playing at that site deal with the same issues, but this kind of issue also gives Vandy an advantage playing on their own floor versus other teams. The courts all need to be the same and if Vandy wants to be a NCAA host then they need to make sure their shot clock and game clock are located in the same place as other game and shot clocks at other tournament sites. UNC moves on the Cleveland to face the Purdue-UCLA winner. Tennesee has George Washington.

Monday, March 20, 2006

ESPN: Promote Women's Basketball At All Costs

In my previous post, I dissected the "dunk" by UT's Candace Parker and briefly mentioned how it is being promoted by ESPN in much the same fervor as they did Pat Summitt passing Dean Smith on the all time wins list even though the two sports are completely different. Where the alleged dunk is concerned, ESPN once again is adbidcating any semblance of fact and reality by promoting Parker's "dunks" as the real deal. ESPN's Graham Hays said in his article: But Parker's dunks were different. The first one came in the flow of the action, with a defender in close proximity, and with the outcome of an NCAA Tournament game still very much in doubt. In fact, after Parker's first dunk, the Lady Vols responded with a 24-2 run. Parker's dunks are important not because she got her hand above the rim and scored two points by pushing the ball through the hoop, but because it highlights the player at the forefront of an athletic revolution in women's basketball. First of all, does anyone really believe the result of this game was ever in doubt? Army beating Tennessee would be the same as the army of Iceland taking the White House, it will never happen. When Parker "dunked" the ball it but the Vols up 15-14 with 13 minutes to go in the first half. A one point lead not even midway through the first half does not constitute the game being in doubt. If they were up one in the latter part of the second half then that might be true but as he points out UT went on a 26-2 run after that so let's not make it sound like the "dunk" occurred during a portion of the game where UT was in danger of losing. Secondly, his description of the dunk is completely false based on the replays I have seen and the picture I have posted above. Hays claims that Parker got her hand above the rim and pushed the ball through the hoop. The replay and the photo in my previous post clearly show that Parker pushes the ball over the rim and then grabs it but did not, in my estimation, push the ball through the hoop which would be consistent with the definition of a slam dunk. If she had pushed the ball through the hoop with her hand the ball would not be slightly above the rim as her hand is grabbing the hoop. Pushing it through means the ball is forced downward and past the rim before the rim is grabbed the player. In Parker's case it was clear that she was able to put the ball above the rim but because she did not have the necessary lift was forced to let it go and grabbed the rim with her fingers. The ball then moved over the rim and fell through. In most dunks seen in the men's game whether with one hand or two, the player is able to put his whole hand above the rim and with the flick of a wrist push the ball downward through the hoop followed by a grab of the rim. It is an important distinction and one ESPN does not seem to be bothered by because it would negatively influence their relentless promotion of their women's broadcasts Now, let me be clear, I think women dunking the basketball is great and I am not disparaging this out of some sexist agenda. My beef with ESPN is their insistence upon calling this something that it clearly is not in an effort to promote women's basketball which they are the sole presenter of in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN has a business relationship with the NCAA to promote the game and grab ratings so I find an inherent conflict of interest in making so much noise about calling what Candace Parker did a "dunk" when it is clearly was not according to the best available definition. There are multiple elements of the women's game which make it less enjoyable to watch than the men's game and one of them is the lack of above the rim action. That being said, having women go down the court and perform borderline slam dunks or worse yet layups while touching the rim which are then called dunks may be more harmful to the game than not having that aspect at all. It was not a dunk, at least not in my opinion, and even if it was a borderline dunk, it had less wow factor than a reverse layup and does not garner the hype ESPN is giving it in an effort put bodies in front of the TV during women's basketball broadcasts.

What is a Slam Dunk?

Because I thought this was readily defined but following the Tennessee-Army game in the Women's NCAA Tournament the standard has been adjusted somewhat. Volunteer Candace Parker is being hailed as the first woman to "dunk" twice in a tournament game. This is obviously big news for women's basketball fans who want to see the game moved above the rim a little more to ratchet up better support. ESPN, by and far the largest advocate of women's basketball, has been effusive about this feat. Now, let me be clear, I am not a sexist. I like women's basketball, I do not find it to be nearly as compelling as the men's game. I like watching the current UNC women's team because they play a very fast style much like that found in the men's game. Having placed that disclaimer squarely out there I can honestly tell you that what Candace Parker did yesterday, from what I saw, was not a slam dunk, it was a layup on which she grabbed the rim. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a "dunk shot" as: a shot in basketball made by jumping high into the air and throwing the ball down through the basket Now look at this photo of one of Parker's "dunks" As seen in the photo the ball is above the rim. In fact one photo at ESPN.com shows the ball to be even higher than it shows here. According to the dictionary definition of a dunk, the ball is literally thrown down through the hoop. If you watch a men's game and a player dunks the ball he goes up and throws the ball down through the basket and then grabs the rim. Parker did not do that here. It is clear she put the ball above the rim and then grabbed it. The ball subsequently fell through the hoop. She did not, as indicated in the definition, throw the ball "down through the basket" but rather pushed it over the top of the rim and it simply fell through. Now, I have seen footage of Parker dunking in the McDonald's High School All American slam dunk contest, so I am not saying she cannot dunk. However, this is not a slam dunk, not by the definition in the dictionary and not in comparison to what consitutes a slam dunk in the men's game. And to anyone who thinks it is not an important distinction or thinks that it does not have to be the same as in the men's game should probably ask yourself why everyone is pushing this dunk as a boon for women's basketball. It is because women's basketball needs to become more like the men's game in order to get people into the stands. I am just not sure labeling something that is clearly not a slam dunk as a dunk in an effort to raise interest in the game is the way to go. Of course ESPN, in particular, has never been interested in the difference between apples and oranges, just ask Dean Smith about his all time wins record.

Sweet Sixteen

Four #1 seeds are still alive. As well as a #13, #11, #7, and #6. And with four #1 seeds still alive the possibility of all four making the Final Four is very much in play. Using average seeding of the three remaining teams in each of the top seed's region here is an idea of who has the toughest bracket left. Washington, DC: #1 UConn, #5 Washington, #7 Wichita St. #11 George Mason. Average Seed of Other Three Teams: 7.6 Atlanta: #1 Duke, #2 Texas, #4 LSU, #6 West Virginia Average Seed of Other Three Teams: 4 Oakland: #1 Memphis, #2 UCLA, #3 Gonzaga, #13 Bradley Average Seed of Other Three Teams: 6 Minneapolis: #1 Villanova, #3 Florida, #4 Boston College, #7 Georgetown Average Seed of Other Three Teams: 4.6 So based on average seeding Duke technically has the tougher potential road followed by Villanova, Memphis, and UConn. The problem with seeding is it does not tell the whole story. Boston College should have been a #2 seed so Villanova is getting a tougher game with its four seed than say Duke with the four seed LSU. The highest seed UConn will face in the regional is against #5 Washington. Since Wichita St and George Mason are #7 and #11 which means UConn could go to Indianoplis having failed to see a top four seed(Much like UNC last season which played #16, #9, #10, and #6 on the way to St. Louis) Duke and Memphis clearly have the toughest road because they potentially could see a #2 seed in the Elite Eight. Now does any of this really matter now? I would contend it does because with each move to a new site and new "four team tournament" as Dean Smith used to call them, the pressure is greater and the momentum changes. These teams were seeded where they were for a reason and with the exception of BC, I think it is indicative of how good they are. The first four days of tournament play is always replete with teams playing above their seeding and this year was no exception. The second four days of the tournament usually results in many teams "returning to their seeding" In other words George Mason will play like the 11 seed they really are or Bradley will be overmatched by Memphis in Oakland. There are exceptions to this like in 2000 when the Final Four had a #1, #4, and two #8 seeds. The point it that the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament has a way of exposing the lower seeds. Partly because they are unable to sneak up on someone and partly because four #1 seeded coaches have four/five days to study film and break down their opponent. Whereas seedings seem to go out the window in the first and second round, the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight usually brings them back to reality. That being said, I have never seen an NCAA Tournament with this kind of parity from top to bottom. I think Bradley and George Mason enjoy better odds this year than any low seed before them.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Heels Season Collapses on Floor in Second Half, Dies Later

But is was all gravy right? At least that is the consolation Tar Heel fans are employing this evening after watching UNC come out like world beaters against George Mason then settle into a rut which lasted the rest of the game. UNC played a horrible game, committed six straight turnovers to start the second half and had a lot of trouble getting the ball to Tyler Hansbrough. David Noel playing for his career hit the big shots to keep UNC in it but ultimately the weak guard play from UNC finally caught up. The Patriots played some good defense, was able to consecutive threes with the shot clock at five seconds and seemed to have little trouble scoring on the interior. GM also did an excellent job of dictating the pace and holding UNC 20 points under their average. I thought the foul calls were a little lopsided considering UNC usually attempts 24 free throws a game but only attempted four this time around. However, there was no ref conspiracy, UNC should have played better pure and simply. Hansbrough only having 10 points was a big stat. No other Tar Heel hit double figures. I mentioned back in my pre-ACC Tournament post that one issue teams faces is which team would come to play, if there was a definitive point in the season where a team started playing better. UNC started the season 12-5 through January then went 9-1 ending with a win at Duke. Once the postseason started it seemed like the turnover prone UNC of November through January reemerged rather than the hot Heels of February and early March. I suppose that is the pitfall of an inexperienced team. The Heels ended the season 23-8 which is a far cry from what many expected. Which leads me to the "gravy" talk. It almost seems like a cop out because it seemed like by beating Duke they had fully trascended the rebuilding status and were proned to greater things. The Duke game was the peak point and in many ways like winning a championship considering the power of the rivalry and the attention it garnered. UNC's failure to play well over the next four games was probably a combination of the ebb and flow of a team's performance and the inexperience of the freshman. Lots of pundits like to say that there are no freshman in the postseason, but if it is their first postseason then, yes, they are freshman still. When the season began and the prognosticators said UNC would be fortunate to make the NCAA Tournament much less be competitive in the ACC I took no umbrage because UNC had just won the title and that was enough to placate me if we had to endure a rebuilding year, no matter how traumatic. Roy Williams did a great job taking some talented personnel and making this year a successful year. I always like at least getting to the Sweet Sixteen because I think that denotes separation and gives you a few more days of basketball to talk about. It was not meant to be and despite the collapse seen today in Dayton, it was a great season considering how bad it could have been. So pass the gravy. As for next season, UNC loses David Noel and Byron Sanders, and assuming Hansbrough stays put(which he should because today is a good indication he is not ready for the NBA) then the returning rotation minus Noel and the addition of five of the top 32 players in high school(including three in the top 10) should put UNC in the top ten, if not #1 in the country. In other words expectations will be back to normal levels in Chapel Hill and gravy will not be on the menu. I will have a NCAA wrapup tommorrow.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Is Half of a Sweet Sixteen a Semi-Sweet Eight?

When the NCAA Tournament started, ESPN chose Tennessee as an "All Access" team meaning they would be filming every mundane part of UT's existence outside of the game itself. ESPN probably thought that UT would be around at least until next Saturday. Since the "never should have been seeded second" Volunteers have been summarily dismissed by #7 Wichita St(I love it when I pick an upset correctly) will the ESPN All Access continue? Will we be treated to Bruce Pearl on the golf course next week or perhaps some footage of UT players attending class? Probably not, but it is a little egg on ESPN's face setting that deal up only to have UT lose in the first weekend. Despite the major turmoil found in one of my Final Four picks(Kansas) losing last night, I still I am holding 14 of the Sweet Sixteen out there and today garnered me a 7-1 mark(thanks a lot Illinois.) I figure as long as I bring enough teams through to the Elite 8 and get my UC0nn-Texas title game with UConn winning, I will do pretty good overall. Maybe its just me, but the number of games that are hotly contested by the last minute seems more prevalant this year than in the past. It has made for some enjoyable hoops actions. Among the winners today: Duke and Florida won easily, Boston College got away from Montana in the second half, UCLA squeaked it out over Alabama, LSU slipped by Texas A&M, Wichita St gave the MVC some credibility, Washington led big but won close over Illinois, and Gonzaga finally acted like the high seed they are and won despite Adam Morrison playing more like former Tar Heel and current Minnesota guard Brian Morrison. The ACC is still perfect at 6-0. UNC plays at 2:20 versus George Mason and NC State has a tough but not impossible test against Texas. Although I picked Texas to go to the title game I also happen to think they are vulnerable. In fact everyone in the field is vunerable which is perhaps why the games are so close and so great to watch. There will be no live blog of the UNC-GM game tommorrow. It is difficult for me to do that during the day with kids to entertain.

NCAA Tournament Wrapup

Bracket. Busted. In all of the years I have been picking brackets I have never lost a Final Four team during the first round. Congratualtions Kansas, you have now lost two straight first round games as a top four seed under Bill Self and if am not mistaken that is a first. Here are today's observations. High Seeds Upset or Struggle Mightily UConn was down by 12 to Albany midway through the second half. That's right, the odds on favorite to win the whole darn tournament was down 12 to a #16 seed. They rallied as you might expect and won but that was indicative of how the day went. Iowa lost to a #14, Kansas lost to a #13 seed. NC State won as #10 seed and #11 George Mason, without a suspended player, sent Michigan St home. #1's Memphis and Villanova did not really cruise versus their #16 seeded opponents. Texas only beat Penn by eight. In other words, it appears parity has arrived in full force in the NCAA Tournament. A #1 seed losing to a #16 may happen sooner rather than later. Defending Champs Win UNC, who by all accounts, was not supposed to even make the tourament survived a spirited effort from Murray St to advance 69-65. UNC really did not play well and whether that is some of their inexperience or Murray St matching up well, it was a little testy most of the night. UNC now gets George Mason, who beat the much vaunted Michigan St. As much as I used to think of schools like George Mason were easy marks. In today's NCAA Tournament there are no easy marks. Conference Tournament Champs and Performance Big East: Syracuse lost to Texas A&M Big 10: Iowa lost to Northwestern St. Big 12: Kansas lost to Bradley The SEC, ACC, C-USA, and PAC-10 champions are all still in. Records ACC 4-0 SEC 5-1 Big East 5-3 Pac 10 3-1 Big 10 3-3 Big 12 2-2 So everyone was down on the ACC but thus far they are undefeated at 4-0. This means very little because the Big East could still put two teams in the Final Four. I was 13-3 yesterday, today not so good at 10-6 for a 23-9 first round. I lost a Final Four team in Kansas but still retain 15 of 16 Sweet Sixteen teams and my championship game matchup is still alive. Duke leads of things tommorrow with a tough game against George Washington.

Friday, March 17, 2006

NCAA TOURNAMENT-UNC vs MURRAY STATE: LIVE BLOG

From Dayton, OH where everyone's chic pic to beat UNC in the second round, Michigan St., lost to a team playing without a key player. Given the struggles we have seen tonight from UConn as well as the Iowa loss to Northwestern St., this is a dangerous fame for UNC. Time to take care of business. 9:46 PM CBS has switched over to Dayton here in Raleigh. 9:48 PM Murray St. controls the tip and scores off Hansbrough inside 2-0 Racers. Reyshawn Terry for three....YES! That is a good start for him. 9:50 PM Three quick fouls on Murray St. Free throws good for Tyler Hansbrough, UNC up 7-2 UNC rebounding well early on. If Murray State does not shoot well, it should be a lot of one and out possessions for them. 9:52 PM Good defense forces the shot clock violation. Murray State is cold early. One shot and out for the Racers. 9:54 PM 1st TV timeout following another Racer foul. UNC looks much more relaxed and generally sharper than they did last week against Virginia in the ACC Quarterfinals. It appears they are trying to get Hansbrough touches early and run the offense through him. 9:55 PM I am not a Chevy guy and now that Coach K is shilling for them I will never be a Chevy guy. 9:57 PM Murray St. has committed its fifth foul five minutes in. Now we have the customary "Roy Williams did a great job losing seven players and still making the Tournament" discussion. 9:59 PM Poor execution by the Heels followed by a turnover. Murray St. is detecting a little window to rally back into this game. Murray St gets the timeout falling out of bounds. UNC up 8-4. 10:00 PM I have seen the Devil and he drives a Cheverolet. 10:02 PM Murray St. ball out of the timeout trailing 8-4 18 foot jumper from Murray St. UNC answers on the other end. Steal by Marcus Ginyard goes in and is fouled. Ginyard makes both free throws to put UNC up 13-6 Murray St has six fouls. 10:04 PM Back to back threes from the Racers to pull within one. Byron Sanders hits the layup to move the lead out to 15-12. 10:06 PM UNC outhustled quite a bit on some rebounds. The Racers miss several shots and Byron Sanders finally grabs it and forces the jump ball. Should be UNC ball. 2nd TV Timeout 10:08 PM This is the first Coach K-free commercial break I have seen this game. UNC leading 15-12. UNC inbounds and not taking a lot of shots. Another Tar Heel turnover. 10:09 PM OH MY GOODNESS!!! Terry on the steal gets it back on the break and leans in for the one handed slam from the middle of the lane over some poor Murray St. player. UNC leads 17-12. 10:10 PM Terry turnover, UNC's fifth of the half. 10:11 PM Replay of the Terry dunk. He planted a few feet inside the free throw line. UNC is fortunate Murray St is so cold. 10:12 PM Hansbrough breaks the drought to put UNC up 19-12. Murray St. three cuts it back to four. 10:13 PM Danny Green answers for three. Murray St. timeout with 8:25 remaining and UNC up 22-15. 10:14 PM Another Hansbrough travel. 3rd TV tiemout. 10:15 PM AAGGGHHH! This is the third time I have seen the Coach K commercial. I think they should be forbidden from showing it during a UNC game. 10:18 PM Token press from the Heels, Racers break it. David Noel commits a three point shooter. Not a smart move there. 10:19 PM Redding makes all three free throws then gets a steal and layup. UNC lead down to two. 10:20 PM Wes Miller misses the front end of the 1-1. Murray State takes the lead on a three. 10:21 PM The refs have called a lot of fouls on Murray St and it still feels like they are not calling stuff. Two Hansbrough free throws puts UNC back up 25-23. 10:23 PM UNC is very sloppy with the ball. Murray St. is shooting 31% but 9 UNC turnovers are keeping this game close. Murray St has committed 10 team fouls to UNC's two fouls. The Racer coaching staff is livid. Hansbrough hits 1 of 2 to put UNC up 26-23 10:25 PM Murray St jumper cuts it to one. Quintein Thomas airball, Green lays it in for a three point lead. 10:26 PM 4th TV timeout. UNC has been very sloppy and is not getting great looks. Murray State has taken a lot of three and missed many of them badly. UNC needs to take better care of the ball and get some better offensive effeciency. 10:28 PM Another bad pass knocked out of bounds for their 10th turnover. 10:30 PM Racer's Pearson cuts the lead to one. Ginyard missed the three that bounces out of bounds. 10:31 PM Hansbrough misses badly, not getting solid offense from him right now. 10:32 PM DUNK from Hansbrough. Murray St is shooting horribly. A lot of shots not hitting much rim. UNC leads 30-27 Murray St. cuts it to 30-29. 10:33 PM UNC in danger of being behind at halftime and they are now behind at halftime. This is exceptionally frustrating when you consider the following facts: Murray St was whistled for 11 fouls versus 2 UNC fouls. Murray St is only shooting 32% from the floor. UNC has committed 10 turnovers and is not shooting that well. UNC needs to take better care of the basketball and get some kind of offensive flow going. If this is any consolation Texas is struggling with Penn and Kansas is trailing Bradley at halftime. 10:54 PM I can only imagine the butt chewing Roy gave those guys at halftime. Is it just me or are the halftimes in the tournament longer than normal Murray St. leading scorer Shawn Witherspoon is out for the game with a broken foot. 10:55 PM Hansbrough puts UNC back in the lead. That is good offensive execution. 10:57 PM Nice shot by Bobby Frasor opens the lead to three. Orr for Murray St answers to cut the lead to one. 10:58 PM Terry at the line and hits two to put UNC up 36-33. 10:59 PM Outrebounded on the Orr miss. David Noel extends the lead back to three. Follow dunk from Griffith and ignites a little momentum. 11:00 PM Nice backdoor pass to Terry for the easy layup. Racers answer with the floater, UNC up 40-39. Terry committs the charge. 11:01 PM It would be nice for UNC to get on a run and try to open this up a little. Murray St shooting free throws after the 1st TV timeout of the second half. 11:05 PM Long commerical. Racers up one on two free throws. Another offensive foul for UNC. No offensive move to the inside. 11:06 PM Murray State takes a four point lead. UNC needs to score here and they do from Green. 11:07 PM UNC is allowing way too many offensive rebounds for Murray St. Hansbrough follows the Ginyard miss to tie the game. Hansbrough is having trouble scoring otherwise. Thomas to Hansbrough on the break for the slam, UNC leads 46-44. 11:10 PM Hansbrough tries to lead the break while handling the ball and is called for a travel. You cannot go zone, they will kill you with threes. Murray State retakes the lead on the three, 47-46. 2nd TV timeout. 11:13 PM Miss from Ginyard, Murray St. ball. Hansbrough with another steal and this time he is fouled on the way to the basket. 11:14 PM Hansbrough hits to free throws for a 48-47 UNC lead. Another three from Murray St. How many times has UNC gotten beaten by three point shooting in the tournament! 11:16 PM Terry misses the three and Noel flubs the putback. Danger time for UNC. Racers' Kennedy throws an elbow. Racers lead 52-48 11:17 PM Missed three from Green. No offensive rebound. UNC needs to think about putting together some kind of run here and get control of the game. Frasor hits two free throws to cut the lead to 52-50. 11:19 PM Nice steal from Noel, Frasor layup ties the game. Murray St. a little puzzled with the UNC defense. Danny Green for three....YES...UNC leads 55-52. 11:21 PM UNC did a great job defending and then lets Murray St drive the lane for a layup. 3rd TV timeout. UNC leads 55-54. 11:22 PM Kansas is losing by 11 to Bradley. I have them in the Final Four. I quite possible may be in deep bracket trouble. Texas is only leading Penn by four. I also have them in the Final Four. That would spell complete braket disaster. 11:24 PM Green hits two free throws to give UNC a 57-54 lead. Murray St is getting way too many offensive boards. Racers' Hopkin pulls them within one. 11:26 PM Hansbrough with the 12 footer to push the lead back to three. Racers' Jenifer going to the line to shoot two and hits 1 of 2. UNC 59-57 11:27 PM Hansbrough hits one of two, and UNC gets an offensive rebound. Green extends the UNC lead to five. 11:29 PM Green misses a three to put UNC up eight. Racers' Hopkins on the line for two free throws. Five minutes to go in the game and UNC leads 62-58. 11:30 PM How can Hansbrough go up and be surrounded by two defenders and not get FOULED!?!? Racers' Griffith misses the free throw and Hansbrough loses the ball out of bounds. This stuff is killing UNC. 11:31 PM Every bounce is going Murray State's way. Hansbrough gets whistled for a phantom foul. Racers get one of two. UNC now leads 62-61. Horrible shot from Terry, Ginyard rebounds, over to Terry who drives the lane... Where is the FOUL CALL!!! Frasor for three....BIG SHOT! UNC leads 65-61 11:35 PM Murray St cuts it back to two. Frasor misses the three. 1:40 to go with UNC leading by two. Murray St. timeout. The refs have missed some big fouls calls on Murray St. Terry was literally held as he went into the lane for that last shot and there was no call. 11:38 PM Game tied at 65. 1:00 to go. Roy wants to talk about it. 11:40 PM Big shot from Hansbrough to put the Heels up by 2! 38 seconds left and Murray St has called timeout. 11:41 PM Murray St. misses a shot to tie. Noel rebounds out to Ginyard who passes down to Hansbrough. Racers foul Ginyard with 16 seconds left. 4th TV timeout. Go figure. 11:44 PM Big free throw here for Ginyard. First one is good. UNC by 3. Two possession game with UNC up 69-65. UNC timeout. 11:47 PM Blocked shot by the Heels. Outlet to Terry who dribbles it out of bounds with four seconds left. Murray St. ball with four seconds left and UNC leading 69-65. 11:48 PM Murray St tosses it in and misses the three badly. UNC survives 69-65. Considering all of the trouble high seeds all over this tournament have had this result is not that bad. Make no mistake UNC has to play better than they did tonight. Hopefully with one tournament game under their belt they will be sharper against George Mason on Sunday.

Coach K Fans the Flames

The latest, greatest controversey surrounding Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is a theory that UNC's placement in Dayton rather than Greensboro had something do with Duke's complaint about sharing a pod site with UNC. It has been postulated that the large influx of UNC fans actually creates a home court disadvantage for Duke. UNC fans will go to a Duke game simply to cheer for almost any other team but Duke so it is possible that UNC fans attending games in Greensboro may create a hostile environment. I am unable to find a definitive link to quotes by K or any other Duke adherent other than J.J. Redick's observation of Duke was booed during practice in Charlotte last year. So without a concrete quote I think this is simply another theory batted around by opposing fan bases. I actually think Duke will get booed no matter what because everyone pulls for the underdog but I digress. Nevertheless, during the postgame press conference following last night's win over Southern Coach K answered a few routine questions about the game and tournament. Then, out of nowhere, Coach K made a point to go back and address a question someone had asked him on Wednesday about the "UNC in Dayton" theory. From the News and Observer: After the game, Krzyzewski was philosophical about his team's uneven performance but seemed displeased enough to rehash an issue that was still bothering him from Wednesday's news conference. "Just the fact that [the question] was asked that I had something to do with North Carolina going to Dayton. I've never heard of anything more ludicrous," Krzyzewski said. Krzyzewski was directing his comments to the reporter who asked him Wednesday whether he had influenced the NCAA selection committee's decision to keep UNC out of Greensboro. The Coliseum could have been a tough venue for Duke with the Heels sharing it. UNC might have outdrawn Duke like it did playing in their shared home state during the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte in 2005. "When was I supposed to do that?" Krzyzewski said. "Like during a timeout with one minute to go in the ACC championship game, sidekick [send a text message] to Craig Littlepage [the selection committee chairman] and say, 'Look, send the Tar Heels someplace else.' "I don't know where that came from. I was offended by that. No one has any influence. And the other thing is that, even if I did [have influence on that], I would never do that. I've been a head coach for 31 years. I would never do anything like that. I'm offended by the thought of that." So if the theory is so ludicrous and baseless, why bring it back up at the tail end of your postgame press conference completely apart from the context of questions being asked? Why not simply let the story die rather than drag it kicking and screaming back into the spotlight to be considered again? Now this consitutes the third time Coach K has set off a PR bomb with the media in the last month. Last month he denied that coaches worked the refs during games and could not be influenced, then just before the UNC game he claims to know for a fact there is a media bias against Duke. Now he stops a postgame press conference and issues a passionate denial over his alleged involvement with UNC's placement in Dayton which reporters asked him about a full day earlier. If there is one thing we know about Coach K from the public courtship by the Lakers a few years ago is that he is a master at using the media for his own agenda. In this case it is only prudent to ask what is Coach K trying to accomplish by stirring the media pot so often and how is he going to benefit? Copyright 2006, BCB

NCAA Tournament Day 2: The Madness Continues...

After going 13-3 on the first day I am suspicious that my bracket will look more like this dog by the end of Friday's action. Heels play tonight at 9:30.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

High Seeds Scared Senseless

Based on the action so far, you could say some of the favored higher seeds have played with fire today and walked away without a singe. So far we had two high seeds go down to the brink before winning and one other who needed a little push in the last two minutes to get past an upstart. Here are some highlights. Duke Wins Everyone expected Duke to win since no #16 seed has ever won. That being said Duke had some trouble with Southern. Early in the second half Duke led by only 5 and committed 5 straight turnovers. Greg Paulus committed an especially bad turnover and Mike Krzyzewski calls timeout and when Paulus comes to the bench I lip read him says something like, "What the f*** are you doing out there" Nice way to talk to your freshman point guard there K. Not to worry though, when the game was well in hand K brought Paulus to the bench and they kissed and made up. Well they did not kiss, but they were certainly close enough to. According to K, in one of the most bizzare press conferences I have ever seen, he said he was making sure Paulus knew they were all in this thing together and to play on. He then launched into a very weird speech about reporters eating apples and how he was insulted to have been blamed for UNC being sent to Dayton instead of Greensboro. He also looked annoyed to be there or maybe he had some indigestion, who knows. Duke looked weak tonight, Redick hit his shots, Southern did not have a prayer against Shelden Williams, and besides that Southern does not shoot the ball particualry well. GW is next. Tennessee, Gonzaga, and Boston College Nearly Bite It I am actually not suprised about the first two. Tennessee should never have been a #2 seed and I am beginning to think Winthrop deserved better than a #15 seed. In my mind this was a 4-13 game. UT basically dropped back into a zone, crowded the middle and dared Winthrop to beat them from the arc. It worked and with the game tied at 61 UT's Chris Lofton hit a fall away jumper from 19 feet to give the Vols the final lead. UT should be ripe for the picking against Wichita St. Gonzaga honestly needs to either find a new conference or schedule three to four games in February against stiffer competition. I think the Bulldogs are better than they showed tonight but not playing big time schools has dulled their edge significantly. Adam Morrison(or his horrible mustache) took over late and lifted the Zags to the second round. Boston College gave us the biggest suprise and scare of the day. BC is the cool pick for the Final Four, everyone put them in because they are playing extremely well. I picked them for the Final Four because they look like the best team in the bracket. So imagine my horror in watching their game and almost losing a Final Four pick on the FIRST DAY! It took them 2 overtimes to push past Pacific who had numerous opportunities to win the game but failed to capitalize. The interesting part of the BC near upset is how much spin is flying out there now. ESPN has an article on the front page alongside the game story talking about how many schools have been tested early in Tournament only to go on and win it. I admit there is some truth to that but it is also true that such an assertion is a way of justifying such a poor performance from a team everyone expects to win at least four games in the next two weeks. Three True Upsets I love it when I pick an upset and UW-Milwaukee did not disappoint by taking out Oklahoma. Of course given the Sooners' NCAA history from 1989 on, this was not a difficult upset to predict. The two other upsets account for two of my three missed picks so far. Nevada confirmed what I knew about them when I saw them play a few weeks back but forgot when I did my picks and lost to #12 seeded Montana. The party rolls on in Butte at least until Saturday. The other upset involved Alabama holding off Marquette in a 7-10 game. Marquette struck me better than that. Random Thoughts I just wanted to take a moment and point out that the Big East is 0-3 at present. Of course they also have two #1 seeds but it will be interesting how this "we go eight teams in" super conference actually performs when the chips are down. The real Syracuse reasserted itself tonight and promptly lost to an very good and obviously underseeded Texas A&M team. UNC Wilmington, who was seeded the highest for any UNC other than UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Charlotte lost to George Washington. GW at a robust 28-2 gets a shot at Duke. I had San Diego St. pegged as an #11 winner over Indiana because I thought Indiana was not really that good. I obviously forgot Steve Fisher is the head coach at SDSU and 13 years after Chris Webber called that ill fated timeout against UNC, he still does not have clue how to coach end-of-game situations or maybe it is that his players are not very cerebral. My favorite moment was when the SDSU guard had the ball tipped into the backcourt and he refused to touch it thinking it would have been an over-and-back even though he legally could have. It resulted in a jump ball which gave Indiana the ball trailing by one. Indiana gets a three because SDSU stood and watched the shooter instead of contesting the shot. Then SDSU, having to go the full length of the court in 3.9 seconds promptly inbounds the ball all the way over everyone out of bounds on the other end. Maybe Fisher should hire an assistant to coach close games for him. Some of the expected winners who won handily were: Wichita St, UCLA, Florida, LSU, Illinois, Washington. I finished the day 13-3 with all of my Sweet Sixteen still intact. If memory serves I tend to trend worst on the second day. I hope that trend changes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

NCAA Picks

I told myself I was going to take a more researched approach this year. I decided I would invest the time to look at stats and records. I wanted to flesh out the matchups and examine the common opponents in an effort to make informed picks and attain the unattainable: 32-0 on during the first round. Then I realized that, as a fan and not a professional analyst, it tends to suck all the fun out of it. I find that the straight forward, pick from your gut method of picking a bracket is the best way to go. Simply relying on a feeling or some distant scrap of data floating around the brain make getting them right all the more joyous and also give you a decent excuse if it all blows up by Friday night. So without further ado, here are the highlights from my bracket and my assessment of each region. SOUTH(Atlanta, GA) While Duke is the #1 overall I have seen enough of Duke play to know that they do not have enough talent at each position on the floor to fully matchup in the Tournament. Unless Greg Paulus and Lee Melchionni evolve into great players overnight, Duke is still a two weapon team with role players. If George Washington's injured player is up to speed, I am not sure Duke survives the second round, which is the fault of the committee for sticking them with such a good #8 seed. Syracuse is overrated and Texas A&M may be underseeded so I think the Aggies will get it done there. Duke move, with great difficulty, to the Elite Eight. Southern Illinois provided the MVC some level of validation before dropping out against Texas. Texas will then exact revenge on Duke for their December beat down to go to the Final Four. Regional Winnner: #2 Texas Biggest Upset: #12 Texas A&M advances to the Sweet Sixteen Teams That Will Probably Do Better Than I Think:: #10 NC State and #8 George Washington WEST(Oakland, CA) I have absolutely no confidence in Memphis as a #1 seed so I was half tempted to pick Oral Roberts as the first ever #16 seed winner. Then again I have no guts so I picked Memphis and then had them lose in the second round to Bucknell. Kansas is the hot team so they dispatch Bucknell meet up with UCLA who knocks off Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. UCLA looks good, but I think Kansas is better in the end. Regional Winner: #4 Kansas Biggest Upset: Bucknell advances to the Sweet Sixteen Team That Will Probably Do Better Than I Think: #1 Memphis and #2 UCLA EAST(Washington, D.C.) This is a strange region. You have a #2 seed in Tennessee who should acutally be a #4 seed. You have the defending national champions in UNC at #3 with a group of young players. UConn is the #1 and favored to win the whole tournament. I also do not see any ready made upsets other than Wichita State knocking the weak #2 seed out in the second round. I think UConn will cruise right through to Indianoplis. Illinois will play well enough but does not have the inside presence to match the UConn Huskies after they dispatch the Washington Huskies. UNC should survive the rematch with Michigan State even though everyone(like last year) thinks Michigan State is the greatest team since Alcindor and Walton. UNC will advance past Wichita St. and meet its match in UConn. Regional Winner: #1 Connecticut Biggest Upset: #7 Wichita St advances to the Sweet Sixteen Team That Will Probably Do Better Than I Think: #6 Michigan State MIDWEST(Minneapolis, MN) Boston College is the hottest team in the NCAA Tournament and they will overcome a #4 seed to go to the Final Four. Villanova takes care of business early but hits the Eagle buzzsaw in the round of 16. Florida continues to play well slipping past Ohio State for a match with Boston College. BC should handle Florida and arrive on the scene at the unlikely ACC represenative in the Final Four. Regional Winner: #4 Boston College Biggest Upset: #11 UW-Milwaukee wins in the first round Teams That Will Probably Do Better Than I Think: #1 Villanova and #2 Ohio State FINAL FOUR(Indianapolis, IN) Texas will take care of Kansas for a little Big 12 vengance and UConn will win the old Big East rematch over Boston College. UConn will prove too much for Texas and hand Jim Calhoun his third national title in seven years. Oh, that also happens to be the same number of titles as Coach K at Duke. Can you say direct competition? I love this time of year. The games, the excitement of upsets and the tension of watching you favorite team play with specter of the season ending with a loss. In all likelihood my bracket will be in shambles by the second weekend, but that is what makes it so fun. [Note: I changed my West regional winner pick about two hours before the tournament started. I think Kansas will come out of Oakland and not UCLA]

The Senate Takes on the NCAA

The U.S. Senate expresses their dissatisfaction with the NCAA Tournament bracket during floor debate on Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

NCAA Bracket Awards

The Tuesday before the NCAA Tournament probably constitutes one of the quietest days of the college basketball season. This is the peace after the screaming diatribes of snubbed teams and bad seeds as well as the calm before the massive storm of anticipation culminating in that first tip off on Thursday. I have surveyed the bracket and made the cursory "gut instinct" run through before I get into real contemplation of which teams I should pick. And since everyone finds it humorous when people do phony awards for various subjects I thought I would do the same. The "Please Pay More Attention to the Non-Conference Teams We Played and Not Our Poor Excuse for a Conference" Award goes to: Memphis and Gonzaga Has there ever been two higher seeded teams to come from worse conferences? Probably so, but Memphis did not even make the NCAA a year ago(but won the NIT) and Gonzaga had better tournaments when they were a #10 seed. Conference USA and the WCC are horrible conferences. Well Conference USA used to be good until the Big East stripped them of their quality teams. The fact of the matter is both these teams are good but conference play against lesser opponents on a nightly basis can take the edge off. Gonzaga should have blown every team they played out in their conference tournament considering it was on their HOME FLOOR!!! They won because 12-18 Loyola Marymount big man Chris Ayer somehow missed a layup that would have beaten the Zags. Memphis had a much better showing than that and in both cases they played some honest to good team early in the season. Having gone so long without playing at an elite level could come back to bite them and early in the Dance. The "Wow We Got More Teams in Than Any Other Conference in History Because We Have Too Many Teams To Count" Award goes to: The Big East Conference I am really humored when the media makes a big deal about someone breaking some worthless record even though it would have been impossible for them no to break it given certain circumstances. The Big East became the first conference to place eight teams in the NCAA Tournament which might have been impressive if the conference did not have sixteen teams in it! I mean this is ludicrous to act like 8 teams from a conference which is big enough to be two conferences getting into the NCAA Tournament is some kind of grand accomplishment. The Big East got 50% of its teams into the Tournament. The Big Ten got 6 of its 11 teams into the Dance which is a 54% of its teams. There have been years where the ACC has gotten six out of nine into the tournament which is 66% of that conference at the time. And considering the Big East essentially stole most of their new teams from Conference USA it would have been a major embrassament not to get at least eight in. Except that only one of the former C-USA schools got into the tournament out of the Big East, so yes it is a huge embarassment anyway. Congratulations to the Big East, they accomplished very little by bringing all those teams in. The "I Cannot Believe We Got Seeded Second" Award goes to: Bruce Pearl, Tennessee Did you see the look on Bruce Pearl's face when they announced that despite finishing the season 7-4 in their last eleven games and losing to NIT bound South Carolina in the SEC Tournament? Tennessee was awarded--scratch that--that were endowed with the #2 seed in the East. How does that happen? Was the RPI that good and important? Did the committee only watch game tapes from the first half of the season? Who knows, but it is important to remember that when the committee hauls off and shows this kind of magnanimous favor to one team, the inevitably shaft someone else in the process which leads us to.... The "Nice End of Season Run and Great Play in Your Conference Tournament, But You Still are Going to be Underseeded" Award goes to: Boston College Now I complained at first about UNC being sent to Dayton instead of being allowed to go to Greensboro. Boston College got it far worse than that. BC has won 15 of their last 17 games. They beat UNC which is seeded above them, they almost beat Duke which is the overall #1 seed in the whole tournament and how do you think the committee might treat them? Close subregional site? #2 seed at best or a high #3 at worse? Friday-Sunday games to give them some extra rest? No, nada, zip, zero. Instead of doing at least one of those things, if not two to reward a team which is playing well, the selection committee decided to slate them as #4 seed and put them on a plane to Salt Lake City for two potential games against west coast teams in the Thursday-Saturday draw after they played Duke on Sunday. On top of that, as the #4 seed they will draw the #1 seed in the Sweet 16 assuming both get that far. If I am Boston College I would be asking what I had to do to get a better seed? Would beating Duke had been enough or would it require an undefeated record? In this case the committee seemed stuck on BC's 0-3 ACC start and did not account for the last 17 games as evidence of their actual abilities. In other cases they seemed to focus on a few games on the resume and made decisions based on that like.... The "It is Amazing What Winning Four Straight Games in Your Conference Tournament Can Do To Make People Forget How Crappy You Were All Season" Award goes to: Syracuse In Syracuse's next to last regular season game they lost to 12-15 Depaul by 39 points! And then lost to Villanova by 10 to finish 7-9 in the vaunted Big East and an overall record of 19-11. The only quality win the Orange had was beating West Virginia at home. They played almost every cupcake they could find with the exception of Florida. So what happens? They squeaked out a win over Cinncinati in the 1st round, they beat UConn in overtime by two, Georgetown by one, and Pittsburgh by four. Four wins by a total of eight points and they receive an automatic bid. In fact it is such a stunning accomplishment the selection committee decided it was the only four games Syracuse played all year long and handed them a five seed! How can the committee substitute a four game winning streak for a season's worth of mediocrity and place them on such a high line? I have no idea but I hope Texas A&M makes their own Orange crush. The "George W. Bush Hard Work" Award goes to: The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee The first qualifying remark people always use before proceeding to bash the seedings is what a difficult job the committee has in placing the field. And do not misunderstand me, I think it is probably complicated work and there are issues which may not be publicly acknowledged which make it even more complicated than it seems to be. On the other hand every media outlet in the known world publishes mock brackets every week for the last six weeks of the season, so in reality how difficult can it be. Yes, it is unlikely you can make everyone happy, but there is no excuse for some of the nonsense we got this year. How does Air Force get in without beating an RPI top 50? Why do you simply hand the Missouri Valley Conference four bids just because they use non-conference scheduling to vault five teams into an great RPI position which in turn created a self sustaining cycle of RPI viability? How is it, in UNC's case, you ignore two rules in your handbook, one concerning the location of a higher seed and the other prohibiting rematches of previous year's tournament games in the first two rounds?(UNC played Michigan St in last season's Final Four and could play them again in the second round.) And how is it that you can completely mis-seed so many teams as though you had never seen them play or if you did it was either their worst or best games of the season? Yes, I know it is hard to arrange 65 teams on a bracket which I why you will never see such a thing on this blog, I just do not have the time to sort that out. However, if all these other guys can do it, surely 10 men with years of experience in intercollegiate athletics can figure out something better than the bracket before us today. Check back tommorrow for my Final Four picks and other musings on what I think is going to happen this weekend. Copyright 2006, BCB