Friday, March 31, 2006

Buzzer? Beater? I hardly KNOW her! HYAR!!!

Yes yes, list of tourney buzzer-beaters, yes. In reverse ascending order (that would be descending):

Well, first of all, let me co-sign (no, not that kind, nerds) Jeff's criteria for buzzer beaters and the judging of same. The one thing that really struck me was, considering Jeff's idea that he doesn't give more weight to buzzer-beaters that occur later in the tournament, I started trying to think of buzzer-beating shots that occurred in the later rounds ... and I was damn near coming up dry. I can't think of any in the Final Four other than Lorenzo Charles ... Leattner has two Elite Eight buckets ... and that's about it. So I say "so what?" I'm with Jeff: "round of the tournament" will not be a determining factor henceforth.

Also on board with Jeff RE: 1996, Princeton over UCLA. Probably a little too much time left on the clock (3.9 seconds). But it's close. I think I like Jeff's idea that there has to be no more than 2 seconds remaining after the shot goes in. "Gabe Lewullis" is definitely one of those names I'll never forget, for one reason or another. Like "Christian Laettner," or, for obviously different reasons, "Tim Spooneybarger."

Cameron Dollar can't make it because I saw the replay of that shot, and he clearly shoves the little white goober who was guarding him into the ground before putting up that rainbow bankshot over Kelvin Cato. No room for cheaters.

Honorable Mention:
I'm leaving Charlotte Smith off, even though that game reminds me of high school Easter breaks in Alabama, and as such, I get the warm-and-fuzzies just thinking about it. So that's #10. Ninth will be Rip Hamilton, because I (heart) him retrospectively (except for one game in '99). As big an asshole as the guy is, no one in college basketball history was as clutch as Laettner, and his shot against UConn has be #8 because of the perfect execution of the give-and-go, as well as Leattner's superb use of the unnecessary double-clutch. I'll throw Drew Nicholas's moonshot in there at #7, for all the reasons Todd mentioned. I think that game and that shot are the main reason the Cave is willing to sit with us and watch basketball for four straight days every year: because dammit, something like THAT could happen at any time. Bonus points because someone on Maryland's team forgot their white uniform, so the teams had to wear the wrong colors for that game, Maryland (the better seed) having to wear their road reds. Rounding out the honorables at #6 would have to be James Forrest disposing of 2-seed USC, who was led by one of the many "the next Jordan"s, Harold Miner. I've seen the replay of that shot like fifty times, and I never get tired of it. They were inbounding the ball with .8 seconds left, so Forrest had to just chuck it as soon as he caught it. Because of the camera angle, as soon as he lets the ball go you can tell that it's straight at the rim, and honestly, from the moment it leaves his hands you can tell it's going in (and you could tell at the time, too). Extra points galore here: for Al McGuire's spastic call of the action, repeatedly shouting "Holy mackerel!" during the celebration. For the fact that GT was down by 2, so the buzzer-beating triple gave them a 1-pt win. And for the fact that this is the first game I remember when a team had to go the length of the court to tie or win a game, and they employed the "throw it out past halfcourt and immediately call time-out" gambit, a move that should be used much more often, in my opinion. I can guaruntee you that will be the only time I compliment Bobby Cremmins on this blog.

So, a fairly non-descript top-5, almost identical to Jeff's:

5. Lorenzo Charles - Can't say anything about it that hasn't already been said.

4. Tate George - I could be wrong about this, but this might have been the first time (and it's definitely the first time that I can remember) where a team actually pulled off the "throw it the length of the court, catch it, and shoot it, all in under 1.5 seconds," and actually made the shot. Adding to the madness: Tate George ended up getting drafted like 15th that year - it is no coincidence that 1990 is remembered as probably the worst NBA draft of the last 30 or so years. That Clemson team that UConn beat won the ACC regular season title that season and featured a couple of frontcourt players named Elden Campbell and Dale Davis. That is some frickin' height and talent on a college team. Yowsah. And finally, a mere two days later, Laettner ripped UConn's hearts out and stomped on them (#8). Now that's a roller-coaster of a weekend.

3. U.S. Reed - Buzzer-beating shot from beyond halfcourt to win an NCAA tournament game by 1! I'll venture to guess that it's the only one of its kind.

2. Bryce Drew - If for no other reason than the sheer execution of that "Pacer" play. It's a thing of beauty to watch, as Valpo sent home SEC Player of the Year Ansu Sesay (Yeah, it's true. No, seriously). Burnsy's house. Hungry Howie's. Good times.

1. Laettner v. Kentucky - No chance of #1 being anything but this. The greatest NCAA basketball game of all-time culminated in one of the greatest individual efforts of all-time. I second everything Todd said in his comment to Jeff's post. Yooge bucket. It's shown on TV ad nauseum, but it should be. Remarkable.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fantasy Baseball

The facts: right now I have online draft set for 10am this Saturday. All may join, but only I can win. That's how drafts work. I can change the time, but you have to let me know soon.

League ID#: 306352
Password: boban


Okay, so the original title of this post was going to be ‘Anatomy of a Buzzer-Beater’, but I just couldn’t resist.
Also, I wrote 90% percent of this while watching the WV-Texas game last week, but seeing how it ended, I just couldn’t post it that night.
Anyway, a few days ago I came across ESPN Classic's "Who's #1?" episode of the top buzzer-beaters in NCAA tournament history. Needless to say it was some pretty grippy television and the perfect thing to get the bad taste out of my mouth from the Ohio State game while rekindling my love for the dance. (You are now carrying my child. It is the mystery of the dance!)
I'd like to have our blogtributors and/or loyal readers rank their top 5 (or more) NCAA tournament buzzer-beaters as I am about to do. But first here's ESPN's top 12 (I forget the exact order of 13-20, but you‘ll see what else they had in a sec):

1. 1992 Christian Laettner -- Duke def. Kentucky, 104-103 in overtime
2. 1983 Lorenzo Charles -- NC State def. Houston, 54-52
3. 1990 Tate George -- Connecticut def. Clemson, 71-70
4. 1995 Tyus Edney -- UCLA def. Missouri, 75-74
5. 1998 Bryce Drew -- Valparaiso def. Ole Miss, 70-69
6. 1981 Danny Ainge -- BYU def. Notre Dame, 51-50
7. 1987 Keith Smart -- Indiana def. Syracuse, 74-73 in championship game
8. 1990 Christian Laettner -- Duke def. Connecticut, 79-78 in overtime
9. 1981 U.S. Reed -- Arkansas def. Louisville, 74-73
10. 1963 Vic Rouse -- Loyola (IL) def. Cincinnati, 60-58 in overtime in championship game
11. 1994 Charlotte Smith -- North Carolina def. Louisiana Tech, 60-59 in women's championship game
12. 1998 Richard Hamilton -- Connecticut def. Washington, 75-74

And here's what how online voters ranked all 20:
68.4% 1992 Christian Laettner -- Duke def. Kentucky, 104-103 in overtime

43.1% 1983 Lorenzo Charles -- NC State def. Houston, 54-52

38.2% 1998 Bryce Drew -- Valparaiso def. Ole Miss, 70-69

36.1% 1990 Christian Laettner -- Duke def. Connecticut, 79-78 in overtime

27.0% 1987 Keith Smart -- Indiana def. Syracuse, 74-73 in championship game

26.5% 1998 Richard Hamilton -- Connecticut def. Washington, 75-74

23.2% 1995 Tyus Edney -- UCLA def. Missouri, 75-74

17.9% 2003 Drew Nicholas -- Maryland def. UNC Wilmington, 75-73

17.9% 2000 Mike Miller -- Florida def. Butler, 69-68 in overtime

14.6% 1981 Danny Ainge -- BYU def. Notre Dame, 51-50

13.5% 1963 Vic Rouse -- Loyola (IL) def. Cincinnati, 60-58 in overtime in championship game

10.1% 1990 Tate George -- Connecticut def. Clemson, 71-70

9.0% 1996 John Wallace -- Syracuse def. Georgia, 83-81 in overtime

8.7% 1994 Charlotte Smith -- North Carolina def. Louisiana Tech, 60-59 in women's championship game

6.9% 1997 Cameron Dollar -- UCLA def. Iowa State, 74-73 in overtime

6.7% 1996 Gabe Lewullis -- Princeton def. UCLA, 43-41

5.6% 1981 U.S. Reed -- Arkansas def. Louisville, 74-73

5.4% 1992 James Forrest -- Georgia Tech def. USC, 79-78

4.0% 1981 Rolando Blackman -- Kansas State def. Oregon State, 50-48

3.5% 1981 John Smith -- Saint Joseph's def. DePaul, 49-48

As I was watching the show and making my own abbreviated list, I started thinking about how to quantify just how good a buzzer-beater is. So I give you some thoughts that ran across my head. Some are relevant. Some aren't. Most are entirely logical and self-evident.
- As with any NCAA tournament game, the bigger the upset the better (Valpo, Princeton, NC State, I'm looking in your direction.)
- I’m personally not too concerned with the round a buzzer-beater occurs in, but the later in the tournament a buzzer-beater occurs, the greater the game's significance.
- Tying a game at the buzzer isn't as good as winning it (obviously). No game-tying shots made it on ESPN's list. Probably a good thing just to simplify the debate. (Patrick Sparks against MSU last year comes to mind as an exciting game-tying shot.)
- Call me a stickler, but a buzzer-beater should involve a buzzer. (Or at least come awfully close to the buzzer.) I'm sorry, but I just never thought of Keith Smart's shot as a buzzer beater. And that goes for the Princeton layup against UCLA too, even though that might be my favorite tourney game of all time. I'm not ENTIRELY strict in how I view this though. I definitely consider Northwestern State over Iowa a buzzer beater even though there was 0.5 seconds left after the make. And that was 100 times better than that Cameron Dollar shot that inexplicably made ESPN'S list. I just think there should be under something like 2 seconds left after a shot goes in for it to be considered a buzzer-beater. Again, call me picky. Irregardless, I think we can all agree that the closer the shot comes to zero, the better.
- Just as tying the game at the buzzer isn't as good as winning it, scoring a buzzer-beater when you are losing at the time you shoot is better than scoring a buzzer-beater when the game is tied when you shoot. And major bonus points if you're down by 2 and have the wombleys to shoot (and make) a 3 at the buzzer.
- These rules are all common sense, but I think they're worth talking about before you make your list. All that being said, there's of course that undefinable quality that you can't quantify that can trump all of the things I wrote about above. Now onto my picks.

Honorable mentions:
- Richard Hamilton - I swear UCONN missed those first couple shots on purpose just so they could get Rip to hit the perfect shot at the buzzer. (On a side note, while watching all these clips, I still can’t believe that UCONN and UCLA actually needed buzzer beaters to beat Washington and Mizzou respectively. How did those elite teams let those games get to that point?!)
- Vic Rouse - You prevented Cincy from 3-peating. I salute you a million times over.
- James Forrest - His 3 pointer to beat Southern Cal was the first one he made all year.

And my personal top 5:

5. Lo Charles. Yeah, it won the national title, and it was an immense upset, and everyone loves Jimmy V because he’s dead. But I’m sorry, it’s a little overrated. I mean, even for a broken play this thing was ugly. And the game was tied when it all went down, so even if the Wolfpack don’t make this happen, there’s still OT.

4. Charlotte Smith - Sure she was left WIDE (and I mean like Erin wide) open, but this thing is still underappreciated. I mean a 3 pointer buzzer beater to win the national title game by a single point?!! Sure these were ladies, but these were the wombleys I spoke of above. As much hype as pseudo-dunks in womens college basketball get, you’d think this, which is infinitely cooler, would be shown at the beginning of every televised womens game ever. And the key was this: there were only 0.7 seconds on the clock… not when she shot it, but when it was INBOUNDED. This chick caught AND shot a 3-pointer to win the national title in 0.7 seconds. Honestly, if someone with a penis does this, ESPN would put it #1 no matter how open the dude was.

3. U.S. Reed. Has anyone actually seen this thing?! It was 17th out of 20 according to online voters ?!?!!!? Sure this was as meaningless as an NCAA game can be, but Arkansas was down by 2 and Reed made a shot from BEHIND half-court! What more does this buzzer beater have to do to get more play?

2. Valpo. Outside of lack of historical significance, this is absolute perfection. Have you ever really watched this play in slow motion. In the span of a couple seconds, there were 2 passes, 2 receptions, and one shot from distance. And ALL of these were ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. If you described this play to someone who had never seen this play, they would assume that either Drew or the guy that threw it to him were some combination of out of control and/or completely lucky. They weren’t. Apart from the execution, this was also a one point victory for a #13 over a #4, and helped catapult Valpo into the Sweet 16 that year.

1. Laettner beats Kentucky. If you were watching this live, as I was, I really don't think I need to explain this one.

Oh, and one final thing about that show…Bobby Hurley looks 100 times goofier as a guy in his 30s than he did as a guy in his late teens/early 20s.

My thoughts on the upcoming Foursome over in Indy and the start of the MLS season coming soon.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I think I like that even more than the excitement of opening round EIGHT-ER-NINE!!! Ahhh, redneck humor, you fellas are missing out. So anyway, the final four is set. And we've got the matchups everyone expected. LSU vs UCLA and George Mason vs. those Gators. (Sidenote - Speaking of those Gators, I really enjoyed what I believe to be our first hate comment. Thank you anonymous, please keep returning and I promise we can irritate you as much as possible)

Now, this Final Four will provide us with no #1 seeds and story lines about as sexy to the casual fan as big baby in a one size fits most dress. Sorry CBS, your work about how talented Rudy Gay is, Redick's quest for validation, Morrison's inner demons, or how how Josh Boone manages his time playing basketball AND being a weird asian guy for the Black Eyed Peas will have to go unused.

So we've got a bunch of surprise teams. The weird thing for me is, I just don't care. This tourney has been one of the most competitive overall that I can remember. You'd think I'd be loving it, yet I'm not. I have no reason for it, nor can I explain it, but it is what it is. Nonetheless, I wanna give the Final Four team there pub and a breakdown (like I have any idea at this point) of what should happen.

George Mason -
Shock the world...and they did. This team played the toughest path and some GREAT team ball in route to Indy. UConn's ability to stop playing for stretches caught up with them in a game I gave GMU little chance to win. Also, it shows, ONCE AGAIN, that depth is pointless in the NCAA tourney and may actually hurt you. However, if that GMU/Conn game goes to 2OT, the Huskies win by 10. This team is solid, and BARELY is the most surprising FF team based on how they've played in the tourney.

To me, this team is the best one left. Noah has been the best player in the tourney and they've had timely perimeter play to compliment it. They were a terrible matchup for nova and it played out as such. (Also, UConn and Nova were a couple of retards** in just shooting lots of crappy runners and floaters) If someone said, "money on who wins it now?" I'd go with the boys from Gainsville. HOWEVER, I think GM has a great shot at knocking them off in the natty semis.

**(FYI - this was the front page article in the Coshocton Tribune last Friday with the picture on the right being about 1/3 the page. I wish I was making this up. I'll leave it to you guys to debate which guy in the picture is funnier.)

Florida over GMU 71-68

What do we know about this team? I would argue we know they can beat really, really stupid teams. Anymore in college basketball, that's pretty good. Plus, someone had to win that awful region they were in, and with gonzaga choking and Memphis thinking an elite 8 game was going straight to the "And 1 Mix Tape", UCLA finds themselves in Indy. Also, I'm not sure how Memphis played 4 games without a fight breaking out. At the end of the Memphis/UCLA game, I was just hoping they had enough cameras to cover all the punches about to be throw, but somehow none were.

If you said to me, "there's a team that
a) can't shoot
b) has terrible guard play
c) is borderline awful at FTs
d) likes to physically maul you inside on D"

I'd say in response, that that team is the antithesis of a legit FF contender. Yet somehow, LSU find themselves there. I'm not sure how this team beat Texas. I'm not sure how they all don't foul out. I'm not sure how a team that has NO DECENT SHOOTERS is in the FF, but yet, they are. I'd have to figure this strategy would have to stop working eventually. Right? Anyone?

LSU over UCLA 53-52

That's right folks, an all SEC final. Now, listen, that doesn't mean the SEC was a great conference this year. In fact, they were pretty bad. I'd say barely above the Pac-10, and right with the Big XII to place 4th or 5th among the power conferences. The NCAA tourney is about matchups and surviving. The Big 10 had two FF teams last year and not a single elite 8 in this one. Now, was last year's Big 10 better? Hell no. Your two best teams does not a conference make.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hey, so I watched games last night

No, I am not emotionally prepared to talk about the end of the WVU-Texas game. I actually felt worse after that game than after the Buckeyes' loss to Georgetown, probably because I had a full hour or so to prepare for the end of that game, while the final 20 seconds of the 'Snogles game was an emotional whirlygig that spun me around, smacked me in the face, lifted me up on its shoulders, and then threw me to the ground, laughing in my face. *Sigh* I want to bawl like Adam Morrison just thinking about it.

Anywhoodle, more basketball was played last night, and now, before the first two Final Four tickets are punched this evening, we can all take a step back and see that an astounding six of the eight Sweet Sixteen games came down to the final two minutes. Two nights of extraordinary basketball were played. Here's some of my thoughts on each game (or, at least, the ones I watched some of), in order of when they finished...

Everything everyone said about LSU having the perfect team makeup to take down the Dookies was correct. Long, supremely ath-eh-letic, and with a little bit of a swagger. Enough D to frustrate J.J. Redick - though I had no idea hw would be completely shut down like that - and keep Shelden Williams from going crazygonuts down low. And a perfect offense to combat what Duke does: the Devils prefer to pressure the ball and extend their defense, apparently consciously figuring "we're more talented than anyone else, and upsets happen when teams get hot from 3, so we're not gonna let you shoot 3s, and we're gonna make you get into the paint where Shelden Williams will be waiting." Well, that's just great for LSU: they don't bother shooting 3s, and (as we saw when the Tigers almost beat OSU) their best offensive play is probably the missed shot; they hammer people on the boards. Duke has been susceptible all year to ath-eh-letic teams willing to take it to the hole and crash the offensive boards, and that's LSU's offense in a nutshell. Once again in this tournament, the conventional wisdom came through.

This game wasn't televised in southeast Michigan, although my cable here includes CBS feeds from both Detroit and Toledo (more on that later). As such, all I saw of this game was three or four 30-second "live look-ins," so ... no idea.

Texas-West Virginia
See above.

Aw, the poor media: their college basketball poster boys both exited the tourney before we even got to the Elite Eight; who saw this coming? ESPN and all the other wannabe networks love to pimp players, not teams, and it's fitting that the two individual players we had to hear about ad nauseum all season went down before they were really even sniffing Indianapolis. "Oh no, where are we gonna get 'stories'?" How about you just show us the basketball, jackasses.

Now, onto the game. This game actually got me to grudgingly respect Gonzaga. For 37 minutes, they were clearly the better team, as UCLA came out in an inexplicable funk where they played like a high school team that was terrified of their opponent. And then the wheels FLEW off, as UCLA scored the last 11 points of the game to win by 2. The 'Zags had trouble all season with keeping inferior teams close and never really closing them out, and it never really hurt them because they were always clearly more talented than their opponent. On Thursday, their soft nature down the stretch in games bit them in the ass HARD. I'm not sure I've ever seen a more shocking example of one team, on this big of a stage, absolutely choking away a sure victory due almost entirely to self-inflicted gaffes. Unbelievably, for fans of the school, this has to be an even more painful loss than WVU's. Yes, I laughed a little.

After the 'Snogles went out Thursday night, the Eagles and Wildcats probably became my two favorite teams remaining in the tournament. Bummer they had to face each other in the Sweet Sixteen. BC seems big and lumbering, but they played outstanding defense on Villanova's guards, something that really surprised me. In a game where it seemed like each offense had a significant advantage over the opponent's defense, it only makes sense that the entire game was a defensive struggle, with the winning team accumulating 60 points after an overtime period. 'Nova went an OSU-like 4-for-19 on triples, with Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Nardi combining for a paltry 16 points. But Big East POY Randy Foye put up 29, pretty much single-handedly saving the Wildcats' season. In the end, with seconds remaining, BC fell victim to a variation on my high school's old "Pony" inbounds play, a simple play that I've seen teams get victimized by all tournament, to my extreme bewilderment. Also, I hate Billy Packer, because I'm alive and can hear him.

George Mason-Wichita State
See the Memphis Bradley game. I maybe saw 40 seconds of game action.

I watched very little of this game, because the one opposite it was so fascinating. However, I had the option to watch it, as my Detroit CBS feed had the UConn-UW game, but the Toledo CBS channel was inexplicably carrying this matchup. This one went right down to the last thirty seconds, and that :30 was just about the only part of the game I watched. The guy with three first names, Joe Kim Noah, looks a lot more like a "Kim" than a "Joe," but he plays like a frickin' Tasmanian Devil. I hope Florida loses to 'Nova, not just because I like the Wildcats more, but because the thought of listening to Billy Packer talk about "Billy Dunnivan" throughout the Final Four makes me punch myself in the face involuntarily.

UConn still clearly thinks they can coast for the majority of games and then turn it on when they need to. If they keep this up, they WILL lose. But they snuck out of last night's game thanks to Rashad Anderson's game-tying three with 1.6 seconds left.

A lot is going to be made of Brandon Roy having to sit out for 7 minutes after picking up his third and fourth fouls midway throught the second half on a questionable personal foul call and then a much less questionable technical, but this game was lost for UW in the first six minutes of the second half. They had a 10-point lead, and UConn was obviously frazzled, stuck in that spot where they're trying to "turn it on" but they haven't been actually playing in so long that everything is still out of sync. As a result, over about a 4-minute span, Washington forced 5 or 6 turnovers from a sloppy and frustrated UConn, but never capitalized on any of them, when they really could have blown the game wide open. The east-coast Huskies were playing like absolute crap, but the west-coast Huskies let them hang around thanks to idiotic shot selection and stupid gaffes like 3-second violations. But that's Washington in a nutshell: quite talented, but extremely stupid. I saw so many fouls called on idiotic over-aggressive defenders out by the halfcourt stripe last night that I wanted to claw my eyes out. Then there was their big albino big man fouling Marcus Williams on a layup with Washington leading by four in the last 15 seconds of regulation, pointlessly handing UConn a 3rd point on the trip, a point which proved to be crucial (otherwise, UConn is down 4 in the last 8 seconds, and Anderson's three doesn't tie the game). And then, in the OT, after UW had scrambled back to get within two with 25 seconds left, that frickin' Luke Schenscer Jr. kid stole the inbounds pass with a full head of steam toward the basket, then saw Rudy Gay there and ran away like a little girl. He dribbled out to the wing and passed to a teammate who - shocker! - turned the ball over. Stupidity cost that team the game, not Roy's double-foul trip.

And yes, there was a laughable free throw disparity in this game, with UConn shooting 47 to UW's 23. And no, it was not justified; no one can possibly say with a straight face that UConn was "the aggressor" or that they were "making more things happen" than UW. But Washington wouldn't even have been in the Sweet Sixteen had they not gotten similarly infuriating preferential treatment from the officials in their "win" over Illinois, so the amount of sympathy they get from me is somewhere in the neighborhood of absolute zero. NOW, PLAIN ZERO!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tonight's games

I just got done writing a paper on Terrorism and International Law, so unfortunately I was unable to do any in-depth thinking or posting on tonight's games. Hopefully that will be remedied tomorrow. Maybe Dids can give us something before the games start?

For sextastic reading on the matchups, I direct you to YoCo's two great pieces from today, as well as KK's predictions for the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. See y'all later.

On Cowherdgate

Yes, I have made my dislike of ESPNRadio third-banana douchebag Colin Cowherd abundantly clear on a number of occasions. This time, his actions are bordering on ... what's the phrase I'm looking for ... oh yeah: THEFT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. Since I am not an avid reader of Michigan blog The M Zone, I first found out about this from Doug at Hey Jenny Slater. He is as angry and indignant as we all should be, so I would suggest you check out his feelings on the subject. Long story short: on his national radio show yesterday, Cowherd outright stole one of the M Zone's bits VERBATIM and didn't give them a lick of credit for it. Worse yet, when told about the situation, he responded with supreme assholery worthy of no less a cocksucker than Skip Bayless. All the stuff is readable at the M Zone, although, needless to say, the CFB blogosphere is all atizzy with rightfully righteous indignation.

UPDATE: Yeah, so when I said the above sentence, the one about the tizzy and the indignation? I didn't give you enough of a flavor. Here's more (with the best post title). And more. And more. And ... you guessed it. Also, since everyone else is saying it, and I am NOTHING if not a total sheep, here is ESPN's feedback link, in order to tell the Worldwide Leader's Grand Poobah how little you appreciate Cowherd's asshatitude.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

No Buckeye ballers? No problem!

So, yes, we at the MWB are in a mixed state of shock and euphoria after four consecutive days of drunken basketball-watching which happened to culminate with our Buckeyes getting slapped around by Georgetown in what was probably the single worst possible matchup for Dr. Je'Kel and Mr. Dials. Copious amounts of good times were immediately halted by a two-hour stretch of extremely bad times, and then that was it for the weekend. All in all, yes, it was outstanding. But the taste in the mouth, she is bitter.

SO ... it's a good thing has some surrogate children we can all root for, in the form of the West Virginia Runnin' GanseyCats (hey, if Todd inexplicably has a problem with me calling them the "Fighting Pittsnogles," then this is what you're gonna be stuck with). As such, basketball-wise, this blog is about to become "Mountaineer Central" again, and hopefully for more than just this week.

Very solid first weekend for the 'eers. When you take into account both quality of play and actual results of the games, you can make a very compelling case that only Florida and Bradley looked better (SUPER-SIDENOTE: Bradley is legit. I'm not sure exactly how this happened, because Dids and I both watched them absolutely SUCK in the MVC finals - scoring 8 points in the first 14 minutes of the second half - but they were clearly, CLEARLY better than both Kansas and Pittsburgh. I'm shocked at how many people in the media are now saying "Hey, that's great for them, but Memphis is gonna drop the hammer on 'em this round," especially considering that most of these same people had Kansas or Pitt beating Memphis in the Sweet Sixteen. Did Memphis go from "weakest 1-seed" to "juggernaut" while I was in the bathroom or something?).

They started the tournament out with a deceptively impressive win over Southern Illinois, a semi-trendy upset pick due to their athleticism and defensive prowess (4th in the nation in raw defensive efficiency). But WVU went out and shot 44% from the field, drilled 11 three-pointers, and ensured that the game was never truly in doubt - a rarity among the highly-competitive MVC teams so far.

In the second round, the Herbernators slapped around a Northwestern State team that had previously dispatched Iowa in what was probably the best moment of the weekend. Again, the game was never truly in doubt, even though a scoring drought allowed NSU to claw back to within 8 points with four minutes to go. Didn't watch any of the second half of this one, as Todd, Evan, and I were deeply immersed in the George Mason/North Carolina game (the luxury of being able to watch any tournament game that you want never ceases to astound me. I'm getting giddy AND choked up just thinking about it again. Verklempt, you could say. Let's move on) at the time. A balanced scoring attack placed four 'eers between 9 and 14 points, led by Pittsnogle, who went a dismal 3-14 from the field but hit a bunch of free frows. Mike Gansey (THE EARS!) hauled in 12 of WVU's 27 rebounds.

And now here they are, in the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight year, and this time a little less of a surprise. And one has to at least be pleased with their chances at advancing further: the shooting is there, the hustle is there, and the defense is ... well, adequate. Of course, there are problems: like the Buckeyes, the Flying Beileins can be prone to maddeningly long scoring droughts, which is scary, especially when their defense is so dependent on turnovers and so vulnerable on the glass...

... especially against Texas, WVU's Sweet Sixteen opponent. As I'm sure we all remember, the two teams met back in November, with Texas coming back from a late deficit for a 76-75 victory, thanks mostly to West Virginia missing the front ends of THREE consecutive 1-and-1s in the final minute. And the Longhorns' 40-19 rebounding advantage in the game. Infuriating. One thing's for sure: the 'Snogles are gonna have to bring their A-Frame. I hate myself.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thanks for the season, Bucks

First off, thanks to Keith over at BC for this outstanding image. Blah blah picture is worth a thousand blah.

Well, the end of the run was a little sooner than I think we all were hoping, but this doesn't strike me as an appropriate time for lamenting. I mean, you can't really argue with 26-6, a 12-4 record in the conference, claiming the outright Big Ten title, and a 2-seed. Yes, our play over the last ... cripes, month, month-and-a-half was pretty much entirely bereft of solid, eye-pleasing play, at least on the offensive end -- the defense was almost uniformly good.

Tough way to end it, though: playing so poorly down the stretch, having everyone doubt us, having everyone pick us to lose to Georgetown, and seeing everyone's non-belief in the Buckeyes seemingly be affirmed with said loss. But hey, we got a Big Ten title and a 2-seed in the NCAAs out of it, in a season where the preseason projections placed us 6th in the conference and squarely on the proverbial bubble and even the optimistic Buckeye fans expected a 3rd or 4th place finish in the Big Ten and something in the neighborhood of a 5- or 6-seed in the NCAAs. Not a bad season, by almost any measure (I mean, would we rather be building an NIT dynasty like a certain other Big Ten team ... I keed, I keed!).

So anyways, thanks for the season, especially to Terence, J.J., Matt, and Je'Kel. Hopefully you'll be remembered as the guys who spearheaded the rebirth of Buckeye basketball. It kind of bugs me that I never got to ever actually see you play well in a game. Not a single one. But I enjoyed reading about your victories on the internets.

It's time to welcome in Oden & co. Everyone else: let's work on that shot selection, fellas. And above all else, I trust in Thad.

Thanks again, Bucks. See you next season.

Thursday, March 16, 2006's Second Annual Tourney Challenge!

That's right, amigos. The time has come. JOIN US. Compete against ... me and Dids and Jeff and Evan. And whoever else joins. IN A STEEL CAGE MATCH OF BRACKET-PICKING LUCKERY.

The pertinent info:
Make a stinking entry.
At some point, join an existing group.
Group name is "Bracketoloblah".
Password is ... I'll give you three guesses. Yep, it's "boban".


BTW: We here at adhere to the "Sheet of Integrity" rule: Yes, the stupid game says you can make up to five stupid entries, but come on. One bracket per player.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Here's a time-waster

Almost down to "48 hours 'til the tournament," and frankly, the wait is killing me. Need something to make the time go faster, or, alternatively, to INCREASE ANTICIPATION. Not saying this'll do it, but it'll at least give us crap to think about in the interim.

So I found something like this about a year back, on the site Upstanding Fucking Citizens. And it reminded me of teams and players I had forgotten about, and I wanted to see what the gents at the MWB, as well as our five loyal readers, thought about the NCAA Champions going back to 1990. Why 1990? Mostly because it's the first tournament that I consciously remember. Also, we won't have to deal with people on here overrating or underrating the 1989 Michigan team; but mostly for the former reason: I don't remember anything about college basketball pre-1990. Now, most of the following material was directly stolen from last year's article, with me correcting what I knew was wrong and adding some of my own thoughts and observations.

Your job? RANK THE NCAA CHAMPIONS, going back to 1990!!

1990 - UNLV
Seed: 1
Record: 35-5
Finals: Def. Duke 103-73
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 18.7
Starters: Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Anderson Hunt, Greg Anthony, David Butler
Primary bench: Moses Scurry, Stacey Cvijanovich

The Runnin’ Rebels won their first and only national title by destroying Duke in the finals. UNLV recorded the biggest blowout in championship game history and became the first team to break 100 in the final.

Larry Johnson, who was a JuCo transfer, was a man among boys in the college game. He was basically the first gangsta in college hoops. Stacy Augmon was too long and athletic for most college shooting guards and small forwards. Hunt and Anthony formed a nasty backcourt. Butler was an undersized, athletic center.

These outlaws possessed an us-against-them mentality brought on by what they perceived as a witchhunt against Jerry Tarkanian by the NCAA. Said LJ of winning the championship: "We wanted to win this championship bad, so that the NCAA guys will have to stare at that trophy on Coach's desk while they ask all those questions during the next investigation."

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Hunt

On the All-Tourney Team: Hunt, Augmon, Johnson

Future First-Round Picks: Larry Johnson (1991, 1st, Charlotte), Stacey Augmon (1991, 9th, Atlanta), Greg Anthony (1991, 12th, New York)

1991 - Duke
Seed: 2
Record: 32-7
Finals: Def. Kansas 72-65
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 14.0
Starters: Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Thomas Hill, Greg Koubek
Primary Bench: Billy McCaffrey, Antonio Lang, Brian Davis

Duke avenged the previous year's humiliating defeat in the final by upsetting heavily favored UNLV in the semis. Aside from Laettner, not a particularly big team but extremely athletic with the likes of Lang, G. Hill, and Davis. McCaffrey was the long range threat while Hurley was the glue. Laettner was simply one of the five or six best clutch players the college game has ever seen. I've written way too much about this anyway.

Defeated Kansas in a lackluster afterthought of a title game. The only thing anyone remembers about it is Grant Hill one-handing that alley-oop from Hurley.

Laettner, Hurley, McCaffrey and both Hills all averaged at least 11 ppg in the Dance, with Laettner leading the way at nearly 20 per.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Laettner

On the All-Tourney Team: Laettner, Hurley, McCaffrey

Future First-Round Picks: Christian Laettner (1992, 3rd, Minnesota), Bobby Hurley (1993, 7th, Sacramento), Grant Hill (1994, 3rd, Detroit)

1992 - Duke
Seed: 1
Record: 34-2
Finals: Def. Michigan 71-51
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 12.5
Starters: Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, Thomas Hill, Brian Davis
Primary Bench: Antonio Lang, Cherokee Parks, Marty Clark

People barely remember the Final Four from '92 because Duke's Elite Eight game against Kentucky ranks as possibly the greatest game in college basketball history, and pretty much overshadows the entire '92 tournament. This is not a misprint: In perhaps the most pressure-packed game in tournament history Christian Laettner shot the ball 20 times and 20 times the ball went through the hoop (10 from the field, 10 from the line). He also took a picture-perfect full-court pass from Grant Hill and calmly nailed an 18-foot turnaround jumper as time expired in overtime. Ridiculous.

Laettner averaged 21.5 ppg. The Hills went for 14, Hurley 13 and Brian Davis added 11.

Thrashed the Fab Five in the title game.

McCaffrey transferred at the beginning of the year, missing out on a chance at a second straight ring. Bobby Hurley apparently stood between him and getting to show his point guard skills to pro scouts. Woops.

This was still Laettner’s team but G. Hill was starting to show signs of future greatness.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Hurley

On the All-Tourney Team: Hurley, G. Hill, Laettner

Future First-Round Picks: Christian Laettner (1992, 3rd, Minnesota), Bobby Hurley (1993, 7th, Sacramento), Grant Hill (1994, 3rd, Detroit), Cherokee Parks (1995, 12th, Dallas)

1993 - North Carolina
Seed: 1 Record: 34-4
Finals: Def. Michigan 77-71
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 15.7
Starters: Eric Montross, Donald Williams, George Lynch, Brian Reese, Derrick Phelps
Primary Bench: Henrik Rodl, Pat Sullivan, Kevin Salvadori

Montross and Lynch are probably more familiar to the casual fan but Donald Williams was the star of this tournament. He went 10/14 from 3 in the semis and final combined. Phelps was the floor general, forming a typically solid Dean Smith backcourt.

This was the "Chris Webber chokes for the first time on the big stage" game. First he took the inbounds pass, got the Chris Webber look on his face, and then dragged his foot about 3 feet down the court. Amazingly, the only people in the entire stadium that didn’t see his egregious travelling were the referees. Then he dribbled down court and called a timeout they didn’t have. He's been committing turnovers and clanking jump hooks off the front of the rim in crunch time ever since.

In my opinion, this UNC team is somewhat underrated in a historical sense because of the perception that it didn’t so much win the title as Michigan lost it. At one point Carolina won 18 straight. The next year, they only lost Lynch and Rodl, and they added a couple of freshmen you may have heard of: Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace. That '94 team was wire-to-wire #1, until they inexplicably lost to 8-seeded and Jim O'Brien-coached Boston College in the second round. Huzzah for Billy Curley!

The victory over Michigan in the title game avenged a regular season 79-78 loss.

Montross was a complete stiff but people forget how good he was in the post at the college level. He had a solid dropstep and he had that little baby jumphook he could shoot with either hand. Very good college post player. Lynch was an awesome rebounder and consummate teammate. Brian Reese was just kind of there.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Williams

On the All-Tourney Team: Williams, Montross, Lynch

Future First-Round Picks: George Lynch (1993, 12th, L.A. Lakers), Eric Montross (1994, 9th, Boston)

1994 - Arkansas
Seed: 1
Record: 31-3
Finals: Def. Duke 76-72
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 11.2
Starters: Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Dwight Stewart, Clint McDaniel
Primary Bench: Lee Wilson, Darnell Robinson

This was the title that allowed Nolan Richardson to be the insufferable jackass he always longed to be. But that can’t overshadow just how nasty the Razorbacks were in '94. Nobody could handle Big Nasty Williamson and Scotty Thurman was the best sleepy-eyed marksman since Sam Perkins was in his heyday. Beck and McDaniel were very good college players.

This was one of those "40 Minutes of Hell" teams that defended 94 feet of court all game long. Just wore other teams down. Duke forward Grant Hill, on being held to 12 in the championship game: "I see a bunch of Hogs in white uniforms, coming at me in waves." Amazing, because Williamson and Stewart were both clearly, uh, chubby.

Thurman hit a miracle 3 over Tony Lang's outstretched arm with 52 seconds left to break a 70-70 tie with Duke to give Arkansas a lead they would never relinquish.

It's probably a toss-up for "worst early-entry draft decision by a college player in the 90s," between Thurman and Dontonio Wingfield.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Williamson

On the All-Tourney Team: Williamson, Beck, Thurman

Future First-Round Picks: Corliss Williamson (1995, 13th, Sacramento)

1995 - UCLA
Seed: 1 Record: 31-2
Finals: Def. Arkansas 89-78
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 14.3
Starters: Ed O'Bannon, Charles O'Bannon, Toby Bailey, Tyus Edney, George Zidek
Primary Bench: Cameron Dollar, J.R Henderson

Jimmy Harrick finally put it all together. The guy was a pro bust, so people forget that Ed O’Bannon was a STUD in college. Put up a 30/17 dub-dub in the championship game. Edney couldn’t play because of injury but the Bruins still handled the defending champion Razorbacks in the final, making Corliss Williamson look awful in the process.

Zidek was the center, Edney and Dollar the PGs, and everyone else on the team was basically a small forward.

This was the tourney in which Edney went the length of the court in 4 seconds - and it certainly helped that nobody really tried to guard him - to steal a 75-74 win over Missouri in the 2nd round (that was when Mizzou had those 7-foot twins who stunk. Remember?). One of Todd's all-time favorite tournament moments.

True freshman Bailey was huge against UConn in the West Regional Final (a team-leading 26 points), and again in the championship game (26 points).

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: E. O’Bannon

On the All-Tourney Team: E. O’Bannon, Bailey

Future First-Round Picks: Ed O'Bannon (1995, 9th, New Jersey), George Zidek (1995, 22nd, Charlotte)

1996 - Kentucky
Seed: 1
Record: 34-2
Finals: Def. Syracuse 76-67
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 23.2
Starters: Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Mark Pope, Anthony Epps
Primary Bench: Derek Anderson, Ron Mercer, Jeff Sheppard

Only two losses on the season came to fellow Final Four teams Mississippi State and UMass. Jeff Sagarin has this bunch rated as one of the best EVER. They’re certainly one of the strongest in the past 30 years.

"Best" or not, this '96 UK team was inarguably one of the most talented ever. Not a misprint: 7 future first-round draft choices on this squad. It was so deep that Pitino allowed Rodrick Rhodes to transfer and redshirted Jared Prickett (who was a regular contributor the previous year) because he wasn’t going to be seeing the floor. Stacked is what I’m trying to say.

Beat the John Wallace-led Orangemen in the final. Delk hit 7 triples in the final and freshman Mercer came off the bench to score 20 points. But that game was an afterthought because the semifinal featured what were clearly the two best teams: UK and player-of-the-year Marcus Camby's UMass squad. The situation caused some of the first grumblings about possibly re-seeding the teams once they got to the Final Four.

UK won 27 straight games and scored 86 points in the first half against LSU, on the road.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Delk

On the All-Tourney Team: Delk, Mercer

Future First-Round Picks: Antoine Walker (1996, 6th, Boston), Tony Delk (1996, 16th, Charlotte), Walter McCarty (1996, 19th, New York), Ron Mercer (1997, 6th, Boston), Derek Anderson (1997, 13th, Cleveland), Nazr Mohammed (1998, 29th, Utah), Scott Padgett (1999, 28th, Utah)

1997 - Arizona
Seed: 4
Record: 25-9
Finals: Def. Kentucky 84-79 in overtime.
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 5.3
Starters: Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson, Miles Simon, Bennett Davison, A.J. Bramlett
Primary Bench: Jason Terry, Eugene Edgerson, Donnell Harris

This is such a difficult team to rank on an historical basis. On the one hand they're the lowest seed since the beginning of the 90s to win the title (entered the tourney ranked #15). On the other hand they’re the only team to beat three #1 seeds (Kansas, UNC and Kentucky. Wow.) on their way to doing it.

Rotation basically consisted of 4 combo guards and 4 undersized power forwards. Really popularized the 3-guard attack. Bibby and Terry would have the pro success but Simon (and to a lesser extent Dickerson) was the star of this team.

Historians believe Bibby is the first freshman PG to ever lead a team to the championship. Impressive that he could change his game so quickly as he was a pure scorer in high school.

Dickerson played stellar defense on star sophomore Ron Mercer in the final.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Simon

On the All-Tourney Team: Simon, Bibby

Future First-Round Picks: Mike Bibby (1998, 2nd, Vancouver), Michael Dickerson (1998, 14th, Houston), Jason Terry (1999, 10th, Atlanta)

1998 - Kentucky
Seed: 2
Record: 35-4
Finals: Def. Utah 78-69
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 13.3
Starters: Scott Padgett, Jeff Sheppard, Nazr Mohammed, Wayne Turner, Allen Edwards
Primary Bench: Heshimu Evans, Jamaal Magloire, Cameron Mills

First year post-Pitino, and Tubby Smith's debut leads to a title. He stressed pressure D (more than Pitino's "full-court man plus threes" philosophy) and his players bought into it immediately. This was Kentucky’s third straight year in the title game. Even UK fans were surprised as this was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

The Wildcats had to overcome huge second-half deficits to Stanford and Duke (17 points), then against Utah they set the record for halftime deficit overcome in a championship game (10).

Sheppard was the emotional leader while Turner, Mohammed, Evans, and Padgett carried the majority of the scoring load.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Sheppard

On the All-Tourney Team: Sheppard, Padgett

Future First-Round Picks: Nazr Mohammed (1998, 29th, Utah), Scott Padgett (1999, 28th, Utah), Jamaal Magloire (2000, 19th, Charlotte), Michael Bradley (2001, 17th, Toronto)

1999 - UConn
Seed: 1
Record: 34-2
Finals: Def. Duke 77-74
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 11.8
Starters: Richard Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin, Kevin Freeman, Ricky Moore, Jake Voskuhl
Primary Bench: Albert Mouring, Edmund Saunders, Rashamel Jones, Souleymane Wane

Hamilton was the star and El-Amin the floor general. Jake Voskuhl annoyed everyone. Kevin Freeman could dunk the ball and do little else (the next year he was supposed to step in for Rip and be the go-to stud. He failed miserably).

Beat heavily-favored Duke and concensus POY Elton Brand (and William Avery, Shane Battier, Trajan Langdon, Corey Maggette, etc.) in what's probably the best title game of the last ten years. Not sure anybody in the history of the game could get into foul trouble quicker than Voskuhl.

Clearly, Rip was coming up huge in pressure situations long before his runs in the NBA playoffs the last two years. Moore was the unheralded defensive stopper, forcing Trajan Langdon into the game-deciding turnover in the championship game.

I'm deliberately avoiding talking about UConn's Final Four game that year, because it still frustrates me. I will say this, though: Chris Porter sucked.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Hamilton

On the All-Tourney Team: Hamilton, El-Amin, Moore

Future First-Round Picks: Richard Hamilton (1999, 7th, Washington)

2000 - Michigan State
Seed: 1
Record: 32-7
Finals: Def. Florida 89-76
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 15.3
Starters: Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Andre Hutson, Charlie Bell, A.J. Granger
Primary Bench: Jason Richardson, Mike Chappell, David Thomas, Al Anagonye

Everyone remembers this squad. The core of the team grew up together in Flint and dubbed themselves the Flintstones. Only thing that docks this team is that this was kind of a down year for the college game. Not a ton of super-good teams. On the other hand, their versatility can't be questioned: they thumped both Wisconsin and Florida in the Final Four, beating each team at their own game (slow-down for Wisky, run-and-gun for Florida).

Peterson (21), Granger (an unexpected 19) and Cleaves (18) handled most of the scoring load against Florida in the championship.

All five starters averaged between 9 and 16 ppg.

Trailed Syracuse by 14 in the second half of its Sweet 16 matchup. Finished the game on a 17-0 run.

Only team on the list to win ALL SIX tournament games by double-digits, thanks to Larry Eustachy's hissyfit in the Elite Eght.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Cleaves

On the All-Tournament Team: Cleaves, Peterson, Bell, Granger

Future First-Round Picks: Mateen Cleaves (2000, 14th, Detroit), Morris Peterson (2000, 21st, Toronto), Jason Richardson (2001, 5th, Golden State)

2001 - Duke
Seed: 1
Record: 35-4
Finals: Def. Arizona 82-72
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 16.7
Starters: Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy, Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Nate James
Primary Bench: Chris Duhon, occasionally Casey Sanders

Few have ever had a senior year like Shane Battier did in 2001. I'll let this quote by then-Arizona star forward Richard Jefferson say it all: "He's the Player of the Year, Defender of the Year, Academic of the Year, Man of the Year. He's All-Everything. Some people rank Shane Battier right below Jesus Christ."

Like many Duke teams in recent years, they were not particularly deep (they often only played 6 guys) but that rotation is sick. Teams like this are the primary reason "depth" is overrated in college. Give me six or seven stud players, and I'll run them into the ground until they're in awesome shape and then beat your "deep" team 9 times out of 10.

Jason Williams was ridiculous in college. People forget because of what happened to his pro career but he was just unstoppable at Duke.

Beat a stacked Arizona in the final (Richard Jefferson, Loren Woods, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Garder, Michael Wright, Luke Walton). Sophomore Dunleavy went for 18 in a seven-minute span in the second half. Came back from 22 down to beat Maryland in the national semifinal.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Battier

On the All-Tourney Team: Battier, Dunleavy, Williams

Future First-Round Picks: Shane Battier (2001, 6th, Memphis), Jason Williams (2002, 2nd, Bulls), Mike Dunleavy Jr. (2002, 3rd, Warrios)

2002 - Maryland
Seed: 1
Record: 32-4
Finals: Def. Indiana 64-52
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 14.0
Starters: Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Chris Wilcox, Lonny Baxter, Byron Mouton
Primary Bench: Drew Nicholas, Taj Holden

Dixon, Baxter and Mouton were the senior leaders, Blake the heady guard, and Wilcox the insanely athletic forward who could dunk and do little else but he dunked really forcefully so his stock went through the roof. Idiot pro GMs.

Beat a "just happy to be here" IU squad in the final. Yeah, that was the year IU decided to go nuts and make every three they shot for five straight games. If memory holds, I'm pretty sure they went 15-for-20 on triples against Nate Huffman, Antonio Gates (yes, that one) and Kent State in the Elite Eight.

Dixon was underrated in college and is underutilized in the pros. Someone please give Juan Dixon a chance. "JUAN SHINING MOMENT!" I hate Jim Nantz.

Since McDonald’s started handing out "All-American" awards to high school basketball players back in 1978, the 2002 Maryland Terrapins are the only school to win a national title without a single one on its roster. That's either incredibly astute recruiting or fantastic coaching by Gary Williams.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Dixon

On the All-Tourney Team: Dixon, Baxter, Wilcox

Future First-Round Picks: Chris Wilcox (2002, 8th, Clippers), Juan Dixon (2002, 17th, Wizards)

2003 - Syracuse
Seed: 3
Record: 30-5
Finals: Def. Kansas 81-78
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 9.2
Starters: Gerry McNamara, Billy Edelin, Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Craig Forth
Primary Bench: Josh Pace, Kueth Duany, Jeremy McNeil

Carmelo Anthony comes in and takes everyone but Joe Dumars by storm. College coaches will forever recruit possible early-entry draft picks because of what Anthony did in his one year of college. He was a man among boys.

Gerry McNamara, a fellow freshman, hit a ridiculous 6 first-half threes in the championship game.

This was the first year of the "pod system," and poor Oklahoma got screwed big-time. Despite being the 1-seed in the region, they got stuck playing 3-seed Syracuse in the Elite Eight IN ALBANY. The 'Cuse home game led to a relatively easy win.

Warrick was much more of a defensive specialist in '03 than the all-around monster he became later in college.

I thought for sure that Jim Boeheim was destined to reach the title game 2 or 3 more times and never win. Bummer. It's always fun to have "perennial runner-ups" around. We've had two get titles in the last three years now.

Will someone please explain to me why more teams don’t run that Cuse 2-3?

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Anthony

On the All-Tourney Team: Anthony, McNamara

Future First-Round Picks: Carmelo Anthony (2003, 3rd, Nuggets), Hakim Warrick (2005, 19th, Grizzlies)* (* = means that some players from that team are still in college)

2004 - UConn
Seed: 2
Record: 33-6
Finals: Def. Georgia Tech 82-73
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 13.3
Starters: Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Josh Boone, Rashad Anderson, Taliek Brown
Primary Bench: Denham Brown, Hilton Armstrong, Charlie Villanueva

I think appreciation for how good this team was will only grow over time. They were positively stacked. That record is misleading because Okafor missed some games and/or played hurt for about 1/3 of the season. And I don’t think most people outside of the Northeast realized just how good Gordon was until he started lighting up NBA defenders last year.

Okafor was one of the most dominant defenders in NCAA history. Okafor, Gordon, and Villanueva were lottery picks. Boone could join them soon.

UConn cruised through their first four tournament games, winning all four by no less than 16 points. Their mettle was tested in the national semifinal as the Huskies had to overcome a 75-67 deficit against Duke with under 3:30 to play. They won 79-78.

In a bit of a letdown after the classic Duke matchup, UConn beat GT in one of the most boring title games ever. The score doesn't indicate how much better they were than they Yellow Jackets, or how much of a blowout the game was.

Tournament Most Outstanding Player: Okafor

On the All-Tourney Team: Okafor, Anderson, Gordon

Future First-Round Picks: Connecticut-Emeka Okafor (2004, 2nd, Bobcats), Ben Gordon (2004, 3rd, Bulls), Charlie Villanueva (2005, 7th, Raptors)*

2005 - North Carolina
Seed: 1
Record: 33-4
Finals: Def. Illinois 75-70
Average margin of victory for NCAA Tourney: 13.8
Starters: Raymond Felton, Jawad Williams, Rashad McCants, Jackie Manuel, Sean May
Primary Bench: Marvin Williams, David Noel, Melvin Scott

Dude, everyone remembers this team, so you get nothing from me. Except that Allan Ray DID NOT TRAVEL on that game-tying basket in the Sweet Sixteen. 'Nova got screwed on that one.

So ... who's the best? The worst? The middle? Rank 'em, 1-16.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Bracket Reaction (Rebraction? Breacktion?)

First of all, blogger extraordinaire Ken Pomeroy has pointed out two things that I think we at the MWB would find quite interesting. First of all, instead of bitching and moaning like everyone else about how teams Q, R, and S got screwed because teams X, Y, and Z got in, Pomeroy has taken the slightly more interesting route and pointed out that not only did teams (apparently) get jobbed, but that "this year's committee has set a precedent that even if you think there is no logical case for your team getting a bid, you better tune in to the Selection Show anyway because logic may not necessarily apply." Logic seems out-and-out missing from the process of figuring out the last few bubble teams. Seriously, you can make almost NO case for Utah State and Air Force to get in ahead of Cincinnati, Michigan, Missouri State, or Florida State. It's inconceivable. But more on this point later.

Pomeroy further made a point which Jay Bilas touched on a little bit yesterday about which I KNOW at least a few of us here will be interested: we may never see a better opportunity for a "16 over 1" upset than this year's Oral Roberts v. Memphis game. Bilas said on the radio today that Oral Roberts was criminally under-seeded, and that they're probably the best 16-seed in about ten years. As Pomeroy says, the committee made things super-interesting by "getting sloppy" in placing ORU at a 16, and then compounded that decision by pitting them against unquestionably the weakest of the four 1-seeds. As per usual, specific number-gorging followed in his analysis:

16-seeds are 0-84 all-time. It’s safe to say Oral Roberts has a better that 1-in-84 chance of beating Memphis. Much better.

Log5 says that Oral Roberts has about a 1-in-8 chance of pulling off the unthinkable. Log5 doesn't do so well with extreme matchups. It says Southern has a 1-in-40 chance of beating Duke, when Southern's chances are truly much worse. But I'd give ORU a 1-in-15 chance of a win. Which means that hyping this game will result in me looking like an idiot 14 out of 15 times, but that’s what I am all about.

I think it's safe to say that this development has created a must-watch situation this weekend. I mean ... it's gotten happen sooner or later, right?

As for the point about midmajor-ish teams getting a questionable free pass at the expense of possibly-more-deserving, almost-undoubtedly-better major conference teams, King Kaufman has the take that I would most align with (unless I was a fan of one of the "aggrieved"): who frickin' cares? These crappier major conference teams would be slated for bids somewhere in the 7-to-11 range -- and, apparently, possibly on the 12 line, as Texas A&M is -- and tell me, what would you rather see: the possibility of a "George Mason over Michigan State" upset in the 6/11 game, or a "Cincinnati over West Virginia" "upset"? Which would you remember watching, years down the line? Which would you give a crap about? Realistically, neither the midmajors who made it nor the majors who got the shaft would have come within a country mile of winning this damn thing, so let's give the little guy a shot at making some memories, for both themselves and for us. As for the big conference guys: win more games.

Lingering thought on the brackets and the two Bracketoloblah specials:

A.) How the hell are we not the 2-seed in Memphis's region? And if we're not, why the hell isn't Texas?
B.) As Wonk noted this morning, who did Tennessee sleep with? They get a 2-seed over Florida, Gonzaga, Boston College, and North Carolina? Even Illinois probably has a better case than the Fightin' Pearl Necklaces.
C.) Okay, since I brought up the whole "2-seed in the Memphis region" thing, when the hell did everyone fall in love with UCLA? Half the CBS analysts and 2/3 of the ESPN guys had the Bruins in the Final Four. Did I not get a memo or something? Is winning the Pac-10 tournament this year REALLY that big of a deal? (Okay, after reading through the Mandel column I linked to below, I see why: every possible challenger in their half of the bracket is probably seeded better than it should be. They have the potential to, as Mandel puts it, "sleepwalk to the Elite Eight," unless Indiana is hitting its threes in a possible Sweet Sixteen matchup. And then they may have Memphis or Kansas waiting for them. Todd's right: weak region.)
D.) Speaking of the conference tourneys, the committee once again seemed to weigh the conference tourneys to a possibly-disproportionate level. Those of you who had the fortitude to slog through the bracket-picking guide know how I feel about the perception that teams who ened the year "hot" are bound to do well in the Big Dance; the committee clearly doesn't feel the same way I do, as they apparently rewarded teams who put together runs last week (and the analysts, predictably, are fawning all over teams that looked good during Championship Week). Iowa a 3? Eh, maybe. Syracuse, from "outside looking in" all the way up to a 5-seed? Wow, that's some wad-shooting there. The aforementioned Bruins, suddenly a popular Final Four pick? Whatever. Boston College beat Carolina and gave Duke a game, so they're now a trendy pick to not only upset Villanova, but get all the way to Indianapolis.
E.) That was some frickin' balls to put a top-10 George Washington team into an 8/9 game. The committee sent a clear message to the Colonials: play somebody in the non-conference. But the thing about that is...
F.) Why the hell isn't the committee consistent with the messages they sent? With the aforementioned GW, they severely penalized a pretty good team for not playing anyone. Why, then, did they let in Air Force, with zero (ZERO!) wins over RPI top-50 teams, and Utah State, who played a non-conference schedule more creampuffy than a box of Little Debbie treats? I don't have any particular anger about the field itself, but be consistent, man. The one thing that bugs me about the committee is that, like the Supreme Court (wow, is this attenuated), they seem to come to the results they want to come to, and then come up with whatever justification they can. "Why did you put GW at an 8-seed?" "Well, they didn't play anybody." "Okay, then why did you put Utah State and Air Force in the field, but leave out Michigan?" Well, Michigan finished really poorly, losing 7 of their last 9." "Okay, then why did you leave Wisconsin in, when they finished almost as poorly as Michigan?" "Uhhhhhh..."
G.) This year seems so wide open. UConn is clearly the best team, in my estimation, but they tend to look disinterested a lot of the time. Will that come back to bite them is the ass? And every other team in the field has at least one glaring or semi-glaring hole, as the MWB's favorite Erin-impersonator Stewart Mandel points out today.

As for the Bucks, I'd be hard-pressed to be less happy about our situation, in terms of both current quality of play and possible opponents. Right now, we couldn't hit water if we fell out of a fucking boat, so teams would do well to zone the bejeezus out of us and not let Dials beat them. 'Cause if we're hitting from the outside, we're gonna win anyway, so you might as well take away the inside game and take your chances that we have yet another off-day shooting. As for the future, I agree with Dids: I don't want any part of Georgetown OR Northern Iowa. The Hoyas are patient offensively and very good defensively, with tons of talent and a battle-tested resume. UNI is one of those MVC teams that play solid, smart D, run their offense well, and have little white guards that can all of a sudden hit 10-for-14 from three for one particular game and send a favored opponent home with his tail between his legs. I want no part of either of those teams. And that's not even mentioning Davidson, a scrappy, underseeded 15 who was a 13-seed a couple of years ago, when they had a worse record than this year and would have beaten OSU had Brian Brown not sprung for 30. I do not take that game as a gimme.

One thing we have going for us, Georgetown-wise, is that we've seen the Princeton offense twice this year, albeit against much worse talent (Northwestern). But the bigger thing we have is that EVERYONE loves the Hoyas all of a sudden. Scads of prognosticators have G-Town making the Elite Eight. And if conventional wisdom has taught me one thing, it's this: conventional wisdom is stupid a lot of the time. I'm with Todd, too: if we can get to the Sweet Sixteen, a possible Florida or Oklahoma matchup looks decent on paper. Gotta get there, though. And anything after that is gravy, in my opinion.


Bracketed Anal-Cyst

As we all know, the brackets, they be out. I thought I'd give some of my knee-jerk reactions to what I've thought of the brackets so far.

While watching the selection show things I thought....
1) Utah State!?!?!?!
I know everyone is on the commitees ass for the Air Force bid, but, Air Force played 3 power conf schools and even beat one (G-Tech). Utah St? Played exactly ZERO major conf schools.
2) Indiana a 6 seed
Really, ok sure, whatever
2b) Syracuse a 5 seed
REALLY?!? When you lose to DEPAUL by almost FORTY points 10 days ago?!?! Ugh.
3) The Memphis
Most notibly, the bottom half of it. I consider UCLA, Gonzaga, Indiana the weakest of all the 2,3,6 seeds respectively. Then, they're with the worst 1 seed. Somone from that bottom-half bracket gets to be an elite 8 team, and I'm angry about it
4) SOC of me during the selection show... they haven't showed BC yet, FUCK they're gonna make BC the 3 seed in our region.....YES...they dropped BC to a 4, sweet.
5) I hate our 2nd round matchup...being in Dayton might be the only reason we make the sweet 16...but I LOVE our potential sweet 16 matchup...Oklahoma (6) and Florida (3) = yes please.
6) They put my upset special team against a Big 10 team for the 15th straight year. If NW St. was going against Gonzaga and not Iowa, I'd pick them to win in every bracket I filled out. In fact, I might anyway.
7) Mich St. earns an unprotected 6 seed yet get to play the first two rounds in Dayton? Good for them.
8) Davidson again, I hope that fat quasi-asian fucker is gone.
9) Man, that Memphis region sucks.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Who is Andy Katz?

The day is here. Well, one of them. THE day is Thursday, but today is the day when the brackets come out. And according to one Mr. Andrew Jay Katz, expect there to be some suprises. Not "OMG South Carolina just stole a bid"-level surprises, but "Holy shit, I thought that team was a lock; where ARE they in the bracket?"-level surprises. As in, much bigger surprises.

He specifically said that he's been talking to important peoples, and that his information leads him to believe that the mid-majors are gonna be generally euphoric, and the "major" conferences are gonna have to deal with some "surprise" omissions. Mid-major euphoria? He says Utah State has a great shot at an at-large. He says the MVC could very possibly get all five of their bubble teams in (Creighton is totally out), but he thinks the Colonial is only gonna get 2, and he says it's a toss-up as to whether Hofstra (who was, is, and ALWAYS WILL BE the Flying Dutchmen) or George Mason gets left out in the cold.

As for major conference teams that everyone assumes are in, but who could be on the outside looking in tonight, he named two specifics: Florida State, Alabama...

... and Wisconsin.

"Huh-WHA?" you say? (Sidenote: on College Gameday, Steve Lavin just said that FSU should get in because the ACC is "an underrated conference." No, seriously.) The Badgers aren't even listed in Lunardi's "last four in." But their resume doesn't hold up to inspection too well. 19-11, but with that GROSS home loss to South Dakota Agricultural & Mechanical School for Blind Daughters of War Veterans, no quality road wins, and a 5-9 record in their last fourteen, with their lone solid wins being home games against Indiana and OSU. Andy Katz warns that the Badgers could be a shocking omission tonight. We'll see...

UPDATE: Well excuuuuuuuuuuuse me. Yoni Cohen says there's a significant possibility that Creighton could sneak in. And SI'com's accurate-or-not-Erin-impersonator Stewart Mandel has the Bluejes IN his projected field.

If you're a Buckeye fan, the following incredibly true and incredibly unsettling paragraph from Ken Pomeroy can not be ignored:

"Speaking of the Buckeyes, how about the slump Je’Kel Foster is going through? He's made just one of his last 25 three point attempts and 7 of his last 52, yet still carries a respectable 41.4% accuracy on three pointers for the season. Ohio State may well be seeded as the toughest 2-seed, but without a productive Foster, they’ll be the first to lose."


Friday, March 10, 2006

How to fill out a bracket 2: Electric Boogaloo

(First of all, welcome, readers of MGoBlog!)

So yeah. This was posted last year, as an experiment in time-wasting and seeing what an idiot I can be. I've taken everything from last year and updated it, taking into account the results of last year's tournament. Also, one of the introductory paragraphs remains (and probably always will remain) extremely relevant to the purpose of this post, and to provide some much-needed context. Also, I'm taking the MPRE tomorrow and I want to kill myself. Anywho, here we go...

Now, to start with, it bears iterating that winning NCAA tournament pools takes about 25% analysis and 75% luck. Dids and I can give you no advice on how to be lucky (advice on how to get lucky, on the other hand, consists solely of this: 1. go to Evan’s doorstep, and 2. enter Evan’s apartment, preferably while saying some sort of double-entendre, one that works on exactly two levels. You’ll be fighting him off like the dickens. If you want to, that is), we can give you some advice on how to screw up, uh, less. Probably. Maybe. If our plans work, maybe they can make you a little money. If they don’t, you’re welcome to laugh at us and call us idiots. Because, I mean, let’s face it, we are. Well, Todd is. So, culled from various other sources, from which I liberally stole, I present unto you:


1. Pick out your final four teams

You know, upsets are what make watching the tournament fun, but when we're talking about actually filling out a good bracket, the final four is where the points is at, and you’re rarely going to see legitimate surprises here. I’m talking Southern Illinois-level surprises, not Georgia Tech-level surprises. Because of that, the final four is a place to get kind of conservative. I’m not saying go with the chalk, necessarily, but years like 2000 - when two 8-seeds made the final four – are few and far between. And, generally, 1- and 2-seeds get to the final four an awful lot.

So, the way I see it, your best bet is to pool together the top 8 seeds in the tournament (the top-2 in each region), and put two or three of those 8 teams in the final four. So you’ve got a final four of 2 or 3 teams, none of whom is lower than a 2-seed. Now, there has never been a final four consisting entirely of 1- and 2-seeds, and someone gets hot every year and makes a big, somewhat-unexpected run deep into the tourney. So, fill the remaining spot(s) from the remaining region(s) with a team or two who is seeded 3-through-6. If you’re following me, that means if you have filled three final four spots with 1- or 2-seeds, then take one team seeded 3-6 from the remaining region. If you’ve taken two 1- or 2-seeds, take two 3-through-6-seeds to fill out the final four.

Bizarre tourney fact: Only once in the last thirteen years has the combined sum of the four seed-numbers in the final four exceeded 11 (though last year, the sum was 11).

2. Fill in your title game and national champion

Once again, for all the madness that goes on, there are going to be great teams here, teams that you probably thought had a good shot of getting to the final four before the tourney even started. And, as with the previous step, you really have to go with your gut when filling in this part of the bracket. Still, it's important - how you fare on that Saturday and Monday of the tournament go a long way in determining how good your bracket looks on Tuesday morning. Also, when filling this part out, you should bear in mind the "general guidelines" for picking teams, listed below.

Bizarre Tourney Fact: Fourteen of the last sixteen national champs have been either a 1- or 2-seed.

Bizarre Tourney Fact: Not since 1979 have two teams met in the title game having never been there before.

3. Fill in the rest of your bracket

You can do this backward or forward, but make sure you have your final four teams actually, you know, getting there. To help with this part, I've inserted a Dids-esque section of general guidelines and tips for picking the early rounds (note that these should also be kept in mind when filling out the last 2 rounds as well, in terms of matchups):

UPSETS ARE OVERRATED - Yes, we all love them. They're the funnest parts of the tourney to watch, and when you correctly pick one, you feel like Al Frickin' Einstein. But upsets don't win you pools - barring some bizarre scoring system in your pool - so you have to go easy on them, and pick and choose them wisely (note that this is mainly for the early part of the tournament: picking a 3-seed to beat a 2-seed in the sweet sixteen is NOT an upset). One national writer put it better than I can: after describing how fantastic he felt to correctly pick Kent State to the elite eight in 2002, he said "but for every Kent State on my resume, there are about 40 Michigan States, a #10-seed I thought would make a deep run in that same 2002 tourney, but ended up being out of the tournament by 2:30 on the first day." It happens all too often. Kids, be careful out there.

STILL, UPSETS ALWAYS HAPPEN - I'm not saying don't pick any. Because only once in the last 21 years have at least two 12- or higher seeds failed to advance to the second round, and that was in weird-ass 2000, when there were only 3 "upsets" in the first round, and they were by two 10-seeds and an 11. In fact, the vast majority of the time, there will be at least three first-round upsets by teams seeded 12- or higher. Speaking of those 12s, as we all know, they're a great starting place when you're hunting for possible upsets. Since 1989, at least one 12-seed has won its first round game in every year but one (the aforementioned 2000, when black was white, up was down, and Mark Vershaw was playing in the final four). Having the bias toward the midwest that everyone here cultivates, we are aware of the power of the MAC. They're great for potential upsets: since 1995, the MAC is 7-7 in first round games, and Ohio gave Florida all they could handle last year, before that jackass dribbled the ball off his leg and blew their chance at a tie.

"But you said this was about the first couple rounds," you say? Okay, what about double-digit-seeds winning second round games? This always happens (every season but one in the last 20 years), but they're extremely tough to pick out. A great place to start: 10-seeds. They're often underachieving-but-dangerous major conference teams, and they have a remarkable success rate: thirteen of them have made the sweet sixteen since 1997, including at least one in every single tournament (Last year? NC State.). On the other hand, 7-, 8-, and 9-seeds have just eleven sweet sixteen appearances combined during that same span (but hey, one was our beloved Fightin Pittsnogles last year). And those pesky 12-seeds rear their beautiful, gorgeous heads again in the recent history, as at least one has made the sweet sixteen in five of the last seven tourneys.

THEM'S THE ONES - In ten of the last 14 tourneys, a 1-seed has emerged with the trophy. You'd be stupid not to pick one to win it this year.

BUT NOT THE #1 – However, only three teams in the past 23 years finished the regular season ranked #1 in the polls and then went on to win the title. So don’t automatically pencil "TEAM X" (Duke or Villanova or whoever ends up the top-ranked team on Sunday -- UConn losing yesterday effed everything up) into the champion slot quite yet. Still, though: 10 out of 14. If you don’t pick a 1-seed to win it all, you’d better have a VERY good reason for it. Like...

THE PROHIBITIVE FAVORITE WINS MORE OFTEN THAN YOU THINK - Illinois was the overall #1 last year, but more people were actually picking Carolina to win it (Still, they probably don't count as a "prohibitive" favorite ... although you could make the argument that getting approximately 40% of the bracket-fillers to pick you makes you such a "favorite," and EVERYONE was picking Carolina or Illinois last year, so...). And yes, UConn was a 2-seed in 2004, but they were picked to win the whole thing by more than 50% of the entrants in that year's tournament challenge. And guess what? They won. Past prohibitive favorites that proved to be worth the adulation include Maryland in 2002, Duke in 2001, and Michigan State in 2000.

DON'T PICK SOUTHERN ILLINOIS, OR... - Don’t read too much into the conference tournaments. It’s moderately fashionable in the media to say that teams who win their conference tourneys are coming in to the big dance "hot" or "on a roll," and it’s equally trendy to question the mental state of teams that lost early in their conference tourney. Resist the urge to follow suit. I learned this lesson in 1991, when Duke was obliterated by 30 in their conference title game, then beat the holy hell out of their first four NCAA tourney opponents, eventually upsetting UNLV and winning it all. I mean, just look at Maryland in '04: they got hot and won the ACC tourney out of nowhere, then went into the tournament and almost lost their first round game to friggin' UTEP. Further cementing this idea is the fact that, although UConn won it all that year after winning the Big East conference championship, five of the other six top conference tourney champions didn't even make it to the sweet sixteen. Last year Syracuse won the Big East tourney and got bounced by Vermont in the first round. Getting "hot" in the conference tournament doesn't necessarily mean you'll stay hot.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN TEAMS - These apply both to scouting early-round upsets AND to selecting teams you think can make final four runs and/or win it all. The most positive indicators include:

  • Consistency - Recent play is nice, but you want to find teams that consistently played good competition and performed well in those games. Equally as important in this regard is a lack of glaringly bad losses. Avoid hitching your wagon to those "they could beat anybody, but dammit, they could lose to anybody, too" teams. Suspicious teams: Pitt, Boston College, Florida State (if they make it)
  • Playing well away from home - Try to steer clear of teams that were fantastic at home, but struggled on the road and at neutral-court sites. There are no home games in the NCAA tournament. Teams'll have to play on unfamiliar courts, sleep in hotel rooms, and deal with hostile fans ... not to mention the fact that they won't be getting the home cookin' they're accustomed to from the refs. Your job is to find teams that performed well under these conditions during the season. Suspicious teams: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Oklahoma
  • Experience - Less talented, but more experienced teams tend to beat more talented, but less experienced teams, especially in March. And although I don't mean "experience" in the "age" sense exclusively (experience in front of big crowds or on national T.V. is also immensely useful), teams full of juniors and seniors are historically the ones that pull upsets and/or advance far in the tourney. That's just the way it is.

DON'T PICK TEXAS TECH - Bobby Knight hadn't seen the sweet sixteen since 1994. He fucked up this rule last year, and I am furious. Luckily, barring a miracle, his squad won't even make the Dance, so let's move on.

PICK THREE OF THE FOUR 1-SEEDS TO GET TO THE ELITE EIGHT - Quite simply, they tend to get there. The last two years have been mild aberrations, as each year only two have made it there (although last year, both 1-seeds that lost in the Sweet Sixteen lost to eventual Final Four teams). But in 2003 all four 1-seeds saw the round of 8, to go along with three in 2002, four in 2001, one in 2000, three in 1999, and three in 1998. Of course, use your best judgment, especially if one of the other guidelines conflict with this one.

WATCH CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK - There's no better way to get a feel for smaller-conference teams that could serve as potential upset picks than to watch Championship Week on ESPN. No amount of stats you look up can substitute for watching a team play and getting a feel for their style, what they do well, and what their weaknesses are. In 2001, while watching the Big West championship, Dids told me that Utah State was either going to beat whoever they played in the first round, or come damn close. Unfortunately for us, they drew Ohio State. And yes, they beat us, in overtime.

IGNORE DICKIE V. AND DIGGER PHELPS AND ANDY KATZ - These people are idiots. Vitale is a Duke and ACC slapdick, a thumbs-up from Digger is practically a death omen, and Andy Katz is Andy Katz. Last year, when Digger said he thought OSU would make some noise in the Big Ten tournament, I felt a chill down my spine, and immediately assumed we'd lose to lowly Penn State. It goes without saying that we, you know, almost did. This year, he seems to REALLY love our team, and I'm contemplating performing some kind of exorcism before the tournament to counteract all that bad joo-joo. Yuck. So the moral: stay away from these jackasses. Clark Kellogg and Jay Bilas, however, can generally be trusted.

MY VAGINA'S CONFERENCE IS POWERFUL - Fun Facts to know and tell: In the past six tourneys, one conference has put two teams in the final four. In five of the last six tourneys, one conference has has put three teams in the elite eight. In eight of the last eleven tourneys, one conference has put four teams in the sweet sixteen. For some reason, one conference always seems to whip ass in the tourney. If you feel confident about it, it's not a bad idea to pick a bad-ass conference and ride them through the tournament. (And if you don't get the joke of that title ... then you just can't be my friend. Okay, maybe.)

IF YOU JUST CAN'T DECIDE WHO'LL WIN A PARTICULAR GAME - It never hurts to steal a few economics-like strategies. To wit:

  • Buck conventional wisdom - If everyone thinks one team (let’s say Boston College) has no shot of making it past the second round, then what will it hurt to be the only guy in your pool who picks them to go a round or two past that? If you get lucky, that can lead to a big payoff for you. This method is especially useful if picking them to go that far doesn’t conflict with advancing any of your final four teams.
  • When in doubt, go with the team you like less - If the game involves a team you're actually rooting for, this will help you avoid the dreaded double-whammy. If it involves a team you loathe, then at least you can prosper from their success. Or, if they lose, you might feel like you jinxed them. Always a good feeling.
  • When there's a guaruntee, go with an upset - This can best be illustrated by an example from 2004. Let's say you were 100% certain that Wake was going to make the sweet sixteen, regardless of who they played in the second round. Well, why not go for the upset in the game opposite, then, and take Manhattan over Florida? If you think whoever wins that game is gonna lose to Wake anyway, then it hurts nothing to put the Jaspers forward. Incidentally, such a strategy would have paid off in that particular example, and I hate myself for not doing it. It also would have worked last year if you were 100% certain that neither Syracuse nor Vermont could beat MSU (but if you had thought that going into last year's tournament, you were either an idiot or an MSU fan. Or, I guess, both).
  • Look at the freee throw stats - It's not a bullshit econ offshoot, but lots of close tourney games come down to free throws. It's a good idea t avoid teams that shoot them poorly, or have primary ballhandlers who shoot them poorly. Last year, Kansas's point guard, Keith Langford, was a 61% free throw shooter. Guess what? They lost by 1 in the first round.
  • Look at the coaches - Again, non-econ-related, but important. Just imagine one of those splitscreen shots, with each panel showing one of the two coaches involved in the game. Would you be able to look at that if you picked Duke to get upset early? Would you be able to look at that splitscreen and think "I picked this douche who looks like a used car salesman to beat Coach K"? I mean, without vomiting? Me neither.

STUPID STATS ABOUT THE TOURNEY - Duke, Marquette, Syracuse, Stanford, and Louisville are the only non-state named schools to make the final four since 1992 (so if your Final Four is Syracuse, Gonzaga, Monmouth, and Duke, you probably want to go back and fix that); an 8-seed has won a national title, but no 7-seed has EVER made the final four; since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 2-seeds are only 18-20 in elite eight games, and 9-seeds are 50-34 against 8-seeds; there has never been a final four in which the names of all the teams began with a vowel.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MATCHUPS - The importance of this can not be overstated. Nothing is bigger than the draw teams get. A mediocre team can advance because they faced a weak draw, and a great team can bow out early because they got stuck playing a better team. In 2004, I was all ready to put a fantastic Wisky team in the elite eight almost automatically. Then the brackets came out, and I saw that the Badgers were not only criminally placed at a 6-seed, but, consequently, that they would have to face a damn good Pitt team in the second round, a Pitt team that did all the same things as Wisky, but did them a little bit better. So I chucked my ealrier plan and correctly picked that fantastic Badger team to lose in the second round. Matchups are everything in March.


Do NOT be the guy who gets pissed off because an awesome upset fucked up his bracket. I don't give a shit if you have UConn or Duke winning the whole thing - if they're losing to Fairleigh Dickinson at 9:45 p.m. on Thursday night, you are goddamn well gonna be rooting for the upset. Upsets are what make the tournament fantastic, and the joy of watching a phenomenal upset that culminated with an improbable buzzer-beater will last far longer than a sigh of relief that your tourney favorite survived a scare and your bracket is still intact. Root for the goddamn upset. THIS IS NOT NEGOTIABLE.

There you go, kiddies. Of course, we will have a bracket challenge for all readers, up as soon as the tourney brackets are set. Or maybe before that. Fuck, I don't know.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

My response to Todd's post


I know.

All I can say is that at least it wasn't my team (whose name I still to this day think could use some tweaking).
This whole thing is about 3 things: money, money, and money.
The amazing thing to me is that New York's fans seem to actually like that this went down. They seem more than happy to have a completely laughable identity if it means getting their own stadium (something that looks like this would admittedly be 5000% better than the freakin' Meadowlands: ) and an ownership group that appears to be more committed to winning. (To say that this franchise has been unsuccessful in the league's first 10 years in an understatement.)

What might be most amazing is that this is only barely the most bizarre name change in the league in the past week. Check out this story from the Houston Chronicle.

Goodbye 1836, hello Houston Dynamo
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
For a moment this morning, Houston’s Major League Soccer franchise was again nameless, just as it had been for more than a month after relocating from San Jose, Calif., in mid-December.
This time, though, there was a quick fix.
The franchise officially gave its 1836 name the boot. It will build its brand around the name Dynamo, instead.
That’s right. Not Dynamos, as in the short-lived USL semi-professional team that roamed the pitch at Butler Stadium briefly in 1984. It’s Dynamo, as in full of energy, a tribute to the city’s ties to the oil, gas and other energy industries.
“Dynamo is a word to describe someone who never fatigues, never gives up,” franchise president Oliver Luck said. “The new name is symbolic of Houston as an energetic, hard-working, risk-taking kind of town.”
The name change was announced during a no-frills press conference at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Fittingly, it was held at the Weiss Energy Hall.
The nixing of 1836 was expected after the name was deemed offensive by some in the Hispanic community shortly after its unveiling Jan. 25.
The team and league have maintained 1836 was meant to honor the year Houston was founded. However, 1836 was also the year Texas fought for and gained independence from Mexico. Some Hispanics, including many of Mexican-American descent, found the name offensive.
In addition to the local ties and the energy theme, Dynamo was picked because of its traditional feel, something MLS has been moving toward in recent years with names such as Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake entering its landscape. The name is popular in Eastern Europe, with teams such as Dynamo Moscow (Russia) and Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) among the most popular on the continent.
The word dynamo, an earlier term for generator and short for dynamoelectric machine, is well-known universally.
“We believe a parallel can be drawn to the two major communities in Houston: English speakers and Spanish speakers,” Luck said. Together (these communities) will create electricity at games unlike any other in MLS.”
Houston Dynamo open their inaugural season April 2 against the Colorado Rapids at Robertson Stadium.

Actually, from what I read, it was overly PC local politicians and not the actual Mexican-American community that made the name change happen.
Anyway, this all means that this franchise has in the past 7 years won 2 championships, had the league's best and most marketable player, been located in 2 cities, and had 4, count 'em, 4 nicknames.

Now is probably the time to also point out to those who don’t follow the league that one year ago the league introduced an expansion team named Club Deportivo Chivas USA. It’s pretty much the exact replica of a very popular Mexican team named, you guessed it, Club Deportivo Chivas. I kid you not, the last thing the team decided was which city they were going to call home. It looked like it was going to be Houston but they ended up sharing the Home Depot Center with the LA Galaxy. Oh, and they almost made it a rule that you had to be Hispanic to play on the team. Again, NOT KIDDING.

I admit that this all seems pretty pathetic for a professional sports league that's trying to at least create the guise of legitimacy. But I gotta say this - as I've told non-soccer fans like Todd time and again, you gotta LOVE following this league because absolutely anything can happen at any time. It’s absolute chaos.
Teams relocating - check
Teams contracted - check
Teams changing names - check
The league changing player acquisition rules all the time (and I mean ALL the time) - check
Weighted lotteries for random players seemingly once a month - check
Division realignment - check
The playoff format altered pretty much every year - check
Incorporating OT in the regular season - check
Getting rid of regular season OT - check
Doing the opposite of the NHL and getting rid of the shootout - check
The Crew finding excruciatingly novel ways to break my heart every single fall - check
Okay, I got a little off track there at the end.

Now to thank you for reading that much about soccer, I reward you with this Simpsons-related clip. It’s not perfect, but some of the attention to detail is pretty cool.

Oh, and I do now agree that Michigan is right on the bubble, and if I had to choose, I’d say no longer in. My mistake calling them a lock.